MONUMENTAL MILESTONES

Pearl Harbor, The Cuban Missile Crisis
These titles make first-rate alternatives to the numerous same-topic volumes available for this audience. Supported by frequent anecdotes, both books combine absorbing narratives with sharp cause-and-effect analyses. Seeing the Cuban missile crisis as a gambit rooted in Khrushchev’s belief that Kennedy “wasn’t very tough,” Whiting describes the tense diplomatic back-and-forth in detail (during which Kennedy does come off as indecisive), then closed with a poker-faced note about the fact that Castro has outlasted every other world leader of his day. In Pearl Harbor, the author not only covers the attack in detail, but also highlights a series of turning points—from Matthew Perry’s electrifying 19th-century visit to Tokyo to “five of the most decisive moments in the history of warfare” during the Battle of Midway, which also turned the tide of the war in the Pacific. Single-page sidelights illuminate such historical byways as the brief, seldom mentioned “takeover” of a tiny Hawaiian island by a downed Japanese pilot, further broadening the appeal of these well-founded assignment titles. (John Peters, New York Public Library)

The Holocaust
While the author addresses a complex and difficult topic in less than 40 pages of text, his treatment is surprisingly focused and absorbing. There is an emotionally charged tone that takes over whenever the author describes the treatment of the victims, as if he understands that he has a limited opportunity to create a lasting impact on readers. It provides an adequate and serious introduction to the Holocaust, one that would hopefully spark young people to continue their research of the topic. (School Library Journal)

An Overview of World War I

The Scopes Monkey Trial
Considering the complexity of the topic, this title does a remarkable job of presenting brief, understandable discussions. (School Library Journal)

The Sinking of the Titanic
Whiting offers a good introduction to the tragedy. He incorporates the new findings currently being argued, such as whether or not the sinking was due to the ship’s design flaws or human misjudgment. Short chapters will appeal to readers who shy away from longer “report” books. (School Library Journal)

FIRST FACTS

Medieval Arms & Armor, Medieval Castles, Medieval Knights, The Miserable Life of Medieval Peasants
The following history series represent all that is vivid, exciting, and factual in history publishing today. Consider especially “First Facts: The Middle Ages” series. Merely glancing at their pages is practically impossible. A glance turns into studying a caption. That turns into reading a page, then the book. Poof! History is alive! With three to six sentences per page, large, clear fonts, and succinct descriptions, these books are ideal introductions.  (“Series Made Simple,” School Library Journal)

LIFE IN THE EARLY ISLAMIC WORLD

The Role of Religion in the Early Islamic World
Tells the story of Muhammad’s early life as an orphan and how his later success as a merchant led to his being called by the angel Gabriel to “recite.” The rapid rise of Islam is discussed and the complicated history of the Sunni-Shia split becomes understandable thanks to Whiting’s clear text. Written with respect and appeal; boldfaced introductory paragraphs and plenty of sidebars draw readers in. (Starred review, ALA Book Link)

The writing is generally simple enough for the intended audience but does not sacrifice quality of scholarship. The book provides a strong introduction to the study of life in the early Islamic world. Other similar titles have not been as successful at maintaining scholarly veracity while tailoring the information for young people. (School Library Journal)

MASTERS OF MUSIC

Jim Whiting’s Masters of Music book series is an incredible resource for my music program at Bridge Boston Charter School, an urban elementary school that serves high-poverty students in Boston. Whiting’s books are incredibly informative, providing a rich historical context and accurate biography for each composer. They are equally fascinating, with each book narrating dramatic stories that captivate students’ attention and allow them to see classical music composers as interesting and relevant historical figures. My students love reading Jim Whiting’s books as a class and independently, and I believe the books have certainly motivated students to learn and perform classical music in a way that is significant and meaningful. (Julie Davis, educator)

Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Very highly recommended for both school and community library collections. Showcases the lives of three composers, each of whom was hugely popular in his lifetimes and were to prove influential upon succeeding generations of music makers. Combining music, history, and culture with biographical information. (Children’s Bookwatch)

Irving Berlin
Readers will enjoy hearing the stories behind such familiar songs as “White Christmas” and “God Bless America.” Numerous interesting facts and the inclusion of pertinent events from each era make for lively reading. For assignments, casual browsing, or required reading, this slim volume neatly fills the bill. (School Library Journal)

George Gershwin, Giuseppe Verdi
Brief looks at the lives of two well-known and important composers. In their quest for musical careers, both Gershwin and Verdi faced numerous challenges and struggles. Through persistence and determination, they realized great success—Gershwin with musicals and Verdi in opera—but also disappointment and heartache in their personal lives. Each title consists of six succinct chapters highlighting important events in the composer’s life, followed by an “FYInfo” page that provides additional information. (School Library Journal)

George Gershwin

Whiting has done extensive research; appropriate quotes are interspersed throughout the story. He describes the music scene in the early 20th century and puts Gershwin’s life within this historical context. (Jewish Book World)

The writing and language are simple enough for middle schoolers but with sufficient depth for report writing. (Young Adult Reviewers of Southern California)

Hector Berlioz, Igor Stravinsky, Richard Wagner
The writing style is clear and engaging. (School Library Journal)

Well-researched and clear, these books in five or six chapters relate biographical details of the composers’ lives, emphasizing the circumstances surrounding their musical education and compositions. (The Horn Book Guide)

Leonard Bernstein
One of a series of classical composer biographies by esteemed journalist Whiting. (Channel 4 [London, England], Howard Goodall’s 20th Century Greats)

Another successful entry in this series of short biographies. A sense both of Bernstein’s enormous contribution to American culture and the events in the world during his lifetime are clear to the reader. Visually appealing, interestingly written, and contains a lot of information. (Jewish Book World)

MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE

Black Holes, Energy, Gravity, Light, Mass and Matter, Space and Time, Stars
This sophisticated series will appeal to report writers and serious astronomy students. Each book carefully examines the history behind attempts to unravel explanations for the subjects, going back to Anaxagoras’s work on energy in 450 B.C. all the way up to the contemporary findings of Stephen Hawking. The numerous theories put forth throughout the ages are meticulously detailed and put in context of how research was able to proceed despite political or religious pressures to suppress it. Sidebars bring in interesting tidbits, including information about how pop culture has used or misused science in fiction and film. As they bring together science, history, and philosophy, these volumes are exhaustive treatments of their subjects. (School Library Journal)

This is an excellent resource to introduce these mysteries. Further, young readers will become aware of how scientists solve problems and how theories and laws are validated as they build on prior knowledge. (National Science Teachers Association)

ANCIENT EGYPTIAN WONDERS

Life Along the Ancient Nile
This series provides a comprehensive overview of ancient Egyptian civilization. Each book is well-researched and includes quotes from experts and ancient texts which provide well-documented insight. The best book in the series is Life Along the Ancient Nile; the coverage of marriage, fashion, medicine, and social classes is thorough and fascinating. The primary source materials about dental procedures and wild parties will intrigue readers. Students will clearly understand why the legacy of ancient Egypt stands out from other ancient cultures. Highly recommended. (Library Media Connection)

Provides a wealth of information on the ancient Egyptians.  Even though this is oft-covered ground, this book stands out for its abundant material. The content is extensive, but it is written in a conversational style that will pull in report writers and browsers alike. The main text is interspersed with fact boxes providing additional intriguing tidbits. Solid purchase, even for libraries with Egyptian collections of a good size. (School Library Journal)

LATINOS IN U.S. HISTORY

Francisco Vasquez de Coronado
Enticing book, chronicling the conquistador’s search for the fabled Seven Cities of Gold, and other explorations as well as accusations leveled against him for crimes against native peoples. Well written and brings children into the middle of history. (ALA Booklist)

Highly Recommended. (Library Media Connection)

Gaspar de Portola
The book is filled with interesting information regarding the early exploration and settlement along the Pacific coastline… a valuable resource for learning. (School Library Journal)

Junipero Serra
Clear and balanced overview of Serra’s life and accomplishments. (School Library Journal)

ART HISTORY FOR KIDS

Vincent Van Gogh
Offers well-documented information …covers the painter’s childhood, training, travels, influences, and historical context. The chronological chapters build a survey of the artist’s oeuvre, including the style and subject matter of his works and past and present critical reaction. The introductory chapter is designed to draw readers in with an anecdote, the sale of Van Gogh’s “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” for $82.5 million in 1990 and its subsequent disappearance. To his credit, Whiting defines subject-specific terms in context, provides pronunciation tips, and explains potentially unfamiliar events or people. (School Library Journal)

Michelangelo
Organized into short chapters to read more like a short novel. Told in an easy-to-read format describing his art, struggles, lifestyles, and families. Great for research, and could also appeal to interested readers to read for pleasure. (Library Media Connection)

Edvard Munch
The profile of Munch explains how the artist attempted to convey his deep feelings of anxiety in his paintings. Goes beyond basic facts, providing historical context and significance of the art and the artist. Provides plenty of information for reports in a reader-friendly format. (School Library Journal)

UNLOCKING THE SECRETS OF SCIENCE

John Dalton and the Atomic Theory
The scientific discoveries are explained in simple terms, sometimes even broken down into numbered points. (School Library Journal)

Oswald Avery and the Story of DNA
Easy to read. (School Library Journal)

Robert Weinberg and the Search for the Cause of Cancer
Solid introduction. (School Library Journal)

UNCHARTED, UNEXPLORED, UNEXPLAINED

Auguste and Louis Lumiere and the Rise of Motion Pictures
This short book provides a decent amount of information for its size, and it is eye-catching enough to prompt browsers to pick it up. It also provides good, if simple, explanations of some of the science behind the discoveries. (Voya)

Full of information. (School Library Journal)

Charles Darwin and The Origin of the Species
Including many quotes from Darwin’s writings, sidebars on points of interest, and a summary of the various forms of creationism, this title is valuable to young researchers and also quite readable cover-to-cover. (School Library Journal)

ROBBIE READERS

Charles Schulz
The author clearly shows his subject’s persistence to study art and to make a career out of cartooning. (School Library Journal)

Tony Blair
Early details will endear the man to young readers. Information-packed text. (School Library Journal)

Robert Fulton, Annie Oakley
These easy-to-read titles provide basic introductions to key American figures. The books are straightforward, well-organized, positive explorations of their subjects. (School Library Journal)

The Bermuda Triangle
The book starts off with the seemingly improbable disappearance of five U.S. Navy torpedo bombers in 1945. It then goes on to chronicle other planes and ships that vanished. A penultimate chapter offers several supernatural explanations (wormholes, aliens) as well as some scientific answers that include storms and lost planes that ran out of gas. Most interesting is the theory about methane gas bubbles that can envelop a ship in an instant. The topic will draw many readers. (ALA Booklist)

Ultra Running With Scott Jurek
I believe this book should be in all libraries serving young people. You and Scott Jurek are a winning duo. (Heidi Renz, retired elementary school teacher)

Frogs in Danger, The Threat to Ancient Egyptian Antiquities
These volumes are perfect for young readers seeking information on contemporary environmental issues. Short chapters, large font, and pronunciation guides to key words engage children doing research, but the depth of information is not compromised. Historical and scientific background, the current status, existing rescue efforts, and future prospects are addressed. Colorful, up-close photographs are accompanied by satisfying explanatory captions. “What You Can Do” pages provide practical suggestions for proactive readers. (School Library Journal)

BIOGRAPHY FROM ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS

Aristotle
A brief but compelling biography introduces children to the man Dante called “the master of those who know.” (Jack Criss, The New Individualist)

Moses
A fluid and lively retelling of the basic story, including insight into the broader context of the times, an introduction to his teaching, and a recounting of the “facts” that believers would assent to. Attractive and inviting. (School Library Journal)

Combines the biblical record with modern scholarly opinion. Recommended. (American Jewish League Newsletter)

Rameses the Great, Nero
Whiting aims to strike a balance, pointing out both successes and failures and strengths and weaknesses. (School Library Journal)

Joan of Arc

This biography of the saint places her in historical as well as contemporary context. Joan of Arc is sometimes a controversial figure because of her declarations that she heard the voices of angels telling her what to do. The author confronts this issue early on, stating, “In our era, some people believe that claims of hearing `voices’ show that the person is mentally unbalanced. Others have suggested that what Joan was hearing was actually her conscience. But Joan was acting in accord with common beliefs at the time.” (School Library Journal)

CLASSIC STORYTELLERS

Ernest Hemingway
Whiting balances the extremes in Hemingway’s life, from his literary successes to his risky stunts, drinking, and bullying. Since his life reads like a story, even those who aren’t familiar with his works will be drawn into this account. (School Library Journal)

Provides intriguing insights into the controversies that surrounded him. (Horn Book Reviews)

Edgar Allan Poe
Useful as a brief study of Poe and his works. (School Library Journal)

PROFILES IN GREEK AND ROMAN MYTHOLOGY

Jason
The story of the Argonauts is clear and incorporates quotes from Euripides, Homer, and Apollonius, as well as modern scholars. (School Library Journal)

TRANSCENDING RACE IN AMERICA

W.E.B. DuBois
Whiting shows Du Bois as one never afraid to speak his mind and stand up for his beliefs, even when they were at odds with those of major figures such as Booker T. Washington. The author openly discusses Du Bois’s political and ideological struggles, which concluded with his move to Ghana and admittance into the Communist Party. The book provides solid information about Du Bois. (ALA Booklist)

WORLD OF MIXED MARTIAL ARTS

Blood and Guts: The Basics of Mixed Martial Arts
If you are wondering where all the boxing fans have gone, here’s your answer. Mixed martial arts, best known as the sport of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) league, has ramped up in recent years, and this entry in the Velocity: The World of Mixed Martial Arts series is an ideal entry point. It begins with the fascinating story of Senator John McCain’s campaign to ban the sport, and how his partial success compelled leagues to institute additional rules. By the time the final page is turned, readers will be echoing the last words of any UFC loser: “I submit.” (ALA Booklist)

Blood and Guts, A New Generation of Warriors, Striking, Grappling and Ground Fighting, Inside the Cage

This series stands out for its exciting subject matter that has been popularized on television but that is not prevalent in material for this audience. Covering history, skills, basic rules, and greatest fights, Whiting provides information in fact boxes and in short bursts of text. Fans of the sport will be mesmerized by these books. (School Library Journal)

DRUG FACTS

Steroids
Information is presented in a matter-of-fact, no-holds-barred manner, which will resonate with teen readers. The simple text uses up-to-date language; several personal anecdotes from teens who struggled with abuse are presented in graphic sidebars. Clear and balanced with high quality writing. (Library Media Connection)

Presenting the “history, effects, and dangers” of these drugs is not easy, yet Whiting does just that in a compact and concise package. Smooth transitions bring readers up-to-date with present laws. The book provides clear explanations about effects, followed by diagrams of the body to clarify the specific organs/body systems that suffer the most damage. The presentation is straightforward, especially in the acknowledgment that because of peer pressure, the decision to try steroids is often made without knowing all about the possible consequences. This book provides an excellent starting point for remedying that problem. (School Library Journal)

SPECIAL FORCES

Air Force Special Operations Command, Delta Force, FBI Hostage Rescue and SWAT Teams, Green Berets, Marine Corps Special Operations Command, Navy SEALS

This series is packed with information. Each book begins with an engaging introductory narrative that puts readers right inside the action with these special forces, followed by a history of the elite team. Whiting describes in detail the training process for the men and women who apply for these jobs, which require both immense physical skill and strength, as well as mental grit and intelligence. This series will be invaluable for students researching or writing about the military. (“Series Made Simple,” School Library Journal)

EXPLORING CULTURAL HISTORY

Life in the North During the Civil War

Focuses on the everyday lives of a variety of people, including different social and economic classes, women, children, and slaves and servants. The book describes how people were housed, where they worked, what they ate, and how they worshipped and learned. Well written in clear, informative prose that draws on well-documented primary sources, which are quoted in the text and excerpted in sidebars. Solid choice for secondary collections. (School Library Journal)

 

ISSUES IN THE DIGITAL AGE

Online Communication and Social Networking

Both sides of issues are presented in an unbiased manner. Examines the benefits and drawbacks to virtual networking and communication. The personal stories help the readable texts flow smoothly. (School Library Journal)

EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE

UFOs

Thorough and interesting. Speculative in nature, the book poses common questions about aliens and attempts to provide answers by drawing information from the fields of entertainment, science, and philosophy. Some chapters, like those focusing on alien encounters, are downright creepy. Sidebars provide fun facts or insight into specific events or organizations. Extensive back matter makes this book great for report writers and those truly interested in the possibility of alien life. (School Library Journal)

ACTION SCIENCE

The Science of Hitting a Home Run, The Science of Lighting a City

Blurring the line between science and technology, these presentations explain in resolutely nontechnical language how physical principles figure into familiar events and phenomena. (School Library Journal)