Diverting Entertainment | Arts & Recreation Series Nonfiction

From traditional science labs to new fandoms, this season’s arts and recreation titles are centered on popular culture topics and activities.


The upcoming series in arts and recreation are centered on popular culture topics and activities. From traditional science labs to new fandoms, the majority of the titles below encourage further exploration using colorful photos or illustrations to engage readers with age-appropriate text. Readers may find their new favorite hobby is making miniature craft, working with recycled art materials, telling a classic tale, or experimenting using STEAM techniques. Many of the titles encourage readers to discover something new, either about a popular subject or about themselves. The 10 series below offer readers a wide variety of activities, experiments, and new pastimes.



Abdo, Kenny. The Making of Avatar.ISBN 9781098281281.
––––. The Making of Black Panther.ISBN 9781098281298.
––––. The Making of Jaws.ISBN 9781098281304.
––––. The Making of Jurassic Park.ISBN 9781098281311.
––––. The Making of Star Wars.ISBN 9781098281328.
––––. The Making of Toy Story.ISBN 9781098281335.
ea vol: 24p. (Blockbusters). Abdo/Fly! Sept. 2023. Tr $31.36.
Gr 3-5–Films that have broken box office records and the people who created them are covered in this series. From classic horror like Steven Spielberg’s Jaws to Ryan Coogler’s superhero hit Black Panther , titles make a point of sharing the commercial and critical acclaim these films received from the beginning. Each series opens with a table of contents and has approximately four chapters. Full-page photographs accompany short paragraphs with vocabulary words highlighted in the text. Meant to accompany the films, the information highlights achievements of each, such as Hannah Beachler becoming “the first Black person to be nominated and win the Best Production Design Oscar” (The Making of Black Panther) or how “no one believed [Star Wars] would become one of the most beloved series of all time” (The Making of Star Wars). While there isn’t a lot of information to accompany the photos, young fans of each franchise will enjoy the simple, straight-forward text. Back matter includes a glossary, online resources, and index. VERDICT Good for elementary readers who love popular films and stories.

Badach Doyle, Abby. The Tale of Dracula.ISBN 9781978535374.
––––. The Tale of King Arthur.ISBN 9781978535404.
––––. The Tale of Rip Van Winkle.ISBN 9781978535435.
––––. The Tale of Robin Hood.ISBN 9781978535466.
––––. The Tale of Sleepy Hollow.ISBN 9781978535497.
––––. The Tale of the Pied Piper.ISBN 9781978535527.
ea vol: 32p. (Tell the Tale). Enslow. Aug. 2023. Tr $26.93.
Gr 3-5–Exploring the history of famous tales that are still shared today, each title in the series gives a broad overview of how a folktale, classic story, or famous character has developed and evolved over time. Each spread consists of a page of text followed by accompanying artwork or color photographs. Titles give a decent summary of each tale, while also including historical context and present day information if applicable. In The Tale of Sleepy Hollow, for example, it is explained that “Washington Irving wanted his story to be scary but a little funny too,” which is one reason the Headless Horseman is often depicted wearing a jack-o’-lantern for a head. Each brief chapter includes an “Explore More!” section, featuring additional facts related to the tale. Simple maps, diagrams, graphs, and time lines are spread throughout each title. Back matter includes a glossary, additional resources, and an index. While there isn’t much diversity in this first set of tales, there is ample opportunity for inclusivity should the publisher continue the series. VERDICT A decent summary of well-known tales and characters in popular culture.

Boshouwers, Suzan. The Weather.illus. by Margot Senden. Oct. 2023. ISBN 9781605378732.
Douglas, Jozua. The Rabbit.illus. by Hiky Helmantel. Oct. 2023. ISBN 9781605378725.
Ducatteau, Florence. Going to the Movies.illus. by Chantal Peten. Oct. 2023. ISBN 9781605378701.
Ramakers, Sanne & Merel de Vink. Insects. illus. by Marjolein Hund. Sept. 2023. ISBN 9781605378718.
––––. The Harbor.illus. by Hélène Jorna. Aug. 2023. ISBN 9781605378749.
Ramakers, Sanne & Jeroen Schipper. Music.illus. by Hélène Jorna. Aug. 2023. ISBN 9781605378695.
ea vol: 32p. (Want to Know). Clavis. Tr $18.95.
K-Gr 3–Illustrated in a watercolor and colored pencil style, titles in this series dive into a wide variety of topics. Each title opens as many picture books do with a character experiencing the topic being discussed, such as getting a rabbit as a pet. Next the subject is either broken down via a time line or a diagram using multiple smaller illustrations to fit several short paragraph of facts on each page. Vocabulary is highlighted in bold and bubbles with “Did you know” questions appearing throughout. Readers are then given how or why the topic is used or experienced in everyday life, how it can be experienced throughout the world, and the way the topic has progressed in history. Examples are provided of how each topic is used or mentioned in popular stories, rhymes and songs, or even in family proverbs. Some titles debunk old myths related to the topic. At the end of each title there is a small quiz, with answers shared on the last page. Although delightfully illustrated, the sheer amount of information and small text size may be overwhelming to young readers. Furthermore, titles do not include formal back matter, and new vocabulary is only defined within the text. VERDICT A cute, informative series covering a wide variety of topics; young readers may be overwhelmed, however.

Coupé, Jessica. Puzzle Games.ISBN 9781637385746.
––––. Sandbox Games.ISBN 9781637385760.
Gish, Ashley. Fighting Games.ISBN 9781637385722.
––––. MOBA Games.ISBN 9781637385739.
Helt, Julianna. Action Games.ISBN 9781637385715.
Lerose, Robert. Strategy Games.ISBN 9781637385784.
Murrell, Diana. Sports Games.ISBN 9781637385777.
Roberts, Kizzi. Role-Playing Games.ISBN 9781637385753.
ea vol: 32p. (Video Games). North Star Editions/Apex Aug. 2023. Tr $31.35.
Gr 2-4–Titles in this series explore various genres of video games, from sandbox to RPG. Each book opens with a table of contents followed by short chapters accompanied by captioned full-page color photos or video game stills. A broad overview is given for every genre: the perspective of a player, art styles across various consoles, a brief history, as well as an overview of the various subgenres. Each chapter contains tidbits of information and “Fast Fact” bubbles, and new terminology is clearly highlighted. Example games referenced are typically well-known, making understanding each genre easy. One title even highlights how multiplayer online battle arena, or MOBA, games hold tournaments similar to other sports and have prizes. While titles only scratch the surface of games and gaming culture, reluctant readers are sure to have their interest sparked. Each title includes comprehension questions, a glossary, further resources, author bio, and index. VERDICT Quick reads for reluctant readers who enjoy video games.


Upper Elementary to Middle School

Felix, Rebecca & Ruthie Van Oosbree. Mini Games to Make and Play. ISBN 9781669016618.
––––. Mini Holiday Crafts to Celebrate in Style.ISBN 9781669016663.
––––.Mini Origami to Fold with Flair. ISBN 9781669016717.
––––. Mini Snacks to Make and Munch.ISBN 9781669016762. ISBN 9781669016717.
––––. Mini Snacks to Make and Munch. ISBN 9781669016762.
ea vol: 32p. (Mini Makers). Capstone/Hilltop. Aug. 2023. Tr $33.99.
Gr 3 Up–Everything is mini in this series, from the snacks and crafts to the origami and games. Titles open with a table of contents and introduction before delving into the projects (around 11 in each), a list of required materials, and a thorough rundown of crafting tips—including checking with an adult and reading through instructions before beginning. From Mini Bowling to Mini Pretzel Bun Hoagies, the instructions for each activity are straightforward and have labeled photos to go with each step. While some of the activities would require an adult for younger crafters, the activities are sure to be enjoyable whether done solo or with a group. One of the titles in the series focuses on a variety of mini holiday crafts (other than Christmas), such as making a mini ofrenda for Día de los Muertos. The back matter includes a read more section, internet sites, and an author bio. VERDICT A cute series of miniature activities; fun for a wide age range.

Fullman, Joe. Origami Desert Animals.ISBN 9781642827989.
––––. Origami Polar Animals.ISBN 9781642828016.
––––. Origami Rain Forest Animals.ISBN 9781642828047.
––––. Origami Safari Animals.ISBN 9781642828078.
ea vol: 32p. (Origami Animals). Rosen/ PowerKids. Aug. 2023. Tr $27.93.
Gr 3-6–This new series walks readers through creating their own cute, detailed origami animals from around the world using only a sheet—or sometimes more—of paper. A table of contents, introduction and instruction key including symbols with corresponding folds opens each title. There are five origami designs in each book, and the instructions for each design include illustrations demonstrating folding techniques as well as a brief description. Final steps show the finished product with additional designs such as facial features. Each project includes a difficulty rating as well as a bit of information about the real-life animal readers are recreating. Projects sometimes break from “traditional origami,” which the series explains is created by folding—and not cutting—one sheet of paper. A small glossary of non-highlighted vocabulary words, additional resources, and an index are included at the back of each title. VERDICT A fun, if unconventional, origami series focused on animals.

Harbo, Christopher. How to Draw Batman Manga!illus. by Haining. ISBN 9781669021582.
––––. How to Draw DC Super-Pets Manga!illus. by Mel Joy San Juan. ISBN 9781669021636.
––––. How to Draw Superman Manga!illus. by Haining. ISBN 9781669021681.
––––. How to Draw Wonder Woman Manga!illus. by Giulia Campobello. ISBN 9781669021735.
ea vol: 32p. (Manga Drawing with DC). Capstone. Aug. 2023. Tr $33.99.
Gr 4-6–Illustrated in manga style, each title in this series instructs readers on how to draw characters from the DC universe. Starting with a table of contents and introduction, each title includes a supply list as well as a brief history of the character being drawn. Characters receive a short paragraph description and two pages of instruction, using approximately five pictures of a progressively more detailed drawing. “Manga Facts” are sprinkled throughout, such as that Mangaka—manga artists—create a sense of motion using speed lines. Action scenes finish off each drawing lesson, typically depicting a battle between characters drawn previously in the title. Titles assume some basic drawing knowledge and background, meaning beginners will struggle to follow instructions and younger artists may become frustrated. Back matter includes a small resource section highlighting other manga and DC drawing titles. VERDICT For artists with an eye for manga and comic art; may be too difficult for beginners.

Olson, Elsie. Astronomy Lab: Explore Space with Art & Activities. ISBN 9781098291587.
––––. Biology Lab: Explore Living Things with Art & Activities. ISBN 9781098291594.
––––. Engineering Lab: Explore Structures with Art & Activities. ISBN 9781098291600.
––––. Geology Lab: Explore Earth with Art & Activities. ISBN 9781098291617.
––––. Meteorology Lab: Explore Weather with Art & Activities. ISBN 9781098291624.
––––. Paleontology Lab: Explore Prehistoric Life with Art & Activities. ISBN 9781098291631.
ea vol: 32p. (STEAM Lab). Abdo/ Checkerboard. Sept. 2023. Tr $34.22.
Gr 3-6–Science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) are highlighted in these lab-focused titles that engage students in hands-on learning. Opening with a table of contents, an introduction on the umbrella topic, and tools needed to prepare lab projects as well as important lab rules, each title includes six activity labs utilizing mostly everyday household items. Three paragraphs accompany full-page captioned photographs, and vocabulary words are highlighted in bold throughout. Each activity has a short paragraph about the lab, what is needed, and a picture of the finished project. A numerical list of instructions is provided, but there aren’t accompanying photos for each step. Additional “Lab Facts” are included, helping to create connections between the project and real-world scientific principles. Each title ends with a section devoted to the people working in related fields, such as paleontologists and aerospace engineers. Back matter includes a glossary of vocabulary terms, online resources, and an index. VERDICT Fun STEAM lab projects sure to get learners excited about a variety of careers.


Upper Middle School to High School

Gossin, Pamela & Marc Hairston. Cultural Guide to Anime and Manga. ISBN 9781678205188.
Kallen, Stuart A. Fantasy, Romance, and More: Genres of Anime and Manga. ISBN 9781678205201.
––––. Manga World.ISBN 9781678205225.
Marcovitz, Hal. Anime World.ISBN 9781678205164.
ea vol: 64p. (All Things Anime and Manga). ReferencePoint. Sept. 2023. Tr $32.95.
Gr 8 Up–The rich history, captivating stories, and art style of manga and anime are thoroughly explored in this nonfiction series. Each title opens with a table of contents and introduction followed by multiple pages of text and a half page of corresponding art. “Fast Facts” pop up throughout chapters, offering quick tidbits like “Japanese animators have created over ten thousand separate anime titles” (Cultural Guide to Anime and Manga), followed by blue boxes indicating a deeper dive into a person or subject mentioned in the chapter. While only 64 pages each, these titles cover many of genres and subgenres, such as “otherworld” or “magical girls.” Manga and anime lovers will recognize the popular characters and titles referred to in this series while learning more about the creators behind their favorite genres. Although the balance of text to art may dissuade more reluctant readers, avid fans will appreciate the amount of information packed into each title. Back matter includes source notes for each chapter, further reading suggestions, and an index. VERDICT A quick but thorough series covering popular anime and manga topics for teens. Recommended where interest is high.

Peterson, Tamara JM & Ruthie Van Oosbree, Make Creepy Creatures from This and That. ISBN 9781669039884.
––––. Make Cute Critters from Bits and Pieces.ISBN 9781669039945.
––––. Make Decor and More from the Junk Drawer.ISBN 9781669040064.
––––. Make Nature Art from Odds and Ends.ISBN 9781669040002.
ea vol: 32p. (Scrap Art Fun). Capstone Pr. Aug. 2023. Tr $33.99.
Gr 6-10–This series emphasizes the importance and innovation that happens when art is created with recycled or thrifted items. A table of contents followed by a detailed introduction shows how and why kids can make art out of everyday objects. The intro also talks about basic materials needed, planning projects, following directions, and getting help from an adult, especially depending on the materials being used. A section called “Junk Art Inspiration” shows pictures of art around the world made by artists who used everyday materials, such as: “The Kovozoo in the Czech Republic is a zoo of animals all made from scrap metal,” (Make Cute Critters from Bits and Pieces). Every title has 10 projects and each one starts with a short description and a highlighted list of materials. The instructions are in numerical order with a photo if necessary. Sometimes there is a “Junk Art Tip,” like “The best pieces can come from the items you no longer use,” (Make Decor and More from the Junk Drawer). Many of the projects are more difficult because of the materials being used, but may be inexpensive for artists or programmers on a budget. The back matter includes further reading, internet sites to visit, and a bit about the authors. VERDICT Challenging and intriguing art projects for older students using recycled items. Recommended.

The 10 series above offer creative outlets that can ignite excitement, fueling discovery and connection. Fun returning series to spark creativity include “Mini Makers” (Capstone) and “Origami Animals” (Rosen). Some series go a step further to pair creativity with education, such as “STEAM Lab” (Abdo), “Scrap Art Fun” (Capstone), and “Want to Know” (Clavis). Two series, “Tell the Tale” (Enslow) and “Blockbusters” (Abdo) took well-known stories and gave them context. Reluctant readers could be excited to read about their favorite characters in “All Things Anime” (ReferencePoint), “Manga Drawing with DC” (Capstone), and “Video Games” (North Star Editions).



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