Note: The following are various reviews for Wil’s nonfiction books for children. For reviews of his novels, please visit the individual page for each title.

For Robotics, in the ‘Calling All Innovators’ series —

“The visual appeal and additional features of each book are outstanding. Different font types and font colors jump off the page, and every page has one or more high quality photos. Timelines run across the bottom of the chapter pages and help the reader understand the chronology of key events associated with the industry. Special pages in each book add interesting information. Its innovative focus and visual appeal are both superior.”

—Lynndy Hurdle, VOYA

“Mara follows the development of robotics from the very first imaginings in ancient Greece to its modern uses in space exploration and industry. Designed to inspire students to consider possible careers in the field of robotics, multiple options for how readers could contribute are revealed – not just in engineering or programming, but also in aesthetics, research, and overall design. Throughout the title, Mara explores real-world applications of robotics, such as the “Luke Skywalker arm,” robots in the military, and Google’s self-driving cars. He encourages readers to consider the engineering involved by following a robot’s development through the design process: from identifying the problem that the robot will solve, to building, testing, and refining. Overall, the mix of real-life photos and illustrations with interesting snippets makes this an appealing choice to include in classroom or school library collection. Drawn by a terrific cover, students might pick up this title on their own, or it could be an excellent supplemental resource for a student report or research project.”

—Laura Ruttig, Children’s Literature

For Space Exploration, in the ‘Calling All Innovators’ series —

“What does it takes to start a career in space exploration? How do astronauts use STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math)? Will humans be able to visit and live on other planets? This book answers these questions and so many more! Readers will learn the history, current events, and future of space exploration and travel. Then, they will read about the training and educational requirements of the job. Whether it is a hobby or a potential career, there is something for all space enthusiasts in this book! The book is composed of clearly defined chapters, filled with multiple pictures and captions that illustrate the main points. Bold words throughout the chapters are included in the glossary in the back of the book.”

—Heather Reeve, Children’s Literature

The history, present, and future of innovation in four STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) careers are explored in this engaging series. With clean design and attractive graphics, each book is a blend of fascinating and practical information arranged in organized, concise sections. Each title also features an interview with a professional explaining how they got started and giving advice to young people. An appropriate series for middle schoolers searching for concrete career possibilities.”

—Karen Schwartz, School Library Journal

For the bird-related titles (all authored by Wil) in the ‘Backyard Safari’ series —

“This series mixes hands-on bird-watching information with species details. The books share basic information about each bird, send readers out to look for birds, and suggest projects, such as birdhouse-building and imitating bird calls, that will encourage more encounters with our feathered friends. Full pages of single-column text are broken up with small, vivid photos and “Trek Talk” and “Safari Tip” insets. Bulleted lists of what to wear and bring on a safari as well as supplies and steps for the activities are incorporated. Readers are instructed to journal and photograph their work as well. The titles by Mara contain advice on what to do when encountering a sick bird. The nice integration of bird-watching information sets these noteworthy titles apart.”

—Greta Wilson, School Library Journal

For James Cameron, in the ‘Great Filmmakers’ series —

“Written in a snappy, journalistic style, these texts offer rich, nuanced views of the filmmakers’ lives. They especially shine when spotlighting the ways in which failures can lead to successes. For example, Wil Mara’s title on James Cameron states that Cameron believes he gained wisdom from a low point in his life when working as a school janitor. And Sofia Coppola feels that her acting—panned by critics—helped her become a better director. This series is more text-heavy than others, but the images included are knockouts. Students will come away with a strong cultural understanding both of film and the other art forms that shape it.”

—Paula Marcus, School Library Journal

For Sam Walton: Rethinking Retail, in the ‘True Book’ series —

“You have shopped in the stores now find out more about the man behind Walmart. Wil Mara has created this in-depth biography on Sam Walton. Today Walmart is in every State in the United States, and in more than six thousand countries in the world. Pages labeled True Statistics, Resources about Walton’s life, Important Words, and an Index are found at the back of the book. Mara has written other educational books for children. This book could inspire a whole new generation of young entreprenuers.”

—Enid Portnoy, Children’s Literature

For American Entrepreneurship, in the ‘True Book’ series —

“Since its beginning, the United States of America has been considered the land of opportunity, the place where anyone can make the life they wish so long as they have the necessary determination, ability, and courage. Reading this addition to the “True Book” series, young readers will be inspired to pursue their big dreams. Several examples of successful men women are provided, including Steve Jobs, Howard Hughes, Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey, and Rachael Ray. Every page includes photographs of men and women behind a variety of business ventures, as well as some of the inventions they created. Overall, this book will appeal to elementary students and encourage them to pursue their dreams.”

—Justina Engebretson, Children’s Literature

For Hazmat Removal Worker and Petroleum Engineer, both in the ‘Cool STEAM Careers’ series —

Each book in this useful set on STEAM-related careers begins with a fictional example of a child connecting with the topic at hand. In Medical Illustrator, a boy is fascinated by illustrations of the circulatory system, and his father explains that medical illustrators are responsible for these drawings. The books then focus on the history of the field, detail what individuals do in the course of their jobs, and describe the necessary skills and abilities. Some texts get bogged down with information on history at the start. However, books concerning newer jobs, such as Wil Mara’s Hazmat workers, jump into dynamic material more quickly. And the first few pages of Mara’s Petroleum Engineer depict only women, which promotes gender equality in this typically male-dominated field. Students will enjoy learning about unexpected aspects of each profession; for instance, some medical illustrators draw dinosaurs and design prosthetic eyes. Each book is thorough, well-researched, and cleanly designed. Students may wish to skip slower parts but will find a wealth of information. VERDICT—A strong series that illuminates lesser-known fields.”

—Mary Lee Palmer, School Library Journal

For Benjamin Franklin in the ‘Rookie Biographies’ series —

“This “Rookie Biography” engages the reader from the first page, which shows four scenes of children of different ethnic groups engaged in a variety of educational activities. They seem to be enjoying looking in a microscope, using a balance scale, reading and writing. The words above read “Do you like to do different things?” What a wonderful way to introduce a man who did so many different things and made so many contributions to the world. The next page begins the actual biography, illustrated with black-and-white drawings or colorful paintings, which are clear and appropriate. The language is also chosen carefully for the targeted age of readers. Simple sentences make the subject come to life. At the end the reader is given two pages called “Words You Know” and each is illustrated—bifocals, electricity, and The Declaration of Independence, for example. This slim volume ends with an index. This is a great addition to the limited number of biographies written for beginning independent readers.”

— Candace Deisley, Children’s Literature

“Basic facts about Benjamin Franklin’s life are presented in a welcoming format for young readers. Each two-page spread features brief text in large print with a photograph of a painting from the period. Franklin is introduced as one of our country’s founding fathers. Includes a table of contents, a timeline, an illustrated glossary, and an index. A good introduction to Benjamin Franklin for young children.”

— Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D, School Library Journal

For Civil Unrest in the 1960s: Riots and Their Aftermath, in the ‘Perspectives On’ series —

“[Mara delves] deeply into the given topics, providing an overall representation as well as a substantial degree of insight…. The potency lies in the excellent arrangement of numerous well-chosen sidebars and photos, and fluent, concise prose. [The] book is an effective research tool.”

—Brian Odom, School Library Journal

“1968 was a particularly violent year and an entire chapter is dedicated to the race riots that occurred during that year, and another chapter to the riots that occurred during the Democratic National Convention. Mara presents not only the protests and riots that occurred throughout the decade, but also explores the causes of the riots and protests and delves briefly into the far reaching affects of the violence and protests.”

—Danielle Williams, Children’s Literature

For Kristallnacht: Nazi Persecution of the Jews in Europe, in the ‘Perspectives On’ series —

“Mara has offered a comprehensive look at the events leading up to and following Kristallnacht and the impact the events had not just on Germany and the Jewish people in Europe, but all over the world. Mara does not mince words and offers numerous examples of the brutality Jews faced under Hitler’s reign.”

—Danielle Williams, Children’s Literature

* This title was also a 2009 National Jewish Book Award Nominee

For John Adams, in the ‘Presidents and Their Times’ series —

“A complete picture of John Adams from boyhood through life after the presidency is offered in this brief and outstanding biography…. The time period John Adams lived in is also brought to life, with historical and cultural details provided as a context for Adams’ actions. Other historical tidbits…deepen understanding and add interest. Well-chosen illustrations and pictures of historical events, artifacts, and portraits round out this superb book.”

—Margaret Orto, Children’s Literature

“Beautifully written and generously detailed, this is the best biography on John Adams for young readers that I have ever found. I am a librarian in a busy school district that services over 2000 students. I am always on the lookout for good biographies on presidents. The author, who was written many other excellent books for schoolchildren, includes information on Adams’s early life, early career, time as vice president, biggest challenges as president, and then his later years until he dies. There is also information about major events that occur during his life. The writing is very clear and enjoyable. This is a complete and nicely detailed guide to the life of John Adams, and I strongly recommend it.”

—Allison Forman,

For John F. Kennedy, in the ‘Presidents and Their Times’ series —

“This biography is a terrific account of the life of John F. Kennedy written for young adult readers…. [It] is rich in detail and explanations, making this an outstanding resource for middle and high school libraries. From early life through his presidency and assassination, the historical significance of the thirty-fifth president is well developed and supported in this book…. ‘Timeline,’ ‘Notes,’ ‘Glossary,’ and ‘Bibliography’ model the essentials of a well-written, researched biography.”

—Janis Flint-Ferguson, Children’s Literature

For Dian Fossey: Among the Gorillas, in the ‘Great Life Stories’ series —

“An excellent installment in the ‘Great Life Stories’ series, this biography clearly presents the life of Dian Fossey, who devoted herself to researching and protecting gorillas in the Virunga Mountains of Africa. Mara reveals her as a human being, not an icon, explaining how she felt about her parents, the men she met, the people she worked with, and the gorillas. Readers cannot help but put her life in context, given the boxes throughout the text that explain what was happening in the United States or Africa as certain events occurred in Fossey’s life. Mara explains the confusing world of academic research. How does one get money? By being associated with a famous researcher like Louis Leakey. How does one get respect? By obtaining a Ph.D., at least. How does one get famous, thereby bringing world attention to a cause? By giving lectures, publishing articles in widely circulated magazines like National Geographic, and writing books (such as Fossey’s Gorillas in the Mist) that then get made into movies. He explores the issue of balancing research with raising money from interested visitors who can disturb and even destroy the research and of the difficulty of starting a foundation that is run by others elsewhere who don’t know what is really going on at the research site. Fossey was sometimes out of touch with other people, lacking social skills in dealing with the Digit Fund, for example, but she was never out of touch with those dearest to her heart, the gorillas.”

—Kathryn Erskine, Children’s Literature

For Thurgood Marshall: Champion for Civil Rights, in the ‘Great Life Stories’ series—

“Mara has created an excellent resource for middle school and high school research. The text is large with colorful titles, headings, and sidebars throughout. Well-captioned illustrations. In addition to biographical information, the text includes a great timeline that not only chronicles Thurgood Marshall’s life but the major world events that occurred during his lifetime. Along with bibliographical references, there is a list of Web sites for organizations and research sites. A very readable and sure-to-be used text.”

—Pat Wachter, SSBRC

“Thurgood Marshall devoted his life to breaking down ideas that prevented African Americans from living the American dream. During his time as a Supreme Court Justice, he was considered a liberal judge. He played a key role in desegregation in education. This nonfiction book, part of the ‘Great Life Stories’ series, will enlighten young readers about Thurgood Marshall’s continuing life struggle for equal rights. Readers will learn about Thurgood Marshall’s early years, law school days, early court cases, and his time spent on the Supreme Court. The book includes fascinating pictures with detailed captions that include significant historical information about Martin Luther King, The Harlem Renaissance, and Jackie Robinson. There is also a reference section that includes other titles about Thurgood Marshall and websites to visit. The book is a perfect supplemental text for a fifth through eighth grade social studies curriculum.”

—Mindy Hardwick, Children’s Literature

For Haiti, in the ‘Discovering Cultures’ series—

“The series ‘Discovering Cultures’ is dedicated to bringing a wealth of information into the hands of its readers. The book on Haiti offers insight into a unique country with a turbulent past and present. The book deals frankly and carefully with its presentation of Haiti and the Haitian people. The tone of the book, it must be noted, is far different than that of the other books that I have read in this collection. It is a somber piece, yet it offers the joys of Haitian traditions and celebrations. Children and adults alike will enjoy reading about Haitian celebrations and details about such thing as: Haitian money which is called gourde, and the Haitian flag whose colors represent the triumph and the sacrifice of the Haitian people. The book also offers the readers the opportunity to have a taste of Haiti with the recipe for Bananes Pesees or fried plantains. This title is highly recommended and would be a valuable asset to any home or classroom.”

—Haley Cox, Children’s Literature

For The Fragile Frog—

“Very lively writing and good color photos and drawings eloquently express the plight of this beautiful frog and many other frog and toad species across the U.S.”

—Denia Hester, Booklist

“This concisely written introduction focuses on the Pine Barrens treefrog, now found in only five states, in Eastern and Southeastern U.S. The text briefly describes the physical characteristics of frogs in general while also discussing the special characteristics, life-cycle, and environmental needs of this rare species. The Fragile Frog will be a useful addition to the endangered-animals sections of most collections and will be particularly valuable to libraries located in areas where this rare amphibian resides.”

—Karey Wehner, School Library Journal

For Abraham Lincoln, in the ‘Rookie Biographies’ series—

“This is a good introduction to one of America’s greatest presidents. Abraham Lincoln had an interesting life and this little book manages to capture it very well.”

—Marya Jansen-Gruber, Children’s Literature

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