Literary Enlightenment: Guided & Hi-Lo Reading Series Nonfiction

A fundamental piece of building literacy, and ultimately developing a lifelong love of reading, is providing readers with engaging texts that meet and support them where they are. Two categories of texts that play a powerful role in achieving this goal are beginning readers and hi-lo books. Librarians will find a wide variety of texts to support developing and reluctant readers in this season’s offerings.

A fundamental piece of building literacy, and ultimately developing a lifelong love of reading, is providing readers with engaging texts that meet and support them where they are. Two categories of texts that play a powerful role in achieving this goal are beginning readers and hi-lo books. Beginning or early readers use simple, short sentences, a controlled vocabulary that relies heavily on sight words, and thoughtfully chosen visuals to aid comprehension for those at the earliest stages of their reading lives. Hi-lo (high interest, low reading level) titles are aimed at striving readers, offering engaging, age-appropriate topics with a lower reading level. Both types of books are united in their desire to support readers through texts that build fluency and comprehension. Librarians will find a wide variety of texts to support developing and reluctant readers in this season’s offerings.

 

EARLY AND BEGINNING READERS

Dahl, Michael. Adjectives Say “Incredible!” illus. by Lauren Lowen. ISBN 9781515838715; ISBN 9781515840602.
––––. Adverbs Say “Finally!” illus. by Maira Chiodi. ISBN 9781515838722; ISBN 9781515840619.
––––. Conjunctions Say “Join Us!” illus. by Maira Chiodi. ISBN 9781515840992; ISBN 9781515841074.
––––. Interjections Say “Yay!” illus. by Lauren Lowen. ISBN 9781515841005; ISBN 9781515841081.
––––. Nouns Say “What’s That?” illus. by Lauren Lowen. ISBN 9781515838692; ISBN 9781515840589.
––––. Prepositions Say “Under Where?” illus. by Lauren Lowen. ISBN 9781515840985; ISBN 9781515841067.
––––. Pronouns Say “You and Me!” illus. by Lauren Lowen. ISBN 9781515840978; ISBN 9781515841050.
––––. Verbs Say “Go!” illus. by Lauren Lowen. ISBN 9781515838708; ISBN 9781515840596.
ea vol: 32p. (Word Adventures: Parts of Speech). further reading. glossary. illus. index. Capstone/Picture Window. Aug. 2019. Tr. $27.99. pap. $7.95.
K-Gr 3 –The different parts of speech, from nouns to adjectives to conjunctions, are brought to life in these vibrant volumes directed at developing writers. With brightly colored illustrations and lovable cartoon characters, “Word Adventures” is eye-catching and will have wide appeal for a series on grammar. Each title places the parts of speech in a scenario (the nouns go to the museum, the conjunctions are camping) to explain how they work. Speech bubbles, along with text colors to highlight the parts of speech in action, are effective in showing how they function in context. The clever asides are engaging and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. While these are intended for a primary audience, they could also be useful for upper elementary students needing a grammar refresh. VERDICT These charming titles are a first purchase for elementary l­anguage arts collections.

Heinrichs, Ann. Adjectives. ISBN 9781503832398.
––––. Adverbs. ISBN 9781503832404.
––––. Conjunctions. ISBN 9781503832411.
––––. Interjections. ISBN 9781503832428.
––––. Nouns. ISBN 9781503832435.
––––. Prepositions. ISBN 9781503832442.
––––. Pronouns. ISBN 9781503832459.
––––. Punctuation. ISBN 9781503832473.
––––. Similes and Metaphors. ISBN 9781503832497.
––––. Spelling Rules. ISBN 9781503832480.
––––. Synonyms and Antonyms. ISBN 9781503832503.
––––. Verbs. ISBN 9781503832466.
ea vol: 32p. (English Grammar). Child’s World. Aug. 2019. Tr. $29.93.

Gr 2-5 –This series takes a deep dive into the mechanics of language, from pronouns to punctuation to similes and metaphors. Each volume uses entertaining and often humorous examples of the grammatical concept, which is highlighted with colorful text so that readers can see it used authentically and in context. Photographs that support the different examples and bold graphics are a prominent part of the page layout. There are also interactive prompts for students to apply and practice what they have learned. Titles are very thorough in describing each topic and its relationship to other grammatical and spelling rules; as a result, their extended text length and more complex topics may be too arduous for struggling readers. ­VERDICT While a solid and comprehensive exploration of the English language, this series, written at a third grade reading level, may not be accessible for a hi-lo audience but for beginning readers.

Lindeen, Mary. Rules Rule at School! ISBN 9781684509416; ISBN 9781684044221.
––––. Very Important People. ISBN 9781684509409; ISBN 9781684044238.
––––. Working Together. ISBN 9781684509393; ISBN 9781684044245.
––––. Working Together at School. ISBN 9781684509386; ISBN 9781684044252.
ea vol: 32p. (Read & Discover Civics). notes. Norwood House. Jul. 2019. Tr. $22.60. pap. $11.94.
PreS-Gr 2 –This beginning reader series uses both common sight words and content area vocabulary to explore social studies concepts. Well-chosen, full-color photographs that align with the subject matter are featured prominently on each page. Accompanying these photographs is easy-to-read font, and pages typically have no more than three short sentences (“People in a community can all work together. They can help their neighbors”). There are a number of helpful tools for teachers and caregivers at the end, including comprehension prompts and suggestions to promote fluency. High-frequency and content vocabulary words are also listed, along with activities to reinforce these. VERDICT These quality titles focusing on civics and economics will be most effectual as part of classroom collections.

Markovics, Pearl. Cat to Bat. ISBN 9781642805383; ISBN 9781642807011.
––––. Clock to Sock. ISBN 9781642805390; ISBN 9781642807080.
––––. Grin to Fin. ISBN 9781642805406; ISBN 9781642807059.
––––. Hill to Quill. ISBN 9781642805413; ISBN 9781642807035.
––––. Man to Can. ISBN 9781642805420; ISBN 9781642807066.
––––. Mice to Slice. ISBN 9781642805437; ISBN 9781642807028.
––––. Pine to Swine. ISBN 9781642805444; ISBN 9781642807042.
––––. Snail to Mail. ISBN 9781642805451; ISBN 9781642807073.
ea vol: 16p. (Read and Rhyme Level 1). illus. photos. Bearport/Bear Cub. Aug. 2019. Tr. $$24.23. pap. $6.99.
Markovics, Pearl. Book Nook. ISBN 9781642805475; ISBN 9781642807127.
––––. Frog Log. ISBN 9781642805482; ISBN 9781642807141.
––––. Pug Hug. ISBN 9781642805499; ISBN 9781642807158.
––––. Ram Jam. ISBN 9781642805505; ISBN 9781642807165.
––––. Sheep Sleep. ISBN 9781642805512; ISBN 9781642807134.
––––. Ship Trip. ISBN 9781642805529; ISBN 9781642807103.
––––. Skunk Trunk. ISBN 9781642805536; ISBN 9781642807110.
––––. Snake Cake. ISBN 9781642805543; ISBN 9781642807172.
ea vol: 16p. (Read and Rhyme Level 2). illus. photos. Bearport/Bear Cub. Aug. 2019. Tr. $24.23. pap. $6.99.
PreS-Gr 1 –This “Read and Rhyme” series is available at three differentiated levels for developing readers. Level 1 titles use a repetitive sentence structure to share six rhyming words and are written at guided reading levels A–B. Level 2 titles, written at levels C–D, use more rhyming words in simple, often silly narratives to explore the word family, sometimes using several rhymes on a page. The rhyming stories get delightfully quirky and fun to read aloud as the text increases in complexity in Level 3 (levels E–F). Vivid, full-page photographs accompany the text, providing visual prompts for developing readers. Rhyming words are bolded and easy to identify. These titles could be used independently by emerging readers, as well as in a classroom setting. Teaching tips for using this series are shared at the end. VERDICT A first purchase for libraries in need of titles on rhyming concepts and word families.

Roza, Greg. My First Trip to a City. ISBN 9781538344323; ISBN 9781538345580.
––––. My First Trip to a Farm. ISBN 9781538344330; ISBN 9781538345603.
––––. My First Trip to the Beach. ISBN 9781538344347; ISBN 9781538345627.
––––. My First Trip to the Library. ISBN 9781538344354; ISBN 9781538345641.
ea vol: 24p. (My First Trip). glossary. illus. index. Rosen/PowerKids. Aug. 2019. Tr. $23.60. pap. $8.25.
K-Gr 2 –Early readers will be drawn to the upbeat illustrations in this series, which shows children as they explore locations in their communities for the first time. Presented as a narrative, each book follows a different character to a new place where they experience the various activities they can do. One to two sentences per page describing familiar settings makes each title ideal for beginning readers (“I’ve never been to a farm before. I wonder what it’s like”), while colorful illustrations enhance and connect with the text. The books present a diverse group of children, including a character in a wheelchair. With a visual glossary and short index, this series could also be used during a unit on communities. VERDICT These eye-catching titles are a solid resource for early elementary collections supporting developing readers.

 

HI-LO

Abdo, Kenny. Chucky. ISBN 9781532127441.
––––. Freddy Krueger. ISBN 9781532127458.
––––. Jason Voorhees. ISBN 9781532127465.
––––. Leatherface. ISBN 9781532127472.
––––. Michael Myers. ISBN 9781532127489.
––––. Pennywise. ISBN 9781532127496.
ea vol: 24p. (Hollywood Monsters Set 2). glossary. index. photos. ABDO/Fly! Aug. 2019. Tr. $27.07.
Gr 3-8 –Exploring iconic movie monsters, this hi-lo series outlines the origins, films, and ongoing legacy of different characters. Striking, up-close images of horror villains grace the covers, and prominent photographs of each film and its influences are featured throughout. The text, appropriate for a middle school audience, is highly readable; short chapters with a single paragraph per page explore the development and influence of each character and film. However, at a slim 24 pages each, these titles can only skim the surface of the history of these iconic characters, and a lack of captions or charts means readers may need to go elsewhere for additional information. VERDICT While light on content, these books will attract middle schoolers interested in horror and the macabre at a second grade reading level.

Braun, Eric. How to Outsmart a Mad Scientist. ISBN 9781680729214.
––––. How to Outsmart a Martian. ISBN 9781680729221.
––––. How to Outsmart an Evil Villain. ISBN 9781680729269.
––––. How to Outsmart a Ninja. ISBN 9781680729238.
––––. How to Outsmart a Vampire. ISBN 9781680729245.
––––. How to Outsmart a Werewolf. ISBN 9781680729252.
ea vol: 24p. (How to Outsmart). glossary. illus. index. websites. Black Rabbit/Hi Jinx. Sept. 2019. Tr. $29.95.
Gr 2-5 –This playful hi-lo series depicts a range of villainous characters and imagines hypothetical situations about how kids could get the better of them. Wrongdoers range from werewolves to mad scientists, and each volume describes their traits alongside several silly scenarios about how they could be outwitted. For example, it is suggested that readers tell an evil villain that they are allergic to pizza and video games. Relevant facts and real-life connections with history and science are sprinkled throughout. The text is highly readable, with a paragraph per page and four short chapters in each book. Cartoon-inspired graphics are used liberally, making this a strong option for middle and upper elementary readers who gravitate toward “Wimpy Kid” –inspired books, but need material at a lower reading level. V­ERDICT These slim, lighthearted volumes will appeal to humor fans at a second and third grade reading level.

Higgins, M.G. Cryptocurrency. May 2019. ISBN 9781680216387.
––––. Deadly Bites. May 2019. ISBN 9781680216400.
––––. Droids and Robots. May 2019. ISBN 9781680216394.
––––. Esports. Nov. 2019. ISBN 9781680217391.
––––. Olympic Games. Nov. 2019. ISBN 9781680217384.
––––. Working Dogs. Nov. 2019. ISBN 9781680217414.
Schlesinger, Emily. Digital Worlds. Nov. 2019. ISBN 9781680217377.
––––. Flight Squads. May 2019. ISBN 9781680216912.
––––. World Cup Soccer. Nov. 2019. ISBN 9781680217407.
ea vol: 64p. (White Lightning Nonfiction). charts. glossary. illus. photos. Saddleback. pap. $9.95.
Gr 6-8 –High-interest topics in technology, science, and sport, are comprehensively explored through this new series. Alongside occasional infographics and “Fast Facts,” each title thoroughly examines the history and current topics surrounding each issue with accessible and concise explanations. This is done most successfully when the series takes on contemporary issues like cryptocurrency and virtual reality, providing straightforward explorations of complicated topics that are relevant to today’s students. This, combined with attractive layouts with graphics and photographs, will appeal to middle school readers. These titles are written at a second and third grade reading level and use a controlled vocabulary; however, they are quite long for hi-lo nonfiction at over 60 pages each. VERDICT Chock-full of information, these books are excellent choices for reluctant readers, particularly for research purposes.

Russo, Kristin J. Surviving in Space. ISBN 9781629208060.
––––. Surviving the Cave. ISBN 9781629208077.
––––. Surviving the Ice. ISBN 9781629208046.
––––. Surviving the Storm. ISBN 9781629208053.
ea vol: 48p. (Iron Will). further reading. glossary. index. photos. Full Tilt. Aug. 2019. Tr. $27.99.
Gr 5-8 –Would you have what it takes to survive in an extreme situation? This series presents the true-life stories of people faced with high-risk conditions, from natural disasters to blistering cold to space missions gone wrong. Each volume features fast-paced, engaging narrative nonfiction that gives these disasters a human face. While intended for a middle school audience, “Iron Will” is written at an upper elementary reading level, and a controlled vocabulary and engaging back matter (including tools for survival, statistics, and maps highlighting important areas) make it accessible to a wide variety of readers. The layout features striking, high-quality photographs and blurbs about related science content. VERDICT This series packs a punch and is a strong purchase for middle school libraries seeking narrative nonfiction.

WORLD LANGUAGES

Carr, Aaron. The Fire Station. ISBN 9781489669797.
––––. The Hospital. ISBN 9781489669810.
––––. The Library. ISBN 9781489669834.
––––. The Police Station. ISBN 9781489669858.
––––. The School. ISBN 9781489669872.
––––. Sea Turtles. ISBN 9781489672667.
Cuthbert, Megan. The Church. ISBN 9781489669490.
––––. City Hall. ISBN 9781489669476.
––––. The Grocery Store. ISBN 9781489669551.
––––. The Park. ISBN 9781489669537.
Daly, Ruth. Chickens. ISBN 9781489669117.
Gillespie, Katie. Bees. ISBN 9781489669070.
––––. Robins. ISBN 9781489669094.

Roumanis, Alexis. Africa. ISBN 9781489669353.
––––. Antarctica. ISBN 9781489672254.
––––. Asia. $35.7. ISBN 9781489672315.
––––. Australia. ISBN 9781489672384.
––––. Europe. ISBN 9781489672452.
––––. North America. ISBN 9781489672520.
––––. South America. ISBN 9781489672599.
ea vol: 24p. (World Languages). photos. Weigl/AV2 by Weigl. Aug. 2019. Tr. 37.50.
K-Gr 2 –An immersive online platform accompanies this series, which allows readers to access titles in eight different languages. Using a unique code found in each book, the easy-to-navigate site features text-to-speech, as well as the ability to change the language to Spanish, Hindi, and Chinese, among others. This format lets the full-page photographs shine, and it is easy to see these ebooks being used for research by early elementary students. On their own, the books vary in detail and quality and suffer from a lack of text features. The animal titles focus heavily on life cycle but have no information on diet and habitat, and while the continent series comprehensively covers the geography, wildlife, and cultures found in each location, it would benefit from charts and an index. VERDICT A powerful online platform makes these books a recommended purchase where there is a need for ebooks in multiple languages.


Curating high-interest resources that build fluency and comprehension by meeting students at their reading level is an important goal for library collections. Standout beginner reader series include “Read and Rhyme” (Bearport/Bearcub) and “Word Adventures: Parts of Speech” (Capstone/Picture Window), both of which take a humorous and joyful approach to teaching the mechanics of the English language to early readers and writers. Reluctant upper elementary readers will delight in “How to Outsmart...” (Black Rabbit/Hi Jinx), which explores different villainous characters with humor. Though on the lengthy side for a hi-lo series, “White Lightning Nonfiction” (Saddleback) provides accessible, readable texts on engaging and contemporary topics. These series offer relevant, appealing materials with strong visual prompts and an emphasis on readability to support literacy.

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