Series for Emergent Readers—Young and Old | Hi-Lo & Guided Reading Series Nonfiction

Hi-lo (high interest, low reading level) titles provide striving readers with entertaining, age-appropriate content at a lower reading level, while beginning reader books seek to support early literacy skills in young children just learning how to read.


Quality hi-lo and beginning reader books support readers with engaging texts presented alongside intentional strategies to build fluency and comprehension. Hi-lo (high interest, low reading level) titles provide striving readers with entertaining, age-appropriate content at a lower reading level, while beginning reader books seek to support early literacy skills in young children just learning how to read. In the hi-lo category, the nonfiction topics covered range from animal battles to Olympic athletes to pirates. While these high-interest titles are aimed at older students, their text is thoughtfully crafted with controlled vocabularies and shorter page lengths. The new and forthcoming beginning reader series stand out for presenting concepts like phonics and prepositions in an interactive and entertaining format. Altogether, this season’s selections present their compelling subject matters with readability in mind.



Cleary, Brian P. The Hen in the Den: Short Vowel Sounds. ISBN 9781728440859.
––––. The Herd Came in Third: Diphthongs and R-Controlled Vowels. ISBN 9781728441320.
––––. Jake Makes a Cake: Long Vowel Sounds. ISBN 9781728441276.
––––. Mom Looks at the Books: Inflectional Endings. ISBN 9781728441313.
––––. The Price of a Slice: Long Vowel Sounds with Consonant Blends. ISBN 9781728441283.
––––. Reach for a Peach: Long Vowel Sounds with Consonant Digraphs. ISBN 9781728441306.
––––. The Slug and the Pug: Short Vowel Sounds with Consonant Blends. ISBN 9781728440866.
––––. The Witch Had an Itch: Short Vowel Sounds with Consonant Digraphs. ISBN 9781728441290.
ea vol: illus. by Jason Miskimins. 24p. (Phonics Fun). Lerner. Jan. 2022. Tr $27.99.
K-Gr 2 –A charming first look at phonics for early readers, the books in this series are designed to build upon one another. Starting with more simple concepts like short and long vowels, titles begin to get more difficult, adding in ideas like consonant blends, digraphs, and diphthongs. The books include silly, rhyming sentences that demonstrate the concept being explored (“The witch in the ditch began to itch.”). These get increasingly more complex as the book goes on. Each sentence is accompanied by a pleasing, cartoon-inspired illustration of what is being described with labels. These visual cues help support decoding and comprehension skills. A “Make Your Own” prompt, which asks readers to write their own story with the featured words, is included at the end. VERDICT With amusing illustrations and delightful rhymes, these books take an entertaining approach to teaching phonics.

Culliford, Amy. Behind and In Front. ISBN 9781039644328.
––––. In and Out. ISBN 9781039644335.
––––. Near and Far. ISBN 9781039644342.
––––. Over and Under. ISBN 9781039644359.
––––. Up and Down. ISBN 9781039644366.
ea vol: 16p. (Directions in My World). Crabtree/Roots. Jan. 2022. Tr $23.93.
PreS-Gr 1 –Crafted for beginning readers, “Directions in My World” introduces key prepositions like in, out, near, far, up, and down. Taking a set of opposites, each book presents these words in authentic, real-life settings, such as in school or with pets. With one simple sentence per page, the books utilize high frequency sight words, and each text uses only about 30 different words in total. Repeating sentence structures (“This plane is near. This plane is far.”) and full-page color photographs that align with the text on the page support comprehension. Tools for parents and caregivers include before, during, and after reading questions, as well as a visual list of “Words to Know.” VERDICT Tools to aid in comprehension and fluency make this a quality series for early readers to practice directional words.

Nickel, Scott. World’s Grossest Animals. ISBN 9781728403960.
––––. World’s Grossest Creepy Crawlers. ISBN 9781728404004.
––––. World’s Grossest History Facts. ISBN 9781728403991.
––––. World’s Grossest Human Body Facts. ISBN 9781728403984.
––––. World’s Grossest Jobs. ISBN 9781728403977.
––––. World’s Grossest Plants. ISBN 9781728404011.
ea vol: 24p. (World’s Grossest (UpDog Books ™)). Lerner. Jan. 2022. Tr $29.32.
Gr 3-5 –Full of entertaining (and stomach-turning) tidbits, this hi-lo series is written at a first grade reading level. From the animal world to history to jobs, these titles present purposefully disgusting fun facts on different topics. The text is designed with readability in mind; this includes a controlled vocabulary and one-to-two short sentences per page. Photographs that align with the content on the page serve as visual cues for striving readers, as well as increasing the enjoyable gross-out factor. Interactive elements include a “Which is Grosser?” prompt and a “Disgusting Diagram” in each book. Books and websites for further reading are provided at the end. VERDICT While not brimming with informational content, these titles lean into the fun ­elements of their icky subject matter and will engage readers seeking hi-lo content.

Purcell, Susan. The Princess and the Pea. ISBN 9781499487169.
––––. Puss in Boots. ISBN 9781499487206.
ea vol: 24p. (Fairy-Tale Phonics). Rosen/Windmill. Jan. 2022. Tr $24.60.
K-Gr 2 –Combining classic stories with early literacy skills, “Fairy Tale Phonics” takes an interactive approach to learning phonics. Each book presents a retelling of a well-known tale accompanied by endearing illustrations that bring the stories to life. Different pages focus on a specific sound or phoneme, which is highlighted as it is used throughout the text. This gives readers an authentic setting to practice identifying sounds, and each book features single sounds and consonant blends. The books include multiple prompts to engage with phonics, such as asking readers to sound out words or spot the words featuring certain sounds. At the end of the book, readers are asked to retell the story with images and key sounds. The plentiful activities to practice word building skills make these texts most effective when used with a caregiver or teacher. VERDICT Fairy tales and engaging phonics exercises make for a winning combination; recommended for elementary collections.


Upper Elementary to Middle School

Abdo, Kenny. History of Pirates. ISBN 9781098226855.
––––. Infamous Pirates. ISBN 9781098226862.
––––. Pirate Ships. ISBN 9781098226879.
––––. Pirate Treasure. ISBN 9781098226886.
––––. Pirate’s Life. ISBN 9781098226909.
––––. Pirates in the Media. ISBN 9781098226893.
ea vol: 24p. (Pirates). Abdo/Fly! Jan. 2022. Tr $29.93.
Gr 3-8 –This new hi-lo series sets sail and explores pirates from the past and present. Each title tackles an aspect of piracy, ranging from its history to infamous individuals to depictions of pirates in the media. Appealing page layouts feature eye-catching graphics, along with primary source images of pirates, ships, and maps. The text is written with a controlled vocabulary at a second grade reading level, and features several short sentences per page. While the books are a slim 24 pages, they are chock-full of information and subject-specific vocabulary. Each title includes a QR code linking to the Abdo BookLinks website, which provides additional online resources on the topics investigated. VERDICT Exploring the popular topic of pirates, this series will draw in striving readers at both the upper elementary and middle school level interested in history and adventure.

Downs, Kieran. Barracuda vs. Moray Eel. ISBN 9781644876237.
––––. Giant Otter vs. Caiman. ISBN 9781644876244.
––––. Praying Mantis vs. Black Widow Spider. ISBN 9781644876251.
––––. Snow Leopard vs. Wild Yak. ISBN 9781644876268.
ea vol: 24p. (Animal Battles). Bellwether Media/Torque. Jan. 2022. Tr $26.95.
Gr 3-7 –From insects to fish to reptiles, “Animal Battles” envisions what would happen if two predators went head to head. Before the battle, an overview is provided of the competitors, including their physical characteristics, “secret weapon” adaptations and features, and common attack moves. Graphs and charts bring the animals to life with important information like their size, habitat, range, and speed. Fun facts about these formidable opponents are sprinkled throughout, and the books include a notable amount of animal facts on top of the high-action concept. The end of each book features a short fight scene imagining the brawl, though this could be expanded upon for maximum impact. The page layouts, which include bold, colorful graphics and full-page photographs of the animals, emphasize the exciting subject matter. This will entice both upper-elementary audiences and striving readers at the middle school level. VERDICT Written at a third grade reading level, this series winningly combines a fun, high-octane concept with readable text and in-depth information.

Faust, Daniel R. The Electoral College. ISBN 9781636915982.
––––. The House Of Representatives. ISBN 9781636915999.
––––. The Senate. ISBN 9781636916019.
Kenney, Karen Latchana. Checks and ­Balances. ISBN 9781636915975.
––––. The House of the President. ISBN 9781636916002.
––––. The Supreme Court. ISBN 9781636916026.
ea vol: 32p. (U.S. Government: Need to Know). Bearport/SilverTip. Jan. 2022. Tr $28.50.
Gr 5 Up –This new hi-lo series from focuses on the branches of the United States government and how they interact together. Each title explores an aspect of the federal government, including how it works and its key players. The series successfully conveys very complicated concepts like checks and balances and how the Supreme Court works in a clear, concise way for striving readers. With the interconnected nature of governmental institutions, the books do a particularly effective job at showing how these concepts and governing bodies are dependent on each other. The books are written at a second grade reading level, and incorporate dyslexia-friendly fonts and designs for accessibility. The end of each title features several comprehension questions and prompts, as well as definitions of key words and additional resources. VERDICT Packed full of information, “US Government Need to Know” is recommended for collections seeking hi-lo civics materials.

Gitlin, Martin. Olympic Basketball Legends. ISBN 9781623102647.
––––. Olympic Combat Sport Legends. ISBN 9781623102654.
––––. Olympic Gymnastics Legends. ISBN 9781623102661.
––––. Olympic Swimming and Diving Legends. ISBN 9781623102678.
––––. Olympic Track and Field Legends. ISBN 9781623102685.
––––. Olympic Volleyball Legends. ISBN 9781623102692.
ea vol: 32p. (Olympic Greats). Black Rabbit/Bolt. Jan. 2022. Tr $34.25.
Gr 4-6 –The top stars of Olympic basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, and more are highlighted in “Olympic Greats.” Focusing on the Summer Games, each title explores a sport or category of sports and its standout competitors. While not a comprehensive look, brief descriptions of ten legendary athletes are included, along with their Olympic medal counts and the games they participated in. Bright, full-page photographs show athletes in action, and page layouts include one-to-two brief paragraphs per page written between a second and third grade reading level. One distinguishing feature of this series is the impressive array of infographics that elevate the content. In addition to charts comparing the stats of the highlighted champions, more specific infographics are visually pleasing and informative. These include a time line of when women were allowed to compete in different sports and visuals distinguishing the different swimming events. ­ VERDICT With an emphasis on stats, this entertaining look at athletes will appeal to sports fans and visual learners.


Upper Middle School to High School

Hamilton, S.L. Aerobatic Aircraft. ISBN 9781532197321.
––––. Electric Aircraft. ISBN 9781532197338.
––––. Fire & Rescue Aircraft. ISBN 9781532197345.
––––. Gliders. ISBN 9781532197352.
––––. Spaceplanes. ISBN 9781532197369.
––––. Unmanned Aircraft. ISBN 9781532197376.
ea vol: 48p. (Xtreme Aircraft). ABDO/A&D Xtreme. Jan. 2022. Tr $32.79.
Gr 5-9 –Take flight with this comprehensive overview of different types of aircraft, from drones to gliders to space planes. The books are full of real-life examples of how these machines are used, as well as a rundown of their history and development. The layouts include strong graphics, with full-page photographs of the aircraft in motion along with fun facts. The text, which is written at a fourth grade reading level, features one brief paragraph per page. This series is on the longer side for hi-lo nonfiction, and while the books are extremely detailed and full of information, they may hold less appeal to striving readers outside of true aviation enthusiasts. The end features an “Xtreme Challenge” with several comprehension questions for readers, as well as a QR code linking to additional online resources. VERDICT While the audience may be limited, this series is full of detailed aircraft content and is best suited to striving readers at the secondary level.

The hi-lo and beginning reader series presented above support readers with features to build their confidence and independence. This season’s early reader selections are noteworthy for their engaging approach to practicing phonics. “Fairy Tale Phonics” (Rosen) presents classic fairy tales alongside interactive exercises to identify different sounds. The standout hi-lo series include “Animal Battles” (Bellwether), which provides in-depth information on different predators with a high-interest concept perfect for striving readers. “U.S. Government: Need to Know” (Bearport) effectively explores the complicated workings of government in an approachable way, including dyslexia-friendly fonts. These texts combine readable texts and visual cues to support comprehension and meet readers where they are.

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