The WOW! Factor consists of the elements of a book that cause readers to exclaim, “Wow, I didn’t know that!” or “Wow, that’s really cool!”
However, the WOW! Factor is much more than the simple reporting of amazing information or incredible facts. There is a host of books that abound with isolated tidbits of information. A well-crafted book also embeds those facts within the context of a story. Stories put science into a meaningful context—one that engages the reader through personal connections. So, too, must the passion and excitement of the writer be evident to readers or a book becomes nothing more than a compendium of random data.
The WOW! Factor played a prominent role in Tall Tall Tree. This book describes creatures found in the canopy of iconic redwood trees—chattering squirrels, roosting bats, busy bumblebees, and dancing ladybugs all inhabit this elevated ecosystem. I wanted readers to experience the discoveries that could be made in a small ecological niche—in short, the never-ending story about a collection of creatures and how they live together more than 200 feet above the forest floor. In this instance, the “wow-ness” of nature was presented in a counting book that invites reader engagement and participation.
When children read WOW! Factor books, they gain a true appreciation for science in their everyday lives. When combined with the elements of good storytelling those facts become personal and intensely meaningful. Children begin to sense that learning about the world in which they live is a passionate affair—one that puts all the senses on full alert—and one shared by the author as well as the reader. To offer less is to deny children the joy of discovery and the thrill of adventure that waits under one rock or up in a tall tall tree!
Editor’s note: Tall Tall Tree recently won the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award (Gold)