Monday, August 22, 2011

No-nonsense Nonfiction: "The Girl's Guide to Everything Unexplained" reviews

I'm introducing a new feature today with a double billing!  As a school librarian, I have to make sure that the students have plenty of nonfiction material as well as fun novels and picture books.  I need to select books that support curriculum standards and classroom lessons.  From folklore to history, from dinosaurs to poetry, nonfiction can sometimes be the most challenging to select and circulate.  These books need accuracy and currency along with accessibility, and I need to keep in mind that this is a K-12 school: I'm serving a wide age group.

As I said, I'm highlighting two books today.  These are from The Girl's Guide to Everything Unexplained series by Jen Jones.  One is The Girl's Guide to Vampires and the other is The Girl's Guide to Zombies.

Checkouts: new to the library, courtesy of the Superiorland Preview Center
Typical reader: Alas, while I've got students of both genders who would love these topics, boys won't pick up books labeled for girls.  Ironically, there's hardly anything in the books that make them girl-oriented.
Do the Dewey: 398.4 (398 is folklore/fairy tales)

My Goodreads ratings: 3 for vampires, 4 for zombies

I was only able to get half the series, which is a bit unfortunate.  (The other two books are on werewolves and wizards.)  These are pretty easy to read but not too watered down, making them great for elementary students grades 2-6.  The format is great, with the books introducing the lore and history of these creatures, how they feature in pop culture, how to recognize them (Is your BFF a zombie?  Is your crush a vampire?), and their strengths and weaknesses.

The zombie book was particularly good because it covered the wide scope that modern zombies do.  There's a bit about the origin of the word, and what Haitian zombies are, as well as what movies like Night of the Living Dead have given us.  I liked the bit about the movie Pathogen, which was written and directed by a 12-year-old girl.  Wow!

The vampire book ... I wish it were as good.  While the textual information is relatively on par with the zombie edition, the scope was too narrow.  Apparently, all vampires are of the Twilight ilk!  Books actually meant for kids, like the Bunnicula series of my youth or the more recent My Sister the Vampire get a little blurb at best.  I'm trying to stay off my soapbox regarding the series, but Twilight is not appropriate for elementary students - or really anyone who can't tell the difference between a good relationship and an abusive one.  Sneaking into your girlfriend's bedroom to watch her sleep is called stalking.  Throwing her through a glass coffee table because she has a papercut is physical abuse.  But, this book has an overwhelming amount of photos from the movies of the same name.  More Bela Lugosi, less Bella Swan, please!

I'd like to see how the other two books in this series compare.  I think the two that I received will be hits in the library this fall, at least.


  1. It is rather sad, what a state vampires have been relegated to in popular culture these days. Still, at least the zombie book sounded good.

  2. Armygeezer writes: I'm a bit disappointed they aren't more girl-oriented given the title. I was really hoping there would be something that would really make them stand out in that way. Hopefully there will be a time when the other two books in the series get reviewed...and added to the library.