World Records, Atlases Galore, & More Reference Works

The latest print reference titles include atlases, a guide to choosing college majors, and much more.

Almanac 2018. 352p. illus. index. maps. photos. National Geographic. Jun. 2017. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781426327735; pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781426327728.

Gr 3-7 –National Geographic’s titles are browsable and entertaining, and this almanac is no exception. It touts that it includes “everything you always wanted to know about everything.” That’s a big claim, but kids will find more than 500 color photos and tons of fun facts on a wide range of topics, such as animals, “going green,” science, engineering, and pop culture. The entire book is a trivia quiz waiting to happen. Need to know 18 facts about fungi? They’re here. So are introductions to well-known authors and scientists, a look at 3-D printing, and a sneak peek at major events coming in 2018, such as the Winter Olympics. While there’s a chapter devoted to games, jokes, and puzzles, there is plenty of substance here, too. And a link to extra content may prompt readers to seek out more online. VERDICT Buy several; this book will likely see a ton of browsing.–Sharon Verbeten, Brown County Library, Green Bay, WI

Balkan, Gabrielle. 50 Cities of the U.S.A.: Explore America’s Cities with 50 Fact-Filled Maps. illus. by Sol Linero. 112p. index. maps. Wide Eyed Editions. Sept. 2017. Tr $30. ISBN 9781847808707.

Gr 2-5 –Balkan covers 50 cities, representing most states and Washington, DC, in this lively volume. The pages are busy with cartoon illustrations and chatty facts on everything from city nicknames to well-known denizens to beloved places and festivals. Balkan also includes a schedule of activities for each city. Readers can stroll along the 1.7 miles of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco; visit the Liberty Ship Memorial in Portland, ME; or stop by the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden in Portland, OR. The information is laid out over softly hued street maps of the various cities. This engaging volume contains a surprising amount of information in a brief amount of space. A “Cities We’d Also Love To Visit” section and an extensive index finish off the book. VERDICT Fun, fast trivia. While not intended for in-depth research, this is a highly entertaining delight for browsers.–Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI

Bonser, Randall. Comics, Graphic Novels, and Manga: The Ultimate Teen Guide. 326p. (It Happened to Me). diags. index. glossary. notes. reprods. Rowman & Littlefield. Sept. 2017. Tr $45. ISBN 9781442268395.

Gr 7 Up –This overview of graphic novels covers topics such as how to read and create comics as well as appreciable aspects of several genres and purposes to which comics have been used. Bosner has a friendly tone, and his discussions of specific titles are positive and detailed. There are a few caveats, however. It’s hard to ascertain the intended audience, as the packaging and text won’t entice teen comics and manga enthusiasts, and there’s little in the way of readers’ advisory. While the diagrams are clear, reproduced black-and-white graphic novel excerpts vary in quality. Though other books in the series have addressed teenagers’ points of view on topics such as health issues, adoption, apprenticeships, and social networking, this volume runs a bit short on the “It Happened to Me” perspective (though brief quotes from older teens are interspersed throughout). There are also pull quotes from librarians and comics scholars and a couple of engaging interviews, including one with Gene Luen Yang. VERDICT For large collections. Students will get more out of this book by consulting specific chapters rather than by reading cover to cover.–Francisca ­Goldsmith, Library Ronin, Worcester, MA

Davey, Lizzie, ed. DK Children’s Encyclopedia. 304p. glossary. illus. index. photos. DK. Oct. 2017. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781465462077.

Gr 2-5 –When a title claims to be, on the cover no less, “the book that explains everything,” well, that’s a tough bill to fill. As usual, DK delivers—OK, maybe it doesn’t explain everything, but this is a graphically pleasing compendium of more than 250 topics, such as the arts, people, history, nature, technology, and the human body. Within these, major subcategories are covered, including those required by Common Core, and the extensive cross-referencing will have students eagerly turning pages. Obviously, no encyclopedia can do it all, but with a clear legend, enticing page spreads, and clever pullouts, this hefty volume contains thoroughly absorbing facts. Readers will learn that one-quarter of the human body is comprised of carbon and that things that fall into black holes are considered “spaghettified.” VERDICT Whether students are interested in newts, wars, ear drums, or outer space, they’ll appreciate this entertaining, colorful way to begin more thorough research.–Sharon Verbeten, Brown County Library, Green Bay, WI

Ghilani, Mary E. How To Choose Your Major. 236p. appendix. further reading. index. notes. websites. Greenwood. Jul. 2017. Tr $39. ISBN 9781440856624.

Gr 9 Up –“What do you want to be when grow up?” is a high-pressure question. Ghilani (Working Your Major: How To Find a Job When You Graduate), who works in career services at Luzerne County (PA) Community College, offers college-minded teenagers (and their parents) reassuring and specific guidance, beginning with suggested courses to take in high school. Several chapters focus on careers, both traditional and more outside the box, for “Analytical People,” “Persuaders,” “People Who Are Hands-On,” and other categories. Compassionate people, for example, might consider not only teaching and health care but also nonprofit work, pharmacy careers, and funeral direction. The appendixes of volunteer organizations, professional organizations, and career resources are especially helpful. ­VERDICT Excellent in filling the gap for high school students without access to college counselors or interest/aptitude surveys. Students early in their college careers may also find this title beneficial.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity ­Valley School, Fort Worth, TX

Guinness World Records 2018: Meet Our Real-Life Superheroes. 256p. illus. index. photos. Guinness World Records. Aug. 2017. Tr $28.95. ISBN 9781910561720.

Gr 3-6 –It’s hard for anyone interested in trivia or pop culture to ignore the lure of a new Guinness book. Kids will want to get their hands on this shiny, metallic, oversize volume. There are more categories than ever, including “most underpants pulled on in one minute!” But there are serious topics as well and lots of spotlights and photos of people who unleash their “inner superheroes.” A chapter honors imaginary superheroes, while another section recognizes real “superhumans.” The book lets readers know that they, too, can be the best in whatever they attempt, be it strength, endurance, intelligence, or persistence. There are copious records devoted to sports, transportation, animals, and music and pop culture. Preteens will likely be excited to learn about the highest-earning celebrities. And don’t miss the eating records, such as the fastest time to drink a bottle of ketchup (32.37 seconds). VERDICT A solid addition to most collections, especially where additional facts or trivia offerings are needed.–Sharon Verbeten, Brown County Library, Green Bay, WI

Hawkins, Emily. Atlas of Dinosaur Adventures. illus. by Lucy Letherland. 96p. index. maps. Wide Eyed Editions. Dec. 2017. Tr $30. ISBN 9781786030351.

Gr 2-5 –Arranged geographically over six regions, this title introduces 31 dinosaurs with a combination of facts, narrative, and visual humor. On each large spread, two paragraphs describe the physical features and behaviors of a different dinosaur. In many cases, these are couched within a present-tense narrative about a particular incident, such as a Baryonyx catching a fish, while others stick to more straightforward dinosaur profiles. Although dates are not provided in a couple of instances, these are engaging and informative introductions. Many of the appealing, useful illustrations are captioned. Other contemporary animals are also portrayed, usually with an identifying caption. The drawings depict traits and size accurately, but there’s a whimsical flavor here, too. Observant readers will notice hats, bibs, or scarves on some dinosaurs, along with other intentional anachronisms such as fishing poles or a beach ball. These are subtle enough to make spotting them a fun activity but clearly out of place enough that they won’t be mistaken as historically accurate. Each spread also includes an inset fact box and range map. A full map introduces each region and points out dinosaur locations. A detailed index provides access, even to the species with brief entries. VERDICT A strong option to bolster dinosaur collections.–Steven Engelfried, Wilsonville Public Library, OR

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Animals. 224p. illus. index. photos. DK. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781465461988.

Gr 1-3 –Full of color images and cartoon drawings, this enticing title covers a wide array of animals. Some photographs are accompanied by informative speech bubbles (for instance, a moose states that it is the largest types of deer). The font is large, and key terms are in bold. The first section, “All About Animals,” offers an overview of different types of creatures, such as mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles, as well as mythical and endangered animals. Graphics make the animals’ relative size apparent; for instance, a chart shows that the tooth of a megalodon (a sharklike prehistoric creature three times as large as a great white) was as big as a human hand. “Amazing Animals” focuses on the remarkable, including the pangolin, the only scale-covered mammal. “Animal Antics” examines behaviors such as the 10-hour sleeping patterns of the sloth and the symbiotic relationship between ostriches and zebras. “More Very Important Animals” explores traits, habitats, and more. The design is attractive, highlighting details such as the dance moves of the male Victoria’s riflebird. On a page about bees, facts and images are laid out to resemble a beehive. Overall, this is a solid introduction to the animal kingdom, with welcoming images and concise facts. VERDICT A useful classroom reference that will support curricula and intrigue browsers.–Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District, Greensburg, PA

Natural Wonders of the World. 440p. illus. index. glossary. maps. photos. DK. Oct. 2017. Tr $50. ISBN 9781465464170.

Gr 9 Up –In what amounts to a massive expansion of 2007’s Wonders of the Natural World, this large-format outing not only profiles hundreds of scenic glories but also digs beneath the surfaces of many to show in diagrammatic form the geological (or other) processes that created, or are creating, each one. Presented continent by continent, with additional chapters on the oceans and “Extreme Weather,” the entries are grouped mostly in general categories such as “Mountains and Volcanoes.” The centerpieces of each are dramatically angled, fantastically sharp, drop-dead gorgeous photos and graphically rendered maps or cutaway views. Dense assemblages of smaller images of landforms or wildlife, detailed explanatory captions, and precise descriptions surround these graphics. Hundreds of additional sites earn shorter mentions in a 60-page closing directory. In keeping with the theme, human figures or signs of habitation are vanishingly rare and nearly always tiny, imparting a sense of grand scale to the wonders on display. VERDICT Dazzling fare for upper grade travelers of both the active and armchair sorts.–John Peters, Children’s Literature Consultant, New York

Sanjeev, Pradeep. Indian Mythology: The Ultimate Character Encyclopedia. illus. by Sumit Roy & others. 185p. index. Pradeep Sanjeev. Aug. 2017. Tr $30. ISBN 9780692840580.

Gr 7 Up –This title provides colorful, anime-style portraits of almost 200 figures from Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Bhagavata; discusses their relations to other characters; and presents much-condensed descriptions of their roles. Pronunciation of characters’ names and identification of their “powers” and race (e.g., “human,” “asura”) are helpful. Several pages offer visual background on mythical epochs, nonhuman races, divine weapons, warrior levels, and genealogies but no narrative outlines (familiarity with the epics is assumed). Sanjeev addresses gender fluidity (for instance, Arjuna’s eunuch disguise, Shikandi’s dual gender). Although skin tones vary, facing pages unfortunately contrast the evil Shurpanakha, depicted as dark-skinned, and the very white ideal woman, Sita (many other heroines are pale as well). Ravana’s moral ambiguity earns him three pages; Rama, Arjuna, Indrajit, and others receive two. Interpretations of some characters lack complexity. The Rakshasas are portrayed as hideous monsters, and Hanuman (whom many consider the Ramayana’s racist embodiment of indigenous south Indians) is represented as an ape. The subtitle “encyclopedia” is somewhat misleading: this is neither a scholarly work nor comprehensive (many mythological characters, such as Ganesh, Vishnu, and Agni, are omitted). Unclear writing sometimes impedes meaning. ­VERDICT Despite the book’s many flaws, the vivid graphics might ignite some readers’ interest in Indian epics.–Patricia D. Lothrop, formerly at St. George’s School, Newport, RI

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