Dynamic Narratives, Accessible Texts | Hi-Lo & Beginning Readers Series Nonfiction

There is something for developing or striving readers of all ages in these new series.


Engaging texts that use strategies to support readers as they develop fluency and comprehension skills are an essential component of building literacy. Beginning, or early reader books, are written for children at the earliest stages of their reading journeys, while hi-lo (high interest, low readability) books use appealing, age-appropriate text and graphics to reach striving readers who need materials at a lower reading level. Both of these genres, though intended for different audiences, are written with readability in mind and encourage readers by meeting them where they are.

This season’s series for beginning readers are notable for their thoughtful attention to detail to support beginning readers. The hi-lo titles examine a wide variety of high-interest topics in a way that is approachable and compelling. There is something for developing or striving readers of all ages in the new series below.




Edwards, Jonas. Rhyme Time with Bees! ISBN 9781538256084.
––––. Rhyme Time with Elephants! ISBN 9781538256046.
––––. Rhyme Time with Monkeys! ISBN 9781538255964.
––––. Rhyme Time with Parrots! ISBN 9781538256008.
––––. Rhyme Time with Sharks! ISBN 9781538256169.
––––. Rhyme Time with Snakes! ISBN 9781538256121.
ea vol: 24p. (Animal Rhyme Time!). Gareth Stevens. Aug. 2020. Tr. $22.60.
Gr 1-3 –This charming series is written in verse and provides facts about different animals. The text describes each animal and their unique features through short, clever rhymes. The engaging facts will draw readers in. The titles effectively allow readers to practice identifying rhyming words, which is an important skill for beginning readers. Large, easy-to-read type is set over colorful pages. Full-page photographs, sometimes with labels, supplement the text on the corresponding page. The glossary highlights complex vocabulary words, though there are longer, more difficult in-verse phrases that may require some support for comprehension. VERDICT Engaging animal facts and amusing rhymes are a winning combination. Recommended for elementary collections.

Francis, Alex. City Animals. ISBN 9781728415055.
––––. Food and You. ISBN 9781728415062.
––––. Going Green. ISBN 9781728415093.
––––. Our Place in Space. ISBN 9781728415109.
––––. What’s the Weather? ISBN 9781728415086.
––––. Wild and Wacky Animals. ISBN 9781728415079.
ea vol: 32p. (Early Bird Stories). Lerner. Aug. 2020. Tr. $27.99.
K-Gr 3 –Developing readers investigate science topics with a twist. The narratives are filtered through the perspective of cartoon aliens who are exploring Earth. At the beginning of each title, Zeek and Finn are presented with a question about Earth from other aliens, such as what types of food will be available or how the weather works. Pages include short paragraphs with boldface vocabulary words, photographs, and commentary by Zeek and Finn. The narrative lens provided by the aliens gives the series a humorous tone. A quiz and a glossary are included. The leveled text, which sometimes features several paragraphs per page and more advanced vocabulary, is written at a second-grade reading level. VERDICT These lighthearted but informative books are best suited for more advanced ­beginning readers.

Froeb, Lori C. I Am a Dolphin. Jul. 2020. ISBN 9781645172413.
––––. I Am a Penguin. Sept. 2020. ISBN 9781645172321.
ea vol: 32p. (Discovery Leveled Readers). Printers Row/Silver Dolphin. pap. $4.99.
Gr 1-3 –This series examines creatures from across the animal kingdom and is told from the animal’s perspective. The text offers a broad overview of the spotlighted animal, including its basic physical features, diet, and the animals it is related to. The text features simple sentences; the repetitive sentence structures are appropriate for beginning readers. Page layouts feature appealing animal photographs, bright colors, and large, easy-to-read text. Boldface terms found in the glossary highlight new and subject-specific vocabulary. While a good amount of facts are provided in a short number of pages, the information is loosely organized without chapters and is therefore not ideal for research. VERDICT With features designed to support reading comprehension, this series is a solid purchase for early elementary collections.

Jaske, Julia. I Count Three. ISBN 9781534168367.
––––. I See Two. ISBN 9781534168350.
––––. I Spot One. ISBN 9781534168343.
––––. There Are Four. ISBN 9781534168374.
ea vol: 16p. (Counting Animals). Cherry Lake/Cherry Blossom. Aug. 2020. Tr. $11.36.
PreS-Gr 2 –This series features familiar animals and allows readers to practice counting and identifying sight words. Each book focuses on a number depicted by the animals. Short sentences use common sight words and repeating structures (“I count three pigs”; “I count three sheep”). The photographs are cheerful, and word and sentence lists are provided at the end of each book for review. VERDICT Designed to support fluency, reader confidence, and counting skills, this endearing series will appeal to animal fans in the primary grades.

Jaycox, Jaclyn. Read All About Cats. ISBN 9781977125286.
––––. Read All About Dogs. ISBN 9781977125279.
––––. Read All About Rocks and Gems. ISBN 9781977125293.
––––. Read All About the Ocean. ISBN 9781977125309.
ea vol: 32p. (Read All About It). Capstone/Pebble. Aug. 2020. Tr. $29.32.
PreS-Gr 2 –This series offers a broad overview of high-interest science and animal topics, such as pets and rocks and minerals. The accessible text is easy to read, with each page consisting of two to three fun facts that are highlighted through eye-catching boxes and graphics. These facts, which provide introductory information, are loosely organized by topic into seven short chapters. Page layouts also feature ample images. Vocabulary words are in boldface. A brief glossary and an index are included at the end. VERDICT These titles are organized with young learners in mind and are full of interesting factoids, which will entertain beginning readers.

Mahoney, Emily. Learn Apostrophes with Fairies. ISBN 9781538247259.
––––. Learn Capitalization with Wizards. ISBN 9781538247297.
––––. Learn Collective Nouns with Mermaids. ISBN 9781538247334.
––––. Learn Compound Sentences with Unicorns. ISBN 9781538247419.
––––. Learn Irregular Plural Nouns with Elves. ISBN 9781538247372.
––––. Learn Verb Tenses with Dragons. ISBN 9781538247457.
ea vol: 24p. (Grammar Magic!). Gareth Stevens. Aug. 2020. Tr. $22.60.
Gr 2-4 –This series uses magical creatures to teach grammar. Mythical beings, such as mermaids, elves, and unicorns, are paired with a grammatical concept, including apostrophes, capitalization, and compound sentences. In addition to breaking down the basic rules, the text provides prompts that allow the reader to practice the concept. An answer key is provided at the end. These opportunities to actively practice each part of grammar bring a potentially dry topic to life. Facts about each magical creature, as well as cartoon-style drawings, are sprinkled throughout the narrative. VERDICT These titles effectively combine an exploration of magical creatures with an active approach to learning grammar.

Rossiter, Brienna. Blue in My World. ISBN 9781646191574.
––––. Green in My World. ISBN 9781646191581.
––––. Orange in My World. ISBN 9781646191598.
––––. Purple in My World. ISBN 9781646191604.
––––. Red in My World. ISBN 9781646191611.
––––. Yellow in My World. ISBN 9781646191628.
ea vol: 16p. (Colors in My World). North Star Editions/Little Blue Readers. Aug. 2020. Tr. $24.20.
PreS-Gr 1 –Using a number of key strategies to support beginning readers, this series examines where children can discover colors in their everyday lives. Each title focuses on a single color and, with one or two simple sentences, describes something of that color in the world. Vivid, full-page photographs correspond with the text, and images are labeled. This deliberate reinforcement, along with the repetitive sentence structure used throughout the text, helps early readers build their comprehension. A table of contents, an index, and a photo glossary are also included. VERDICT These slim, colorful volumes are effectively designed to build vocabulary and comprehension skills; a quality purchase for collections supporting developing readers.

Zimmerman, Adeline J. Airport. ISBN 9781645274599.
––––. Apple Orchard. ISBN 9781645274629.
––––. Dentist’s Office. ISBN 9781645274650.
––––. Doctor’s Office. ISBN 9781645274681.
––––. Farmer’s Market. ISBN 9781645274711.
––––. Museum. ISBN 9781645274742.
––––. Pumpkin Patch. ISBN 9781645274773.
––––. Zoo. ISBN 9781645274803.
ea vol: 16p. (Around Town). Jump!/Tadpole. Aug. 2020. Tr. $24.21.
PreS-Gr 1 –This series for beginning readers explores a variety of locations, from airports to farmer’s markets to museums. The opening pages offer tools to support fluency and comprehension; high-frequency and content-area words are highlighted. Thoughtful before-and-after reading activities, designed to be used with the support of parents or educators, are provided to help readers engage with the text. Page layouts include a full-page color photograph, which is often labeled so that readers can engage with subject-specific vocabulary, along with one short sentence that reflects the specific image. Repetitive sentence structures are used throughout the text. Photographs show children and adults who are people of color. There is also a good balance of gender and age representation. VERDICT Thoughtful prompts and intentional choices to support early readers make this an excellent series for children at the beginning of their reading journey.



Abdo, Kenny. Ash and Pikachu: Pokémon Heroes. ISBN 9781098221430.
––––. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider Hero. ISBN 9781098221447.
––––. Link: Legend of Zelda Hero. ISBN 9781098221454.
––––. Mario and Luigi: Super Mario Bros Heroes. ISBN 9781098221461.
––––. Nathan Drake: Uncharted Hero. ISBN 9781098221478.
––––. Sonic: Sonic the Hedgehog Hero. ISBN 9781098221485.
ea vol: 24p. (Video Game Heroes). ABDO/Fly!. Aug. 2020. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 2-8 –Written at a second-grade reading level, this series details the history of iconic video game heroes. The text delves into the character’s origin story, the history of the game, and different media, such as movies and comics, that the character has appeared in. Gamers will appreciate the bold graphics and close-up images of characters. Chapters are given video game–inspired names, such as “Level Up” and “Expansion Pack.” The text is highly readable, with controlled vocabulary and one short paragraph per page. However, the short length makes these titles somewhat light on content, and there are no graphs or charts to supplement the information. VERDICT Though not a deep dive, these accessible titles will appeal to video game fans at the upper-elementary and middle school level.

Saddleback Educational Publishing. Engineering Wonders. Jan. 2021. ISBN 9781680217575.
––––. Unusual Jobs. Jan. 2021. ISBN 9781680217568.
––––. Women in Combat. Mar. 2020. ISBN 9781680217506.
ea vol: 60p. (Space 8). Saddleback. pap. $10.95.
Gr 9 Up –Fascinating true stories about extreme careers, women in the military, and engineering marvels are told in this series. The titles provide a broad overview of their high-octane subjects, and each of the 10 short chapters describes real-life examples. However, the amount of content means that the information tends to be more generalized and not as comprehensive. The text is highly readable. Each page provides around two short paragraphs with simple sentences, which use a controlled vocabulary at a third-grade reading level. The eye-catching page layouts are appealing. Full-page photographs, charts, and infographics help the subject matter come alive. ­VERDICT Captivating topics and engaging page layouts make this a solid choice for striving high school readers.

Schlesinger, Emily. Alaska’s Iditarod. Jan. 2021. ISBN 9781680218831.
––––. Children of the Holocaust. Jan. 2020. ISBN 9781680217551.
––––. Navajo Code Talkers. Jan. 2021. ISBN 9781680218848.
––––. Stephen Hawking His Life and Legacy. Jan. 2021. ISBN 9781680218855.
––––. Superbugs. Jan. 2021. ISBN 9781680219111.
––––. The White House. Jan. 2021. ISBN 9781680219128.
ea vol: 64p. (White Lightning Nonfiction). Saddleback. pap. $10.95.
Gr 6-8 –Social studies and science topics come alive in the latest additions to this Saddleback series. Often employing a narrative approach, the text offers a blend of facts and engrossing real-life stories. Titles thoughtfully and thoroughly explore complex topics, such as superbugs and the Holocaust, while making them approachable for striving readers. Each book features 10 chapters with one to two brief paragraphs per page. While the titles use a controlled vocabulary and are written at a second to third-grade reading level, they are on the longer side for hi-lo titles. Facts and relevant photographs, including primary source images for historical topics, are featured throughout. Charts and infographics enhance the information. For example, a chart about how amyotrophic lateral sclerosis works brings a deeper understanding to Stephen Hawking’s life story. VERDICT Comprehensive content and captivating personal stories make this a standout hi-lo series for secondary collections.

Schlesinger, Emily. Mysterious Objects. ISBN 9781680210781.
––––. Tiny Life. ISBN 9781680210774.
ea vol: 60p. (Red Rhino Nonfiction). Saddleback. Jul. 2020. pap. $10.95.
Gr 4-7 –This series continues to provide engaging, high-interest titles for striving readers at a first-grade reading level. The latest additions explore microorganisms and mysterious natural phenomena. Using short sentences and a controlled vocabulary, the text features several brief paragraphs per page. Information is organized into short, logical chapters. For example, each chapter in Mysterious Objects examines a different natural feature and how related theories have been debunked over time. There is a significant amount of content in the slim 60 pages per book. Appealing page layouts showcase full-page photographs and eye-catching graphics. “Case Files” boxes highlight vocabulary words and fun facts. VERDICT These entertaining volumes are filled with information. A recommended purchase for middle school collections serving hi-lo readers.

Scrace, Carolyn. The Body: Amazing Facts on How It Works. illus. by Carolyn Scrace. ISBN 9781912904259.
––––. Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Creatures. illus. by Liza Lewis. ISBN 9781912904242.
––––. Safari Animals. illus. by Jean Claude. ISBN 9781912904266.
––––. Whales, Sharks, and Other Sea Creatures. illus. by Carolyn Scrace. ISBN 9781912904273.
ea vol: 32p. (I Discover). Black Rabbit/Book House. Aug. 2020. Tr. $32.80.
Gr 3-6 –This series uses vibrant illustrations to teach a variety of STEM-focused topics, including dinosaurs, animals, and the human body. Each title uses a question and answer format to take a deep dive into the topic. While the answers are written in easy-to-digest paragraphs, more in-depth facts and related details are also provided on the page. For example, the page in Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Creatures that answers the question “Did Dinosaurs Swim?” offers additional pieces of information about dinosaurs in water. This versatile series can appeal to a wider audience outside of hi-lo and striving readers. Eye-catching and detailed illustrations fill each page, and drawn diagrams showcase details that enhance the content found in the text. Additional fun facts are at the end of each book. VERDICT Written at a fourth-grade reading level, this science series is full of information. A recommended purchase for upper-elementary collections.

Stark, Kristy. Behind the Scenes with Marsai Martin. ISBN 9781629208435.
––––. Fighting Climate Change with Greta Thunberg. ISBN 9781629208404.
––––. In the Running with Ntando Mahlangu. ISBN 9781629208428.
––––. Wildlife Conservation with Robert Irwin. ISBN 9781629208411.
ea vol: 32p. (Teen Strong). Full Tilt. Aug. 2020. Tr. $27.99.
Gr 5-8 –This series details the lives of teen movers and shakers, such as South African paralympic athlete Ntando Mahlangu. Each title focuses on how these teenagers have made a difference in the world by spotlighting their backgrounds and fields of interests. Graphs and additional information help readers learn more about their areas of activism. For example, Behind the Scenes with Marsai Martin features a chart explaining the lack of diversity on television. A time line, a quiz, and a research activity are included, as well as a page spotlighting other teens working in their fields. There are appealing graphics and full-page photographs throughout, and glossary words are located at the bottom of each page for easy reference. VERDICT Written at a third-grade reading level, these biographies centering inspiring teens are jam-packed with information and highlight the importance of activism.



Amoroso, Cynthia & Robert B. Noyed & John Willis. Drums. ISBN 9781791122720.
––––. Guitars. ISBN 9781791122768.
––––. Pianos. ISBN 9781791122744.
––––. Trumpets. ISBN 9781791122782.
Nugent, Samantha. Earthworms. ISBN 9781791122805.
––––. Scorpions. ISBN 9781791122829.
Roumanis, Alexis. Earth. ISBN 9781791122843.
––––. Mars. ISBN 9781791122867.
Willis, John. Fighter Jets. ISBN 9781791122904.
––––. Tanks. ISBN 9781791122881.
ea vol: 24p. (World Languages). Weigl/AV2. Aug. 2020. Tr. $35.99.
K-Gr 2 –Musical instruments, insects, planets, and military machines are explored in the latest titles in “World Languages.” A powerful online platform, which is accessible via a unique code, provides an ebook version that can be translated and read aloud in 11 languages. Titles provide a basic summary of the topic, and the content tends to be broad. However, most books do feature boxes that offer related facts. Page layouts, which particularly stand out in the online format, showcase bright photographs and graphics. An overview of sight and content words in the text is provided at the end. VERDICT On their own, the titles lack some of the text features ideal for informational works. However, the interactive elements included in the ebooks make these titles more appealing for research in the primary grades, particularly for collections serving a multilingual audience.

“Around Town” (Jump!/Tadpole) offers repetitive sentence structures and well-crafted activities for the earliest of readers. “Animal Rhyme Time!” (Gareth Stevens) provides informative and fun rhyming practice. For striving readers at the secondary level, “Teen Strong” (Full Tilt) shares inspiring real-life stories of teen activists. The content-rich “White Lightning Nonfiction” (Saddleback) examines often complex topics through engaging narratives and eye-catching graphics. These series use controlled vocabularies, strong visual cues, and high-interest subject matter to support beginning and striving readers.

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