Texts for Developing and Striving Readers | Hi-Lo & Early Reading Series Nonfiction

With a focus on meeting readers where they are, Hi-Lo and early reader books combine accessible texts with engaging topics.

With a focus on meeting readers where they are, Hi-Lo and early reader books combine accessible texts with engaging topics. Early, or beginning, reader books support early literacy skills for young children as they are first learning to read, while Hi-Lo (high-interest, low reading level) texts present compelling, age-appropriate content to readers who need text written at a lower reading level. The beginning reader series highlighted below use intentional strategies to support early readers, and many include interactive features to practice these skills. This season’s Hi-Lo books stand out for featuring interesting narratives on topics ranging from chemistry to corporate rivalries, along with well-crafted text features and appealing visuals. These new and forthcoming series cover a variety of topics with readability in mind.



Anderson, Shannon. I See CH. ISBN 9781039696266.
––––. I See CK. ISBN 9781039696280.
––––. I See SH. ISBN 9781039696297.
––––. I See TCH. ISBN 9781039696242.
––––. I See TH. ISBN 9781039696273.
––––. I See WH. ISBN 9781039696259.
ea vol: 16p. (My Phonics Readers-I See My Consonant Teams). Crabtree/Little Honey. Jan. 2023. Tr. $25.27.
PreS-Gr 2 –This series invites readers to practice phonics skills by identifying consonant teams, or two consonants that make one sound together. Each book focuses on one consonant team, such as ‘sh’ or ‘ck.’ These titles provide many examples of the consonant team being explored. Each section includes one short sentence featuring words with the letter pairings that are highlighted for readers. Pages asking readers to identify additional words are interspersed throughout the text, providing an immediate and interactive way to practice the skill. Some of these vocabulary words may be more difficult for younger readers, though a review list at the end can be used to check answers. While the books use basic clip art, these visuals purposefully align with the text on the page to help early readers identify the words and consonant teams. VERDICT These books provide an effective and hands-on method for beginning readers to recognize consonant teams, though they lack some visual interest.

Donnelly, Rebecca. Daisy Flies with a Dragon: A Tale of Vowel Sounds. ISBN 9798885242691.
––––. Dot and the Magic Pot: A Tale of Word Families. ISBN 9798885242721.
––––. Sal and the Three-Letter Spell: A Tale of Spelling. ISBN 9798885242752.
––––. Theo Swims with a Mermaid: A Tale of Consonant Sounds. ISBN 9798885242783.
ea vol: illus. by Carissa Harris. 24p. (Fairy-Tale Phonics). Jump!/Grasshopper. Jan. 2023. Tr. $27.99.
K-Gr 2 –Through the lens of fairy tales and magical creatures, this series presents different phonics concepts through short, narrative stories. Each book shares an original, fictional tale that focuses on one phonics area, such as word families and consonant blends. Readers are invited to look for these concepts throughout the story as they read, creating an interactive approach for exploring how they work. For example, one story features a boy who needs to bring a witch several items featuring three-letter CVC words to reverse a spell. The appealing illustrations are colorful and cartoon-inspired to appeal to beginning readers. A visual glossary is included at the end, along with a practice activity that invites readers to identify the phonics concept being shown. VERDICT With simple narratives, these books provide an engaging way to practice phonics skills in an authentic context. Recommended for early elementary collections.

Gleisner, Jenna Lee. Feathers. ISBN 9798885240383.
––––. Fur. ISBN 9798885240413.
––––. Scales. ISBN 9798885240444.
––––. Shells. ISBN 9798885240475.
ea vol: 16p. (I See Animal Textures!). Jump!, Inc./Tadpole. Jan. 2023. Tr. $25.65.
PreS-Gr 1 –Different animal textures, such as fur, scales, and shells, are described in this series for early readers. Written with a controlled vocabulary, each title begins with a visual glossary that shares the important terms used throughout the book. The books emphasize the animals’ physical features, including colors and patterns, and eye-catching photographs help display these, captivating readers interested in animals. Repeated sentence structures are used throughout (“I see spotted fur. I see striped fur.”). This repetition, along with photographs that reinforce the text, aids beginning readers in comprehension. Entries include suggested activities for before and after reading, and a “Let’s Review” section at the end includes a prompt for practice. VERDICT This series combines the high-interest topic of animals with thoughtful features for supporting early literacy skills.

Peters, Katie. Clothes We Wear. ISBN 9781728475943.
––––. Holiday Fun. ISBN 9781728475967.
––––. I Ride. ISBN 9781728475998.
––––. Inside My Home. ISBN 9781728475974.
––––. My School. ISBN 9781728475981.
––––. We All Need Food. ISBN 9781728475950.
ea vol: 16p. (My World (Pull Ahead Readers-Nonfiction)). Lerner. Jan. 2023. Tr. $25.32.
PreS-Gr 1 –“My World” is an early reader series that dives into different features of day-to-day life. Each book takes a broad approach to exploring one aspect of a child’s world, from holidays to clothes to food. Using common sight words, the books feature one or two simple sentences per page and repeating sentence patterns. Page layouts include bright photographs featuring a diverse set of children, which align with the text on the page, serving as a visual reference for early readers. The end of the book includes a question for further thought and asks readers to recall details from the text. An accompanying series of fiction texts exploring these topics is also available through “Pull Ahead Readers.” VERDICT This series explores everyday topics that will be relatable to young children but does not include many additional features for beginning readers.

Thompson, Kim. Color. ISBN 9781638979548.
––––. Money. ISBN 9781638979524.
––––. Shape. ISBN 9781638979531.
––––. Size. ISBN 9781638979555.
––––. Texture. ISBN 9781638979579.
––––. Weight. ISBN 9781638979562.
ea vol: 16p. (Let’s Sort). Seahorse/Pelican. Jan. 2023. Tr. $23.75.
PreS-Gr 1Let’s Sort combines the mathematical concept of sorting with building early literacy skills. Different real-world items are divided into categories of shapes, textures, sizes, and more using repetitive sentences designed to support early readers (“This group has pennies. This group has nickels.”). Bright, charming photographs highlight the different objects being categorized. The books use common sight words, which are listed at the beginning, along with “Words to Know” that are bold throughout. Each title also starts with teaching tips for before, during, and after reading. In addition to exploring sorting and categorizing, several of the titles explore other math ideas like shapes, weight, and money. The end features activities that ask readers to count and group different items; however, the series would benefit from more hands-on elements where readers can practice sorting. VERDICT While no-frills, these slim titles provide early readers a chance to practice sorting and categorizing.


Upper Elementary to Middle School

Abdo, Kenny. Adidas vs. Puma: A Long-Running Rivalry. ISBN 9781098228606.
––––. Apple vs. Microsoft: The Battle of Big Tech. ISBN 9781098228613.
––––. Coke vs. Pepsi: The Cola Wars. ISBN 9781098228620.
––––. Ford vs. Ferrari: The High-Speed Fallout. ISBN 9781098228637.
––––. Marvel vs. DC: A Superhero Showdown. ISBN 9781098228644.
––––. Tesla vs. Edison: An Electric Feud. ISBN 9781098228651.
ea vol: 24p. (Versus). Abdo Zoom/Fly! Jan. 2023. Tr. $31.36.
Gr 3-8 –Written at a second grade reading level, Versus follows company rivalries from across different industries. From Coke and Pepsi to Marvel and DC Comics, titles explore the history and impact of different conflicts, with an emphasis on the relationships at the heart of them. While these combative relationships were often complicated, the texts simplify them into an easy-to-digest narrative over four brief chapters for Hi-Lo readers. Page layouts feature one to two simple sentences per page, along with full-page photographs that are especially helpful for bringing some of the historical content to life. The end of the books include QR codes that link Booklinks for additional online resources. VERDICT With high-interest topics ranging from fashion to big tech to comic books, this series is recommended for late elementary and middle school striving readers.

Faust, Daniel R. Acids and Bases. ISBN 9798885094221.
––––. Atoms and Molecules. ISBN 9798885094238.
––––. Chemical Reactions. ISBN 9798885094245.
––––. Metals and Nonmetals. ISBN 9798885094252.
––––. The Periodic Table. ISBN 9798885094276.
––––. States of Matter. ISBN 9798885094269.
ea vol: 32p. (Intro to Chemistry: Need to Know). Bearport/SilverTip Books. Jan. 2023. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 5-8 –Dive into the world of chemistry with the latest installment of the ‘Need to Know’ series from Bearport. Accessibility is at the forefront of these books, with text written at a second-grade reading level using a dyslexia-friendly font. Titles explore different chemistry concepts, such as states of matter and chemical reactions. These complex scientific concepts are explained using straightforward language and thoughtful explanations to show how they are relevant in day-to-day life, making them understandable and interesting to striving readers. Although the books can be read separately, they are enhanced when read as a set that builds upon different ideas. Full-page photographs and well-designed diagrams are used to illustrate chemistry concepts. ­Comprehension questions for further inquiry are provided at the end, along with additional print and online resources through the FactSurfer site. VERDICT These engaging and readable texts bring chemistry to life; they are recommended for middle school collections needing ­Hi-Lo science titles.

Moening, Kate. Archelon. ISBN 9798886871685.
––––. Ichthyosaurs. ISBN 9798886871692.
––––. Megalodon. ISBN 9798886871708.
––––. Mosasaurs. ISBN 9798886871715.
––––. Plesiosaurs. ISBN 9798886871722.
––––. Sea Scorpions. ISBN 9798886871739.
ea vol: 24p. (Ancient Marine Life). Bellwether Media/Epic. Jan. 2023. Tr. $26.95.
Gr 3-7 –Prehistoric creatures of the ocean come to life in this new Hi-Lo series. Each title provides in-depth information on an early marine animal, with topics ranging from ichthyosaurs to sea scorpions to megalodons. The text, which includes one short, readable paragraph per page, is written at a second-grade reading level. The books are extremely informative despite the simple text, and are full of content on the underwater animal’s anatomy and unique features, diet, predators, and what their fossils reveal. Page layouts include appealing graphics and illustrations that highlight the unique features of each ancient creature. Text features, such as diagrams, size-comparison charts, maps, and time lines, enhance the content to deepen understanding for readers. The end includes a glossary, as well as additional online resources available via Bellwether’s online FactSurfer website. VERDICT Quality visual features combined with engaging text make this a strong choice for striving readers interested in prehistoric life.


Upper Middle School to High School

Flynn, Brendan. Baseball. ISBN 9781532199271.
––––. Football. ISBN 9781532199295.
––––. Hockey. ISBN 9781532199318.
Monnig, Alex. Basketball. ISBN 9781532199288.
––––. Gymnastics. ISBN 9781532199301.
––––. Soccer. ISBN 9781532199325.
ea vol: 48p. (Xtreme Moments in Sports). Abdo/A&D Xtreme. Jan. 2023. Tr. $34.22.
Gr 4-9 –Iconic moments in baseball, soccer, gymnastics, and more are explored in this new Hi-Lo series from Abdo. Each book takes a sport, provides a brief description of its origins, and delves into eight important events from its history. There is a good balance between historic and more contemporary sports moments, and both male and female athletes are highlighted. The text, which features one short paragraph per page, effectively distills these moments into exciting and highly readable narratives for striving readers. Page layouts include full-page photographs showing the events and players being described, along with engaging graphics and “Xtreme” fun facts. A series of questions to test understanding is included at the end of each book, as well as a QR code linking to additional online resources through Abdo Booklinks. VERDICT Written at a fourth-grade reading level, this high-octane series packs a punch for sports fans.


The Hi-Lo and beginning series presented here use a range of techniques to build independence and confidence in readers. Iconic moments from sports history are shared in “Xtreme Moments in Sports” (Abdo), which weaves together interesting narratives in an accessible, Hi-Lo format. “Ancient Marine Life” (Bellwether Media) provides a fascinating look at prehistoric ocean animals with diagrams and text features that enhance the content. Using original stories, “Fairy Tale Phonics” (Jump!) allows early readers to practice different phonics skills in an authentic setting. These series use thoughtful features and high-interest subject matters to support developing and striving readers.

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