Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Facts Can be Fun: Middle Grade and Teen Nonfiction Series

Today I’m going to share with you some of my favorite nonfiction series for middle grade students and teens as part of our #FactsMatter series. So let’s dive in . . .

History Smashers by Kate Messner

Much of what we know about history has been white washed and watered down. Prolific middle grade author Kate Messner has started a new, engaging nonfiction series for readers to help present a more factual look at the past in a fun and informative way.

Basher Basics

The Basher Basics series is a very quick reference series that is very accessible to those who are trying to dive into a new subject in a safe, fun way. It’s very small, bite size information presented in a fun format. The title on the periodic table is particularly useful.

Who Was . . . ?

The Who Was (also What Was and Who Is) series introduces younger nonfiction fans to a variety of historical figures and events. It’s incredibly popular and another great introduction. It’s even great for teens and adults who want to learn about a topic but don’t want to read a 1,000 page esoteric biography.

Enviro Infographics

With the Pacific Northwest melting into the ground and the ocean on fire, a lot of us are talking about Climate Change. In fact, I think a lot of adults don’t understand how much of a emotional burden Climate Change is on our young people. This series uses infographics to help put the discussion into perspective for all. I love infographics because I think they help us conceptualize facts, figures and data into ways that our brains can understand. If you like infographics, author Steve Jenkins also has some great titles on data about the Earth and animals in infographics form.

One Big Fat Notebook

I just don’t have these in the library, I personally own several and have used the math one frequently to look up how to do various types of problems to help Thing 2 with her math homework. They are really great overviews of topics and easy to use and understand. I recommend them to everyone, including every friend who says they have a hard time helping their kid with their math homework.

Barron’s Painless

Have an older student? You might need to move up to the Barron’s Painless series for homework help. Or better yet, have both this and the One Big Fat Notebook together to help tackle Chemistry and Physics.

Pocket Change Collective

The Pocket Change Collective is a series that looks at social issues from modern day activists. They cover topics of interest to a lot of teens in a very engaging format.

I’m always looking for new nonfiction series for my readers, so if you have suggestions please leave them in the comments. Let’s get some good information on our shelves for readers who are trying to figure out how to navigate the issues they keep hearing about in the news or are experiencing in their lives.

Book Review: The Infographic Guide to College

infographic1Publisher’s Book Description:

For fans of the popular Show Me How series, this illustrated guide to college life has everything a student needs to excel in their first year, from tips on getting involved around campus to advice about applying for loans and studying for exams.

College survival just got graphic!

Get a head start at school with this infographic guide to college life, with colorful descriptions of all the skills you need to survive and thrive in college, and advice about how to:

-Avoid the Freshman 15
-Declare a major
-Get around town
-Apply for a loan
-Ace your exams
-Master study habits
-Stay healthy
-And so much more!

With over fifty colorful, easy-to-read infographics, you’ll know how to make the most of your time in college and be fully prepared for the next step in your education. (Adams Media, 2017)

Karen’s Thoughts:


Helping my teens plan for and get ready for college is an important part of my job, so I’m always looking for new and engaging resources to add to my collection. And as my daughter just began her high school career, this task takes on personal meaning as well. So I was excited when I learned about this book. For the most part, The Infographic Guide to College is a pretty straightforward and accessible look at college. It includes things like financial aid, selecting a major and even things like how to do laundry. Because it is presented in infographic format it is a quick and easy to read book, colorful, engaging and in many ways very helpful. I almost handed it to my daughter and her friends who just entered high school and was all set to purchase it for my library, but I had some concerns with a couple of issues that stopped me.

Having Said All That, This is Why I’m Not Buying This Book:

In the midst of all this useful information, there is a stunning lack of information regarding sex and sexual violence on campus. I think these are huge oversights for this publication. The subject of sex isn’t listed in the table of contents or in the index. There is no discussion of consent, sexual violence, sexual safety. Nothing.

There are also two pages about drinking. However, there are no mention in these two sections about the law regarding legal drinking ages. The section on Drinking Games 101 begins like this:

“Parties give you a chance to escape the rigors of classes and meet new people. You’ll also get the opportunity to showcase your drinking skills with popular games like beer pong and flip cup. Here’s the lowdown on the top drinking games played on college campuses.”

Beer Pong, Flip Cup, Quarters and King’s Cup are then explained.

Two pages later there is then a spread on Downing a Drink: What You Need to Know. Some basic safety is included here, like never drink on an empty stomach. But again, there is no mention of legal drinking ages, college rules regarding drinking, concerns about binge drinking and consent, or any type of real acknowledgement of the risks involved with drinking. If you Google “college drinking infographics”, you get a much different view of college drinking. You can see examples of them here, here and here. I think some infographics like this would have presented balance to the information presented.

A Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) of 21 saves lives and protects health

Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) laws specify the legal age when an individual can purchase or publicly consume alcoholic beverages. The MLDA in the United States is 21 years.  However, prior to the enactment of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, the legal age when alcohol could be purchased varied from state to state.1 (Source: CDC)

Keep in mind that the average age of a high school student going directly into college is 18 years old, 3 years below the legal drinking age. Yes, there are older and legal aged college students, but a majority of incoming Freshman are around 18 years-old. Without these discussions, I feel this book is almost advocating illegal behavior that puts a teens college career in jeopardy. This coupled with the omission of the sexual violence epidemic on our college campuses just makes this a no go for me. It seems in some ways irresponsible and negligent; it is not a comprehensive look at college life and those omissions seem like real safety issues.

RAINN: Campus Sexual Violence Statistics

If the author or publisher had included a brief caveat about the laws regarding these issues, I would feel differently about this book. Although it’s hard to overlook any book about college not having a genuine discussion about the fact that one in four college students reports being sexually harassed or assaulted on campus. I have often heard it said that you should review a book for what it is, not what you wish it to be, and for the most part I agree with that. However, this is a work of nonfiction and I think the parts that it leaves out are important and meaningful and, perhaps, dangerous.