Last week in the comments section to a post I had shared on Facebook about Feeling Blessed by a Bouquet, a kind young mom left a thoughtful comment, which blessed my day in a extra-special way.
Here are her words, shared with her permission:
Laura,not related to this, but I just wanted to tell you how much joy your book “Love is kind” brought into my daughter’s life. Last year you came into her Kindergarten classroom for the reading and we purchased an autographed copy that day. It has become her favorite book! I cannot tell you how many times she re-read it during the lockdown and then during the months of remote learning. She really connected with it and it gave her comfort during these difficult months. Thank you!”
It’s almost like this mom was reading my mind because her message to me about the impact one of my books has had on her daughter was just what this heart needed. In fact, I was so moved, that I responded to her Facebook comment with this:
Thank you for telling me this. You made my month! This past year has been so difficult – and especially for the kids. I’m glad to know the book provided comfort. That, I know, would make Little Owl very happy!
And then after some more thought, the next day I added this:
I’m still so moved by your sharing this. May I have your permission to quote your kind words in post about one never knows the impact ones words/book can have and an encouragement to keep writing and speaking from the heart…I was feeling a bit in a writing slump and your comment really, as I said, made my month!
Her answer: “Of course!”
And I so share these words today as both a reminder and an encouragement for me and for you to keep writing – or developing whatever special talents you’ve been gifted – with the knowledge that, just as surely as Little Owl helped one little girl face a difficult time in her life, your story or gift will surely also impact others in ways that, most often, we will never know.
The nominees for the 2021-2022 Iowa Goldfinch Award, which is given annually by the Iowa Association of School Librarians, have been selected and DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE made the list! For the complete round up of nominees plus links to the book trailers for each click here.
This week, I’m delighted to chat with Janna Matthies, a picture book author, who like me, writes books for both the mainstream and faith-based markets. And today, we are celebrating the release of her newest board book God’s Always Loving You, published by WorthyKids and illustrated by Airin O’Callaghan.
Here’s the publisher’s description:
This powerful little book is filled to the brim with hope and comfort. Simple, child-friendly verse outlines relatable moments of crisis, uncertainty, and fear common to a child’s life, and asks who helps us in each of those scenarios. “God, that’s who” is the reliable answer, forming a pattern kids will quickly pick up on. Each answer reinforces the book’s deeply comforting message: God is always there for us. He loves us, He knows us, and He cares about our needs.
This is such a needed message in today’s world. Thank you, Janna for writing it and thank you, WorthyKids, for publishing it! And in the extra neat department, Janna will be mailing one signed copy of the study to one lucky reader, so be sure to check out the details for that at the end of the post. And now, grab a cup of tea and join me as we chat with Janna with my questions bolded.
Thank you so much for joining me today, Janna. Let’s dig right in. First off, tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to write God’s Always Loving You.
When I’m not writing children’s books, I’m a music teacher for grades PreK, K and 1st, and I see all kinds of troubles touch the lives of my students. I also recently walked through a 3-year leukemia battle with a dear friend and her family. So I became interested in writing a book that brings hope and reassurance to kids going through hard times. But I didn’t want to offer platitudes or empty promises, because God’s ways aren’t that simple. My aim was to hone in on the absolute promise that God and His loving presence are always with us.
As one who has been through hard times with my own kids, I’m grateful that you dug deep to write this book, but, oh my, what a tall order. What was your greatest challenge in writing this book?
As I mentioned, I was focused on “the hard times,” but my editor—Melinda Rathjen at WorthyKids—suggested I add a couple stanzas featuring good times, too. At first I was hesitant, not wanting to dilute the impact for readers truly in the valley. But I followed her suggestion, and in the end agreed that the positive stanzas give balance and a vision for the gifts of peace, joy and redemption. I’m grateful to Melinda and also to the fantastic illustrator, Airin O’Callaghan, for her heart-felt, creative partnership.
Yes, I agree! The balance makes the message even richer. What is your greatest desire for the readers who read God’s Always Loving You?
The book is essentially a series of questions, all answered by the refrain, “God, that’s who.” My greatest desire is that readers would see God himself as the answer, and that they’d find His presence to be enough in the midst of whatever they’re going through. It’s natural when we’re down to focus on the thing that we want, the specific answer to prayer that we’re awaiting. My personal hope is that I’d learn more and more to focus on God as the answer, and to trust that the rest will follow.
Besides reading wonderful books such as this, what advice would you give parents and caregivers who want to share their faith with their kids?
In my experience as a mom, teacher, friend, I find that living life authentically in front of kids is critical. Let them see you take quiet time with God, pray in the good and bad times, need others to support you in your own faith journey. Include them in family devotions/movies/book discussions where they can express real feelings and questions. And notice teachable moments when they’re open to hearing stories of your own high and low points as a believer.
These are great and very do-able suggestions. Finally, what’s next? Are there more picture books in the pipeline? Also, where can interested readers find your books?
Yes! My next picture book, HERE WE COME! (Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster, coming spring 2022), is illustrated by Christine Davenier and features an impromptu parade of little musicians in the moonlight. Two more books are currently in contract phase, and a variety of others are being shopped around by my agent.
For buying options and to learn more about Gods’s Always Loving You, click here.
Thank you, Janna, for taking the time to answer these questions so thoughtfully. And now for the promised giveaway!
HERE ARE THE DETAILS FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!! If you’d like a chance to win a complimentary signed copy of God’s Always Loving You, simply post a comment below letting me know. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) Thank you, Janna, for providing the winning book. This giveaway ends Friday, 7/23/2021 at 11:59 pm EST.
This post fits squarely in the “celebrating life” category of this blog. I wrote it just now on my Facebook page, but feel moved to share it here as well. I hope the joy I felt as I wrote it comes through in the reading of it. And now, the post:
This lovely bouquet, which now sits in a vase on my porch, is a LOVELY reminder to me of what happens when we SLOW down and show KINDNESS in the places we find ourselves.
Here’s the story: I am all ready to check out at Trader Joe’s yesterday, so I pull my cart up to one of the check out lanes. The cashier welcomes me and says it will just be a moment. The customer before me (whose bags were already packed and ready to go) has remembered at the last minute that she needs coffee. She has promised it will be just a moment and has dashed off to get coffee. Well, it isn’t just a moment. It takes many moments. Many, many moments.
I’m tired and hungry and want to get home, but I’ve been working on slowing things down, allowing for margin, so I have time to connect with others and choose kindness. So, instead of complaining to the cashier, who I can tell is feeling bad about the situation, I say not to worry, and we fill the time with conversation.
Before the customer comes back, the check out line next to the one I am in opens up, and the cashier there invites me to check out in his line, which I do. While I am busy with that, the customer comes back. She’s had to wait for someone to grind the coffee, apparently. In my mind, it is not a big deal. But just as I am paying for my groceries, I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn and it’s the first cashier. She’s holding a bouquet for me. “Thank you,” she says. I’m stunned. The bouquet is not necessary, I say. But as I carry it out, I feel this overwhelming sense of joy at the positive human connection that is found when we take the time to both be a blessing to others and to allow ourselves to be blessed by others. My heart is full. And now, as I start my weekend, I wonder what other opportunities will come my way, and perhaps your way too. Blessings all!
Are you a parent, teacher, or librarian, looking for a fun way to extend bilingual story time using LOVE IS KIND and its adorable Spanish version EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO? Then this easy craft/game is just for you! It’s primary purpose is to be a matching game, but you can also use the cards as stand-ins for puppets so your little ones can retell the story in Spanish or English, or both, in their own sweet words.
LOVE IS KIND and EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO Matching Game
Print out the English and Spanish versions of the cards.
Color in the picture squares. Then cut out.
Glue the picture squares onto construction paper squares.
Place the cards face down. Take turns turning over two at a time.
Name the pictures in Spanish and English. If they are a match keep them. If not, place back face down.
Take turns until all the cards have been matched. Player with most cards wins.
At the end of the event, I signed their remaining copies and they are now available for purchase on their website. I checked and they have three copies of LITTLE EWE and six of LOVE IS KIND. After these sell, they will continue to carry the books, but they won’t be signed until I pop in again (which won’t be until November.) In other words, this is your chance to support a lovely gift store and get signed copies of some Laura Sassi books. (If you want to confirm that it’s one of the signed copies, please call the store or use the chat feature on their website.
Oh, and this is the best part: Shipping is FREE with a purchase of $35 and up! So perhaps pair the book with one of their adorable baby shower gifts. My favorite is a cute sign that you hang in the nursery that invites little ones to nightly story time. Or you could get something for yourself, of course. They have really cute bags and totes, too. Just saying. =)
Here’s the link to their online store for you to explore. The books are found under the category “books”. =)
Summer time reminds me that I LOVE perennials, those wonderful plants that bloom in my garden, season after season, where they are enjoyed by all, again and again. My favorites include my butterfly bush, the daisies, the echinacea, and black-eyed susans.
The joy of seeing my perennials bloom more gloriously than ever has gotten me thinking about how picture books – the good ones – are like perennials too, enjoyed by generations of kids and caregivers. So, what makes a picture book a perennial favorite?
I’m sure I’m just scratching the surface, but here are FIVE characteristics that I think elevate a picture book to perennial status. What would you add?
Last week Miss A and I (and Little Ewe and Little Owl too!) made a special trip to Lexington, Virginia, a quaint historic town nestled in the lovely Shenandoah Valley. The week was refreshing and wonderful and extra special because it was our first in-person visit with my dad since before Covid.
How wonderful it was to be together again and we made the most of it. Our visit included daily early morning walks (for me) downtown to the Lexington Coffee Shop, a special do-together sewing project for my daughter and my dad’s wonderful Dianne, delicious meals, ice cream, and even a trip to Animal Safari Park in nearby Natural Bridge. And, of course, chatting and catching up throughout it all. And hugs. There were lots of hugs.
But the highlight for Little Ewe (and Little Owl too!) was a special LITTLE EWE (Beaming Books, 2021) and LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018) book signing at the Sugar Maple Trading Company on Main Street. Owner Cindy Hughes and her husband Jeff and their daughters were delightful hosts.
During the signing, we had a steady stream of customers who were eager to purchase signed books, including several who were in town from Indiana for a wedding. One of those was a young teacher, who just completed her first year teaching second grade at a rural Indiana school. (And I might do a virtual author visit with her class next year. I hope so!)
Others were parents and grandparents interested in books for their little ones. One was a fellow author who I had met back in November 2019 when I gave a talk at Kendal in Lexington. It was lovely to see her again as well.
Best of all, my dad, was there beside me, chatting and being his charming self. He also very kindly acted as chauffeur so that several residents in his retirement community who no longer drive, could come down for the signing. I felt so blessed!
Then on Sunday, I was invited to read LITTLE EWE for the children’s portion of the service at Lexington Presbyterian Church. What a special way to spend our last day in Lexington.
After church, I connected with this lovely woman who at the signing had told me that she was going to give LITTLE EWE as a gift along with a sweater with little lambs on it that she was knitting for one of her grandchildren. I said I would love to see it, so we arranged a time to do just that! It was a joyful moment for both of us, I think, and a wonderful reminder of one of my favorite things about being a picture book author— connecting with others!
I look forward to returning in the fall. Thank you, Lexington, for making Miss A and me feel so welcome! And, thank you, Dad, for being not only a great dad, but also the best “southern book rep” an author could hope for!
To close, here’s a fun Instagram Reel we made to promote the event beforehand. Such fun!
I’m so excited for this event which was originally scheduled for May 2020 but had be canceled because of a certain pesky virus. A special bilingual craft will follow. I’m still working on it, so I can’t show it to you, but it will be muy fácil y muy divertido (that’s very easy and very fun)!
Here’s the official blurb and, please note, registration is required. Thank you for having me as your guest, Kenilworth Public Library Can’t wait!
Join author Laura Sassi for a special bilingual story time at the Kenilworth Public Library as she shares EL AMOR ES BONDADASO, the Spanish version of her picture book LOVE IS KIND about Pequeño Búho (Little Owl) who wants to get his Abuelita (Grammy) chocolates but his efforts get thwarted every step of the way. Published by Zonderkidz and Vida Editorial and illustrated by Lison Chaperon, this charming and heartfelt journey celebrates the many forms that love and happiness can take. Craft to follow. Registration required by phone or in person at children’s desk:(908) 276-2451. Books will be available for purchase and signing. (Registration opens July 1st for Kenilworth residents/ July 6th for non-residents.)