Ask a Librarian: Ancient Civilizations

Suggested Nonfiction Series on Ancient Civilizations

I recently received a call from the Media Clerk at Gearld Wright Elementary asking me to help her build out her Ancient Civilizations collection. She described frustration in trying to search online, and that the books she had purchased were a little bit too dry for the students at her school. For informational books, I have often found that the best way for me to evaluate them is to see an actual physical copy and be able to browse through it. This gives me a chance to see how the illustrations tie in with the text and how the overall flow of the book works. The best way to do this for me is to go to the public library and spend some time browsing through their shelves, making notes of books that are part of a series and which ones stand out to me. The library that I am partial to is the Salt Lake City Library, because they have an entire floor dedicated to materials for children, and their nonfiction section is quite comprehensive. Here is what I found,

When it comes to purchasing nonfiction titles, your world is made infinitely easier if you can purchase a full series of books, allowing you to check off a box to make sure your nonfiction collection is comprehensive. The only problem with this? Some series are just awful. Generic, unmemorable, and not engaging. Going through the nonfiction section, these series were stand outs,

Biggest, Baddest Book Series: A great series for reluctant readers, each book features interesting facts about a certain topic. Think of this series like the Wikipedia of nonfiction books, it is a great starting point for research, but not the be all end all of research.

Disgusting History Book Series: Each title is guaranteed to pique the interest of a student, and the engaging text, photos, and illustrations, will draw a student in and allow them to compare the living conditions of today to that particular time period.

Fierce Fighters Book Series: This series is one that allows the reader to focus on a specific group of fighters, and provides a pretty comprehensive look at their history and what type of weaponry they used.

History Dudes: Each book in this series draws the reader in through a key event, theme, or period in world history, and uses a lot of humor to do so. My only gripe is that the title makes it seem as though the series is focused on the men of history and not the women. It is actually pretty balanced, and I wish the title reflected that.

Is That a Fact? Book Series: A description from the publisher, “There is life on other planets. People have tiny insects living in their eyelashes. You may have heard these common sayings before. But are they really true? Can they be proven through research? This series investigates and finds out which statements are true, which ones are false, and which ones still stump researchers! See if you can tell the difference between fact and fiction in this fun, high-interest series that emphasizes critical thinking.”

National Geographic Investigates: This series will appeal to students and teachers who are looking for deep understanding of a specific civilization. The pictures are beautifully photographed, the text is authoritative, and the layout of the book is top notch. Best of all, it is not mired down with trying to be funny or goofy.

People of the Ancient World Book Series: Each book in this series attempts to paint a portrait of life during a certain time period. Each chapter covers a different part of society, allowing the reader to understand how different life could be, depending on what sect of society a person belonged to.

The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Dastardly Dames: A description from the publisher, “Each woman’s story is presented in rich historical and cultural context, with gorgeous original gouache paintings by Peter Malone, as well as photographs of artifacts, reproductions of archival paintings, maps, and timelines. Named one of the Top Ten Nonfiction Series for Youth 2012 by the American Library Association, and winner of an Independent Publishers’ Book Awards Silver Medal.”

What Can We Learn from Early Civilizations? Book Series: This series introduces students to six ancient civilizations, giving them a peek into the daily life, cultural activities, and locations of these groups.

True Book Series: What I like about this series is that it explores ancient philosophy, math, and science and how these innovations influence our thinking today. Thankfully, the books are pretty short and will not intimidate students by their size.

Warriors of History Book Series: A description from the publisher, “Go back in time and learn about some of history’s most storied and courageous warriors. Readers will love these in-depth looks at each warrior’s time and culture, along with details about weapons, skills, and missions. These always-exciting topics are sure to get kids reading.”

You Wouldn’t Want to… Book Series: One of my favorite books series from when I was kid, I was surprised that the speech bubbles still managed to elicit a laugh out of me. Not only is it funny, it also allows the reader to learn how people of history survived without modern-day conventions (#oldworldproblems) and how they developed ways to make life easier.

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