An Inconvenient Truth: The Crisis in Global Warming

cover image for An Inconvenient TruthGore, Al. (2007) An Inconvenient Truth: The Crisis in Global Warming. New York, NY: Viking.

Plot Summary:

With statistics and full color photographs, Gore presents the basics of a global crisis. From explaining greenhouse gases to chronicling Antarctica’s dramatically shrinking size, an airtight case for humanity’s influence on the global climate is made.  While deliberately and understandably alarming, the book ends on a hopeful note – showing the ways in which the modern world has been able to change its ways  and halt the process when we have put the effort into doing so.

Critical Evaluation:

The teen version of Gore’s popular and controversial book is much abridged, but still densely packed with information.  The abundance of graphics help to break up the text and ground the data in something more tangible for readers.  It’s an important book for teens to read, especially as it spends a decent amount of time discussing what can be done to halt global warming.  Some older teens will prefer reading the original adult title, but having this copy available as well will make the information accessible to a larger number of teen readers.

Reader’s Annotation:

“I is our only home. And we must take care of it.”

Author Information:

Being such a public figure, Gore’s sites are more about his projects than a way to connect to readers, but interested teens will find them informative.



Booktalking Ideas:

Props would work really well for this talk, not just graphs and pictures from the book, but everyday things like packaging and light bulbs. The trick would be to give enough information to be understandable and credible, but not so much that potential readers think checking out the book would now be unnecessary.

Reading Level/Target Age:

5th grade/10-16

Possible Controversy:

The controversy surrounding the movie and adult title is likely to follow the teen version as well.  The best defense is a well rounded collection and various educational and scientific organization’s endorsement of the series.

Reasons for Choosing This Title:

I was curious as to how this title would be adapted for younger readers.


Mission to the Moon

cover image for Mission to the MoonDyer, A. (2009) Mission to the Moon.  New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.




[Note:  Before I begin, I should warn you that I grew up going to star parties with my dad and his astronomy students, and so I am inclined to both love anything about space and be nitpicky when it comes to scientific accuracy.]

Mission to the Moon is an extremely exhaustive account of the US Apollo Missions to the moon, especially for a book meant for tweens.  It’s laid out mostly chronologically, starting with the requisite “what ancient civilizations thought,” moving on to the first rockets and the beginning of the space race, and then spending the bulk of the book discussing the Apollo missions, shuttles, and crew in detail.  It’s great for reluctant readers because it’s set up much like a DK eyewitness book would be – a main paragraph in large font and then several progressively smaller paragraphs and captions – and, of course, lots of photos.  While the layout of each page was always dynamic, the main paragraph was almost always in the top left corner, which I thought lent a nice readability and predictability to a book whose information might otherwise be overwhelming.  Also, unlike many readable non-fiction books for tweens, this title gets into enough detail to also be a great resource for research papers.


I loved this book.  It’s totally going on my list of books to tell my dad about.  It not only has lots of information and tons of great, eye-catching photos, it does a great job of explaining to tweens why sending an astronaut to the moon was so incredibly important and inspiring at the time.  It also provides an accurate and fair when listing who did what first, which is pretty rare, and ends on a nice note about possible future missions to the moon and mars – inspiring tweens who may themselves be interested in becoming astronauts one day.
The only part that could have been better was the dvd.  The footage is great – it looks like something Kevin Arnold would have watched in class – but it’s a little long and dry to keep most tweens interest.


Best for ages 8-14

109 Forgotten American Heroes

cover image for 109 Forgetten American HeroesYing, C. & McMullen, B. (2009) 109 Forgotten American Heroes. New York, NY: DK Publishing




So, you know who invented the light bulb, you can name the first president of the United States, and of course you’ve heard of Rosa Parks.  But do you know who invented masking tape?  Have you ever heard of the Philadelphia Tea Party?  Or Claudette Colvin?

In this highly imaginative and entertaining book, Ying and McMullen list 109 “heroes” (and 9 villains) who helped make the world we live in what it is today.  It gets off to a slow start, but that doesn’t matter much as it’s an easy book to read out of order, and by the time the pages reach the 1900’s, our authors have hit their groove and each page is filled with wacky and interesting information – and has a colorful and dynamic layout to match.

This is one of those books to keep around to encourage interest in history and technology rather than to necessarily use as a reference book (although, it does have the requisite index).  Tweens especially will love both the engaging graphics and the weird but true facts they present.


Best for ages 9-15

Exploring Caves: Journey into the Earth

cover image for Exploring CavesAulenbach, N. H., Barton, H. A., & Delano, M. F. (2001) Exploring Caves.  Washington, DC: National Geographic Society




Cavers Nancy Holler Aulenbach and Hazel A. Barton invite readers (and a film crew) along with them as they research some of the most fascinating caves on earth.  The first place they visit is Greenland, to see inside the unstable and everchanging ice caves hidden with cracks in the vast glaciers that cover much of the country.  By the end of the journey, readers have also seen glimpses of underwater caves in Mexico, a cave that can only be reached by climbing down the side of the Grand Canyon, and caves filled with bats.


This book is more properly an elementary school book than a middle school title.  However, it is a great title to have around for reluctant tween readers of all ages.  The intriguing subject matter and the slim number of pages make it a book that might be picked up by tweens that would skip more mundane subjects or more daunting texts.  Also, the narrative style will encourage readers to connect with the authors find the already dramatic topic to be even more intense while the detailed and bright photographs will keep the readers turning pages.

Best for ages 7-12


Film Website:


Author Websites:

The Great Brain Book

cover image for The Great Brain BookNewquist, H. P. (2005) The Great Brain Book. New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc.


While very informative, this title has just way too much text and not enough illustrations for such a complex topic.  It’s hard to see many tweens – or very many readers of any age – trying to read it from cover to cover.  At the same time, it’s laid out in a way that does not encourage skipping around to topics that might catch one’s interest.  While there are parts that stood out as being an excellent read, for the most part it felt as dry as textbook.  It would be useful as a reference book, but won’t do much to encourage tweens not already interested in the topic to explore it further.

Best for ages 12-15

Author’s Website:

How to be a Genius

cover image for How to be a GeniusDK Publishing. (2009) How to be a Genius. New York, NY: Dorling Kindersley



Little kids may always want to know why things happen, but older kids are fascinated by how things happen. This busy and colorful book from DK answers all their questions about the human brain – everything from how neurons make connections to how optical illusions work.

For this particular non-fiction book, DK drops it’s trademark black on white text with color photos and instead fills the pages with vibrant cartoons and the occasional photo or detailed illustration. This works well for the topic, as much of what needs to be explained are processes and theories rather than examples of particular objects. The book is also liberally sprinkled with pages encouraging tweens to test their skills or improve their memory. In general, this book is interesting and informative and will keep readers turning the pages and even eager to share what they’ve learned with others. It’s not quite up to the level of David Macauley’s classics, but it’s a worthy addition to any library.


Best for ages 8-14

Personal note: I found the title to be slightly misleading. If little kids want to know why, and older kids want to know how, then teens want to know how to. For the most part, this book is about how, not how to and I found this to be a little frustrating simply because my expectations were otherwise based on the title.

Cautionary note: This title may produce challenges due to how it approaches religion, which is briefly mentioned. But there is nothing in it that is inappropriate and I would still very much recommend it’s inclusion in a library or booklist.