Teachers and parents especially, the latest book that I had the pleasure of reviewing is tailor made for you. Tina Says Opportunity, by GL Wolfgang, illustrated by Lillian Kirk, is a book that is chock full of second tier vocabulary, higher order thinking questions, and character building stories.
Tina Says Opportunity is the title of the entire book, but a book that is really a collection of five shorter stories. Each of the stories focuses on a specific word. Those words are opportunity, implement, Persevere, Sagacious, and Gratification. Each of these focus words has a short, 10ish page story that teaches what that word means. The stories are based on real life children in real life situations. The children are guided by a female mentor type character named Tina who explains each word she uses throughout the situation the children are in.
As a teacher and parent, I love this book. Each of the focus words is a second or third tier vocabulary word. (I mean, who has ever heard the word sagacious before?…I would have thought it was a species of tree or something). That word, throughout the story, is clearly defined with a real life usage of that word played out with the characters. I appreciate that the stories themselves are usually only about ten pages long. It sets up very nicely for a discussion or free writing time afterwards.
Speaking of discussion (no pun intended…well that’s not true…kind of pun intended) each story comes with a page that has higher order thinking questions included. the questions are divided into three categories; Applying, Analyzing, and Abstracting. Applying is the lowest order thinking, Analyzing the next, and Abstracting the highest. I absolutely love this part of the book. Maybe it’s the former teacher in me, but I think that this part of it is just great. I included the question page from the first book, based on the word, “opportunity.” I really liked the illustrations in the book. They were not extremely life like but I did not feel that detracted from the book at all. I don’t think they were intended to be perfectly life like and realistic. When children read books, they don’t really care if the pictures look exactly like the real thing. If they did, authors like Eric Carle would not be successful. The point is that the pictures engage the children and fit the manuscript. I believe that these illustrations, by Lillian Kirk, do both of those things very well. They are done in a sort of pastel medium that I found to be perfect for the book. I included two pages from the books as examples.
Another thing I really liked about the books was that they were all done completely in dialogue. There is no narration of the story, simply illustrations and dialogue. It is a very unique approach to story telling that I really enjoyed.
Teaching and Discussion Points
Obviously, this book is set up for teaching and discussion. It literally has teaching/discussion questions included in the book. I would add a couple ideas if I was teaching and using this book in my classroom. First, as I said earlier, each book is focused on a specific second or third tier vocabulary word. If I was teaching, I would make a sort of word web of each word with synonyms and antonyms. Then, I would use that to discuss subtle differences in both the denotation, and connotation of each word. For example, sagacious, wise, smart, discerning, and intelligent are all relatively synonymous. However, each are somewhat different as well. How is being intelligent different from being wise? Are there different ways to be intelligent or smart? Questions like those take the vocabulary introduced in these books to an entirely new level. After all, vocabulary is one of the five components of literacy.
As I said before, I absolutely love this book. It is especially good for teachers and parents of young children.
Mr. Wolfgang was also kind enough to participate in an author interview to accompany the book. Please keep reading to hear what he has to say about his own book and some other things.
ES – Hi! First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to do this. I really enjoy the author interview portion of my blog. Each other I’ve worked with has just been so unique and extraordinary in his or her own way. Each one has a different motivation for writing in general and for specifically writing the book(s) that he or she has written.
ES – So let’s start with that. As a former teacher, I absolutely love the Tina Says Opportunity series because first it is incorporating second and third tier vocabulary for younger readers and then also incorporating deeper level thinking questions into the books themselves. What is your motivation/inspiration for writing? Are you coming at it from a teaching perspective?
GLW – Unfortunately for me I did not have a discerning guidance as a child, and as I learn and understand I am driven to share. This is why I started with “Opportunity”. I want to instill the recognition of all the possibilities we have, and understand how to accomplish and experience the gratification of success. I did this as a children’s book series because I want to instill this at a young age to create a fulfilling life and not have missed opportunities.
I always share, I feel I missed my calling to become a teacher. I knew this upon graduating high school, yet I did not pursue this awareness (missed opportunity). This feeling has never left me.
My illustrator is a teacher and her influence have enhanced this project with a teaching perspective.
ES – I went to your website, endlessendeavorllc.com and love it. Can you simply tell me what it’s all about? Why the name endless endeavor?
GLW – Our endeavor is to share and create opportunity, this will never end; thus the company name Endless Endeavor.
ES – When I was a teacher, I actually had several students named Imani? Are Imani, Leon, and Tina based on real people from your own life?
GLW – Yes, in an accumulated sense. Each character has multiple influences.
ES – The writing style of the book is very interesting and unique as it is completely done in dialogue between the characters. Why did you choose to do the book like that?
GLW – I believe our greatest asset is our ability to communicate, words are the essence of communication. Leaving the rest up to the imagination allows our audience to be creative.
ES – Can you tell me a little bit more about your writing process? What does it look like for you? How long does the manuscript take you from first draft to final copy ready for illustration and publication?
GLW – I start with ideas, many of them coming from my journaling. Words are very important to me. As I write, I use the thesaurus to search to find the right word to convey the thought or feeling that I am trying to share, sometimes it is a slow process, sometimes it will flows quickly.
With this particular series, the concept came to me about five years ago, with having to maintain my present occupation progress was challenging. We have five more series planned. I expect we should be able to complete this in less time.
ES – Who is your illustrator and how did you two connect
GLW – Lillian Kirk is my illustrator and orgatrator, her husband is a friend of a friend of my sons. She is a wonderful addition to this endeavor. She is now my partner in the Company.
This is one of my locutions:
“I will not say I cannot do this without you, I will say with you I can”
Lilly has been the fruition of these stories.
ES – How can people get ahold of your books and/or follow you on twitter, facebook, instagram, etc.?
GLW – We do have accounts on these all mediums as well as our website. http://www.endlessendeavorllc.com
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