Monthly Archives: March 2011

From the Mixed-Up Inbox: Hi-Lo Recs

Flickr photo by mike ambs

Jennifer H. contacted us and asked the following:

I have a dilemma.  My student, Paula, is a sixth grade student but she is reading on a first grade level.  I know what do to for her (no confusion there!), but don’t know what books to give her to read on her own!  She needs some chapter books that are on her level, but most of what I can find is a little bit immature in terms of theme and characters.  Junie B Jones is too young for Paula– she doesn’t want to read about a kindergarten student! Other books with appropriate heroines are too difficult for Paula to read on her own.  Do you have any suggestions?

Paula definitely wants to become a reader, she just needs the right book. Thank you for any advice you can offer!

I asked the Mixed-Up Authors for their suggestions, but I wanted to share their answers with any other parents, teachers, or librarians who might be struggling with the same issue.  Thanks to Jennifer for letting us post her question.

Our suggestions:

“The Ellie McDoodle books should be great for her, and Ellie is 11.  The older books in the Mallory series has her at age 10.” –Mindy Alyse Weiss

“I suggest The Spiderwick Chronicles, Lunch Lady (and other similar graphic novels), and It’s Raining Cupcakes.” –Sheela Chari

“I was thinking Lunch Lady, too, and Babymouse. Nonfiction in whatever areas interest her….” –Laurie Schneider

“You know? This might be a good pick for this reader: Brains for Lunch, A Zombie Novel in Haiku by K.A. Holt. It’s funny and the Haiku format is easy to read, not too many words on the page.

Also, what about novels in verse? Sharon Creech? Love That Dog and Hate That Cat are middle grade but pretty simple text.” –Diana Greenwood

“Sounds like she might also be a good candidate for a Hi-Lo book–one written at an easier reading level with an older student in mind.” –Joanne Prushing Johnson

“Orca Soundings puts out books for the hi-lo reader. They are a Canadian publisher, not sure if you can get those in the States…

“Depending on her sense of humour she might like The Ghost Hunter books by Cornelia Funke (but the reading level might be a little too high).

“100 Dresses by Eleanor Estes? A little higher than grade one though, but a compelling emotional story that might draw her in.

“She might like some of the Stepping Stone books that are non-fiction, seems to me there is one about the Trojan Horse, another about Pompeii (the Step Into Reading, level five books would be good too).

“Beast Quest if she likes fantasy.

“Frannie K. Stein, she is a younger mc, but is funny silly comic book type in appearance. And there is a the series GO Girl (but mc might be too young?).” –Deb Marshall

“Recommended by my go-to person for questions like this — middle school librarian Chris Gustafson in Seattle:  The Stone Arch books — they are high interest/low reading level and would appeal to a sixth grader.  The Orca Soundings books recommended by Deb are great for YA and might be good options for this sixth grader if carefully vetted.  They often deal with serious teen issues.”  — Katherine Schlick Noe

“I guess I would suggest the hybrid graphic novels – Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Rose Cooper’s Gossip From The Girls Room, Big Nate, Dork Diaries, Dear Dumb Diary, etc…

“And how about Judy Moody, Clementine and Clarice Bean?” –Amie Borst

And one last suggestion: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick.  It’s a higher reading level, but the book eases kids into reading, and half the story is told in pictures.  So don’t let the thickness of the book scare you away.

Readers, do you have any other suggestions?  If you do, please let us know in the comments below.

And good luck finding just the right book for Paula, Jennifer!

Second Fiddle Winner!

We have a winner for a brand new hardcover of Second Fiddle and a paperback of Heart of a Shepherd!

And the lucky winner is Penny Murray! Please contact me at with your address so I can send these books your way.

Thanks to everyone who commented!

One Book, One School, One Solution

You’ve heard the reports – low reading scores, high drop-out rates, complaints from the business world that our graduates can’t write complete sentences. Many children begin school without the basic skills to learn to read, already a step behind their peers. The solution to much of this, we know, is a deceptively simple task: getting parents to consistently read to their children. But aside from using Big-Brother-like tactics, how can we help make this dream become a reality?

One program boasting great results is a program called READ TO THEM.  READ TO THEM is a nonprofit organization whose mission is “to enable every family in North America to read quality children’s novels out loud, together, at home.” To do this, RTT provides everything a school or district would need (besides the books themselves) to start and run a program of their own.

For free.

That’s right people! You heard it here first.

What the people at RTT have zeroed in on is what every person who’s ever been in a book club already knows – that reading a book together is mind-expanding, exciting, and just plain fun! Case in point: when the long awaited “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” came out, our family had just left on vacation to Florida, two copies in tow. Wherever we went that week – the airport, the beach, the pool – we spotted that familiar orange-and purple tome – on deck chairs, in swim bags and most often, gripped in front of sun-block-covered noses. When these readers – total strangers – looked up and saw my two older children clutching their own copies to their damp chests, there was a shared look of secret camaraderie. Unable to contain their excitement, they’d ask, “How far are you?” and, “Did you get to the part about…” A lively discussion would usually ensue. Now imagine a whole school or an entire district reading the same book – with the added benefit of parental involvement and role modeling. Talk about a win-win situation!

I first learned of this ‘one book’ idea from Chicago Public Library’s One Book, One Chicago, now in it’s tenth year. I decided to offer schools a similar program, offering a free author visit in exchange for using my book as their ‘one book.’ The results have been fabulous! The excitement in the culminating programs – skits, trivia games, Q&A sessions – is palpable and teachers have been thrilled with the high level of involvement of all their students.

Yes, it’s something we here at the Mixed Up Files already knew.

And something you probably already knew too.

One book really can make all the difference.


Beverly Patt’s children would disown her if she claimed, in public, that she read to them well into their junior high years. So she won’t. Really. Her lips are sealed. She is the author of Best Friends Forever: A WWII Scrapbook (Cavendish) and Haven (Blooming Tree Press).