Stop by at Darlene’s…

PERCOLATORYesterday I had the nicest time over at Darlene’s blog. We chatted about GOODNIGHT, ARK and which animals on the ark kids like best. We even chatted a little bit about my next book which is scheduled to release in October. Curious? Then pour yourself a cup of coffee and pop on over.   And, thanks, Darlene, for having me!

MY LITTLE ANTIQUE IRON: Thoughts on Finishing Stories

IMG_0332Among the treasures I keep on my desk is a little antique iron. It belonged to my grandmother. Known as a “flat” or “sad” iron, which is an old word for “heavy”, my little iron has a very distinct #2 on its back.  After a little research, I learned that iron manufacturers numbered their products by size. The larger the iron, the larger the number. A #2 iron is on the small side. By the time this little iron was heating up on the stove, all the necessary lead-up work – the sewing (if it was a new garment), the washing, and the overall pressing – would have been completed. Only the last dainty details would have remained such as the delicate pressing of the lace on a collar or the little pleats on a shirt front.

Though in real life I despise ironing, I find this little iron inspiring.  To the writer in me, it signifies joy. It’s a reminder that after weeks of laboring and revising, there comes a point where my story is almost finished! The overall story is well-stitched and the time has come to delicately and attentively press through each sentence, making sure that every last comma and verb agreement are correct.

At what stage of the writing process do you find yourself today? Are you in the final, exhilerating round of pressing out every last comma, or are you still stitching away?  Either way, I hope that my little iron encourages you to press on!  Happy ironing, er writing, all!


And the Winner is…

Judd-CircusTrain-hires-FTCV-RGB-Final(2)I’m delighted to announce that the winner of this week’s special giveaway, a fresh off the press edition of Jennifer Cole Judd’s picture book, CIRCUS TRAIN (Two Lions Publishing, 2015),  is…


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

Thanks again, Jennifer, 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!

Extension Activities for CIRCUS TRAIN by Jennifer Cole Judd (And a GIVE AWAY!)

Judd-CircusTrain-hires-FTCV-RGB-Final(2)Thanks so much for joining us again as we celebrate the launch of Jennifer Cole Judd’s debut picture book CIRCUS TRAIN (Two Lions Publishing).  Teachers and parents are always looking for ways to tie picture books into the curriculum or extend the enjoyment with post-reading activities. With that in mind, today I have asked Jennifer to share with us some extension activities she has developed for CIRCUS TRAIN.  Take it away, Jennifer!

Thanks, Laura. CIRCUS TRAIN lends itself to some fun extension activities. I’ll list a few here.

1. Animal Hunt. CIRCUS TRAIN is full of colorful animals. How many different animals can you find? Also, there are a few critters that show up again and again throughout the book. How many times can you spot a puppy with a pink tutu? A circus monkey with a red hat? A bright-eyed zebra?

2. Five Senses Fun. All five senses can be involved when reading CIRCUS TRAIN. Create a bubble map with each of the five senses (or just list them off!). Using the words and illustrations in the story, what are some things you can smell? See? Hear? Touch? Taste? Some examples to get you started are you might imagine the smell of popcorn, the sound of cannon fire, or the taste of pink cotton candy. Can you think of other things at a circus that aren’t mentioned in the book that you might also be able to touch, taste, smell, hear, or see?

3. Clowning Around. Count how many different clowns are in CIRCUS TRAIN. If you were a clown, what would your costume look like? Draw a picture of a clown. You might like to give him or her a name and share a silly action your clown likes to perform.

4. Vocabulary Building. There are some fun words CIRCUS TRAIN that are unique to a circus, as well as some new words that you may not recognize. Explore these vocabulary words: vendors, trapeze, ringmaster, encore, prancing, unfurling.

5. Circus Act Challenge. Have you ever been to a circus before? Which was your favorite circus act? Did you find it in CIRCUS TRAIN? If not, can you write a short rhyme about your favorite circus act? Or draw a picture of that act?

Jen Judd web picBIO: Jennifer Cole Judd writes children’s poetry and picture books. Her debut picture book, CIRCUS TRAIN, debuts this month from Two Lions Publishing. She also co-edited and contributed to AN EYEBALL IN MY GARDEN (Two Lions), a spooky middle-grade poetry anthology. Find out more about Jennifer by checking out her website. She can also be found on TwitterFacebook, and Goodreads.

Now for the GIVEAWAY! We have one copy of CIRCUS TRAIN up for grabs! To enter for a chance to win simply leave a comment. Optional: Tell us what your favorite act in the circus is.  (Note: You must be at least 13 to enter and you may only enter once.) The contest ends Thursday, 3/26/2015 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner, whose name will be pulled from a hat, will be announced Friday. THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER. PRESS HERE to see who won.


Happy Birthday CIRCUS TRAIN!: An Interview with Debut Picture Book Author Jennifer Cole Judd

Judd-CircusTrain-hires-FTCV-RGB-Final(2)   Jen Judd web pic
Join me in welcoming fellow rhymer and picture book author, Jennifer Cole Judd, whose brand new picture book, CIRCUS TRAIN (Two Lions Publishing), debuts TODAY! She is also the co-editor and a contributing poet to AN EYEBALL IN MY GARDEN (Two Lions), a spooky middle-grade poetry anthology. Her poems and stories have been published in a variety of children’s magazines. She and I met as critique partners in the wonderful online critique group, The Poets’ Garage. And now for the interview with my questions in festive turquoise to coordinate with CIRCUS TRAIN’s colorful cover. 
Have you always been a writer? Tell us a little bit about your writerly journey.
My writerly journey definitely began when I was a wee one.  My mother still has a frayed scrap of paper of a rhyme I wrote when I was about five years old.  I wouldn’t say I was always a consistent poetry writer, but even my doodles on my homework in high school and in college were couplets and phrases and little thought-foxes, as opposed to drawings.  I studied some creative writing and majored in English literature in college, but it wasn’t until I had kids and spent weekly visits to the library, scouring the picture book and children’s poetry sections, that I started to explore the world of children’s writing.  I’ve spent the past decade tiptoeing into the world of submitting, starting with poems to magazines and joining critique groups, while having and raising my five fantastic kiddos.
What inspired you to write CIRCUS TRAIN? And what was the process from inspiration to publication like?  
The inspiration for CIRCUS TRAIN came one hot August afternoon when we took our (then) brood of four children to the Barnum and Bailey’s Circus.  Watching my preschool daughter’s eyes widen and hearing her gasp or giggle with each new act made the whole show a magical experience for me.  I came home with that imagery still in my mind, and decided to sit down and try to capture that wonder and excitement (and hopefully, just a touch of nostalgia) that radiated from my daughter that day.  I wrote it as a poem, at first, using the short, clipped verse (as Verla Kay refers to it, “terse verse”) for just a few couplets.  There’s so much to see in a circus, though, so it grew to picture book length pretty quickly.  The first version of the story didn’t have a train in it; I put it through critique groups and subbed it out only twice before I decided to hold off on it and focus on my poem writing for the time being.  That was back in 2006!  I pulled the manuscript out in 2012, and that was when the train emerged in the story. I revised it, shared it with my critique partners, and subbed it to Two Lions.  I was surprised (and thrilled!) when they acquired a few months later.
Your love of language is evident in CIRCUS TRAIN’S  rich word choice and rhythmic rhyming verse. How was that love developed? 
Thank you for the kind words! I do love the musicality of words and using poetic sound devices. I have always loved poetry, all kinds of poetry, from Emily Dickinson to Shel Silverstein.  I would also have to credit my first poetry critique group, the Poets’ Garage, for helping me shape my rhyme and rhythm skills, as well as train my “ear” to hearing that smooth rhythm. That group, in fact, was where my first publication, EYEBALL IN MY GARDEN was born, a spooky poetry anthology that I co-edited with Laura Wynkoop (and which included fourteen poets from that talented bunch!).  Being around fellow children’s poets and reading wonderful poetry continues to fuel that love. It still takes a lot of practice for me, but it’s so much fun when you find that perfect word that makes a few lines sing.
The illustrations that accompany your story are fresh and fun. Tell us a little bit about the artist.  Do you have a favorite spread? 
Melanie is amazing! She is an illustrator and designer all the way from Melbourne, Australia and does wonderful, colorful artwork. You can take a peek at more of the cool stuff she does at It is so hard to pick a favorite spread–I love the details that Melanie puts on to each page.  The first full-spread has this neat, whimsical circus ticket that floats on the breeze above the blooming, striped tent (and might show up later in the book, if you keep an eye out for it!). There are fun details on every spread!
Jennifer, thank you so much for letting us share in the book celebration today.
Connect with Jennifer Cole Judd: Find out more about Jennifer by checking out her website. She can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.
For all you teachers and parents, you’re in for a treat tomorrow as Jennifer will  be sharing some fun extension activities for CIRCUS TRAIN. (There will also be a GIVE AWAY!!!!) See you then!

SCHOOL VISIT: Thank you, Bloomingdale Avenue School!

IMG_0313Last week I spent two delightful mornings visiting  K – 2nd graders at Bloomingdale Avenue School.  I visited each class for thirty fun-packed minutes. With the help of my two skunk assistants, we read the story and talked about its various characteristics including rhyme and rhythm, humor, and building suspense. Every class impressed me with their great prediction skills and their impressive word knowledge. I didn’t expect words like onomatopoeia and alliteration to roll of their tongues with such ease!

And afterwards, to my utter delight, I received a special delivery from the kindergartners – thank you notes depicting in picture and words their favorite characters.  Each and every one is a treasure and I now present to you a sampling. Enjoy!





Thank you teachers and students for a great visit! And happy reading and writing to all!

Thank you, Jardine Academy, for an extra special visit!

photoRecently I had the privilege of being guest author at a very special school.  The Jardine Academy is a private school run by the Cerebral Palsy League of New Jersey. It provides elementary and secondary education for children with developmental disabilities.  And it does this with warmth and love and dedication (not to mention skill and expertise).  Can you tell I was impressed?

My visit was part of a school-wide reading celebration. The day I visited, students from every class were voting on their favorite book-themed decorated doors. All day, kids buzzed around (in wheel chairs, on foot, or with the help of other scooting/walking devises) voting on each others’s doors. Here are some sample doors:

IMG_0267                 IMG_0270

Then, in thirty-minute increments, students of all ages joined me in the cheerful library for a reading of GOODNIGHT, ARK.  I knew that the students attending this school each faced special challenges, and I didn’t know what to expect during the readings.  Well, my friends at Jardine, you overwhelmed and blessed me with your presence! I have never felt such joy reading my story and interacting with kids.  You were amazing!  Here are just a few snapshots that capture the joy of the day!

I read GOODNIGHT ARK to every group.


I introduced those stinky skunks to each group. They' were such a hit that...

My stinky tag-along skunks…

Those stinky skunks were such a hit that...

… were such a big hit that…

... almost everyone wanted to pet them and I enjoyed taking the time to let the skunks meet and greet the kids individually.

… almost everyone wanted to pet them and I enjoyed taking the time to let the skunks meet and greet the kids individually.

This young darling was so excited about the visit that he sat in my lap!

This young darling was so excited about the visit that he sat in my lap!


It was wonderful to chat with students and sign a few books too.


A Special Treat: Laura Sassi at the Financier Patisserie

Laura Sassi:

My thanks go to Robin Newman for this delightful recap of this morning’s special story time at the Financier Patisserie in Manhattan.

Originally posted on Robin Newman Books:

What could be better on a rainy day, not to mention more appropriate, than listening to Laura Sassi read her playful, rhyming tale of Noah in Goodnight, Ark, illustrated by Jane Chapman (Zonderkidz, a HarperCollins Company 2014), at the Financier Patisserie.



Laura’s super-adorable, pint-sized fans were thrilled when two stuffed skunks came out to greet them. They also enjoyed a craft project with animal stickers.




The Financier Patisserie, located at 35 Cedar Street in lower Manhattan, hosts children’s book events once a month. So, bring your kids for a fun read, craft, and then don’t forget to have lunch and dessert. We did and it was DE-LI-CIOUS! For more information regarding the Financier Patisserie’s events, please check out their Facebook page by clicking here. Bon Appetit!

laura sassi

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OLDIE BUT GOODIE: Sheep Bible Verse Memory Craft

IMG_0462When I taught 2nd/3rd grade Sunday school I was always looking for fun crafts and clever strategies to help the kids memorize their monthly Bible verse.  With that in mind, here’s a Bible memory craft/game I came up with that I hope you, too, will find useful should you find yourself teaching Sunday School or Vacation Bible School.  It’s also makes a fun at-home activity.  Happy Spring (almost)!



Laura Sassi

Shuffling these sheep into the correct word order is a great way to memorize your favorite sheep-themed Bible verse!


9” by 12” sheet of green construction paper

9” by 12” sheet white construction paper

black marker           scissors

A sheep-themed Bible verse of your choice.   (Suggested verses:  Psalm 23:1, Psalm 100:3,  John 10:11)


For the meadow, fold green construction paper to make a 12-box grid.

Using black marker trace eleven sheep onto white construction paper.  Color the heads and feet black. Cut out.

Select your sheep verse.  Depending on the verse length, write one or two words on each sheep.  Be sure to use all eleven sheep.


Mix the sheep and place them in the meadow.

Try to arrange the sheep in correct verse order without picking them up.  Instead shuffle them up and down the meadow grid, using the empty space to help you.

BALLET SLIPPERS: Thoughts on Dingy Stories and Fresh Perspective

IMG_2944This weekend my daughter had a photo shoot with her dance company.  To participate she needed to wear a hair bun, pink tights, her white leotard, and clean slippers. The first three were easy. My daughter is a skilled bun-maker.  Her leotard is brand new and her pink tights are still in good condition. But those slippers! She’s worn them to dance class for six hours every week since December and they look terrible!  The toes are scuffed and the  soles are worn and dingy beyond belief! Luckily I realized this in time to rush out and purchase a new pair before the special event.

But those slippers got me thinking. Writing stories is kind of like putting on ballet slippers. We slip into the process joyfully, then dance for hours, weeks, or even years revising and refining our writing. But if we are not careful as we dance, our stories, instead of soaring as we want them to, can start to grow dingy.  For me this happens, when I get so engrossed in the dance of writing a particular story that I forget to step out of the slippers so that both story and writer can be refreshed.

Sometimes I ultimately decide that, like old dingy slippers, the particular story I’m working on is overworked and scuffed beyond repair. More often, however, I find that giving the slippers a rest is just what the story (and writer) need. Indeed, I have found that when I don’t give my writing toes time rest and to wiggle and perhaps even test out different slippers, i.e. a variety of projects, the growth and quality of my writing suffers.

So don’t be afraid to try some new slippers. But don’t toss those old slippers away either! You’ve danced too long in them to do that! Just give those stories a little rest so that when you do again slip into them, you will know just what they need to soar to perfection.  Happy dancing all!