FIRST PEEK: Bunny Finds Easter!

FIRST PEEK! Look what arrived on my porch this weekend! It’s an advance copy of my next book with Zonderkidz, a board book called BUNNY FINDS EASTER.


I can’t wait for you to meet Bunny! In this sweetly rhyming story, charmingly illustrated by Ela Jarzabek, Bunny is determined to find out if Easter is all about special breakfasts, chocolate bunnies and fancy new bonnets, or if it might be about a little bit more. I wrote it to be an introduction for littlest ones to the true meaning of Easter.


BUNNY FINDS EASTER is:

  • For ages 0-4
  • A board book perfect for little hands, and in a size that works great for lap reading
  • Ideal for Easter gift-giving and fits perfectly in an Easter basket
  • A conversation starter for a discussion of the true meaning of Easter

SPECIAL REQUEST: Before you hop off into your day, will you take a moment to pre-order your copy of Bunny Finds Eastertoday and mark is as “to-read” on Goodreads? Those are two wonderful and easy ways to help a new book make a lovely little splash when it releases.

TEN Book-Themed Activities for GOODNIGHT MANGER

TEACHERS! CAREGIVERS! I’ve rounded up TEN activities created just for GOODNIGHT, MANGER, perfect for introducing Christmas to your little ones. Enjoy!

ONE: After reading the story together, put Baby Jesus to sleep with a song using this as your guide: LULLABY TO JESUS: An Extension Activity for Goodnight Manger.

TWO: Do a book-themed Read, Discuss, DO! 

THREE: Inspired by Jane Chapman’s exquisite illustrations, let your little ones create their own own nativity figures out of egg cartons.  For instructions press here.

FOUR:  Look for patterns in the illustrations throughout the book, then create your own patterned star ornaments using this activity as your guide: GOING ON A PATTERN HUNT (Plus a Craft!) An Extension Activity for Goodnight Manger.

FIVE: Extend the story with this free downloadable GOODNIGHT MANGER coloring page.

SIX: After reading GOODNIGHT, MANGER, take out your kid-friendly nativity set and retell the story using the pieces as explained in this wonderful activity from Sunny Day Family

SEVEN: Make Wide Awake Baby Jesus ornaments inspired by the book, using this activity as your guide.

EIGHT: Create your own nativity scene inspired by the book using this free printable activity from Inspired Motherhood.

NINE: Foster good visual reading skills as you ponder the Christmas story using GOODNIGHT MANGER as the spark with this visual literacy activity.

TEN: Have your kids draw pictures of their favorite scenes/characters and then share on your socials using the hashtag #goodnightmanger and tag me!

SNAIL MAIL BLESSINGS: Spreading Kindness the Old-Fashioned Way (Thank You Notes Edition)  

It has been almost two months since I invited you to join me in what I’m calling the Snail Mail Blessings Challenge. I created the challenge because, in this age of instant texts and emails, I’ve been missing the special connection of a different kind of correspondence – the old-fashioned hand-written note.  

Jump in anytime. Miss a week? No problem. It’s not about perfection or pressure. It’s about blessing others through the simple act of putting pen to paper, putting that paper in an envelope, addressing it by hand, affixing a stamp and sending it off. 

SPOILER ALERT: I’ve been a letter writer all my life. At first, it was because my mother and grandmother were in cahoots and made me. And how did they do this? Christmas and birthday gifts. I was informed at a very young that Christmas and birthday gifts were special (which they were) but that I wouldn’t receive them unless I remembered to write a thank you note to each person who gave me one. Writing thank you notes, they said, was like sending a gift back to the giver – but in written form!  What a concept! 

So, from a very young age, I wrote thank you notes. At first, I didn’t like writing them. They took so much time and I wanted to play. 

But my mother was smart and for birthdays she made sure we invited just a small number of party-goers, so that writing those notes as manageable. 

And my grandmother made letter writing fun because she would answer my thank you notes with lovely notes of her own and, just like that, we were writing letters back and forth. I still have many of them. Here’s an example of one I wrote when I was 10.  (Don’t you just love my frankness in describing my new neighbors?)

TODAY’S CHALLENGE:  I love my mother’s and grandmother’s idea hand-penned thank you note is like sending a gift back to the giver, but in written form.

This has certainly been true for me. I love getting thank you notes!  Some of my favorites have been from students I have visited in schools (and I love that their teachers are cultivating this art with the next generations).  Here’s are a couple of examples from a virtual visit with my friend Tina Cho’s class in South Korea back in 2016:

I also love this thank-you note I received soon after LITTLE EWE released. My father sent a copy of the book to his Great-Aunt Beanie, who he hadn’t seen in decades. It was his special way of reconnecting with her and the note she sent in return was certainly a gift to us.  Here it is:

Will you join me in writing a thank you letter to someone this week?  And maybe you could make this your goal for the next few weeks as well.  Blessings, all, snail mail and otherwise!

LITTLE TOY CARS: Thoughts on Playing and Writing

I’ve been spending hours in my basement lately re-organizing and on one of the shelves I re-discovered this box of little toy cars. With that in mind, I couldn’t resist re-posting this car-themed post from 2017. Enjoy!

I was organizing boxes in my basement this weekend and rediscovered this – it’s a box full of my childhood Matchbox cars co-mingled with my husband’s –  with some more recent additions from when my kids were little.  The youngest cars in the collection are about fifteen years old – the oldest – almost fifty!  What amazes me most about this collection is the wildly contrasting condition of the cars.

I mean, if you look at them carefully, they are all comprised of the same basic elements – wheels, chassis, colorful paint job.  And, yes, of course, all have doors, hoods, and trunks (some that open which were my favorites as a kid). Yeah, yeah, some are trucks instead of cars, but basically they all fit into the same overarching miniature toy car category.

And yet, through the seemingly innocent act of playing with them… look how distinctive they’ve become! My husband’s cars are all battered up. He even had to repaint his little toy ambulance, a very necessary vehicle for his play world. That’s because for him, a perfect day of play involved car races and crashes and battles over rough terrain.

By contrast, my perfect day of automobile play involved creating a village in the fragrant bed of pine needles that covered the craggy old roots that abutted my grandparents’ driveway. I would spend hours creating roads and story lines to go with each car as they navigated my imaginary village world, stopping for tea at imaginary tea houses and picnics along imaginary vistas. Very different from my husband’s play.

But that’s where the originality and creativity emerges, isn’t it?

Writing stories is a lot like playing with toy cars.  We all begin with the same basic car parts – the words – and all our stories fit into a relatively small range of car models, i.e. story structures, plot lines and universal themes.

But does that mean that originality is impossible?  Not at all.  Like children playing with toy cars, that’s where the creativity begins!  So get out those stories-in-progress this week, or grab a new little car – and then PLAY! I wonder what new play worlds will emerge this week. Happy Monday all!

Read, Discuss, Do! Guest Post: The JOY of Reading TOGETHER (A Childhood Memory and a Challenge)

When Rebecca Gomez, founder and creator of Read, Discuss, Do! asked me if I’d be part of the team here, I was thrilled. For starters, I love the Read, Discuss, Do mission to help families and educators thoughtfully extend story time through the simple three-part formula reading a story, using that story to spark conversation, and then taking action through a meaningful activity.  

But, for me, the connection runs deeper because reading aloud together was foundational to my own reading experience as a child. Learn more as a reminisce about the joy of reading aloud together witha loved one – my mom- and how this relates to the wonderful mission of Read, Discuss, Do! I’ll make it easy for you. Here’s the link.

NEW RESOURCE: Picture Book Sundays and MORE Index

Over the course of the fall, I’m going to be tidying and organizing my blog (just as I’m also striving to tidy and organize my house.) One task long overdue is to create a better system of organizing certain post types so my readers can find specific types of posts easily. Stay tuned for a page that will index every single author and illustrator who I have either interviewed on my blog or who has been a guest blogger. I’m working on that – but it turns out it’s a long, long list which is taking me a long, long while to compile.

So, for today, while I still work on that, I thought I’d share with you a new page which indexes every single Picture Book Sundays post I have created plus other posts that focus on using picture books to plant seeds of faith in our little ones. I hope you find it a helpful and easy way to quickly locate these types of posts.

You can access the index using the “Picture Book Sundays and MORE!” tab above or by using this link: https://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/picture-book-sundays-and-more/

Happy exploring!

AROUND THE WEB: October GUEST GURU at Rate Your Story

HAPPY OCTOBER! In the fun category, I’m Guest Guru at Rate Your Story for the month of October. Check out the interview and learn more about this resource for picture book writers. As part of my special duties, I’ll be rating four stories over the course of the month. So honored to be participating in this way, helping others along this journey. I hope you’ll pour yourself a fresh cup of coffee or tea and pop over for a read. I’ll make it easy for you. Here’s the link to the interview.

Happy reading and writing!

The Power of SETTING in PICTURE BOOKS

There once was a child who loved to play make believe and every day, using her imagination, she created story worlds. Somedays, she was a pioneer traveling the prairie in a covered wagon. Other days, she was teeny tiny person living amongst the craggy roots of her grandmother’s old pine grove. And sometimes, she was a magic fairy flying through sparkle-mist clouds in a world full of dragons. Her storyline was always similar – young girl, headstrong and brave in the face of danger, forging new friendships in the midst of the unknown. What changed each day, or every few days, was the SETTING! And that, for the little girl, was what made all the difference. 

That girl, if you haven’t figured out by now, was me and, as a picture book author, I’m still enamored with the power of SETTING to make a story shine. In fact, three of my six picture books began with quite ordinary settings. Goodnight, Ark began as a quite ordinary tale two storm-frightened children and a thunder-spooked dog all bounding into their parents’ very crowded bed. It wasn’t until I started playing with possible alternate settings – initially a hollow log in the woods – and ultimately Noah’s Ark – that the story really took off. And what made the difference that allowed my imagination to soar in new, creative directions? SETTING! 

A similar switching-up occurred with Goodnight, Manger which began as the story of a hen trying to get her chicks to sleep in a typical barn setting. It wasn’t until I decided to make it a very special barn – the stable where Baby Jesus was born – that the story took shape in a fresh new way.  Likewise, my picture book Love is Kind (Zonderkidz, August 8, 2018) began as the simple story of a small boy in a small town on a quest to get his grammy something for her birthday. It wasn’t until I made the protagonist an owl and set the tale in a magical woodsy setting, that the story took off.

Even though my opera-themed picture book, Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse, was set in an opera house from the get-go and Little Ewe, likewise, was always set in a meadow,  it’s still the settings that help those stories really take off.  Indeed, as picture book author Susanna Leonard Hill remarked about Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse in one of her lovely Perfect Picture Book Friday posts, “The fun of this book is in the setting – an opera house… Although the story is really about friendship, manners, and appreciation, the fact that it takes place in an opera house and involves operatic performance makes it educational as well as original and fun.”

In fact, for all my books (and yours too, probably), I would argue that the impact of carefully considering setting reaches far beyond just text and storyline. Fresh settings also open the door to fabulous illustrations because they allow illustrators, too, to stretch their imaginations and create spreads that are more unusual and fun than they might have been with more ordinary settings.

In Goodnight,Ark, for example, how much more fun is it to gasp at tigers jumping into a bed already crowded with sheep, wild boar and quail – than to see two small children and a dog crowding into a quite ordinary run-of-the-mill bed? Much more fun!

And in Goodnight, Manger how much more thrilling is it to see a frazzled mama asking a glorious array of angels, rather than geese, for example, to quiet down? Much more fun!

And doesn’t the special friendship between Delores and that Opera House Mouse seem that much more magical with the backdrop of velvet curtains and floral bouquets? 

Finally, just look at these darling spreads from Love Is Kind  and Little Ewe in which illustrator Lison Chaperon and Tommy Doyle each use their imagination, prompted by my settings, to create wonderful story worlds!

I don’t have any interior to show you yet from my next release BUNNY FINDS EASTER but you can take a peek on Amazon where you will see that a charming cottage setting enhances that story as well.

Because setting is powerful in the hands both author and illustrator, I think it’s important, as writers, to spend time contemplating how we might enhance our stories by taking full advantage of the setting. So, here’s my takeaway:  If you find yourself stuck in a story, wondering how to make it stand out from the rest, why not take some time this week to play with setting.  Maybe you will find, as I have, that a new setting might make all the difference!  Happy writing all!

BUNNY FINDS EASTER: In the News and Getting Reviews

In just a “hare” over four months, my next book with Zonderkidz, a board book called BUNNY FINDS EASTER, will release. It’s an exciting time and I’m just starting to get plans in motion for a blog tour and more.  

Apparently, Bunny is getting ready, too, because she’s already been reviewed three times on Goodreads, including these sure-to-make-you-smile thoughts from a Vietnam Vet. He’s a gem!

On Friday, the book also got a mention in a new article in Publisher’s Weekly entitled “Board Books Offer Parents a Script for Speaking about God”. I was delighted to discover it there because that’s just how I hope parents will use the book.

Here’s the official scoop from Zonderkidz:

Inside Bunny Finds Easter, little ones will learn the true answer to “What is Easter?” alongside Bunny. The rhyming text by bestselling author Laura Sassi and adorable illustrations help children see Easter may have many fun traditions, but it is really all about celebrating Jesus and his resurrection.

Coloring eggs, wearing a lovely bonnet, joining in the fun of an egg hunt, and attending church with family are special things that are a part of Easter! But the most important thing about this holiest of seasons is remembering the reason we gather to celebrate and focusing on Jesus most of all.

Bunny Finds Easter is:

For ages 0-4.

A board book perfect for little hands, and in a size that works great for lap reading.

Ideal for Easter gift-giving and fits perfectly in an Easter basket.

A conversation starter for a discussion of the true meaning of Easter.”

SPECIAL REQUEST: Before you hop off into your day, will you take a moment to pre-order your copy of Bunny Finds Eastertoday and mark is as “to-read” on Goodreads? Those are two wonderful and easy ways to help a new book make a lovely little splash when it releases.

Back-to-School Offer: Celebrate KINDNESS with a Free Author Visit with LAURA SASSI

Back-to-School Time! In celebration of the POWER OF KINDNESS, I’m offering FIVE free 20-minute virtual* visits to classrooms, libraries, church groups, day-cares or homeschool co-ops. (*Note: Can be in-person if you are local.)

 If you are interested, reach out to me via the contact tab in the About section.

IMPORTANT DETAILS

For each FREE 20-minute virtual visit I will:

  • Briefly introduce myself and describe what it means to be an author. I will also share the inspiration behind the book I will be sharing.
  • Read LOVE IS KIND, LITTLE EWE or DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE with a kindness take-away challenge for each.
  • Use puppets to aid in the storytelling.
  • Have a brief Q&A.

OPTIONAL: If you are interested in a longer virtual visit that includes a presentation of the journey a picture book takes from spark to publication, using early sketches, drafts and more, I also offer longer virtual visits that are fee-based. If a fuller visit interests you, please let me know that. My fees are reasonable and we will make the visit work to fit your budget.

Either way, I respectfully request that you or your school purchase a copy the book you select for your class library. I also request that book orders be made available to families so they can order books from the vendor of their/your choice.  I do not sell my books, but they are readily available through your favorite bookseller. I will provide a signed personally inscribed book plate for each book purchased. 

I look forward to spreading kindness in this special way this fall!  

Visits must be booked by December 1, 2021. Spots will fill quickly, so reach out to me soon via my contact tab in the About section. 

Happy Fall!