Rich with Possibilities: Careers & Skills | Series Nonfiction

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” can be a daunting question. The series reviewed here will offer a variety of new answers, including roller-coaster engineer, SWAT team member, Hollywood animal trainer, volcanologist, stunt coordinator, and food taster.


What do you want to be when you grow up?” can be a daunting question. The series reviewed here will offer a variety of new answers, including roller-coaster engineer, SWAT team member, Hollywood animal trainer, volcanologist, stunt coordinator, and food taster. Librarians will find many reasons to expand their college and career sections, not the least of which is the Common Core’s emphasis on job readiness and the importance of reading complex informational texts.

Preschool to Grade 4

Bodden, Valerie. Analyze and Define the Assignment. ISBN 9781467752237.

––––. Assess and Select Your Sources. ISBN 9781467752220.

––––. Identify and Evaluate Advertising. ISBN 9781467752268.

––––. Research and Synthesize Your Facts. ISBN 9781467752244.

––––. Write and Revise Your Project. ISBN 9781467752251.

ea vol: 40p. (Info Wise). bibliog. ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Lerner. 2015. lib. ed. $30.65.

Gr 3-6 –These books are intended to help students gain basic academic skills that will aid them in a variety of endeavors, from analyzing advertisements to revising text. The information provided is sound, although the format is less than ideal. Large chunks of text without many headings, visuals, or bullet-point lists make tackling abstract concepts daunting. Long exposition that borders on the redundant results makes for tedious reading. Although these texts are meant to accompany a one-on-one, hands-on learning experience, they do not encourage children to actively explore, and their density will drag students down. VERDICT Skip them.

Edgar, Sherra G. Large Animal Veterinarian. ISBN 9781631436871; ISBN 9781631438004.

Gleisner, Jenna Lee. Bug Exterminator. ISBN 9781631436840; ISBN 9781631437977.

––––. Pig Farmer. ISBN 9781631436888; ISBN 9781631438011.

Miller, Mirella S. Compost Center Operator. ISBN 9781631436857; ISBN 9781631437984.

––––. Oil Worker. ISBN 9781631436901; ISBN 9781631438035.

Ringstad, Arnold. Garbage Collector. ISBN 9781631436864; ISBN 9781631437991.

––––. Portable Toilet Cleaner. ISBN 9781631436895; ISBN 9781631438028.

––––. Sewer Inspector. ISBN 9781631436918; ISBN 9781631438042.

ea vol: 24p. (Gross Jobs). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. The Child’s World. 2015. lib. ed. $27.07. ebk. $18.95.

Gr 3-5 –These books sheds light on invisible jobs, such as sewer inspector and compost center operator. In Portable Toilet Cleaner, students learn about the rigors of emptying Port-a-Potties in cold weather, and, in Pig Farmer, about the process of keeping living areas clean. Although the writing and design are generally strong (the slime-splatter graphics recall 1990s-era Nickelodeon children’s shows), the illustrations aren’t bold or weird enough to pull readers in, and the descriptions lack specificity or details about the people behind the jobs. The sense of humor and disgusting details that kids might hope for from this set’s title won’t be found here. VERDICT Neither enlightening enough to inspire readers to pursue new career paths nor gross enough to entice browsers, these titles will have trouble finding an audience.

Kemper, Bitsy. Budgeting, Spending, and Saving. ISBN 9781467752282.

––––. Earning Income. ISBN 9781467752275.

––––. Growing Your Money. ISBN 9781467752305.

Mooney, Carla. Understanding Credit. ISBN 9781467752299.

ea vol: 40p. (Searchlight Books: How Do We Use Money?). ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Lerner. 2015. lib. ed. $27.99.

Gr 2-5 –These texts break down the most essential components of financial literacy for young readers, illustrating how to handle money carefully and make smart choices. “Decision Time” charts put children in the driver’s seat and ask them to make decisions, such as whether to pay with cash or credit. The visual graphics break down these complex ideas clearly and comprehensibly. The children featured look authentic and are from a variety of backgrounds. The books offer effective and concrete tips young people will easily grasp, such as motivating oneself by putting a photograph of a purchase goal on one’s piggy bank or setting it as one’s computer screensaver. Sidebars with numbers and percentages as well as numerous charts are useful. At times, however, the design is rather lackluster: dark greens and oranges give the cover a dated feel, and the selection of photos and graphics seem tired. VERDICT A suitable but unexceptional series.

Perish, Patrick. Animal Trainer. ISBN 9781626171961.

––––. Skyscraper Builder. ISBN 9781626171978.

––––. SWAT Team Member. ISBN 9781626171985.

––––. Wilderness Rescue Pilot. ISBN 9781626171992.

ea vol: 24p. (Dangerous Jobs). bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. Bellwether. 2015. Tr. $22.95.

Gr 3-5 –This series covers risky or life-threatening jobs. Each title begins with a dramatic, frightening scenario communicated in short, breathless bursts (“A gunman has barricaded himself inside a house. He has a hostage.”), going on to examine the history of the field in question. Enlightening sidebars inform without distracting from the main text. Clear writing and dynamic, action-packed photos immerse kids in the day-to-day realities of these careers. The exciting tone of the book is tempered by a sidebar about tragedies on the job, which offers a reality check. The motto of the series (“Are you ready to take it to the extreme?”) sums up the spirit of these books. VERDICT Recommended, especially for reluctant, stimulation-craving readers.

Pettiford, Rebecca. Bus Drivers. ISBN 9781620311547.

––––. Coaches. ISBN 9781620311554.

––––. Crossing Guards. ISBN 9781620311561.

––––. Garbage Collectors. ISBN 9781 620311578.

––––. Lifeguards. ISBN 9781620311585.

––––. Reporters. ISBN 9781620311592.

ea vol: 24p. (Community Helpers). ebook available. glossary. index. photos. websites. Jump!. 2015. lib. ed. $25.65.

PreS-Gr 1 –Readers learn about a broad variety of helping professions, including ones that might not immediately come to mind, such as reporters. The cultural diversity of children featured is a positive, although the quality of the stock photographs varies. The major weakness of this set is its lack of a logical flow. Reporters begins with the clear, compelling question (“What do they do?”) but shifts gears to a scene of a journalist at a fair without providing a useful answer. The authors seem unsure whether they’re defining concepts or telling stories, and the books lack concrete facts. Crossing Guards and Lifeguards, while slightly more focused than the others, also suffer from a choppy narrative and dearth of thorough information. VERDICT Though honoring unsung heroes is a laudable intention, this series is confusingly written.

Reina, Mary. Earn Money. ISBN 9781 491420812.

––––. Learn About Money. ISBN 9781491420843.

––––. Make Money Choices. ISBN 9781491420829.

––––. Save Money. ISBN 9781491420836.

ea vol: 24p. (Money and You). further reading. glossary. index. websites. Capstone. 2015. lib. ed. $21.32.

K-Gr 2 –This attractive series includes eye-catching and high quality full-page photos of children and clear, informative text. Readers learn all about money, its origins (Learn About Money explains that in 1200 BC cowry shells were used as coins in China), and receive a basic explanation of how to save money. They gain an understanding about different jobs people do for income, including children who receive an allowance or are paid to help neighbors. The text moves very fluidly from concept to concept. Readers will see themselves in the multicultural kids featured on these pages: raking leaves, counting pennies, window-shopping. The photographs are not the usual bland stock image but rather are refreshing in their ability to capture true emotion. VERDICT A solid foundation for financial literacy curricula.

Grades 5 & Up

Bella, Laura La. What Degree Do I Need to Pursue a Career in Bookkeeping & Accounting? ISBN 9781477778616.

Bickerstaff, Linda. What Degree Do I Need to Pursue a Career in Nursing? ISBN 9781477778579.

Hubbard, Rita. What Degree Do I Need to Pursue a Career in Health Care? ISBN 9781477778692.

Kampff, Joseph. What Degree Do I Need to Pursue a Career in Education? ISBN 9781477778739.

Kassnoff, David. What Degree Do I Need to Pursue a Career in Information Technology & Information Systems? ISBN 9781477778654.

Orr, Tamra. What Degree Do I Need to Pursue a Career in Business? ISBN 9781477778531.

ea vol: 80p. (The Right Degree for Me). bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. websites. Rosen Young Adult. 2015. lib. ed. $34.60.

Gr 10 Up –This series provides valuable introductions to many rising fields, outlining the necessary degrees, certificates, training, and experience. The texts are well written, demonstrating the complexity of these careers. For example, in Information Technology, Kassnoff tells readers that digital information is a varied field, encompassing everything from downloading music to using debit cards to setting up school systems. Diverse individuals are featured in photos, and women appear in many traditionally male-dominated fields. Sidebars pack in more practical tips and facts. At times, some volumes don’t take into account the varying academic skills students will bring to the table and may offer false hope. Health Care, for instance, tells readers interested in that line of work that they’ll be welcomed with“open arms” and that their salaries will “soar to heights [they’ve] never imagined before.” However, for discerning teens with accurate assessments of their abilities, this set offers strong options for college preparation. VERDICT Excellent additions for high school collections and career centers.

Best, B.J. Investing Your Money. ISBN 9781502601032.

Hatton, Fran. Learning About Earning. ISBN 9781502600943.

––––. Starting a Business. ISBN 9781502601049.

Spath, Carolyn. Making a Budget. ISBN 9781502600998.

––––. Savvy Saving. ISBN 9781502600967.

Stefoff, Rebecca. Smart Spending. ISBN 9781502602817.

ea vol: 48p. (First-Glance Finance). further reading. photos. websites. Cavendish Square. 2015. lib. ed. $31.36.

Gr 4-8 –This series offers a streamlined, organized approach to financial literacy, elucidating the topic through anecdotes and vocabulary words as well as charts and math problems. Longer blocks of texts are spiced up with readable sidebars and strikingly bold illustrations. The winning design makes the more abstract concepts easy to grasp, allowing the information to positively jump off the page. Savvy Saving, for example, features a colorful chart that differentiates between short-term and long-term savings, comparing the amount of time it will take to save up for smaller items, such as a video game to more expensive ones—a car or college tuition. Intriguing headings (“Fighting Temptation”) will also engage students. Through accessible language, the books delve into complex concepts, including how to select a bank for a first account. VERDICT Rich with practical applications, this set is an ideal purchase.

Cook, Eric. Prototyping. ISBN 978163 1888694; ISBN 9781631888816.

Fontichiaro, Kristin. Design Thinking. ISBN 9781631888700; ISBN 9781631888823.

––––. Hacking Fashion: Tee Shirts. ISBN 9781631888717; ISBN 9781631888830.

Lent, Colleen van. More Web Design with HTML5. ISBN 9781631888687; ISBN 9781631888809.

ea vol: 32p. (21st Century Skills Innovation Library: Makers as Innovators). bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Cherry Lake. 2015. lib. ed. $19.95. pap. $14.21.

Gr 5-8 –Those looking to create—whether by reinventing an old T-shirt or designing a webpage—may benefit from this mixed bag of titles. Hacking Fashion and More Web Design offer specific skills and will serve as useful how-to manuals. Prototyping and Design Thinking put readers into an inventor’s state of mind. Prototyping informs young people that though school assignments place great value on completion, working on quick, unfinished drafts (or prototypes) is incredibly beneficial to the creative process. Design Thinking takes readers through the journey of an inventor who wants to make it easier for a wheelchair-bound individual to navigate the world. However, though the strategies presented are useful (conducting research, taking measurements), the narrative won’t engage students. Both Prototyping and Design Thinking use fictitious, often unrealistic characters to model the journey of an inventor, and the stiff, detached writing of all four books will leave kids feeling removed. VERDICT Hacking Fashion and More Web Design are suitable for those seeking material on these topics, while the other two titles are theoretical texts that won’t engage readers.

Endsley, Kezia. Video Game Design. ISBN 9781502601131.

––––. Website Design. ISBN 9781502601117.

Freedman, Jeri. Software Development. ISBN 9781502601056.

King, Rachel. Technical Support. ISBN 9781502601148.

Small, Cathleen. Computer Animation. ISBN 9781502601063.

Smith, Jonathan. White Hat Hacking. ISBN 9781502602725.

ea vol: 96p. (High-Tech Jobs). further reading. glossary. photos. websites. Cavendish Square. 2015. lib. ed. $42.79.

Gr 8 Up –This series hooks readers early on with lively descriptions of the fields in question, which may contain many recognizable cultural touchstones, such as the Disney movie Frozen. The books touch on the history and evolution of the topics concisely and devote attention to the nuances in job offerings. Readers will appreciate the ability to skim through the bold headings and focus on the occupations that spark their interest. However, the writing ranges from serviceable to weak, depending on the author. There are some occasional missteps and odd phrasing; for instance in Website Design, Endsley recommends obtaining a four-year college degree because it can make you “less selfish.” Some concepts seem abstract, without enough anecdotes or visual illustrations to make them clear. It’s particularly surprising that Website Design offers so few images of home pages. VERDICT Uneven in writing quality and lacking in 21st-century design styles.

Gregory, Josh. Apps: From Concept to Consumer. ISBN 9780531205396; ISBN 9780531212363.

Mara, Wil. Deep-Sea Exploration: Science, Technology, Engineering. ISBN 9780531205365; ISBN 9780531211731.

––––. Robotics: From Concept to Consumer. ISBN 9780531205402; ISBN 9780531212370.

Otfinoski, Steven. Air Travel: Science, Technology, Engineering. ISBN 9780531205389; ISBN 9780531211748.

ea vol: 64p. (Calling All Innovators: A Career for You). chron. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Children’s Pr. 2015. lib. ed. $30. pap. $8.95.

Gr 6-10 –This series covers fields that require innovation, providing a clear overview of the history and modern-day activities associated with each subject. The magazinelike design is sophisticated, with many graphics and time lines to engage visual learners. One downside is that the set presents a ton of information on history and background before finally moving on to current research and developments, which might slow down some readers. However, there is some rich, well-researched material (for instance, Deep-Sea Exploration discusses early sea explorers, from the Vikings to Charles Darwin, that might prove useful). The title of the series is a bit misleading, as the books do not explain what innovators do or offer readers guidelines about how to succeed in this realm themselves. VERDICT Despite a few flaws, these titles are recommended for their in-depth descriptions of the histories of different careers.

Greve, Meg. Science Projects. ISBN 9781627176903.

––––. Taking Notes and Close Reading. ISBN 9781627176897.

––––. Writing an Opinion Paper. ISBN 9781627176934.

Hord, Colleen. Writing a Research Paper. ISBN 9781627176941.

McKenzie, Precious. Group Projects. ISBN 9781627176910.

––––. Library Skills and Internet Research. ISBN 9781627176873.

––––. Writing an Informational Essay. ISBN 9781627176927.

Mosley, Nina Simone. Studying and Test Taking. ISBN 9781627176880.

ea vol: 24p. (Hitting the Books: Skills for Reading, Writing, and Research). ebook available. glossary. index. websites. Rourke Educational Media. 2015. lib. ed. $27.07.

Gr 5-8 –These texts cover academic skills that will be useful in the workplace, including group work and research. Chapter headings such as “What Do Employers Want?” and “Great Habits That Last a Lifetime” emphasize the link between school and career, and a diverse group of young people are depicted in the photographs. Yet some tips seem dated, including using note cards for recording research facts, and won’t appeal to computer-savvy students. Some advice will be helpful, such as delegating responsibilities to group members based on individual talents. However, there is a stale quality to many of the suggestions. VERDICT This set won’t ring true to today’s readers.

Johnson, Jeremy. Unusual and Awesome Jobs in Sports: Pro Team Mascot, Pit Crew Member, and More. ISBN 9781491420324.

LeBoutillier, Linda. Unusual and Awesome Jobs Using Technology: Roller Coaster Designer, Space Robotics Engineer, and More. ISBN 9781491420294.

Simons, Lisa M. Unusual and Awesome Jobs Using Math: Stunt Coordinator, Cryptologist, and More. ISBN 9781491420300.

Wendinger, Jennifer. Unusual and Awesome Jobs Using Science: Food Taster, Human Lie Detector, and More. ISBN 9781491420317.

ea vol: 32p. (You Get Paid for THAT?). further reading. glossary. websites. Capstone. 2015. lib. ed. $27.32.

Gr 6-8 –This collection illustrates the diversity of jobs while shattering stereotypes about careers in math, science, and technology. The stylish, graffiti-style design and fun fonts imbue each page with a youthful feeling. Some of the professions discussed here, such as laughter therapist and professional sleeper, are more whimsical than practical, but they will intrigue students. Others (food taster) might sound insubstantial but require specialized education and skills and are well compensated. Common Core questions at the end of each text let readers integrate new knowledge. Sidebars call attention to noteworthy information, such as the necessary skills and education for each position, as well as expected salary and schedule. Photos are rich in color and compelling, with snappy captions (“Cave divers have found the bones of extinct lizards, sloths and elephants.”). VERDICT Put this series on display—it won’t stay there long.

Mara, Wil. Hazmat Removal Worker. ISBN 9781633620049; ISBN 9781633620438.

––––. Petroleum Engineer. ISBN 9781633620056; ISBN 9781633620445.

––––. Robotics Engineer. ISBN 9781633620063; ISBN 9781633620452.

––––. Smokejumper. ISBN 9781633620070; ISBN 9781633620469.

Yomtov, Nel. Medical Illustrator. ISBN 9781633620032; ISBN 9781633620421.

––––. Observatory Director. ISBN 9781633620087; ISBN 9781633620476.

––––. Urban Planner. ISBN 9781633620094; ISBN 9781633620483.

––––. Water/Wastewater Engineer. ISBN 9781633620100; ISBN 9781633620490.

ea vol: 32p. (21st Century Skills Library: Cool STEAM Careers). bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Cherry Lake. 2015. lib. ed. $19.95. pap. $14.21.

Gr 4-6 –Each book in this useful set on STEAM-related careers begins with a fictional example of a child connecting with the topic at hand. In Medical Illustrator, a boy is fascinated by illustrations of the circulatory system, and his father explains that medical illustrators are responsible for these drawings. The books then focus on the history of the field, detail what individuals do in the course of their jobs, and describe the necessary skills and abilities. Some texts get bogged down with information on history at the start. However, books concerning newer jobs, such as Hazmat workers, jump into dynamic material more quickly. The first few pages of Petroleum Engineer depict only women, which promotes gender equality in this typically male-dominated field. Students will enjoy learning about unexpected aspects of each profession; for instance, some medical illustrators draw dinosaurs and design prosthetic eyes. Each book is thorough, well-researched, and cleanly designed. Students may wish to skip slower parts but will find a wealth of information. VERDICT A strong series that illuminates lesser-known fields.

The best books reviewed here offer concrete tips, such as how to visualize one’s goals to save money (Cavendish Square’s “First-Glance Finance” and Lerner’s “How Do We Use Money?”). Others help readers map out concrete steps towards academic degree programs and how to succeed in them (Rosen Young Adult’s “The Right Degree for Me,” Cavendish Square’s “High Tech Jobs,” Cherry Lake’s “Cool STEAM Careers,” and Lerner’s “InfoWise”). Still others offer students a sense of inspiration and possibility about what exists in the world. The ability to envisioning themselves as skyscraper builders or wilderness rescue pilots can expand horizons. The options and paths in the working world are truly limitless. Grab a book, dream and go forth!

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing