FUN MAIL: First Grader Reviews GOODNIGHT, ARK (and the author!)

Last week, I received a note from a first grade teacher at Bloomingdale Avenue School.  In her note she explained that since March, when I visited her class, her students have been busy writing reviews of all sorts, including book reviews. And one darling first grader chose to write his book review about Goodnight, Ark!. “This was his choice to review your book,” she explained. “He did a great job.”  Well, I completely agree! He did do a great job and I especially enjoyed how he gave a bit of a review of the author as well. What fun! Thank you!


WEEDING BAREHANDED: Thoughts on Tending Our Stories

photo 1My husband likes weeding with gloves on which definitely has its advantages. It keeps dirt from getting stuck under his fingernails and protects his skin against nettles, thorns, and other prickly bits of nature. It’s also an effective safeguard against the wayward poison ivy which occasionally creeps into our flower garden from the wild weed patch next door.

I, however, prefer weeding barehanded. Scandalous, I know. To me, gloves are a hindrance.  When I have them on, I can’t properly feel the roots of those pesky weeds. And when I have gloves on, one of two terrible things happens:  1) I end up extracting only the top portion of some weedy nuisance, thus encouraging future weedy growth, or 2)  my hands are so clumsy that I inadvertently pull up more than just weeds! Either way, my garden suffers.

But, weeds beware, without gloves I’m going to get you!  And yes it’s dirty  My nails get cruddy and the swirls and curves of my finger prints really stand out in muddy relief, but it also feels good. Barehanded, I feel a connection to the rich soil beneath my garden. And it’s easy to identify the roots of each weed and to extract them completely. If my garden could speak, I think it would thank me, because when I weed barehanded the garden looks better.  Much better.

My writing, too, needs weeding and it’s done best without gloves on. Barehanded revising is messy, but if you are willing to dig in to your garden of words – mud, worms and all – and if you are willing to get to the root of the weedy bits, even if it means getting cruddy in the process, your story will flourish. Indeed, if your story could speak, I am quite convinced, that like my garden, it would thank you.

Don’t be afraid to take off those writerly gloves of inhibition and really dig in to the messy process of revising!  And may your gardens, er stories, flourish!

COVER REVEAL: Goodnight, Manger

978031045563_Goodnig#156E4DToday I’m delighted to share with you the cover for my next book, GOODNIGHT, MANGER, which is scheduled to hit bookstores everywhere this coming October.  Jane Chapman has done a fabulous job with the cover.  I’ve seen the inside too and all I can say is, “Wow! Thank you, Jane, for bringing this story so beautifully to life with your delightful illustrations.”

This book is now available for pre-order at several online retailers, should you happen to want to reserve a copy.


IMG_0737Today it was my pleasure to be interviewed for Wednesday’s Bookmark, a weekly program that celebrates books. The interview aired today at 4:30 EST on Family Radio CHRI 99.1 fm, Canada’s largest radio station.  Thank you, Care, for being such a great host!  I had a wonderful time.  Here’s the link for the interview. Please stop by.  =)

The POWER of LISTS: Getting Your Creative Juices Flowing

IMG_0336I am a list maker and have been all my life. As a child I wrote lists of what I wanted for Christmas and birthdays. I also kept lists of the books I read. I was a proud member member of the “Newbery Award Club” – group of kids dedicated to reading every Newbery to date.

My mother was a list maker too. And so was her mother. I know this because my mother insisted that I make packing lists before traveling and showed me how to do it. And my grandmother kept lists on index cards documenting every single dinner party she ever hosted, who came, what time they arrived, and what she served. I have those index cards and I’ve actually been contemplating resurrecting one of her dinner menus just for fun.

But I digress. Back to lists. Now that I’m in my mid-forties, and somewhat forgetful at times, I keep daily lists to help me remember the things I need to do. I have a list of all the places I have lived. For awhile, I kept a list of every new word I learned.  And I still keep lists of the books I have read and the books I want to read. This post actually is becoming a list of all the kinds of lists I like to make.

The point is – I couldn’t survive without lists. Neither could my writing. Flip through any journal of mine and you will see lists. Lists of potential story ideas. Lists of potential character names. Lists of favorite memories. Lists of craft ideas and poem ideas. You name it, I’ve listed it. Indeed, lists have become one of  my go-to strategies for combatting writer’s block. But even after I have an idea and the creative juices are flowing, lists play a crucial role in developing that idea. As I wrote GOODNIGHT, ARK,  for instance, I paused many times to make lists. I wrote lists of fun rhyming pairs and vivid animal sounds. I made lists of cozy bedtime words and fiercesome storm words. And, as I point out to students at school visits, those lists helped immensely! Indeed, many of the words and ideas generated in those lists appear in the final version.

Are you a list maker too? If not, why not give list-making a try this week as a way to get those creative juices flowing! Have fun!

And the Winner is…

photo 4I’m delighted to announce that the winner of this week’s special giveaway, a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul  New Moms : 101 Inspirational Stories of Joy, Love, and Wonder  is…


Congratulations!  I will be in touch with you today so I can get the book to you and you can let me know how you would like it inscribed.

Happy Mother’s Day!

FUN MAIL: Pre-K Class in PA Celebrates GOODNIGHT, ARK with PIZZAZZ!

photoYesterday, I received a lovely note from Mrs. Riethmuller, a pre-K teacher at the Elfinwild Presbyterian Church Preschool in Allison Park, PA describing how much she and her students have been enjoying “Goodnight, Ark.”

Here are some excerpts from Mrs. Riethmuller’s delightful note, along with pictures that show her class room all decked out “Goodnight, Ark” style!

“I must share with you that the Purple Room is featuring “Goodnight, Ark” for Reading Adventure Days this week. The children are loving your book. We have almost 300 children that will hear it! Your rhymes are clever and, of course, we are familiar with Jane Chapman’s illustrations. This familiar Bible story is FUN!”

“In addition to hearing “Goodnight, Ark”, the children have been able to make a quilt on the felt board, build an ark on the light table, make play dough animals, decorate a lantern, decorate a quilt square to be hung on the wall and enjoy and animal cracker snack! It has been like “Christmas morning” with excitement!!

And now for the pictures!

11128388_10206592798447575_844729744_n The these colorful patterned paintings were inspired by Jane Chapman’s end pages. Didn’t the children do a marvelous job!

Can you spot the copy of “Goodnight, Ark” on the table in the corner surrounded by pairs of animals?  FUN!

11198440_10206592798767583_1141299336_nHanging from the ceiling are the lanterns like the one Noah had in his hand and stars from the cover of the book. The cover letters and stars are also featured the door. The back wall is an ark and the children chose to create boars, skunks, or quail (all embellished with glitter, of course!).

11210239_10206592798927587_614217309_n The last picture shows more Noah’s ark-themed elements. Look closely at the little red dots above the silhouettes of the children and you will notice they are ladybugs! (Also inspired by the end pages.)

Thank you, Mrs. Riethmuller for sending me such a fun note! I just LOVE seeing how you and your students have brought Noah and his ark to life in your classroom. Happy Reading Adventure Days to you and your class!

MY LITTLE ALARM CLOCK: A Poem in Honor of Mother’s Day (and a GIVEAWAY!)

IMG_0358With Mother’s Day just around the corner, I thought it would be fun to celebrate with a poem of mine that originally appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul New Moms : 101 Inspirational Stories of Joy, Love, and Wonder (2011). Inspired by my first little alarm clock (I now have two and they aren’t so little anymore), I hope my poem fills you with a sense of the wonder (and exhaustion) of being a new mom.  And just for fun, I’m going to be giving away a FREE copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul New Moms.  Enter to win a signed copy for yourself, or for someone you know who expecting a new little clock, by leaving a comment at the end of the post. One entry per person. Happy Mother’s Day!


My Little Alarm Clock


Laura Sassi


I used to awaken ahead of my clock

Rub eyes to the beat of its tickety-tock

Then reach for the spot to shut off its first beep

Before my clock jangled me up from my sleep.


This pattern has changed since I got my new clock.

I simply adore its delightful tick-tock,

But now I have trouble awaking before

It rouses me up with its sweet little roar.


The moment the morning birds make their first peeps

My clock comes alive with soft gurgles and beeps.

With motherly love I arrive at great speed

To tend to my new little clock’s every need.


It’s true, I admit, since I got my new clock

I’m sometimes exhausted and can’t even talk.

To care for my timepiece keeps me on my toes,

Bedraggled and frazzled with no time to doze.


My new little ticker is often quite wet

And gets all wound up if its needs are not met.

It jangles and beeps with a mind of its own

At dawn, noon, or dusk with a deafening tone.


But even though sometimes its still hard to tell

Just why my alarm clock is ringing its bell,

Or waking me up in the dark of the night,

I still whisper thanks as I hold my clock tight.


Although my old clock once allowed me to snooze,

That option no longer is one I can choose.

I still wouldn’t trade my new clock for the old

For the joy this clock brings is more precious than gold.

“My Little Alarm Clock” by Laura Sassi from Chicken Soup for the Soul
New Moms : 101 Inspirational Stories of Joy, Love, and Wonder, copyright 2011 by Laura Sassi, Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

Don’t forget to enter the GIVEAWAY!  (Simply leave a comment. You must be at least 13 to enter. Contest ends Thursday, May 7th, 2015 at midnight EST. Winner will be announced Friday.

And the Winner is…

UnknownI’m delighted to announce that the winner of this week’s special giveaway, a fresh off the press edition of Robin Newman’s debut children’s book, THE CASE OF THE MISSING CARROT CAKE: A Wilcox & Griswold Mystery, illustrated by Deborah Zemke (Creston Books, Spring 2015),  is…


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

Thanks again, Robin, for sharing your book 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!


UnknownIn a prime time blog first, I, Laura Sassi, get the inside scoop on the MFIs from the Number 2 police mouse on the force, Detective Wilcox.  If you haven’t met Detective Wilcox, he’s part of the dynamic detective duo, Wilcox and Griswold, in Robin Newman’s debut children’s book, THE CASE OF THE MISSING CARROT CAKE: A Wilcox & Griswold Mystery, illustrated by Deborah Zemke (Creston Books, Spring 2015).


Sassi: Detective Wilcox, let’s start at the beginning. Did you always want to be a Missing Food Investigator?

Detective Wilcox: Very early on I knew I wanted to be cop. When I was a pup, I loved cop shows. I’m pretty sure I watched every cop show that was ever made—Miami Mice, Mousy & Hutch, Mousy Miller, Cagney and Mousy, Mouse Squad. . . . You name it!

Sassi: Did you have any favorites?

Detective Wilcox: N.Y.P.M. Blue, you know, N.Y. Police Mouse Blue, and Claw and Order.

Sassi: On Ed’s farm, the MFIs are mice. Has this presented any enforcement problems?

Detective Wilcox: Bigger animals are always trying to eat us. Is that the sort of thing you’re getting at?

11059734_10153140851618633_1472769452423051490_n1-2Sassi: Yes, exactly.

Detective Wilcox: All jobs have challenges. When you sign up to be an MFI, you understand the risks. We’re here to protect the public. As you know, our motto is, “Whatever the food, whatever the crime, we make the bad guys do the time.”

Sassi: Speaking of bad guys, there’ve been rumors of corruption in the department.

Detective Wilcox: Well, it happens. Last week Captain Griswold caught a couple of bad eggs eating the evidence. Those MFIs have been placed on restricted duty pending an investigation by Internal Affairs. I can’t comment on specifics.

Sassi: What’s the hard part about being an MFI?

Detective Wilcox: You never know what you’re up against. Sometimes food is lost. Sometimes it’s stolen. Sometimes it runs away. And sometimes it may even hatch.

Sassi: Miss Rabbit’s missing carrot cake has been big news lately.

Detective Wilcox: I can’t go into specifics about an ongoing case. But I’ll give you this. We’re close to apprehending the thief.

IMG_8688Sassi: And what’s going on with Penny, the Egg?

Detective Wilcox: Henrietta Hen’s sweet little Penny has been poached.

Sassi: Poached as in boiled?

Detective Wilcox: No, poached as in stolen. If anyone has any information, please contact the MFI at 1-800-MFI-FOOD.

Sassi: And I gotta ask, what’s your favorite kind of donut?

Detective Wilcox: I get this question all of the time. Cheese donut. Nothing’s better than a cheese donut with a cup of coffee.

Sassi: How do you take your coffee?

Detective Wilcox: Black no sugar, just like the cops on TV.

Sassi: Detective Wilcox, thank you.

Detective Wilcox: My pleasure, ma’am.


© 2015 Deborah Zemke. All rights reserved. This illustration cannot be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information or retrieval systems without permission in writing from its publisher, Creston Books, LLC.

EXTRA!  EXTRA! If you’re in New York on April 30th, you can meet Detective Wilcox and Captain Griswold at the launch party for The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake at The Corner Bookstore, 1313 Madison Avenue at 93rd Street, from 6-8 pm. There will be wine, cheese and, of course, LOTS of carrot cake.

Please check out for other upcoming appearances by Wilcox and Griswold.

About the Author 

Image 1Raised in New York and Paris, Robin is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the City University of New York School of Law. She’s been a practicing attorney and legal editor, but she prefers to write about witches, mice, pigs, and peacocks.

She is the author of The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake, A Wilcox & Griswold Mystery, illustrated by Deborah Zemke (Creston Books, Spring 2015), about two hardboiled mouse detectives working their beat from a shoebox at the back of Farmer Ed’s barn. They are MFIs, Missing Food Investigators, and on their seminal case, they’re on the hunt for Miss Rabbit’s missing carrot cake. (Note: The names of the animals have been changed to protect the good guys.)


NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!  If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake, A Wilcox & Griswold Mystery, by Robin Newman and illustrated by Deborah Zemke (Creston Books, Spring 2015), please post a comment below. If you’d like to increase your chances of winning, please also tweet about this post on Twitter, share it on Facebook, and reblog it. For each additional “shout out,” an extra piece of paper will be added to the magic sorting hat with your name on it, so be sure to let me know if you send any “shout outs”. (Note: You must be at least 13 to enter.) The contest ends Thursday, 4/30/2015 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced on Friday!