Guest blog by Rachel Steele

Available from Follett, Mackin, directly from Mims House, or at your favorite educational distributor.

Author Question #1: What is a high-low book?


High-low stands for a high interest low reading level book. It’s designed for middle grade to high school. The interest is there, but the reading level is lower. The way they grade the reading level is sentence structure, complexity, etc. I couldn’t lower the vocabulary very well; there are a lot of new words in here. I could simplify the sentences. If you take away the complexity, it’s a great way to grow the readers vocabulary. Over the three books, there’s still this sweeping story of a planet thats about to implode and they need a new place to go. They ask earth, “You only live on land, can we live in your oceans?” The story is there, the emotion is there, the experience of reading the story is still there, I’ve just simplified it so that people with lower reading levels can read it.

Author Question #2: What made you want to write a high-low book?


Because our family has always had exchange students. We had six different exchange students all in high school who lived with us  I know learning a second language and I know how hard it was to jump into Young Adult for them. It was very difficult. They are mature intelligent people. The internationals who come to come to the United States are the cream of the corn. I saw them struggling reading age appropriate reading materials. I’ve always had sympathy for people who struggle with reading but want books on their maturity level.

Author Question #3: Why did you choose to adapt Blue Planets World Series into a high-low series?


   It was an easy entry because I already knew the story and I could concentrate on getting the reading level where I wanted it to be. It took one level of complexity away from the writing. I also think it might be fun in classrooms if someone is reading sirens if someone is reading sleepers and emerging readers are reading the same story.  They can take part in the conversation, and although they don’t have all of the story since it’s cut down, they still have the basic story.

Author Question #4: How much research did you do for your high-low books?


   I read some high-lows, I talked to industry professionals. One person challenged me to make the reading level as low as possible so it’s really an entry level book. It’s about 2.3 grade level. It’s very hard to get it to an early second grade level. It was definitely a challenge.

Author Question #5: How long did it take you to adapt it from a YA to a high-low?


   I did it in a month. I knew the stories, I knew what I had to cut, I knew what the main things that needed to say and I was just figuring out how to rewrite it in the simplest language I’ve ever done.

Author Question #6: Did the high-low characters lose anything from the original YA characters?


   Not a lot. Of course they lose sub plots and complexities are gone, but the characters are there. I love language, and it’s a hard thing to do to simplify this.

Author Question #7: Who else reads high-low books?


I understand there’s a range of reading difficulties, and these books are for these readers. ADD, dyslexia, and other problems make it hard for some readers to concentrate.  I’m old enough to remember the Readers Digest Condensed Books. I remember a time when I thought it was fine to speed things up and get the story quicker. With high-low books, you still get the basic story, it’s just speeded up.

Author Question #8: How can people learning a second language who aren’t from the U.S. relate to these books?

These books aren’t just targeted for internationals, but for them, its also a story of immigrants. These people are asking for permission to come to earth. There’s lots of technical difficulties and political problems with that, so there’s that sympathy for the immigrants as well.

About the Guest Blogger: Rachael is a five foot ten and a half inch tall writer who is frequently called smol. She writes while stroking her sister’s bunny, jumbling words to creates stories. Typically writing in fantasy and futuristic, she has written over twelve full length novels, both by herself and a few with other people. She blogs at, and is a intern at Mims House.

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