14 Reference Titles for Research on Trans Studies, Latinx Lit, and More

Adams, Tom. The Big Book of Mysteries. illus. by Yas Imamura. 96p. Nosy Crow. Jul. 2023. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9798887770048.
Gr 3-6–Kids are introduced to 100 well-known, though often debated, mysteries, delusions, and phenomena. While the book cannot prove the validity of each, it does an excellent job providing as much information available, allowing readers to decide for themselves. Adams presents young people with information on sightings, encounters, and tales that range in subject from the Bermuda Triangle to Bigfoot. This browsable compendium has something of interest for every reader. Painterly illustrations offer visual representations of the content that will prove helpful to young readers taking on some of these heavier topics. VERDICT ­Recommended for general purchase for a youth nonfiction or reference collection. This is also an excellent title for reluctant readers who could carve out one or two “mysteries” in one sitting.–Kristen Todd-Wurm

Animals. ISBN 9781426375835; ISBN 9781426375781.
Ocean. ISBN 9781426375842; ISBN 9781426375712.
ea vol: 48p. (Find It! Explore It!). National Geographic. Nov. 2023. Tr $19.90. pap. $9.99.
Gr 1-3–These two infotainment selections from National Geographic are as full of fun as they are of facts and seek-and-finds. From under the waves in Ocean, to all over the world with Animals, the brightly colored pages will grab any grade schooler’s attention away from a screen. Each entry is part of the “Find It! Explore It!” series for a reason. The rainbow-hued, ultra-saturated spreads start with the mission of finding different creatures in the pictures. Then, once readers have found them all (hopefully without having to ask for help from a grown-up!), they’ll be pulled in by the crisp photographs of the various sea life and animals. There are facts galore, all in easy-to-read type and vocabulary fit for an early elementary audience. When larger words are used, they are given in a sentence and phonetic spelling is provided. Kids love to impress with big words, and showing off their new words and knowledge will delight parents and teachers. VERDICT Great visuals and interesting facts make these wonderful additions to a screen-free stash and will keep the kiddos from grabbing a tablet.–Jessica Durham

Cheung, Theresa. Encyclopedia of Birthdays. 576p. Thunder Bay Pr. Nov. 2023. pap. $24.99. ISBN 9781667200774.
Gr 7 Up–Readers will never look at their birth dates the same way again. Birthdays, according to this book, affect personalities and influence future happiness. ­Combining northern astrology, Chinese astrology, and tarot, spiritual expert Cheung presents factors that readers can use to ascertain potential destinies. She details facts about the signs and how they impact love, health, and personality traits. Readers can follow steps and guidelines to interpret the readings. Cheung offers explanations of compatibility with Chinese zodiac signs and how people of some signs interact with others. Knowing all of the signs that accompany birth dates may even lead to an enlightened understanding of how a person moves through the universe! VERDICT Purchase where there’s interest in astrology, numerology, tarot, color theory, and parapsychology.–BreAnn Weeks

Hudson, David L., Jr., J.D. The Handy Supreme Court Answer Book: The History and Issues Explained. 2nd ed. 448p. Visible Ink. May 2023. pap. $29.95. ISBN 9781578597826.
Gr 9 Up–A fairly thorough history of the U.S. Supreme Court is provided in this volume by experienced law professor Hudson. Readers will learn the history of the court, information on some of the most well-known justices, and analyses of famous cases that have had far-reaching results. Cases are neatly divided by Constitutional amendments and then in chronological order. Race, abortion, and gun issues are presented in their own chapters, and the book concludes with Supreme Court trivia. Readers will also benefit from the currency of coverage, including the recent decisions of the Court, such as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Though mostly comprehensive and readable, the questions themselves depend on a prior knowledge of a particular case, justice, or the United States Constitution; for instance, “How did the Warren Court increase the power of the police in street-level encounters?” or “What two attorneys argued on behalf of the Amistad before the U.S. Supreme Court?” Also, a lack of a glossary will require the uninitiated to consult a dictionary for phrases like prima facie and habeas corpus. In his glowing review of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, ­Hudson glaringly omits Holmes’s controversial stance in Buck v. Bell (with no reference to that decision). Otherwise sufficient and objective information is provided. VERDICT Given the organized format, excellent table of contents, and index, this volume will be a suitable addition to high school library reference collections; report writers will glean much.–Margaret Nunes

Nardo, Don. Exploring Norse Mythology64p. Reference Point. Aug. 2023. Tr $32.95. ISBN 9781678205720.
Gr 6 Up–A concise, engaging read that covers some of the popular myths and figures of Norse mythology, as well as the historical connections between the myths, the Vikings, and the world. Chapters include a summary of the Viking worldview, World Tree, and inhabitants that live in each realm: Thor and his hammer, warriors and the afterlife, dwarfs and giants, and Loki and Ragnarok. Each of the five chapters begins with a story and adds further context and analysis as the chapter progresses. Text boxes cover topics such as the “mara” and its connection to the English word “nightmare,” Viking funerals, and the influence of Christianity on Norse myths. Quotes from experts, text boxes, definition of terms, and images add to the appeal of this title. Source notes, further reading, and index included. VERDICT Recommended for school and public library collections where there is an interest in this topic.–Marissa Lieberman

Ostrom, Hans & J. David Macey Jr. Forgotten African American Firsts: An Encyclopedia of Pioneering History. 352p. Greenwood. Mar. 2023. Tr $107. ISBN 9781440875359.
Gr 9 Up–This meticulously researched reference by two university professors attempts to resurrect in the public consciousness awareness of dozens of African American firsts in 17 different categories. Mixing the well-known accomplishments of trailblazers in film and media, literature, and sports with the lesser-known accolades of those in law, business, and diplomacy, this resource stretches as far back as the 18th century, with luminaries like Phillis Wheatley, to as recent as 2018 with Jordan Peele, the first Black person to win an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. This attempts to bring recognition to the mainstream consciousness of Black Americans who made a lasting impact on our nation in a multitude of arenas. VERDICT A necessary resource to celebrate the Black experience by exalting the pioneers who are too often ignored or forgotten in discourse surrounding the history of people of color in the United States.–Amy Shaw

Reichhardt, Tony. Smithsonian Treasures of the National Air and Space Museum. 128p. Smithsonian. Apr. 2023. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781588347350.
Gr 5 Up–An outstanding nonfiction work focused on air and space, this is a stunning book that children and adults will be drawn to. Organized into chapters featuring the various eras of flight and space exploration, including “Taking Flight,” “Aviation Goes to War,” and “The Shrinking Globe,” this reference work opens with an introduction explaining the history of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Each chapter is introduced with a beautiful piece of artwork depicting the time period and consists of primary documents, photos of exhibits, and artifacts. Spanning from a Chinese Dragon Kite from 1876, to the Wright Military Flyer in 1911, to the Phantom 1 drone in 2012, the information provided is expansive. The contributions of women and BIPOC to air and space exploration are celebrated. The browsable pages are complete with informative and accessible captions; the work can be read chronologically or randomly depending on interest. Because of the lack of index, educators might want to pair this with supplemental works to expand on the information presented. VERDICT A necessary purchase for all nonfiction sections, hand this to air and space enthusiasts, or those drawn to high interest books.–Amy McInerney

Richards, Jon. The Ultimate Human Body Encyclopedia: The Complete Visual Guide. 160p. Welbeck. Apr. 2023. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781804535035.
Gr 3-8–This highly visual work provides a comprehensive look at the human body. Richards reimagines the typical organization of anatomy books, straying from segmenting content into simple body systems (e.g., muscular, circulatory, etc.) and leaning more toward grouping system functions together (e.g., protection, control). Each page features technical, computer-generated illustrations and photographs of various organs and cutaways of the body, accompanied by labels and explanations. The visual aspects of this title are quite engaging; however, the writing and design leaves something to be desired. The various banners, boxes, and borders seem randomly placed on the pages, with little connection to other insets and the main text. The text on each page also lacks differentiated typesets, like bold keywords, making it difficult for readers to locate certain terms that will aid in their comprehension. The matter-of-fact delivery of information is presented in a neutral tone, which can be interpreted as dry or disengaging, but it does complement the illustrations appropriately. The author lists sources that were used for illustrations and photos, but there is no further reading or bibliography listed to aid readers in continuing their research. VERDICT This book would be a great start for younger readers with a budding interest in human anatomy; older readers may want to look elsewhere for a better organized and more functionally designed choice.–Ellen Kleber

Roy, Keidrick & others. Smithsonian America: The Atlas. 384p. Thunder Bay Pr. Sept. 2023. Tr $29.99. ISBN 9781645178422.
Gr 8 Up–This extraordinary reference tool is a testament to the rich tapestry of North America’s history and geography. It is expertly crafted by seven learned contributors who engage readers with insightful narratives that include the diversity of the multitude of cultures that have shaped the American identity. Thought-provoking and comprehensive, it embarks on an absorbing voyage through time, spanning from 50,000 BC to the modern day. Through a captivating blend of primary source maps, graphs, charts, posters, and photographs, this atlas meticulously illustrates the impact of Indigenous civilizations, the upheaval caused by European conquest, and the enduring struggles and triumphs that have defined the continent. From the excitement of continental exploration, and the gravity of the Civil War and global conflicts, to the rise of technological innovations, including fast-food culture, every facet of North America’s evolution is addressed in a balanced way. Social issues that have played a significant role in shaping the United States, such as slavery, women’s suffrage, and civil rights, are explored. Enriching readers’ understanding and encouraging deeper examination, the back matter offers an invaluable trove of information, featuring a detailed time line, U.S. Presidents’ birth states, a comprehensive guide to all 50 U.S. states, a detailed general index, and a comprehensive place-name index. VERDICT This indispensable reference book is an invaluable resource for history enthusiasts, students, and anyone seeking a deeper understanding of North America’s intricate journey through time. An exceptional addition to any library’s reference collection.–Lynne Stover

Sánchez, Aaron E,. ed. The Schlager Anthology of Hispanic America: A Student’s Guide to Essential Primary Sources2 vols. 598p. (Schlager Anthologies for Students). Schlager. Mar. 2023. Tr $285. ISBN 9781935306849.
Gr 8 Up–An excellent resource for U.S. history and Latinx studies and research. This anthology of primary sources presents a treasure trove of documents that can be used in a class setting. The 12 chapters cover Hispanic American history from pre-contact to the present day, in mostly chronological order. They are short form works, such as speeches, poems, diary entries, and reproductions of photos and paintings, all meant to provide accessible points of entry for high school or undergrad students. Longer examples are abridged, useful for striving readers. Discussion questions follow each of the 150 entries, ranging in difficulty from basic to more advanced; websites, glossary, and further reading are also included. Black-and-white photos are scattered throughout. Frank discussion on the use of the term Hispanic American instead of Latino/a/x is included in the introduction, as well as the complexity of studying a culture that transcends national, language, and racial boundaries. VERDICT A comprehensive overview of Latinx history that was tailor-made for educators and students.–Shelley M. Diaz

Seek & Find Picture Dictionary. illus. by Juan Amadeo. 112p. (Seek & Find). Flowerpot. Sept. 2023. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781486727766.
K-Gr 3–This book attempts to combine the practicality of a basic vocabulary dictionary with the fun of a Where’s Waldo-style search-and-find puzzle book. It opens with several colorful, chaotic spreads, along with brief explanations of how to use it. It is unclear who the intended audience is—the first page is addressed to the reader (presumably a child) with the text presented in paragraph form, while the second page talks about “phonemic awareness” and uses other literacy jargon likely aimed at adults. The dictionary section features 12 spreads interspersed with pages of vocabulary terms and their simplified definitions, with the goal of connecting the images to the words. The definitions themselves are oversimplified in some cases, and it’s unclear where the definitions originated since there is no author listed. Each definition includes a pronunciation guide and indicates the part of speech of each word. VERDICT Though it might not be that useful as a dictionary, the book’s illustrations provide the opportunity for seek-and-find fun. A secondary purchase.–Kadie Seitz

Sherrow, Victoria. Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History. 2nd ed. 640p. Bloomsbury. Mar. 2023. Tr $120. ISBN 9781440873485.
Gr 8 Up–A comprehensive volume on the history and culture of hair (both head and body) through the ages. Sherrow thoroughly examines the universalities and differences among cultures around the world about hair styles, growth and loss, and care. Especially engaging are the entries that explore how men and women’s hairstyles have reflected ideas about age, gender, religious beliefs, marital status, and more. Many of the essay-length entries focus on Western styles, but this second edition consistently covers specific world regions, hair coverings, political symbolism behind certain styles, and more. It also builds upon entries from the last decade, including information on hair-related medical advancements. Each essay is accompanied by its own bibliography. The text is broken up by 120 captioned, black-and-white photos throughout. A longer bibliography appears in the back matter. VERDICT Add this exhaustive title to reference collections in need of sociocultural-focused works.–Shelley M. Diaz

Soto van der Plas, Christina & Lacie Rae Buckwalter Cunningham, eds. Latino Literature: An Encyclopedia for Students328p. Bloomsbury. Mar. 2023. Tr $107. ISBN 9781440875915.
Gr 7 Up–It is a daunting task to offer a historical and political overview of the rich and complex history of Latinx literature in the United States, yet Soto van der Plas and Cunningham have attempted to do just that. They have collected a thorough group of essays introducing historical protagonists, their movements, and significance for Latinx literature. The editors claim that the book is not a traditional encyclopedia, but more of a compass, establishing the “main coordinates of what Latino literature has been historically and to trace the current trends within the field.” Each entry—from Oscar “Zeta” Acosta to Helena María ­Viramontes—is written by a scholar in the field and contains a summary, chronology of significance, a bibliography, and additional resources. The book also contains a brief time line from 5,000 BCE to 2007. VERDICT This sprawling collection is an excellent post-primary introduction to the topic. It is simply organized yet contains a multiplicity of topics, artistic contributions, and historical accounts.–Jennifer Townes

Sumereau, J.E., ed. The Rowman & Littlefield Handbook of Transgender Studies188p. (Rowman & Littlefield Handbook Series). Rowman & Littlefield. Mar. 2023. Tr $140. ISBN 9781538136010.
Gr 9 Up–Through multidisciplinary research and an intersectional lens, the complex lives and broad experiences of transgender people are illuminated. Establishing trans voices at the center of the discussions, contributors examine issues, experiences, and populations while being mindful of race, class, ethnicity, ability, and sexuality, religion. This focuses on how to create better systems, supports, and institutions for trans people, as well as increase education, awareness, and empathy all while improving and expanding research. Chapters delve into how structural disparities and barriers in various systems and institutions affect trans lives. These include discussion of health and healthcare, safety, and accessibility issues with public bathrooms, the ­criminal justice system, military service and changing policies and procedures, and the importance of affirmation in clinical education. A chapter on trans lives in the Southern United States explores the lack of protections, support, and resources there. Also included are sections on gender dysphoria; the intersection of trans and intersex experiences; intimacy, dating violence, and desirability; trans bodies in relation to cis bodies; a personal essay on transmasculinity; chosen families and online communities; and trans youth studies and the family unit. Each ­section includes extensive references for further reading. Championing advocacy, autonomy, and affirmation, this intensely academic look at the lived experiences of trans people empowers and normalizes trans experiences while educating allies how to best serve and support this community. VERDICT An essential, insightful overview of current issues in the field of Transgender Studies.–Amanda MacGregor

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