Building Blocks of Literacy | Guided & Hi-Lo Reading Series Nonfiction

These new series are designed to guide and support readers as they build fluency and comprehension.

Engaging titles that use intentional techniques to build literacy are essential to supporting beginning readers and striving readers. Titles for beginning readers, which are designed for children just learning how to read, and hi-lo titles, which explore high-interest, age-appropriate topics at a lower reading level, both include controlled vocabularies, simple sentences, and appealing images and layouts. This season’s offerings of beginning readers feature repetitive sentence structures, common sight words, and images that purposefully correlate with the text. Engrossing true-life stories designed to appeal to striving readers, from the rise of popular music artists to shocking stories of survival, fill the pages of the hi-lo series presented here. While these books are packed with information, their text is readable and approachable. These new series are designed to guide and support readers as they build fluency and comprehension.



Devera, Czeena. On a Rainy Day. ISBN 9781534161023.
––––. On a Snowy Day. ISBN 9781534160996.
––––. On a Sunny Day. ISBN 9781534161009.
––––. On a Windy Day. ISBN 9781534161016.
ea vol: 16p. (Playing Outside). Cherry Lake/Cherry Blossom. Jan. 2020. Tr. $11.36.
PreS-Gr 1 –This early reader series uses common sight words and repetitive sentence structures to describe what children do in different types of weather. Rainy, sunny, snowy, and windy days are explored through a different simple sentence structure that is repeated throughout the book. This repetition (“I play with…”, “I make a…”) is designed to help readers recognize these phrases. Pages feature one short sentence (“I eat in the sunshine”) along with a relevant image of people engaging in that activity. These crisp, vibrant photographs help guide readers by providing visual prompts. A word list and a list of the sentences is included at the end of each book. VERDICT At a brief 40 to 60 words each, this series uses repetition to help build fluency, and ultimately confidence and independence, in developing readers.

Gaertner, Meg. I Like Basketball. ISBN 9781646190102.
––––. I Like Cats. ISBN 9781646190119.
––––. I Like Dogs. ISBN 9781646190126.
––––. I Like Horses. ISBN 9781646190133.
––––. I Like Soccer. ISBN 9781646190140.
––––. I Like to Build. ISBN 9781646190157.
––––. I Like to Dance. ISBN 9781646190164.
––––. I Like to Paint. ISBN 9781646190171.
ea vol: 16p. (Things I Like). North Star Editions/Little Blue Readers. Jan. 2020. Tr. $24.20. pap. $6.95.
PreS-Gr 2 –Each title in the “Things I Like” series takes a kid-friendly topic and describes a variety of ways to engage with it. Short, simple sentences, along with repetitive text, are intentionally designed to support developing readers. Layouts are bright and eye-catching, with a large photograph that depicts the content of the text on each page. Labeled photographs allow readers to engage with subject-specific vocabulary, and the books present a diverse group of children across the different photographs. An index, a picture glossary, and table of contents are also included. VERDICT With an upbeat tone and several deliberate features to help build comprehension, these titles will be most useful when read with a teacher or caregiver.


Laughlin, Kara L. Fruit Juice: The Sound of UI. ISBN 9781503835450.
––––. Get Out, Mouse!: The Sound of OU. ISBN 9781503835405.
––––. Hoot, Moo, Coo: The Sound of OO. ISBN 9781503835375.
––––. Join the Noise: The Sound of OI. ISBN 9781503835436.
––––. Let’s Look at Blue!: The Sound of UE. ISBN 9781503835429.
––––. Moe’s Oboe: The Sound of OE. ISBN 9781503835443.
Shaffer, Jody Jensen. Coach Floats: The Sound of OA. ISBN 9781503835382.
––––. Jean Can Teach: The Sound of EA. ISBN 9781503835368.
––––. Let’s Play!: The Sound of AY. ISBN 9781503835467.
––––. Spies and Pies: The Sound of IE. ISBN 9781503835412.
––––. Three Bees: The Sound of EE. ISBN 9781503835399.
––––. The Trail: The Sound of AI. ISBN 9781503835351.
ea vol: 24p. (Vowel Blends). The Child’s World. Jan. 2020. Tr. $27.07.
PreS-Gr 2 –Vowel blends are explored through short, quirky narratives in these charming titles. Each book takes a vowel blend and shares a story to show its use in a real-world setting; for example, two spies are looking for different types of pie in the book exploring “ie.” About five to 10 different words using the particular vowel blend are incorporated into the narratives. The repeated use of these vowel blends helps developing readers identify words and spelling patterns in the context of an amusing, enjoyable story. Each page features one to two sentences against a bright, primary-colored background and a photograph that corresponds with the text. Emerging readers could use these titles independently or with an adult. A word list is provided at the end. VERDICT A first purchase for libraries in need of titles teaching vowel blends or spelling patterns.

Peterson, Anna C. Let’s Learn Colors. ISBN 9781645273110.
––––. Let’s Learn Counting. ISBN 9781645273141.
––––. Let’s Learn Letters. ISBN 9781645273172.
––––. Let’s Learn Shapes. ISBN 9781645273202.
ea vol: 16p. (Fun First Concepts). Jump!/Tadpole. Jan. 2020. Tr. $24.21.PreS-Gr 1 –Colors, letters, shapes, and counting are introduced in this series, which uses bright colors and simple text to entice beginning readers. These slim volumes take a concept and present examples in a real-life setting, such as showing shapes as different street signs and a variety of insects to explore colors. Relevant, eye-catching photographs and repetitive sentences featuring common sight words (“I see a circle, I see a square”) make the text approachable and easy to understand. Each title features before and after reading activities, as well as an interactive review at the end. High-frequency and content words are also highlighted. VERDICT The inclusion of thoughtful teaching tools for parents and caregivers makes these books a quality choice for early readers.

Sheely, Carrie B. Color Words. ISBN 9781977123657.
––––. Motion Words. ISBN 9781977113139.
––––. Texture Words. ISBN 9781977113122.
––––. What Words. ISBN 9781977113115.
––––. Where Words. ISBN 9781977113108.
––––. Who Words. ISBN 9781977113092.
ea vol: 32p. (Word Play). Capstone/Pebble. Jan. 2020. Tr. $29.32. pap. $8.95.
PreS-Gr 2 –This series is designed to build vocabulary and grammar concepts by presenting categories of similar words. Each title features words on that theme and full-page photographs that depict the concept. Images often include synonyms or other relevant words. Within each book, vocabulary words are presented in no discernible order, and there is no back matter. Some of the terms will be difficult for developing readers without adult guidance; for example, Color Words describes animals as “flaxen” and “goldenrod.” The titles that depict more specific concepts benefit from having more clearly defined relationships between the words, such as the verbs in Motion Words and the contrasts depicted in Texture WordsVERDICT A secondary purchase due to a lack of organization and terms that will be too difficult for the intended audience.



Bell, Samantha S. 12 Amazing Animal Feats. ISBN 9781632357342.
––––. 12 Astounding Athletic Feats. ISBN 9781632357359.
––––. 12 Epic Rescues. ISBN 9781632357366.
––––. 12 Extreme Survival Stories. ISBN 9781632357373.
––––. 12 Impossible Daredevil Stunts. ISBN 9781632357380
––––. 12 Suspenseful Mysteries. ISBN 9781632357397.
ea vol: 32p. (Incredible). Bookstaves/12 Story Library. Jan. 2020. Tr. $32.80. pap. $12.
Gr 3-5 –Engaging, true-life stories from the past and present are shared in this series, written at a third grade reading level. Twelve events or biographies are chronicled in each title; topics include animals, athletes, and rescue stories. Narratives are told in about four paragraphs across a highly readable spread, with photographs, facts, and thought prompts sprinkled throughout. The books feature diverse stories about people and events worldwide and across different time periods. In addition to a glossary and a list of further resources, back matter contains a QR code that links to a free online resource with relevant videos, news articles, and web resources. VERDICT While the high-interest subject matter will have broad appeal in upper elementary collections, the easily digestible text will make this series particularly attractive to striving readers.


Grace, N.B. Mummies and Murder: Bodies in the Swamp. ISBN 9780531238141.
Peterkin, P.A. UFO Landing: Was a Crash Covered Up? ISBN 9780531238134.
Rinaldo, Denise. Lost City Spotted from Space!: Is an Ancient Land Under the Sand? ISBN 9780531238127.
Teitelbaum, Michael. Tracking BigFoot: Is It Real or a Hoax? ISBN 9780531238158; ISBN 9780531243817.
ea vol: 48p. (XBooks: Strange). Scholastic/Children’s Pr. Feb. 2020. Tr. $29. pap. $6.95.
Gr 3-6 –Engrossing stories of archaeology and the supernatural are explored in “XBooks,” written at a fourth grade reading level. Each book starts with a brief introduction in a narrative style, followed by five short informational chapters. One in-depth story, such as the discovery of the Lost City of Ubar or the Roswell UFO incident, is examined with thorough and detailed information, along with descriptions of similar happenings around the world. Each page features about three paragraphs, along with eye-catching page layouts that often use primary source images. While certain topics are sensationalistic, the stories are explored in an even handed tone and provide both evidence and counter evidence to each side. The “X Files” at the back of each book showcase interviews with experts in the field, labeled tools and charts, along with a glossary, an index, and further reading. VERDICT This entertaining look at peculiar incidents will appeal to striving readers at the middle school level.


Saddleback Educational Publishing, ed. Connected Lives: Ed Sheeran/Shawn Mendes. ISBN 9781680217896.
––––. Connected Lives: Halsey/Billie Eilish. ISBN 9781680217919.
––––. Connected Lives: Nicki Minaj/Cardi B. ISBN 9781680217940.
––––. Connected Lives: John Legend/Michael Buble. ISBN 9781680217926.
––––. Connected Lives: Ariana Grande/Camila Cabello. ISBN 9781680217957.
––––. Connected Lives: Kacey Musgraves/Maren Morris. ISBN 9781680217964.
––––. Connected Lives: Kane Brown/Sam Hunt. ISBN 9781680217902.
––––. Connected Lives: Kendrick Lamar/Travis Scott. ISBN 9781680217933.
ea vol: 64p. (Connected Lives: Music). Saddleback. Apr. 2020. pap. $11.95.
Gr 7 Up –The similarities and differences in the lives of popular music artists are explored in this new biographical series. The early lives and musical careers of different musicians, typically of a similar age and genre, are examined. Grittier details of artists’ backstories, such as exposure to gang violence and mental health issues, are addressed, though personal details outside of familial relationships are avoided. Each title works in earnest to show the intersections between each pair, punctuated by page layouts full of photographs that compare an aspect of the artists’ lives back-to-back. While on the longer side for hi-lo books, the text offers a single paragraph per page written at a third grade reading level. Time lines, Venn diagrams, and infographics help bring each musician’s career to life, though there is a noticeable lack of text features beyond a table of contents. VERDICT Jam-packed with information, these titles provide a fascinating look at the music industry for middle and high school music fans.


Saddleback Educational Publishing, ed. Extreme Survival. ISBN 9781680217483.
––––. Feats of Courage. ISBN 9781680217476.
––––. Incredible Comebacks. ISBN 9781680217490.
––––. Sports Superstitions. ISBN 9781680217445.
––––. Wrongly Accused. ISBN 9781680217452.
ea vol: 60p. (Space 8). Saddleback. Feb. 2020. pap. $9.95.
Gr 9 Up –This new Saddleback series explores captivating topics such as survival stories, sports comebacks, and wrongful criminal convictions. Each book depicts numerous accounts from the past and present. These true stories are engrossing and often inspirational; they effectively bring the subject matter to life. Due to the high volume of different stories in each book, the information can occasionally feel surface-level, though the unifying themes help to ground the narratives. Page layouts feature vivid photographs and illustrations, along with infographics and boxes with additional information to help break up the text. Each page has short paragraphs written with a controlled vocabulary. VERDICT Written between a second and third grade reading level, these slim titles pack a punch. A solid purchase for high school collections serving a hi-lo audience.


York, M.J. Learn Arabic Words. ISBN 9781503835795.
––––. Learn Hindi Words. ISBN 9781503835849.
––––. Learn Korean Words. ISBN 9781503835818.
––––. Learn Portuguese Words. ISBN 9781503835832.
––––. Learn Tagalog Words. ISBN 9781503835825.
––––. Learn Vietnamese Words. ISBN 9781503835801.
ea vol: illus. by Kathleen Petelinsek. 24p. (Foreign Language Basics). The Child’s World. Jan. 2020. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 2-5 –This series introduces students to everyday words and phrases in a range of languages, including Hindi, Portuguese, and Tagalog. Basics such as where the language is spoken and how it compares to English are presented at the beginning of the text, along with a pronunciation guide. Each book uses the same set of images to depict scenes from everyday life (at home, at school, and around town). Common items and concepts are labeled in the language; the pronunciation for these terms is also featured. Detailed, colorful illustrations allow readers to experience the language in an authentic setting with both labels and helpful phrases, shown in context through conversations with word bubbles. A list of additional words, including months and seasons, is included at the end. VERDICT With appealing illustrations, these titles are an effective introduction to new languages for elementary learners.

Titles that meet students by meeting where they are as readers and learners are a fundamental component of library collections. Notable beginning reader series that support libraries in that goal include “Vowel Blends” (The Child’s World) and “Things I Like” (North Star Editions/Little Blue Readers). While each of these series uses simple text and short sentences, they present information in creative and amusing ways, along with features like relevant images and repeating sentence structures that build confidence in early readers. “Incredible’’ (Bookstaves/12 Story Library) will appeal to a broad group of readers with its shocking true-life stories, and supplemental online resources support additional learning. “XBooks” (Scholastic/Children’s Pr.) takes a content-rich, evenhanded approach to astounding subjects that will ­appeal to hi-lo readers at the middle school level. Each of these series uses engaging topics, attractive layouts, and readable text to support literacy for early and reluctant readers.

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