Thinking Critically Reviews

Thinking Critically: Electric Cars ISBN 978-1-68282-531-0 / eBook: 978-1-68282-532-7
Thinking Critically: Fossil Fuels ISBN 978-1-68282-533-4 / eBook: 978-1-68282-534-1
Thinking Critically: Genetic Testing and Research ISBN 978-1-68282-535-8 / eBook: 978-1-68282-536-5
Thinking Critically: Illegal Immigration ISBN 978-1-68282-537-2/ eBook: 978-1-68282-538-9
Booklist, August 1, 2019

These additions to the ongoing Thinking Critically series continue to highlight timely subjects in the news and encourage student debate. Using a pro-con approach, the accessible books examine four issues related to a broader, controversial topic. An opening overview others historical context for the topic and explains related laws and/or initiatives. The chapters that follow are supported by researched facts and statistics, quotes by experts in the field, examples from current events, and a variety of charts and graphs. Electric Cars considers whether these vehicles help the environment, as well as whether they are economical, practical for ordinary drivers, and safe. Fossil Fuels addresses whether fossil fuels should still be used, gauges their impact on the environment, assesses their economic value, and questions if fracking is a good way to produce them. Genetic Testing and Research digs into the ethics of genetic engineering, pits the benefits of genetic testing against potential threats to privacy, and questions the safety of genetically modified foods. Illegal Immigration asks whether the practice hurts U.S. workers or puts a strain on public services, whether stronger border enforcement measures are needed, and if illegal immigrants should be given a path to citizenship. Copious and helpful back matter, including related organizations and websites and bulleted facts about key issues, conclude each title. A solid choice for analyzing today's society.
— Angela Leeper


Thinking Critically: Cell Phones ISBN 978-1-68282-335-4 / eBook: 978-1-68282-336-1
Thinking Critically: Gun Control ISBN 978-1-68282-337-8 / eBook: 978-1-68282-338-5
Thinking Critically: Performance-Enhancing Drugs ISBN 978-1-68282-339-2 / eBook: 978-1-68282-340-8
VOYA, June 1, 2018

Thinking Critically is a high-quality, easy-to-navigate series covering cultural issues affecting society. Each eighty-page volume is organized succinctly and contains the same foreward discussing why it is necessary for all citizens to have cultural literacy. All volumes have an overview section introducing the history of the topic, current challenges, and potential future uses. There are four chapters covering four topics for debate. Each chapter discusses the topic question “at a glance” followed by a short essay debating the topic’s pro or con side. Excellent graphs and charts highlighting supporting information are useful and provide visual summaries of the discussion in each essay. Each book ends with excellent backmatter. Each essay is preceded by a “Questions for Consideration” section to help stimulate critical thinking while reading the debate. Gun Control highlights many of the main points of view on gun control laws and gun rights. The book on performance-enhancing drugs provides historical examples and asks whether these drugs and the penalties for using them really work. Cell Phones will get readers thinking of both the negative and positive impacts smartphones have on our lives.
Overall, the series is a worthy purchase for public and school libraries, especially since quality print resources are limited.
— Karen Sykeny


Thinking Critically: Abortion ISBN 978-1-68282-261-6 / eBook: 978-1-68282-262-3
Thinking Critically: Animal Rights ISBN 978-1-68282-263-0 / eBook: 978-1-68282-264-7
Thinking Critically: The Death Penalty ISBN 978-1-68282-265-4 / eBook: 978-1-68282-266-1
Thinking Critically: Obesity ISBN 978-1-68282-267-8 / eBook: 978-1-68282-268-5
Booklist, September 15, 2017

Even a pancake has two sides, as the old saying goes, and these volumes in the dependable Thinking Critically series espouse this philosophy by offering a pro-con study of complex issues that shape public discourse. Each title begins with an overview of the issue and how it has raised debate in recent news. Four chapters follow, each asking a related question and providing key points, including research and philosophy from experts in the fields. Abortion delves into whether a fetus is a person with a right to life, whether abortion causes potential harm, and the laws governing the procedure. Animal Rights considers the morality of eating animals, using them for entertainment, and experimenting on them as well as if they should have rights similar to humans. Considerable attention is given to race and socioeconomics in The Death Penalty, which reflects upon whether capital punishment is ethical, is fairly imposed, deters crime, and serves justice. Obesity examines whether being significantly overweight is a serious health threat, a matter of personal responsibility, and if the food industry is to blame. Guided questions, charts, and quotes provide additional resources, as do appended lists of facts, organizations, and websites. Rather than face unwieldy results from an Internet search, students can use this series to frame their research coherently.
— Angela Leeper


Thinking Critically: Abortion ISBN 978-1-68282-261-6 / eBook: 978-1-68282-262-3
Thinking Critically: Animal Rights ISBN 978-1-68282-263-0 / eBook: 978-1-68282-264-7
Thinking Critically: The Death Penalty ISBN 978-1-68282-265-4 / eBook: 978-1-68282-266-1
Thinking Critically: Obesity ISBN 978-1-68282-267-8 / eBook: 978-1-68282-268-5
Thinking Critically: Police Powers ISBN 978-1-68282-269-2 / eBook: 978-1-68282-270-8
School Library Journal, September 2017

Gr 9 Up—Formatted like a debate, each volume alternates between pro and con chapters that highlight a number of pertinent talking points. The authors routinely prompt students to reflect on and challenge their own ideas and opinions. In general, the tone throughout is not sensationalized, but it is a little dry; the content resembles an overview much more than a true interrogation of the conflict. Notably, in Abortion, the inclusion of the argument that abortion is “racial genocide” because it “weakens diversity by decimating the population of America’s minority groups” as a viable position is deeply problematic, and the decision to quote Breitbart to support this viewpoint undermines confidence in the overall work. A supplemental choice for large debate collections.


Legalizing Marijuana ISBN 978-1-60152-782-0 / eBook: 978-1-60152-783-7
Distracted Driving ISBN 978-1-60152-780-6 / eBook: 978-1-60152-781-3
School Library Journal, February 1, 2015

Many controversial and emotionally charged issues face society. With vehement supporters and opponents on both sides of arguments, facts often give way to personal bias and opinions. In this collection of standalone volume-series, each volume debates controversial topics such as biomedical ethics, climate change, euthanasia, illegal immigration, online privacy, renewable energy, and video games and violence. Two of the hottest topics facing society refer to texting while driving and legalizing marijuana. Legalizing Marijuana creates a context for the arguments surrounding legalizing and regulating marijuana consumption, as well as addressing claims of potential health risks. Distracted Driving explores the act of texting and driving and provides pro and con discourse centered on safety, laws, and responsibility. Volumes identify the most common arguments for and against each issue and explore the most prominent reasoning coupled with research and facts to allow critical discourse.

Information found within each volume successfully explores multiple aspects of controversial topics to create a more holistic view of each argument. Each chapter alternates a pro/con format with a clear and concise writing style and language, allowing readers to synthesize information in a logical, organized manner. Each chapter also serves as a standalone that offers quick reference to facts. Research included within the text proves current and relevant through the use of user-friendly pictographs. Source notes and annotated bibliography provide additional resources for further research. This would be a useful series for classrooms and libraries to introduce research techniques, as well as legitimate academic, argumentative writing.
—Courtney M. Munday


Biofuels ISBN 978-1-60152-816-2 / eBook: 978-1-60152-817-9
Cyberbullying ISBN 978-1-60152-820-9 / eBook: 978-1-60152-821-6
Mass Shootings ISBN 978-1-60152-822-3 / eBook: 978-1-60152-823-0
Booklist, September 15, 2015

Rather than simply present information on timely, controversial topics, the titles in the Thinking Critically series allow students to synthesize information and form their own opinions through rational debate. Each book opens with an introduction to the topic and some of the controversies surrounding it in the U.S. Subsequent chapters provide opposing viewpoints on four controversial issues. Reliable research sources, numerous quotes, colorful charts and graphs, and guided questions help frame the debate on both sides. Biofuels contemplates whether this alternative fuel source should be supported by the U.S. government, really does reduce greenhouse gas emissions, is essential for national security, and could threaten global food production. Cyberbullying considers whether this form of harassment is a serious problem and is worse than traditional bullying, as well as how involved schools should be when bullying takes place off campus, and what involvement law enforcement should have in cyberbullying cases. Mass Shootings deliberates whether this form of violence is a serious problem, can be reduced through stricter gun control and improvements in the mental health care system, and might be influenced by violent video games. Copious back matter, including source notes, supplemental facts, related organizations and websites, and a bibliography, provide further research avenues.


Euthanasia ISBN 978-1-60152-680-9 / eBook: 978-1-60152-681-6
Climate Change ISBN 978-1-60152-732-5 / eBook: 978-1-60152-733-2
Online Privacy ISBN 978-1-60152-734-9 / eBook: 978-1-60152-735-6
Voya, August 1, 2015

These volumes provide support of the Common Core Standards goals by concisely offering a topical overview, an objective view of both sides of the debate, and thought-provoking questions. Students are made aware of the possible impact, today and in the future, that humans are having on the world’s climate in Climate Change. The complexity of earth’s climate is explained along with the implications of greenhouse gases. The uncertainty and lack of agreement about what action society needs to take currently and into the future are discussed. The debate is clearly and briefly described from both viewpoints along with questions to elicit the reader’s opinion. Deliberately taking action to end a life, mercy killing, and discontinuing medical treatment are all controversial aspects in Euthanasia, which comes from the Greek for “the good death.” This topic has gained importance as the average life expectancy has increased in the twenty-first century to 77.9 years. Pro and con sides of this intense public debate argue the ethics. The increased length of life has greatly impacted the discussion regarding quality of life. Privacy versus National Security, benefits of commercial data mining, and electronic health records are all explored in Online Privacy. The demand has grown for regulation and laws to protect privacy, while others wonder if it is even a possibility any longer.

Although written by different authors, the books maintain a consistently objective and straightforward style. The concise content is well organized and includes helpful empirical quotes and graphs for statistical reference. Also helpful are the source notes, facts, related organizations and websites, and further research. The text is interesting, accurate, educational, and helpful to gaining a base knowledge on the subject.


Legalizing Marijuana ISBN 978-1-60152-782-0 / eBook: 978-1-60152-783-7
Distracted Driving ISBN 978-1-60152-780-6 / eBook: 978-1-60152-781-3
School Library Journal, February 1, 2015

Gr 7 Up–More high-quality fare in this series on current events, which SLJ previously called “exceptional in both writing and design.” Well researched and presented, these titles offer questions for readers to ponder and offer main points for each side of the debate. Each chapter contains information for both sides of the issue, and there are plenty of quotes from experts included and relevant research cited. Wonderful sources for essay writers or budding debaters.


Illegal Immigration ISBN 978-1-60152-626-7 / eBook: 978-1-60152-627-4
Renewable Energy ISBN 978-1-60152-628-1 / eBook: 978-1-60152-629-8
Video Games and Violence ISBN 978-1-60152-590-1 / eBook: 978-1-60152-591-8
Booklist, September, 2014

The Thinking Critically series presents timely, controversial issues in a debate-style format: posing four pointed questions and providing statements and relevant information supporting the affirmative and the negative responses. Each book includes an overview of the issue, some basic facts, charts and graphs, clear sources, and suggestions for further research. All support the development of critical thinking skills, though but they do neglect to remind readers that critical thinking begins with examining your own preformed opinions. Illegal Immigration looks at the phenomenon’s effect on this country’s economy, safety, and security, the appropriate government response, and the need for a path to citizenship. Renewable Energy asks whether developing and promoting alternative energy sources is necessary, practical, or affordable, and considers the role of government support. Video Games and Violence argues the connection between the two, especially among young people and in light of school shootings, and the role of government in regulating game content. Likely the topic closest to most students’ lives, this issue is strongly and fairly presented on both sides and this title is particularly thought-provoking. For teachers wishing to use a debate approach to consideration of current political and social issues, the entire series offers useful information and presents an excellent model.


Thinking Critically: Cell Phones: 978-1-60152-580-2 eBook: 978-1-60152-581-9
Thinking Critically: Gun Control and Violence: 978-1-60152-606-9 eBook: 978-1-60152-607-6
Thinking Critically: Medical Marijuana: 978-1-60152-582-6 eBook: 978-1-60152-583-3
Thinking Critically:Performance-Enhancing Drugs: ISBN 978-1-60152-584-0 eBook: 978-1-60152-585-7
Thinking Critically: Social Networking: 978-1-60152-588-8 eBook: 978-1-60152-589-5
Thinking Critically: Stem Cell Research: ISBN 978-1-60152-586-4 eBook: 978-1-60152-587-1
Library Media Connection August/September 2014

There are plenty of “current issues” books available, but there are several elements that set this series apart. The information is presented in the form of pro-con arguments, each introduced by a “big question”/thesis statement and a few supporting facts. The concise and well-organized pro-con essays, complete with footnotes and graphs, are excellent examples in themselves of small-scale argumentative research papers; and chapter notes, lists of related organizations, and recommended reading lists represent reliable sources. These Common Core-friendly books are as useful for modeling of a research paper as they are as sources of up-to-date information.
—Catherine M. Andronik, Teacher Librarian, Brien McMahon High School, Norwalk, Connecticut
Highly Recommended


Thinking Critically: Cell Phones: 978-1-60152-580-2 eBook: 978-1-60152-581-9
Thinking Critically: Gun Control and Violence: 978-1-60152-606-9 eBook: 978-1-60152-607-6
Thinking Critically: Medical Marijuana: 978-1-60152-582-6 eBook: 978-1-60152-583-3
VOYA, April 2014

Books in this nonfiction series help students learn to take different perspectives on important topics in contemporary public discourse. Organized consistently, each of the books provides four chapters asking questions that get answered in a pro/con format through one essay for each side. Every chapter begins with a one-page “debate at a glance” to show top arguments for each side. The visual design includes professional graphics with pie charts and graphs that represent good examples for students. The books are clearly written, visually impressive, and enjoyable to read. One strength of the series is that very different views are given equivalent space and presented effectively, providing great study material for debates. For instance, Mooney’s Cell Phones does an engaging job of covering questions such as “How does cell phone use affect teens?” and “Is cell phone addiction a serious problem?” Szumiski and Karson’s Medical Marijuana systematically addresses substantive issues of the substance’s possible effectiveness, safety, legalization, and regulation.

The source notes provide numbered endnotes from each chapter rather than in-text citations. While the authors use diverse periodical, media, and web sources, and a few books, they cite few, if any recent, peer-reviewed, academic journal articles. This research limitation is unfortunate in the book Gun Control and Violence, which misses the chance to incorporate recent findings on criminal violence as analyzed in scholarly journals but otherwise provides valuable chapters. While the books fall short of teaching how to conduct and cite research in the humanities, this series meets its objective of helping adolescent readers to think critically about contemporary topics of serious debate.
—Amy Cummins.


Thinking Critically: Cell Phones: 978-1-60152-580-2 eBook: 978-1-60152-581-9
Thinking Critically: Gun Control and Violence: 978-1-60152-606-9 eBook: 978-1-60152-607-6
Thinking Critically: Medical Marijuana: 978-1-60152-582-6 eBook: 978-1-60152-583-3
Thinking Critically: Social Networking: 978-1-60152-588-8 eBook: 978-1-60152-589-5
Booklist February, 15, 2014

The books in the Thinking Critically series live up to their name as they encourage teens to view important social issues from different perspectives. Each begins with an overview of the topic, including its recent inclusion in the media. Grounded in current research, quotes from experts in their fields, and relevant arguments, the authoritative yet accessible text continues with an examination of the pros and cons of four controversial questions. Additional guided questions help students frame their understanding of the viewpoint. Cell Phones examines such questions as whether the device poses a health hazard, if concerns about teen usage are justified, and if stronger laws are needed to prevent drivers' usage. Gun Control and Violence considers whether Americans have a constitutional right to own guns and if stronger gun control measures would prevent mass shootings. Medical Marijuana poses questions of safety and regulation, among other contentious issues. Social Networking asks whether social networking benefits society or threatens privacy and teen safety. Numerous color charts and graphs, as well as concluding facts, organizations, and further resources, provide more details and inspire readers to continue their research. These titles offer valuable content for reports and debates.
—Angela Leeper


Thinking Critically: Stem Cell Research: ISBN 978-1-60152-586-4 eBook: 978-1-60152-587-1
Thinking Critically:Performance-Enhancing Drugs: ISBN 978-1-60152-584-0 eBook: 978-1-60152-585-7
Thinking Critically: Cell Phones: 978-1-60152-580-2 eBook: 978-1-60152-581-9
Thinking Critically: Gun Control and Violence: 978-1-60152-606-9 eBook: 978-1-60152-607-6
Thinking Critically: Social Networking: 978-1-60152-588-8 eBook: 978-1-60152-589-5
Thinking Critically: Medical Marijuana: 978-1-60152-582-6 eBook: 978-1-60152-583-3
School Library Journal, 2013

Encouraging analysis through engaging, well-researched examinations of hot topics, these books are exceptional in both writing and design. Like many series of this type, the authors introduce the basics of an issue and then offer both sides of the debate. The first page of each chapter, "The Debate at a Glance," offers bullet points that summarize common arguments pro and con. The design is spare, with understated graphics; bright, compelling photos; and text boxes that pull out interesting quotes. Easy-to-read graphs and charts add another layer of visual information. Powerful anecdotes make the issues more relevant. For example, Gun Control includes a story about a mother who acted in self-defense when an intruder came into her house and discusses the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting with great sensitivity. Stem Cell is particularly notable for its nuanced approach, deeply moving anecdotes, and clear scientific explanations. Through this series, young people can become better informed about these issues in mere hours and learn to synthesize and make sense of disparate information they may have gathered from news sources. Highly recommended.