Kid Lit Book Review – Tina Says Opportunity by GL Wolfgang

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.

Overview

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.

Outstanding Points

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.”20190522_213152.jpg 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. 20190522_213129.jpg

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

 

 

As always, thank you so much for reading.  If you enjoyed this and would like to receive an email notification whenever I post something new, simply click on the link in the lower right hand corner of the screen to follow the blog.

 

 

Kid Lit Book Review – Paw Elementary: Roxy’s Adventure to the School Dentist by Katie Melko

Ever been scared to do something for the first time…especially if that thing is going to the dentist?  Heck, some adults (myself included) still get nervous going to the dentist.  That fear, and overcoming that fear, is the theme of the book, Paw Elementary: Roxy’s Adventure to the School Dentist by Katie Melko.

Overview

This book is a fun and fanciful read about a dog, Roxy, who is afraid to go to the dentist.  Her brother, Mason, does not help matters by teasing her about how awful it will be.  After worrying about it all week and trying to find excuses to skip out on the dentist, the day finally comes and Roxy finds out that there was never really anything to be afraid of in the first place.

Outstanding Points

The first thing that I noticed was that all the characters in the book had traditional “pet” names.  There was names like Roxy, Mason, Jasmine, and Harley. (No offense intended for any humans who happen to also have those names).  I thought that those names helped bridge the gap of making personification truly believable.

The illustrations were also very well done.  The book is visually pleasing with the illustrations being full and engaging without looking cluttered.  The characters are believable and expressive.

The plot is just long enough to fill the book without feeling likes it’s banal and overbearing.  I think that children will relate to each situation that Roxy is in and in turn engage with the book and story.

Discussion and Teaching Points

This book is perfect for all sorts of discussion and teaching points.

First, the message that is so obvious to adults is something that makes for good conversation points with children.  Parents/guardians who may be sending their children to school for the first time can talk about how Roxy was scared but there was really no reason to be afraid at all.  Parents/guardians who are encouraging their children to try something new can talk about how new things can be really positive if you can overcome the initial fear of things.

From a teaching standpoint, there are so many fun cross curricular  connections you can make.

In social studies, you could incorporate this book into something like Ruby Bridges.  Talk about how if we’re scared, like Roxy, of doing small things like going to the dentist, imagine how much more courage it took for her to do what she did.  Have students talk about some times in life when they’ve been scared to try something new and how those things turned out when they finally tried them.

TEETH! Lots of things have teeth!  My mind is literally exploding with all the science lessons you could teach on different animal teeth.  Talk about how each animal’s teeth coincide with their diet.  Incorporate the key words herbivore, carnivore, and omnivore.  After studying several examples, you could show just the animals’ teeth and have them first guess the animals’ diets, and then try to guess which animal each set of teeth belongs to.

Overall, I found this book to be really delightful.  I enjoyed it from start to finish.  It’S a great book for children from probably 3 until 7.

The author, Katie Melko, was kind enough to take the time to do an interview with me about her book.  Please keep reading.

Hi Katie!  First, thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview as part of the book review process.  I think that it adds so much to the book to be able to hear some of the things that the author has to say about his/her own book.  

ES – So first, let’s just talk about your book.  Tell us the story behind the story. Where, when, and how did you get the idea/inspiration for a story about a dog who is scared to go to the dentist for the first time?  I assume it probably has something to do with your profession as a dental hygienist?

KM –  Yes, so I’ve worked in public health as an RDH for 10 years, treating children in schools, churchs, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters. The inspiration for the story came from those children that I treated and seeing how scared they were. I wrote this book almost three years ago now and put it away and didn’t take it back out until September of 2017, when my dog Roxy passed away. It was then that I decided to honor her life forever by keeping her alive in pages of children’s books for all to share.

ES – How long was the writing/editing process for you?  From the day you finished the first draft to the day the book launched officially, how long?

KM – Well, from the time I took it back out after it sat for over a year. I took a little over a year from that moment to getting the first print in my hand. I had to really push myself to believe in the journey and step out of my comfort zone to do this project.

ES – What does the writing process look like for you?  Do you bring in other people in the editing process or just step away from the book for a couple days then come back and reread it with fresh eyes to see what needs tweaked?

KM – So I write the story, let it sit for a week or so, reread it and tweak. Then repeat probably two more times before sending it to an editor.

ES – One thing that I loved was that all the characters in the book had names that would be considered good “pet names.”  Roxy, Harley, Jasmine, Luna, etc. Where did those come from/

KM – All of the pet names in the book, are actual pets in my life. Roxy, Noel and Mason are my dogs. Luna is my brothers. Jasmine was my family dog growing up. Harley was my aunts dog. Astoria is my cousins cat. They all have a meaning in my real life.

ES – So, your bio says that you also founded a publishing company, 12 Paws Publishing.  Can you tell me more about that?

KM –  I started 12 Paws Publishing, LLC in December of 2018. I wanted to build a business for my self published work. The name came from my three dogs (12 paws) and the logo looks like a yellow labrador (just like my rescue pups).

ES – Can you tell me a little about the process of finding your illustrator.  Who is she? How did you find her?

KM – Roksana Oslizio is my illustrator and see lives in England! I found her on a facebook group for children’s authors and illustrators and fell in LOVE with her work!

ES – Has it been difficult working with someone who lives on a different continent?  How have you been able to work through those obstacles?

KM – It has honestly been very easy, she is super quick with responding, we communicate via facebook messenger and dropbox! She is an absolutely pleasure to work with and love her work!

ES –  From the outside, it seems as if you have about a hundred different things you do in life right now? Does that ever get exhausting/

KM – I’m very busy, yes! But I love it, and by doing so many different things, I have finally found my passion which is public health dental and creative writing!

ES – Do you ever picture yourself stepping away from the dental hygiene profession and being a full-time author?

KM – This is my big dream, I would love to do this in the future! The main reason I work so hard, I also started writing romance novels! My first one will be out soon hopefully!

ES – Your website says that there is a second book in the works.  Can you tell me a little bit more about that?

KM – Yes! Paw Elementary: Roxy’s Adventure to the Hair Salon

The book walks you through Roxy’s fear of getting her hair trimmed for the first time. She talks to her friends and family about getting her hair trimmed at Honey Bear’s birthday party and why she is just so scared!

ES – Where can people find you, your books, etc.?  Do you have a Twitter, IG, or FB page?

KM – People can purchase my book on my website www.12pawspub.com/shop and follow me on IG, Twitter, FaceBook, and Pinterest @12pawspubllc

The kindle or e-book version is also available on https://www.amazon.com/Paw-Elementary-Adventure-School-Dentist-ebook/dp/B07NFC7C43/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1_sspa?crid=2Z2LNA3TYXAXL&keywords=paw+elementary+roxy+adventure&qid=1557931790&s=gateway&sprefix=paw+elementary+rox%2Caps%2C127&sr=8-1-fkmrnull-spons&psc=1

Kid Lit Book Review – A Prince, a Giant Peacock and the Gold Ring by E.K. Bowhall

In the words of the author, A Prince, a Giant Peacock and the Gold Ring “is a story that tells how important family is, and how different we all are. To be royal not by blood, but in our hearts, is a beauty that can go beyond what we can see in each other and ourselves. How one so true can break any spell and overcome any obstacle in one’s life.”

Overview

One of my goals when I review books is to simply connect readers with books.  That means matching the right books with the right readers.  The last book I reviewed, I May Fly was a book geared for very young readers.  A Prince, a Giant Peacock and the Gold Ring is almost exactly the opposite.  It is geared for an middle to older elementary age, say 2nd-4th grade.  Whereas I May Fly was a very short book both in title and in word count, A Prince, a Giant Peacock and the Gold Ring is a much longer book both in title and in word count.  I didn’t take the time to count them, but I estimate it to be roughly 2,000-2,500 words.  It is told as a classic fairy tale with the plot occurring over several years and involving quests, enchantments, sorceresses, true love, and magical creatures.  There are many motifs of the classic fairy tale incorporated into both the plot and the illustrations, done by Valeria Leonova.

Outstanding Points

With a book as long as this one, it can be difficult to keep the overall tone of the wording and dialogue consistent.  However, I would say that Bowhall definitely keeps a consistent voice throughout the entire book.  I also truly enjoyed that overall the book is stylistically consistent.  Leonova did an excellent job with the fairy tale motif.  The pages are all ornately decorated with hand drawn roses as borders and the pages themselves are made to look as if they are aged and yellowed/browned paper.  The illustrations are vibrant and full with a “Legend of Zelda” feel.  Even the font of the writing is consistent with the fairy tale motif.

The plot itself is compelling if it is a little slow developing.  There are several plot twists toward the end of the story that, although are probably a predictable for adults reading it, are fun and exciting for children. I found as I read it to my children that they stayed relatively engaged in the story.  The younger two probably more so for the illustrations but the older one with the story itself.

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Discussion and Teaching Points

One great discussion point that I saw is with the topic/theme of love.  I think that this topic is very important for children, especially in the later elementary years as they are about to get those hormones and start pursuing relationships.  I really liked that in this fairy tale, it wasn’t love at first sight, or the damsel in distress running off with her rescuer that she just met. (As a matter of fact, Alexandra rescues the prince the first time they meet).  Prince Thomas and Alexandra develop their friendship and relationship over a long time before they realize that they are in love.  I also really like that her family is involved in their friendship from the very beginning.  I think that discussing how important it is to build true friendships and not just jump into romantic relationships is important for older children about to proceed into adolescence.  Call me crazy if you want.

Another important discussion is about the values that both of them see in each other and what the King valued in the Queen.  In neither relationship is physical beauty seen as the most important factor.  Throughout the story, character qualities such as kindness, honesty, and goodness are portrayed as much more important than appearance.

As far as teaching goes, obviously this book fits into any unit on fairy tales.  A great lesson idea would be comparing this modern fairy tale with one writing a long time ago.  What themes are consistent?  What are different?  Use Venn diagrams, etc.

Elizabeth was kind enough with her time to do an author interview with me.  This is one of my favorite parts of the whole book review process as I get to hear from different authors.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

ES – So, let’s start with your book.  Say you’re in a conversation with someone and you mention that you’re a published children’s book author and she replies, “Oh wow! What is your book about?”  How would you answer her?

EB – I try to tell them as much as I can without giving the story away. It’s about a young prince whose father, the king, sets out on a quest. While his father is away, the prince meets a giant peacock who talks and wears this gold ring. As years goes by, he becomes good friends with the giant peacock but his father, the king, does not return. I tell them this is a fairy tale with a little mystery.

ES – Is” A Prince, A Giant Peacock, and Gold Ring your first children’s book?

EB – Yes, but I have another in the works.

ES – I find that every author has a different story behind the inspiration for his or her story.  What is the inspiration behind yours? When and how did you think of it?

EB – My inspiration came from when I was telling stories while trying to put a few kids to sleep for nap time at the daycare where I work. I asked the two kids to help me start the story. Once upon a time there was a prince, and he lived in a…. jokingly, I said, “cave” and the two laughed and said, “a castle.” I remember their faces. It was funny. Then as I added on I said, “One day the prince meet a fish?” as another joke and the one child laughed and said, “no a bird.” So I asked her what type of a bird and she said, “a Big Peacock.”  And well, the rest just came to me. When they fell asleep, I knew I had something. So I took notes, made a few changes, and when I got home, I wrote the story down. The two kids became characters in my story. 

ES – Your illustrator, Valeria Leonova, is Ukrainian.  How did you find her? What has it been like working with someone halfway across the world?  Where there any specific challenges associated with that? If so, how did you overcome them?

EB – I found Valeria on Facebook. It’s been great working with Valeria, a lot like having a pen pal. We have become great friends. With the help of Facebook and video chat we were able to work through any challenges.

ES – Your book reads as a classic fairy tale with magic, sorceresses, enchanted rings, etc.  Many times, there is a lot of symbolism with fairy tales. Is there any symbolism in your book?  What is it?

EB – Roses. The young girl Alexandra loves roses as did the queen. Alexandra is a big key to the story.

ES – What is life like as an author?  Have you done any book readings, book fairs, etc.?

EB – It’s exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. You get this feeling of “Wow I did it”, and at the same time “Is it good enough? Will people like it?”  

I had my book launch at Old Chatham Child Care, where I have worked for 7 years now. I have a few more book signings coming up later this summer.

ES – Do you have anything else in the works?  What’s coming next from the mind of Elizabeth Bowhall?

EB – Yes, I am working on another children’s story, a short chapter book, and a novel that I have been working on for a few years now. At first I had a case of writer’s block but writing my first children’s book has helped me unblock.

 

 

Again, thanks so much to Elizabeth for taking the time to do this.  She actually sent me a book in person and autographed it for my kids.  It was so kind of her.  If this book seems to be your cup of tea you can purchase it off of Amazon HERE

As always, thanks for reading.  I hope you enjoyed it.  If you would like to follow the blog and get email updates whenever I post a new book review, poem, or recipe, please click on the link in the lower right corner of the page.  Thanks again and happy reading.