AUTHOR AND BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Meet Amy Houts and her NEWEST Faith-Based Book for Kids (Plus a GIVEAWAY!)

Look what landed on my porch! It’s children’s author Amy Houts’ newest release, CHRISTIAN Q & A BOOK FOR KIDS. Published by Rockridge Press it came out this month and it’s full of simple, kid-friendly answers to 100 questions kids age 6 – 9 might have about Christianity.

MY THOUGHTS: I am always on the lookout for good resources to teach little ones about faith and this one fits the bill. I appreciate the simple Q & A format with one question answered on each page. The questions are perfect for the target age group, but also thoughtful and deep enough to resonate with the caregivers reading alongside them. I also give a thumbs up to Amy for including a scripture reference in each answer. I think book is a great tool for sparking meaningful conversations with our kids about what Christianity is all about. I can’t wait to share it with my Sunday School class.

Now, in celebration of the book’s release, I am honored to have Amy on the blog with an interview. Let’s get started.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Amy, and congratulations your newest faith-based children’s book. What inspired you to take on this project?

Thank you for having me, Laura! I had learned about Callisto Media, the parent company of Rockridge Press, through another writer. Big shout out to Annette Whipple, who took the time to answer all my questions. Thank you! I contacted the company in February of 2021 by email and asked if they would add me to their database of writers. Then I waited. In November, 2021 I wrote a follow-up email specifically asking if they had a faith-based book assignment. Right place, right time! In early December, an acquisitions editor contacted me to see if I was interested in writing Christian Q&A Book for Kids. This publisher screens authors before awarding a contract by asking for a writing prompt. I was thrilled to be chosen to write this book. It has been such an inspiring challenge!

I’m so glad you took on the project. It seems right up your alley and I have to say that the questions you have chosen are spot-on for this age group. How did you select them?

First, I thought of my three grandchildren, a girl who was 5 and twin boys who were 8 at the time I started writing. I thought about questions they might have and asked them what questions they had. Each contributed one question to the book. I read books I owned and looked online at similar books, searched websites that answered faith-based  questions, and brainstormed. Since I’ve written other books for children and taught  3-6-year olds at Head Start, I knew the questions and answers needed to be very basic.  

You did a great job! Do you have any tips for ways families and churches can use this book? 

Families and children’s ministries can read and discuss one or more questions and answers at a specific time. The appendix includes good times and ways to start discussions, for example, focus on one question at the dinner table. This book is meant as a jumping off point to help clarify basic information and dive deeper into issues that are important. Parents and children can research together. 

Besides keeping this book at the ready, what advice would you give parents and caregivers who want to share their faith with their kids? 

Children are encouraged to think of and write down new questions and a few pages are provided in the book to do that. Having an open heart and mind is important—both for you and the children in your life. Be accepting of their questions, even if they express doubt. Asking questions increases understanding and strengthens faith. 

Finally, what’s next? Are there more books in the pipeline?  Also, where can interested readers find your books?

I have a Biblically-based Earth Care (climate change) book releasing from Bushel & Peck in March, 2023. I recently started a new assignment to write 5 books for young children with a South Korean educational publisher, Reading Gate. 

You have so many exciting things on the horizon. I can’t wait to check them all out. Thank you so much for joining us. Readers, learn more about Amy and her books in the bio and links below. And don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end of the post.

BIO: Amy is the author of over 100 books for children featuring early learning concepts. She writes for both faith-based and mainstream publishers. Amy’s faith-based books include God’s Protection Covers Me (Beaming Books) and The Giant Book of Bible Fingerplays for Preschoolers (Group Publishing). Amy’s educational books include 60 retold tales for the series, Compass Children’s Classics, 2020. Her 10 nonfiction science early readers for Highlights Press were released in 2020.

FIND AMY HERE:

Christian Q&A Book for Kids: https://amzn.to/3zBo3Of

Website: www.amyhouts.com

Twitter and Instagram: @AmyHouts

Facebook: “Author Amy Houts”

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!! If you’d like a chance to win a fresh-off-the-press copy of CHRISTIAN Q & A BOOK FOR KIDS (Rockridge Press, August 2022) follow this blog and leave a comment letting us know. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) Thank you, Rockridge Press, for providing the winning book. This giveaway ends Monday, August 15, 2022 at 11:59 pm EST. 

[Note: Thank you, Amy, for sending me a copy of the book which I was under no obligation to review. The views and opinions expressed on this blog about books and other things are purely my own.]

HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD: Schedule a FREE Author Visit!

 HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHRISTMAS CHILD: A COUNTING NATIVITY BOOK (Paraclete Press) releases October 4, 2022. 

Here’s the description: Count to TEN with Mary and Joseph as they await the birth of Baby Jesus in this sweet rhyming board book for littlest ones. Illustrated by Gabi Murphy with plenty to notice and count on each spread, it’s a charming introduction for littlest ones to the real gift of Christmas – Jesus!

And here’s the book trailer:

Now, in celebration of the book’s release, I have a special offer.

From now through December 24th, 2022, I am offering free 20-minute HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD author visits to the first TEN groups who reach out to me via my contact tab and book a visit. This special visit is ideal for preschools, church ministries, homeschool coops etc. and can be in–person (within 20 minute radius by car) or VIRTUAL.

IMPORTANT DETAILS:

For each FREE 20-minute HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD visit I will:

Introduce myself and the story with the help of my mouse puppet.

Engage the children in an interactive reading which includes having them count along and notice fun details on each spread.

Review the message of the story asking “Whose birthday do we celebrate at Christmas?” and close by singing Happy Birthday to Jesus. 

REQUEST:  

The visit is free, but I respectfully request that you purchase a copy the book for your class/church library and that you offer families the opportunity to purchase copies as well. I do not sell my own books, but they are available through the major online vendors as well as your favorite local indie book stores. The publisher also has a great deal on bulk purchases with significant discounts starting orders of 10 or more. To help spread word to families, I can provide an order form for schools/groups to collect and order as a group from the vendor of your choosing. Be sure keep a list of first names for book inscriptions and, as a thank you, I will provide a signed and personalized book plate for each book purchased!

I look forward to spreading Christmas joy in this special way.  

P.S. If you decide to pre-order a copy today, you can head over here to redeem the free activity kit the publisher created to go with the book. It’s chock full of printables and even includes Happy Birthday, Christmas Child party plan!

SAVING THE SHAVINGS: Four Writerly Reasons to Hold on to the Tossed Bits

My artistic daughter thought these pencil shavings were so beautiful she wanted me to save them.  We took this picture instead. For months I forgot about them, until I rediscovered them while browsing through old photos.

I find these lovely shavings inspiring.  As writers, our job is to whittle away at our stories, sharpening them until they shine.  But sometimes, in our haste to perfect the story or poem at hand, we foolishly toss the shavings. Those shavings, however, often contain precious marrow which, if tossed too quickly, we will later regret. So, before you hit delete or permanently toss old story bits, here are four thoughts to consider.

Oops! It Wasn’t a Shaving After All!  I can’t tell you how many times in the processing of revising, I have deleted a phrase or thought that I later regretted. Thank goodness, I learned early not to permanently delete anything when whittling a piece. Instead I “cut” the phrase or sentence that I think isn’t working and “paste” it in a repository at the end of the document. That way ALL my thoughts are captured and preserved, so if I realize later that something wasn’t a shaving after all, it’s still safe and sound in my shavings collection.

One Story’s Shaving Is Another Story’s Spark.  When working on a new piece, I like to brainstorm and write in my journal. Sometimes this takes up pages and pages. Over the years, I’ve been tempted to toss these old chicken scratchings, but I’m so glad I haven’t. Do you know how many new ideas those old notes have sparked? Shavings and shavings worth! (Bigger than the lovely heap pictured above.) My advice, then, is to find a nice box or shelf to store your old journals and unused writing bits so that one day when you feel uninspired, you can search those old shavings for the marrow of a new story or poem!

Is That a Shaving or is that a Sequel?  If a book does well, your publisher might be interested in a sequel. I keep this hopeful thought in mind when revising.  I tend to be an overwriter – infusing way more plot twists and content than a 32-page picture book can handle.  Over time, I’ve learned to put asterisks or boxes around plot twists or snippets of text that don’t fit the current story but which might be the spark for a sequel.

Save those shavings for posterity (or at least for school visits)! When speaking with students about writing picture books, they LOVE it when I can show them concrete evidence that published pieces go through many, many rounds of whittling before they are ready for print.  Here’s where those awkward early rhymes or plot twists that I wisely shaved off my story come in handy. Students love them! They also enjoy glimpses into early brainstorming notes or lists. Indeed, a thoughtful assortment of  select shavings that illustrate various truths about the writing and revising process will bring school presentations to life!

Happy sharpening all and remember to save the shavings!

(Note: I re-discovered this post from March 2016 while browsing through my blog archives. I found it inspiring so decided to post again.  I hope it inspires you, too, as you set about writing this week.)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD! Enjoy a SPECIAL PRE-ORDER OFFER from Paraclete!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD invites children and their families to join Mary and Joseph as they wait for Jesus to be born. Inspired by a favorite Christmas verse from Luke 2:19 that describes Mary’s soul-filling wonder as she pondered the events surrounding the birth of Baby Jesus, it is my hope that by infusing counting into HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD, littlest readers and their caregivers, will similarly slow down and explore and count and marvel with Mary and Joseph across each and every spread.

SPECIAL OFFER! Will you help me celebrate Christmas in July (and get a nice little start on your Christmas shopping done) by pre-ordering copies of my new board book HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD?

Here are FIVE wonderful benefits of pre-ordering today:

  • You will be among the first to receive the book!
  • You will be ahead of the game in your Christmas shopping… and perhaps better able to slow down and savor Christmas when December finally rolls around.
  • Paraclete will send you a FREE PRE-ORDER GIFT in the form of a downloadable jam-packed activity kit that includes the items pictured below plus coloring pages and a “Happy Birthday Jesus” party plan full of ideas. To redeem, simply purchase a copy of the book at the vendor of your choice, then head over here to claim your gift. 
  • If you order from Paraclete Press, the book will be mailed to you in August.
  • If you order from Paraclete Press, they offer discounts for multiple copies and free shipping for purchases totaling $60 or more. They are also having a Christmas in July sale through 7/29/22 with lovely savings of $12 off purchases of $40 or more and $25 off of purchases of $80 or more.

All the details can be found on the special landing page Paraclete created just for the book. This page is worth a special visit.  It includes not just information about purchasing the book and redeeming the activity kit, but lots of FUN things including the book trailer, a lovely endorsement, information about author and illustrator, an inspirational video, event details and a contact form. Here’s the link.

Blessings to one and all this Christmas in July. Let me know if you are interested in having me visit your school or church or group this holiday season. I’m started to book events now. Learn more here.

Book Trailer Premiere on KidLit TV: HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD

Happy Christmas in July! I wasn’t familiar with this summery nod to Christmas as a child, but I think it’s a delightful excuse to premiere the book trailer for my new Christmas board book!

Here’s the scoop from Paraclete Press:

Join Mary and Joseph, angels, shepherds, sheep, and various stable critters as they celebrate the birthday of a very special baby in this rhyming counting book for little readers and their families. 

Written by bestselling author Laura Sassi and illustrated by Gabi Murphy, HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD! celebrates the warmth, wonder and excitement of the night Jesus was born. Written in gentle rhyme with bright illustrations and lots of things for little ones to notice and count, it’s sure to be a Christmas favorite. 

Thank you, KidLit TV for hosting the reveal. Now, top up that cup of coffee and head on over for the trailer premiere. I’ll make it easy for you. Here’s the link. Enjoy!  

Interested in pre-ordering copies for Christmas?  Here are details from the publisher about a really terrific PRE-ORDER SPECIAL they are running.  (I’ll be sharing more on this tomorrow.)

Happy Monday, all!

10 Things to LOVE about LITTLE FREE LIBRARIES

I’ve been a big fan of Little Free Libraries ever since spotting my first one at the Jersey shore several years ago. These days, I make a point of looking for them both in my own community and when I’m visiting other places.  Recently, I discovered one while on a day trip and wanted to take a book, but didn’t have a book with me.  Instead, I left a special book mark which I happened to have in my purse.  I’ve done that that at other Little Free Libraries too.  I’ve also left copies of my own and others’ books!  

Lately, I’ve taken to keeping a tote bag by the front door with books to drop off (and space to stow the new treasures I find). My favorite Little Free Library finds include the books pictured below, an eclectic, but fun collection.

Now, in celebration of BOOKS old and new, here are 10 things to LOVE about LITTLE FREE LIBRARIES.

  1. Little Free Libraries are curated and managed by local people who love books.
  2. Each Little Free Library structure has a unique design.  (Yes, you can order building kits and the Little Free Library website offers building tips, but you can still paint and decorate it in a way that’s one-of-a-kind.) 
  3. The books in Little Free Libraries are FREE!
  4. Little Free Libraries are a great way to exchange books from your collection with books from other book lovers.
  5. The inventory in Little Free Libraries is always changing, which means each visit feels brand new.
  6. Little Free Libraries help ensure that books are accessible everywhere – and you don’t need a library card.
  7. Perusing the shelves in Little Free Libraries is a great way to discover new books.
  8. Little Free Libraries are open 24/7 – even during a pandemic!
  9. There is a world-wide Little Free Library website which includes maps which means you can easily find libraries wherever you are (or even make a special cross-country or transcontinental trip just for that purpose. Yes, people actually do that.) Here’s link to the map.
  10. You don’t need to return the books!  You can, of course, but the idea is to bring another in exchange. (That’s how the inventory stays fresh.)

INVITATION: If you enjoyed this post, please consider following my blog using the “follow blog” button either in the sidebar or by scrolling all the way down if are on a phone. I post twice weekly.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD: Inspiration Video (Plus a Giveaway Winner!)

Every day recently, I’ve doing a little something special to get ready for my newest board book to release. Earlier this month these special efforts included producing a short video, filmed on my porch, sharing the inspiration behind HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD. Well, I just noticed that the video is now up on Paraclete’s website as well as their YouTube channel, so that means I can share it!

Enjoy the video and I hope it inspires you to pre-order copies for the little ones in your life.  You can preorder through the publisher, on Amazon , Barnes and Noble, ChristianBook or through the vendor of your choice. And if you want to add it to your Goodreads shelves that would be amazing.  

GIVEAWAY WINNER ANNOUNCED!!! It’s also time to announce the winner of last week’s giveaway of a SIGNED copy of Patti Richard’s debut picture book MRS. NOAH.  Drum roll please… the winner is… GAYLE!!! I will be in touch with you today so we can get the book to you.  

MONDAY REFLECTIONS:  Thoughts on Retiring a BELOVED Blog Banner

For ten years the same banner has graced my blog. If you know the story behind it, you will understand why I’m feeling a bit sad and nostalgic today as I announce that it’s time to retire the banner and indeed to update my whole blog.

Ten years ago (and I can’t believe it’s been that long) I didn’t yet have a picture book out, but it was my dream. Having a blog presence was an important early step in creating a platform in the hope that someday my dream would come true. I chose a WordPress theme, played around with color and layout, and started drafting short, upbeat posts that celebrated reading, writing and life. 

Everything was set, but one thing. I needed a banner. But not just any banner. I wanted my banner to be hand drawn and full of color and creativity to reflect the joyful spirit and whimsy of my writing. And who would be the best person to create such a banner? There was only one person as far as I was concerned, my wonderful mom.

She embraced the assignment with love. Since the blog was to be called “Laura Sassi Tales”, the same name I chose across all my platforms, she and I thought it would be fitting to have animals welcome visitors to my blog with their tails prominently displayed.  She sketched and played with color. The result?  AMAZING! I still have her early sketches and treasure them. And, I LOVE the banner.  

A mere eighteen months after creating the banner, my mom passed away from ALS. We didn’t know she was sick when I started the blog, but the disease quickly progressed and she was only able to draw for maybe a year longer. Having her banner grace the blog has been a way to stay connected because her artistry has always inspired me and she was always such an encourager of my writing.

Now WordPress has retired my theme template. That means it’s time to pick a new one. A lot has changed in terms of my career as well. I’m no longer a pre-published picture book author. My seventh book will release in three months, followed by two more in 2023 and it’s time for my blog, which also serves as my website, to have a more book-ish look. So, in the next few weeks, I will re-launch with a whole new vibe – same address and same quality content (because it turns out I LOVE blogging) – but new layout and new banner. However, even though my mother’s banner will no longer grace the blog, it will remain here in this post, for as long as I have this blog, and her spirit of love and creativity will remain in me for a lifetime.

Happy Monday all!  

MRS. NOAH: An Interview with Patti Richards, an Invitation, and a GIVEAWAY!

Please join me today in welcoming children’s book author Patti Richards. Patti is the author of the delightful MRS. NOAH, published by Little Lamb Books and illustrated by Alice Pieroni. Here’s the official description:

MRS. NOAH is a celebration of love, and the motivation behind all the amazing things people do to make a house a home, even when that home is an ark! Mrs. Noah knows it takes more than wood, nails, and a hammer to make their big boat a comfy place to live. Stalls need cleaning, beds need making, and food needs baking before the animals come trotting, crawling, slithering and flying aboard! And how WILL she find a place for the elephants to take a bath? Author Patti Richards shows us how Mrs. Noah gets Noah’s help with the loving details before a single raindrop falls.

I love that Patti and I have a shared love of stories inspired by Noah’s ark. For all you Noah’s ark book collectors out there, this is a clever one to add to your collection.

Later this month Patti and I have the wonderful delight of doing a shared story time at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, MI. If you live in the Grand Rapids area, I hope will join a this special multi-book double-author event which takes place July 20th at 10:30 Here are the details for that:

Because Patti and I haven’t actually met in person yet, we thought an interview would be fun. There’s also a GIVEAWAY at the end of this post for ONE FREE SIGNED COPY of Patti Richards’ MRS. NOAH. Thank you, Patti! And now, without further ado, the interview, with my questions in bold.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Patti.  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you become a writer?

Thanks so much for having me, Laura! It’s an honor to be here! 

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but one experience stands out as the time when I knew it was what I wanted to do as part of my life’s work. I was sitting in my seventh-grade language arts class working on a writing assignment (I don’t remember what we were writing about). I looked out the window and could completely picture what I was putting on the page, almost like a movie playing out in front of my eyes. It seemed so real, and I remember feeling an urgency to get it all down before it disappeared, and then the satisfaction I felt when I wrote the final word. When I got the story back there was an A at the top of the paper and a comment, “Have you ever thought about being a writer?” And that was it! Of course my journey to writing full time wasn’t a straight path…there were the years of wanting to be an actress and singer on the Broadway stage, then the calling to teach language arts and theatre for a time, then marriage, then children and being a stay-at-home mom. . .all the while always writing, always reading. Then I had an opportunity to submit a story to a local newspaper. And when they kept calling and asking me to do more I thought, “Maybe now?” and God whispered, “yes.” So little by little I built my writing resume with freelance work while learning the craft of writing for children. And then last October, my first fiction picture book for children, MRS. NOAH, was released!   

I’m glad you listened to those affirmations along the way and followed God’s whisper. And now your first book is out! What inspired you write MRS. NOAH?

I was getting my family of five ready for our very first cruise to celebrate my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. In the middle of all the planning, shopping, laundry, getting pet instructions ready for the house sitter, cleaning, stopping the mail, paying the bills, I said out loud…” If it’s this hard to get a family of five ready for a three-day cruise, how in the world did MRS. NOAH get the ark ready for all of those animals?” Of course, I had to stop in the middle of what I was doing and get the idea down and saved in my picture book idea file. From there it took almost nine years until MRS. NOAH was released into the world with lots of twists and turns along the way.  

Ha! I’m glad you recognized this gem of an idea while you were getting everyone ready for that ark, er I mean cruise ride and wrote it down.

Can you tell us about the illustrator? What was it like seeing your text come to full color with illustrations? Do you have a favorite spread?

I love Alice Pieroni’s vision for MRS. NOAH! It’s funny how you have a picture  in your head of how everything should look, but when you see the illustrator’s interpretation of the story, aside from a few tweaks that are part of every book’s journey, you realize it’s exactly what it needed to be. We’ve had so much positive feedback about her beautiful illustrations! My absolute favorite spread is the one with the giraffes and the shelves Mrs. N. builds so they’ll have a place to rest their heads! 

Humor in illustrations adds so much and Alice’s work is darling.

What would you like readers to take away from this story?

I’d like young readers and their caregivers to see that love is in the details when it comes to making a house a home. I’d also like them to see that there’s always more to a story than meets the eye, and that team work can really get the job done! 

That’s a beautiful and heartfelt message. Finally, what’s next? Are there more picture books in the pipeline?  Also, where can interested readers find your books?

Thanks so much for asking, Laura! I have two picture books coming out in the next couple of years. One is called O POSSUM’S PREDICAMENT (Blue Whale Press), about a theatre-loving opossum that’s tired of playing dead and wants to play Hamlet instead. The other picture book I have releasing in 2023 is called, MILLIE’S CHRISTMAS MIRACLE (Little Lamb Books), about a mouse and her best friend a sheep who work together to knit swaddling clothes for a very special baby. 

And I’m always shopping new material to publishing houses and am currently in search of the perfect agent! New friends can find my books on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop.org and wherever books are sold! 

Thank you for joining us today, Patti. Learn more about Patti on her website and around the web

@pattigrichards for Insta and Twitter

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pgwrites5https://www.facebook.com/pbrichards/

Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/pgwrites/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15888762.Patti_Richards

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/pattigail1/_saved/

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!! If you’d like a chance to win a SIGNED copy of MRS. NOAH (Little Lamb Books, 2021) follow this blog and leave a comment letting us know. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) Thank you, Patti, for providing the winning book. This giveaway ends Thursday, 7/14/22 at 11:59 pm EST. This giveaway is over. The winner is announced here

FIVE FUN WAYS TO CELEBRATE the FOURTH of JULY with your LITTLE ONES

Looking for some easy, last minute ideas to add a little extra something to your Fourth of July celebrations? Here’s are five of my picks, perfect for families with little ones. They make me wish either that my kids were younger or that they were older and I had grandkids! LOL. Enjoy!

1. Sing a patriotic song. Choose your favorite, or enjoy this new favorite of mine:  America to Me by YouTube sensation, Jack Hartmann. 

2. Make a patriotic craft. There are, of course, oodles to choose from, but here are three that are festive and easy to create from Courtney at The Chirping Moms: https://thechirpingmoms.com/easy-patriotic-crafts/

3. Have a patriotic snack. Heather over at Glitter on a Dime has the cutest ideas for edible delights for little ones. Here’s a decidedly red-white-and-blue one that makes a festive dessert or snack: https://www.glitteronadime.com/easy-and-delicious-patriotic-parfaits-twinkie-dessert-cups/

4. Read a patriotic story. Here’s a list to get you started: https://3boysandadog.com/books-about-fourth-of-july-for-kids/

5. Fold the American flag the patriotic way. Did you know there’s a proper way to handle our flag? My husband taught me and he taught our kids and ever since, putting up and taking down our flag has been a special family tradition. Here’s a quick tutorial, with two kids named Jack and Sam to get you up to speed.  Your kids will LOVE helping.