Engaging New and Striving Readers | Hi-Lo & Guided Reading Series Nonfiction

This season’s beginning readers and hi-lo series feature engaging texts that use intentional strategies to meet and support readers where they are. The series feature well-honed approaches to support beginning readers, as well as readable hi-lo texts with topics ranging from pop culture to hands-on explorations.


This season’s beginning readers and hi-lo series feature engaging texts that use intentional strategies to meet and support readers where they are. Beginning or early readers are books designed for children at the earliest stages of their reading journeys, while hi-lo titles feature engaging, high-interest subject matter written at a lower reading level for striving readers. While these texts are written for different audiences, they both include visual cues and controlled vocabularies to build fluency and comprehension skills. The series outlined below feature well-honed approaches to support beginning readers and teach other early learning concepts, as well as readable hi-lo texts with topics ranging from pop culture to hands-on explorations.



Broderick, Kathy. My Animals. ISBN 9781503754935.
Winslow, Claire. My Emotions. ISBN 9781503754942.
ea vol: tr. by Ariette de Alba & Elizabeth Luc. illus. by Kris Dresen. 20p. (A Book in Four Languages). Phoenix International/Sunbird. Mar. 2021. Board. $8.99.
PreS-Gr 1 –Focusing on animals and feelings, these board books take common vocabulary words and present how to say them in English, Spanish, French, and Mandarin, along with the phonetic pronunciations of these words. The text is written in a colorful, easy-to-read font, and charming, hand-drawn illustrations correlate with the word on the page. The books in this series could be used by younger children with a parent or caregiver, as well as independently by developing readers. VERDICT While simple, these multilingual texts are an endearing and effective way to introduce different languages.

Culliford, Amy. Blue. ISBN 9781427132574.
––––. Green. ISBN 9781427132581.
––––. Orange. ISBN 9781427132598.
––––. Purple. ISBN 9781427132604.
––––. Red. ISBN 9781427132611.
––––. Yellow. ISBN 9781427132628.
ea vol: 16p. (My Favorite Color). Crabtree/Crabtree Roots. Jan. 2021. pap. $7.50.

PreS-Gr 1 –Designed to support fluency and comprehension, this series presents early readers with different colors in authentic settings. Each book takes a color and provides a number of familiar things in which that color may appear. These are introduced through repeating sentences, which supports comprehension for beginning readers (“I see an orange carrot. I see an orange tiger”). Full-page, eye-catching photographs are presented alongside these short sentences. Before, during, and after reading questions are given for caregivers and teachers to use with students, along with possible answers to those questions. A list of sight words, along with a visual glossary and the full text for review, is also provided. VERDICT This well-executed series introduces colors to beginning readers using features to support early literacy skills.

Devera, Czeena. I See Circles. ISBN 9781534179844.
––––. I See Rectangles. ISBN 9781534179868.
––––. I See Squares. ISBN 9781534179837.
––––. I See Triangles. ISBN 9781534179851.
ea vol: 16p. (Shapes). Cherry Lake/Cherry Blossom. Jan. 2021. pap. $11.36.
PreS-Gr 1 –Directed at early readers, this series uses common sight words and repetitive sentence structures to present different shapes. Each book takes a shape and explores it using a different early learning concept, such as opposites, colors, and numbers. Pages feature one short sentence, along with a bright, colorful photograph that correlates with the text on the page. These visual prompts, along with the repeating sentence structures that are used throughout the books (“This square is red. This square is green”), help to support comprehension for beginning readers. A list of sight words used in the book is provided at the end, along with a list of sentences used in the text. VERDICT Designed to give developing readers confidence, these well-crafted titles explore different shapes and important ­early learning concepts.

Kenan, Tessa. Let’s Learn Directions. ISBN 9781645277651.
––––. Let’s Learn Opposites. ISBN 9781645277682.
––––. Let’s Learn Patterns. ISBN 9781645277712.
––––. Let’s Learn Word Families. ISBN 9781645277743.
ea vol: 16p. (Fun First Concepts). Jump!/Tadpole. Jan. 2021. Tr. $24.21.
PreS-Gr 1 –Directions, opposites, patterns, and word families are explored in the latest installations of the “Fun First Concepts” series. Each title presents several real-world examples of the concept, which allows readers to explore these ideas in a setting they already understand (“The sand is hot. The water is cold”). Along with a short, simple sentence, page layouts include a bright, high-interest photograph with a label. This thoughtful correlation between images and text helps beginning readers build their comprehension. Before and after reading activities are provided, which are easy for teachers and caregivers to use and ask readers to notice and reinforce the ideas they learned around them. A review activity and index are provided at the end of each title. VERDICT These slim volumes are well crafted for beginning readers and present important early learning concepts in authentic settings.

Meister, Cari. Finish the ­Pattern: A ­Turn-And-See Book. ISBN 9781977131553.
––––. Name That Feeling: A Turn-And-See Book. ISBN 9781977131546.
––––. What’s the Opposite? A Turn-And-See Book. ISBN 9781977131560.
––––. Where Is It? A Turn-And-See Book. ISBN 9781977131577.
ea vol: 32p. (Pebble Sprout: What’s Next?). Capstone/Pebble. Jan. 2021. Tr. $29.32.
K-Gr 2 –Essential early learning concepts such as patterns, opposites, position words, and feelings are introduced in an interactive format in this new series. The unique format of these books presents readers with a relatable scenario and asks them to predict what will be on the next page. For example, readers must guess the next item to come in a pattern inFinish the Pattern and describe the emotions being felt in Name That Feeling. By allowing readers to check their answers by flipping the page, the books use a unique format to teach important vocabulary and concepts. Layouts include bright graphics and colorful photographs that support the content of the text. The books are slightly longer than most early readers, though the question-and-answer format will likely sustain the interest of young learners. ­VERDICT This series provides a unique, interactive reading experience for early readers; recommended for early elementary collections.

Rebman, Nick. Adding Apples. ISBN 9781646191642.
––––. Counting Cars. ISBN 9781646191659.
––––. Measuring at School. ISBN 9781646191666.
––––. Naming Money. ISBN 9781646191673.
––––. Penguin Patterns. ISBN 9781646191680.
––––. Shapes Everywhere. ISBN 9781646191697.
––––. Sorting Toys. ISBN 9781646191703.
––––. Subtracting Spiders. ISBN 9781646191710.
ea vol: 16p. (Math Basics). North Star Editions/Little Blue Readers. Jan. 2021. Tr. $24.20.
PreS-Gr 1 –With an emphasis on building literacy skills for emerging readers, these books present mathematical concepts such as adding, sorting, and identifying patterns. Each title provides several examples of the area of math being discussed, along with a simple sentence explaining it. For example, Naming Money shows various types of change, and Counting Cars shows increasing numbers of different colored cars (“I count four cars. The cars are red”). The repetitive sentence structure is designed to aid beginning readers, and page layouts include colorful photographs that align with the text on the page. This is helpful for both comprehension and for practicing the math skill being explored. A visual glossary is provided at the end. ­VERDICT These slim titles effectively combine early literacy skills with a chance to practice basic mathematics.

Stephenchel, Tora. All Night Long. ISBN 9781503845053.
––––. Always Be Kind. ISBN 9781503845091.
––––. Brother and Sister. ISBN 9781503845084.
––––. Cold Water. ISBN 9781503845039.
––––. Green Apples. ISBN 9781503845060.
––––. His Brown Horse. ISBN 9781503845015.
––––. It Is Hot. ISBN 9781503845046.
––––. Laugh Together. ISBN 9781503845121.
––––. On Your Street. ISBN 9781503845114.
––––. Six Small Seeds. ISBN 9781503845022.
––––. Two White Sheep. ISBN 9781503845077.
––––. You Must Walk. ISBN 9781503845107.
ea vol: 24p. (Learning Sight Words). The Child’s World. Jan. 2021. Tr. $27.07.
PreS-Gr 2 –Sight words, or words that developing readers can identify by memory without decoding them, are introduced through different scenarios in this series. Books take a set of two or three sight words and highlight them by repeating them in different sentences throughout the text (“Green apples are hard. Green apples are crunchy”). This helps readers both learn to identify the sight words and focus on the unfamiliar words in the text. Page layouts are bright and colorful, and engaging photographs align with the text on the page. A diverse group of children is shown in the photographs. A helpful note for educators and caregivers is provided at the end, describing the importance of learning sight words for building literacy skills. VERDICT These texts use proven techniques to help teach early readers essential sight words; a strong choice for collections supporting students in the primary grades.


Upper Elementary to Middle School

Abdo, Kenny. Harley Quinn: DC Comics Villain Turned Heroine. ISBN 9781098223113.
––––. Hermione Granger: Harry Potter Student Turned Heroine. ISBN 9781098223120.
––––. Katniss Everdeen: The Hunger Games Tribute Turned Heroine. ISBN 9781098223137.
––––. Princess Leia: Star Wars Senator Turned Heroine. ISBN 9781098223144.
––––. Storm: X-Men Mutant Turned Heroine. ISBN 9781098223151.
––––. Wonder Woman: Amazonian Princess Turned Heroine. ISBN 9781098223168.
ea vol: 24p. (Fierce Females of Fiction). ABDO/Fly!. Dec. 2020. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 3-8 –Iconic female protagonists from books, movies, and comics are explored in this new hi-lo series. Each title takes a character and explores their backstory and character journey, then presents an “Epic-logue” about the actresses who have played them. The text, written at a second grade reading level, is highly readable and uses a controlled vocabulary. Layouts feature full-page photographs, mostly of movie depictions of the character, along with high-interest graphics and one short paragraph per page. At a slim 24 pages, the books do include a good amount of information on each character; however, there is little exploration of the important cultural impact of these seminal heroines. Additional online resources for each book are made available via QR code through ABDO’s Booklinks website. ­ VERDICT While light on context, these hi-lo titles will appeal to striving readers interested in pop culture at the upper elementary and middle school level.

Braun, Eric. The Imaginative Explorer’s Guide to the Attic. ISBN 9781623103279.
––––. The Imaginative Explorer’s Guide to the Basement. ISBN 9781623103262.
––––. The Imaginative Explorer’s Guide to the Library. ISBN 9781623103286.
––––. The Imaginative Explorer’s Guide to the Mall. ISBN 9781623103293.
––––. The Imaginative Explorer’s Guide to the Park. ISBN 9781623103309.
––––. The Imaginative Explorer’s Guide to the Yard. ISBN 9781623103316.
ea vol: 24p. (The Imaginative Explorer’s Guide). Black Rabbit/Hi Jinx. Jan. 2021. Tr. $29.95.
Gr 3-6 –This series invites readers to visit their attic, library, park, yard, and other locations to use their imaginations and get active. Each title presents a number of simple, hands-on activities for kids, such as creating a photo scavenger hunt in the park or making up ghost stories in the attic. Alternative ideas are provided if readers do not have certain areas in their homes. The text is highly readable, with five short chapters written at a second grade reading level, and a comical, lighthearted tone that will appeal to striving readers. Colorful, cartoon-style illustrations show a diverse range of children and reflect the humorous nature of the writing. Bold vocabulary words are included on each page, and additional question prompts are included at the end of each book. VERDICT Humor combined with entertaining, everyday activities will make this series appeal to striving readers at the upper elementary level.

Troupe, Thomas Kingsley. Rapping Rhymes About Animals. ISBN 9781623103200.
––––. Rapping Rhymes About Friends. ISBN 9781623103217.
––––. Rapping Rhymes About School. ISBN 9781623103224.
––––. Rapping Rhymes About Space. ISBN 9781623103231.
––––. Rapping Rhymes About Sports. ISBN 9781623103248.
––––. Rapping Rhymes About the Human Body. ISBN 9781623103255.
ea vol: 24p. (Rap Your World). Black Rabbit/Hi Jinx. Jan. 2021. Tr. $29.95.
Gr 3-6 –Topics ranging from animals to friendship to the human body are presented through hip-hop–inspired rhymes. Each title consists of a series of short, informative raps (“Mars is known as the red planet for the color of its dust/ Iron oxide covers its surface, which is a fancy name for rust”). The books, divided into five short chapters, tend to provide a very cursory overview and do not go in-depth into the topic being explored. Pages include bright colors and cartoon-inspired graphics, though these may be too juvenile for an upper elementary audience. While the text is written at a third grade reading level, striving readers may struggle with some of the clunky cadences of the rhymes. Readers are provided with tips for writing their own rhymes at the end, along with books and websites for additional learning. ­VERDICT Light on content, this hi-lo series is an interesting concept that misses the mark.

These new series feature a wide variety of texts for developing and striving readers that are both readable and engaging. Notable beginning readers include Capstone/Pebble’s “Pebble Sprout: What’s Next?” series, which uses a unique, interactive approach to teach early learning concepts. Also ­notable is “Learning Sight Words” from The Child’s World, which thoughtfully highlights important sight words through repetition and deliberate image choices. Readers are invited to discover something new in their everyday surroundings in Black Rabbit/Hi Jinx’s “The Imaginative Explorer’s Guide,” which uses humor and hands-on activities to appeal to upper elementary students needing texts at a lower reading level. Each of these series is thoughtfully crafted to support the needs of their reading audiences and would be a valuable addition to library collections, particularly at the ­elementary level.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing