I’ve read many, many hi-lo books and most are didactic and overly simple in plot and character development. I’ve never recommended a hi-lo book for the aforementioned reasons. However, I am going to tell you about one of the best hi-lo books that I’ve gotten my hands on and teachers of middle school struggling readers (or even elementary teachers looking for easy chapter books) will want to take a look at The Last Dragon: Dragon Speaker.
Protagonist Jacob is a disabled boy who can speak to birds, hear their thoughts really, as they hear his. He’s soon thrust into an adventure to right the wrongs of his village. Alongside Jacob is his solidly fantasy genre friend and his future love interest (which will serve well in discussing genre). The plot is quick and Jacob & company are interesting (two of my worries with hi-lo books, remember?). His struggle with self-esteem issues is also a good choice, as this may be an issue for some of the struggling readers who glance its pages. The Last Dragon: Dragon Speaker has magic, villains and dragons, and manages to present the story in a believable way, without the detail-less tone accompanying many hi-lo books.
Written at approximately grade 3 and geared to the middle school interest level, teachers seeking decent, even well written, hi-lo books should check out the The Last Dragon series.
For more information for High Interest - Low Reading Level books, you can check out the publisher’s website where they discuss the science behind these books and how they work. I love what they say about working the students OUT of hi-lo books being the whole purpose!