Sunday, September 23, 2012

MMGM: Pale By Chris Wooding and the Hi/Lo Controversy

About The Book: The Lazarus Serum can bring you back from the dead. Only thing is, it turns you into a Pale. Jed can't imagine anything worse, but then the choice is taken out of his hands...

First Line: We got the Pale on his way to school.

Note: Pale was published by Stoke Books an imprint of Lerner Books. They specialize in books specifically designed for the reluctant or challenged middle grade reader. This is what is often refered to by teachers and librarians as Hi/Lo books, a Lexile measurement of readability. See what HL means here. Chris Wooding's own explanation about the book.

What Others Are Saying: "Although it doesn’t preach, this thought-provoking story about what really matters in life will set readers thinking." —Julia Eccleshare at Love Reading 4Kids

"Since I have spent most of my teaching career working with struggling and reluctant readers, I can safely say that this would have lot of appeal for that group of readers. My middle school boys would be able to relate to Jed easily. The underlying themes of acceptance and bullying would also appeal to today's youth." —The Flashlight Reader [middle grade language arts teacher]

"I was disappointed with the story. It feels unfinished and the characters don't seem natural to me. The changes in them are too abrupt and not very believable. It is also too much of an issue book sprinkled with a bit of sci-fi, which is what bugs me mostly about many teen Hi/Lo books."  —Virginia on Boys Do Read

What I Thought: I haven't read any of Wooding's other books so I had nothing to compare this one to. I always find it interesting when the reviews of a particular book are all over the map, some readers really liked it, others hated it and several thought it was okay. Since I went into this knowing who it's intended audience was, I believe my perpective may be different from someone just picking this up off the shelf. 
     I was a reluctant middle grade reader and often felt left out when others spoke about endings of books that I couldn't seem to finish. After a while you just quit trying. Your reading speed is so slow that you get bored very fast and get bogged down in the words and descriptions. I also had a couple of children that were reluctant readers and finding something to encourage them to read was always a challenge.
     Why I think this is an excellent Hi/Lo choice:
1. Feeling success at finishing an entire book is really important. There are only 72 pages.
2. Action on every page. Since it is short there is something happening on every page.
3. The verbiage is very basic, no flowery language to get bogged down in.
           That said, I really liked the book. The themes of bullying are pertinent and a great launchpad for discussion and thought. 

About The Author: 
Chris Wooding
Who: Wooding grew up in a small town in Leicestershire, where not much of anything happened. So he started to write novels. He was sixteen when he completed his first. He had an agent by eighteen. By nineteen he had signed his first book deal. When he left university he began to write full-time, and he has been doing it professionally all his adult life.

Interesting video from a 
five-part series about setting. 

What are your feelings and thoughts about Hi/Lo books?  Are they important? What characteristics do you think one should have?

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Plus...Rachel over on Rai29 Book, Read N Review has a fun interview and promotion.


  1. This sounds like a great book for a kid struggling to read. I agree that the book needs to be short enough so they feel like they've accomplished finishing it. Thanks for sharing about your own experiences too.

  2. Interesting. I've never heard the term Hi/Lo books, but any book that encourages a reluctant reader to read is one I'm in favor of!

  3. Thank you for sharing this. I'm familiar with the Hi/Lo term because I've worked as a school social worker, but I rarely see reviews of them, and I didn't realize Lerner had an imprint specializing in this.

  4. Bullying is certainly a hot topic right now. At the bookstore, we used to carry a line of High Interest books (which were basically the same thing). They didn't sell all that well, though. This one sounds cool, and 72 pages would be a fine length for someone who doesn't like to read. I haven't heard of this title, although I've heard of Chris Wooding, so thanks for this thoughtful review.

  5. This sounds like a perfect book for my reluctant reader.

    I hadn't heard of the author before. What a wunderkind!

  6. I think there Hi/Lo books are great. As a former teacher, I used to hunt for books that would appeal to reluctant readers. Most are too long. Anyway, I've since read a couple of Wooding's books (but not this one). He's terrific.


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