HAPPY BIRTHDAY to FOUR New Christmas Picture Books!

IMG_2518.JPGWhat do these four Christmas picture books from Zonderkidz all have in common?
October 6, 2015 is their book birthday. (That’s today!)
Happy Book Birthday all!
9780310747673.jpgThe Legend of the Christmas Cookie
written by Dandi Daley Mackall and Illustrated by Richard Cowdrey
The Berenstain Bears: The Very First Christmas
by Mike and Jan Beranstain (paperback edition)
Song of the Stars
written by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Alison Jay
(board book edition)
Goodnight, Manger 
written by Laura Sassi and illustrated by Jane Chapman


IMG_2698Just look at this sweet Baby then head on over to the GROG for stop one of the official GOODNIGHT, MANGER blog tour!

GOODNIGHT, MANGER: Blog Tour Itinerary!

IMG_0989It’s official! In celebration of the release of GOODNIGHT, MANGER, I’m going on tour, blog tour that is! Over the next few weeks, I’ll be making stops at the following blogs. There will be interviews, giveaways and more. Please join me on the journey!

10/5 GROG: An Interview

10/8  Time out with Becky Kopitzke:  Books to Build a Child’s Faith

10/12   KALEIDOSCOPE:  Book Birthday Bash!

10/14  A Penny and her Jots:  Joint interview with illustrator Jane Chapman

10/19 Glenys Nellist Blog:  An Interview

10/21 Pragmatic Mom:  Best Bedtime Books

11/5 Katey Writes:  Chatting about Extension Activities

11/9 Blogzone:  An Interview

11/11 Amy Hill Hearth’s Facebook Author Page:  An Interview and Review

11/16 The Ministering Mom:  Using the Nativity to Teach Little Ones about the Real Meaning of Christmas

11/24 The Write Chris – On Writing:  A Christmas Interview


Check out this delightful book trailer produced by Zonderkidz.  It captures the story beautifully. I also want to let you know that there’s some picture book celebrating going on today over at the Kathy Temean’s terrific blog: Writing and Ilustrating. It’s fun to be sharing a post with the talented Spinellis!  Pop on over to check out our three new books, see book trailers and just plain celebrate. Thank you, Kathy! And, as she so kindly noted, there’s still time to enter the Goodreads Giveaway for a chance to win one of five fresh-off-the-press hardcover copies  of GOODNIGHT, MANGER.  To enter press here.

Mark Your Calendars: FALL BOOK EVENTS

IMG_0978Look what just arrived in the mail! My author copies of GOODNIGHT, MANGER! Their arrival means that books will soon be arriving at bookstores everywhere.  So now, in anticipation of the October 6th release of this new Christmas book, I think it’s time to start sharing some dates! (More events to come…stayed tuned.)

Sunday October 11, 2015 2:00 pm. Celebrate the release of GOODNIGHT, MANGER at a special story time/book signing at the Barnes and Noble in Springfield, New Jersey. 

 Saturday October 17, 2015 2:00 – 4:00 pm Tour the historic Miller-Cory House Museum in Westfield, New Jersey and stop by the garden for afternoon readings of GOODNIGHT, MANGER and GOODNIGHT, ARK.  

Saturday November 7, 2015 11:00 am.  Listen to a reading of GOODNIGHT, MANGER at Books and Co. and Toys too! in Lexington, Virginia and learn a little bit about how picture books are made. There will be a craft too!

Saturday November 14, 2015 2 – 4 pm. It’s double the fun with two picture book authors!  Tara Lazar and I will be sharing our new books at The Bookworm in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

Sunday November 15, 2015 3:00 pm. Join me for an encore reading of GOODNIGHT, MANGER at the Barnes and Noble in Springfield, New Jersey.

Saturday November 21, 2015 2:00 – 4:00 pm. Stroll the festooned streets of downtown Bethlehem, Pennsylvania at their annual Downtown Bethlehem Open House (running all day). Then stop in at the Moravian Book Shop for a special afternoon reading/book signing with craft. 

TWELVE TIPS to Engage VERY Young Audiences at Picture Book Author Events

image_2Reading to the very young is fun, but challenging.  Here are twelve tips for capturing and keeping the attention and interest of very young audiences at picture book author events.


  1. Have the children gather around you – close up.
  2. Begin with a focusing activity, such as a song or clapping response game.
  3. Briefly tell a little bit about who you are, your inspiration for story etc. in a playful, kid-friendly way.  (Optional:  Bring a long a couple of props to help with this.  I bring puppets, for example.)


4. Be animated and excited.  Read with expression.

5.  Make eye contact. Remember, you aren’t just reading, you are interacting with your readers.

6.  Before turning each page, be sure to hold the book up and pan it around the room slowly so everyone has a chance to enjoy the illustration.

7. Involve the children in the storytelling. (By using body motions and sounds, for example.)

8. Pause occasionally to point out something from the illustrations that they might not notice, but which adds to the story.

9. As you read, occasionally ask questions like “What do you think will happen next?  Would you want to be…?”  (But don’t do #8 and #9 so much that you break the flow of the story.)


10. Share a fun post-reading activity such as a simple craft or song.

11. Depending on age and attentiveness of group, have a brief Q&A session.

12. Thank the children for being such a great audience and thank their parents or guardians for bringing them to the event.  Remember also to thank the event host.

The Countdown for GOODNIGHT, MANGER is on! (And a GIVEAWAY!)

IMG_0241With three weeks to go until GOODNIGHT, MANGER officially releases, I’ve been busy getting ready. In anticipation, here are just a few of the things I’ve had on my to-do list:

1. Finalize my blog tour. Answer Q&A’s, write guest blog posts, confirm dates etc.

2. Order craft supplies for my launch event on October 11th. Oriental Trading pulled through once again, this time with cute nativity stickers that the kids are going to LOVE transforming into cards while their parents stand in line to get their books signed.

3. Put together a little routine for the incredibly LOUD rooster puppet I selected to accompany me on book signings and school visits.  (I am going to have such fun reminding him to be quiet at book events.)IMG_0873

4. Brainstorm and then write extension activities and crafts for teachers/parents to use after reading GOODNIGHT, MANGER.

5. Continue to line up school, library, and bookstore events for the fall and winter. If you would like me to visit your school, library or bookstore, please reach out to me via the contact tab above.  I also do free 20-minute Skype visits.

6. Bake nativity-themed cookies with my daughter so we spread a little Christmas cheer with family and friends as part of the “book birthday” celebration. Like last year, this task is 100% my 10-year-old’s idea. Isn’t she a sweetie!

7.  Strategize how best to use various GOODNIGHT, MANGER promotional materials including posters, book marks, coloring pages and a book trailer. (Thank you, Zonderkidz team, for making these a reality!)

8. Update my author bio info on various book-related websites. 

9. Be intentional and diligent about preserving daily time to write new stories, poem, and picture books. (I have several in progress.)

10. Remember to BREATHE and ENJOY the process…  

*** Don’t forget there’s still time to enter the GOODREADS GIVEAWAY to win ONE of FIVE copies of GOODNIGHT, MANGER!  Giveaway ends October 6, 2015.

GOODREADS GIVEAWAY: Celebrating the Upcoming Release of GOODNIGHT, MANGER

978031045563_Goodnig#156E4DTo celebrate the upcoming release of GOODNIGHT, MANGER, Zonderkidz  is giving away FIVE copies of this new holiday picture book in a pre-release Goodreads Giveaway!

Here’s the scoop: It’s bedtime for baby Jesus, but who knew a stable could be so loud? Mama, Papa, and all of the animals try to lull the baby to sleep, but between itchy hay, angels singing, and three kings bearing gifts, it’s too noisy. Cuddle up as everyone tries working together to shepherd Baby into peaceful dreams.

Illustrated by New York Times bestselling artist Jane Chapman, GOODNIGHT, MANGER offers a unique twist on the classic manger tale, weaving together the comforting and familiar routines of bedtime with the special magic and wonder of the manger story.

Giveaway ends Tuesday, October 6th.  Click here to get to the GOODREADS GIVEAWAY page.  And don’t forget to add GOODNIGHT, MANGER to your “Want to read” list.

Tell all your friends. Good luck!

OLDIE BUT GOODIE: Lunch at the Beach (with Seagulls!) and a Blog-cation


With just a few weeks of summer left and a “Goodnight, Manger” book launch to get ready for, I have decided to take a little holiday from blogging so I can focus on family and fun book matters. I will be back  in September with brand new posts. In the meantime, here’s my favorite summer post from 2013.

A friend and I took our kids for a day at the shore this past Friday. It was a beautiful day with clear skies, mild surf and salty breezes. The kids spent the morning jumping waves and building sand forts. By lunch time they’d worked up hearty appetites and couldn’t wait to dig in to the delicious picnic we’d packed.

Sitting on boogie boards and towels, they unwrapped their sandwiches and took their first bites.  I, too, was about to dig in when, suddenly, I felt a nasty pinch and flapping of feathers. I screamed, just in time to look a seagull right in the eye.  He was trying to get my sandwich, but had gotten my finger instead.  Moments later, another seagull swooped in, this time successfully nabbing a chunk of my son’s sandwich right out of his hand. Looking up, we saw several seagulls circling overhead. “They’re dive-bombing us, Mom!” my son shouted. Then he and his friend stood and started stomping and waving to scare them off.   It didn’t work.  The seagulls kept circling and swooping.

By now the girls were screaming too. Thankfully, my friend kept her wits about her. “Sit down, everyone,” she said.  “I know what to do.”  Then grabbing our boys’ towels, she covered their heads as they sat on their boogie boards, making two makeshift picnic tents.  “If you keep your sandwiches hidden, they won’t dive in,” she explained.  She made similar tent for the girls and one for herself.  And sure enough, they worked!

Just look at the boys…


and the girls….


and my friend…


Alas, I’d forgotten a towel for myself.  My solution?  My son’s orange t-shirt strategically flopped over my wide-brimmed hat provided just enough cover to thwart those nasty seagulls.


Writing sometimes feels a lot like trying to eat lunch at the beach.  I begin the day with great intentions, but as soon as I sit down to write, those seagulls start swooping in. They might not look like birds, but if I’m not careful, things like email, Twitter, Facebook, laundry and dustbunnies, can easily snatch up all my writing time.  What I need is a tent!  For me that means turning off the internet, not answering the phone, and finding a distraction-free place to write.  And if those pecking dustbunnies and flying laundry baskets still distract, I just promise them that I’ll feed them in an hour, after I finish my feeding my muse.

How about you?  Is your writing time ever besieged by seagulls?  If so, what’s your solution?

And the winner is…

DRAGON coverI’m delighted to announce that the winner of this week’s special giveaway, a fresh off the press edition of Penny Klostermann’s debut picture book, THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT, published by Random House (2015), and illustrated by Ben Mantle., is…


Congratulations!  I will be in touch with you today so we can get the book to you.

Thanks again, Penny, for sharing your book and your fun extension activities with us! I’d also like to thank everyone who took the time to comment on this week’s post and to my daughter , once again, for lending me her snazzy hat for the drawing. IMG_2887

Happy reading and writing, all!