FAITH PONDERINGS: Why Author DIANE STORTZ Writes Devotionals (and TWO giveaways!)

When I was homeschooling my sweet Miss A, we were blessed to stumble upon Diane’s I AM: 40 REASONS TO TRUST GOD (Thomas Nelson, 2016) at our local Hobby Lobby. Drawn by the cover, we added it to our cart and for the next forty school days, we began each morning by making ourselves mama/daughter tea, then reading one thought-provoking entry, delving into our bibles to check out each scripture verse she mentioned. And now I’m delighted to learn that the author, Diane Stortz, has two new devotionals out. Better yet, she’s agreed to be my guest blogger today sharing her thoughts on what inspires her to write faith-based devotionals for kids and families. Thank you so much for stopping by, Diane. Now, without further ado, here’s Diane!

THE INSPIRATION BEHIND MY DEVOTIONALS

by Diane Stortz

My five young grandchildren—all boys—live in two different states, Ohio and Georgia. Whenever they’re together, only a time or two each year, we make sure to get at least one group photo with all five. It’s fun to track their growth this way, and I love sharing the pics with other family and friends, especially those who live far away in the Pacific Northwest.

We all love sharing what’s important to us with the important people in our lives, right? We all love sharing good news. We introduce a new friend to our long-time friends because we know they’ll hit it off.

For all these reasons and more, I write devotional books.

How It Began

Nearly 20 years ago, an acquaintance invited me to a women’s group meeting in her home. The idea was to read through the Bible together in a year. The focus was simple: “Let’s get to know God.” Every Monday night we gathered to talk about what we had read the previous week. 

We enjoyed doing this so much, we did it again the next year, and the next. Others joined us.

As we read, as we discussed our questions and our insights, we began to discover what God is like—who He is and what He does. Our lives changed as we began to understand how much He loves us and that we can depend on Him.

Getting to Know God

When I write, my focus is on helping readers get to know God better, just like the focus of those women’s groups. I love walking readers through the Bible’s big story from beginning to end in age-appropriate ways. 

I AM: 40 Reasons to Trust God introduces readers to 40 different Bible stories and names of God found in the Bible, names like God All-Powerful, The Lord My Light, and Bread of Life. Each of the Bible’s names and descriptive titles for God tells us something important and meaningful about His character. 

Stop-and-Go Devotional: 52 Devotions for Busy Families takes readers through some of the Bible’s familiar events, with simple explanations, conversation starters, prayers, and activities for families on the go. (Tip: Use the material in each devotion over the course of one week. This book is truly designed to be used as you go through your busy week.)

Someone has said, “The Bible is the only book whose Author is always present as you read.” My prayer is always that my books will help readers discover the Bible and get to know the Author better on every page.

Diane Stortz is a multipublished author who writes to make God’s wonders known to the next generation. Her newest releases are Stop-and-Go Devotions: 52 Devotions for Busy Parents and God’s Words to Dream On, both from Tommy Nelson. Diane and her husband have two married daughters and five young grandchildren—all boys! Learn more at http://www.DianeStortz.com.

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAYS!!!

Diane has kindly offered two book bundles containing one copy of her STOP AND GO DEVOTIONAL and one copy of I AM: 40 REASONS TO TRUST GOD for me to giveaway to two lucky winners. If you’d like a chance to win one of these book bundles, let me know in a comment below. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident with a street address (as opposed to a P.O. Box and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Tuesday, 6/25/19 at 12:01 am EST. The winner will be announced the next day!

Happy Book Birthday! GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME: An Interview with Author Amy Houts and a GIVEAWAY!

Join me in welcoming talented picture book author, Amy Houts, whose brand new picture book, GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME (Beaming Books), debuts TODAY! This charming faith-based story is a soothing read, and a great conversation starter with little ones about God’s protective care. With sparse text and clever rhymes, it’s a delight. I can’t wait to share it with my Sunday School kids! And now for the interview with my questions in bold

1.Thanks so much for joining us today, Amy, and congratulations your newest faith-based picture book. Is it true that this is your 70th published book! Tell us a little bit about yourself and your prolific journey into the world of children’s book writing.

Thank you, Laura, for having me. Yes, it’s true that I have over authored over 70 children’s books. Most of them were written on assignment for educational publishers. They often ask for a series of books on a specific topic or featuring a specific character. For example, I wrote four books about pets (dog, cat, rabbit, and goldfish) for a South Korean publisher, Compass Publishing. I was asked to write five books featuring the cartoon character, Dora the Explorer. So, it adds up! Plus, I’ve been writing for many years beginning when I was at home with my baby girl, Emily. Now Emily is a busy mother of three young children.While I love writing on assignment, a book based on my own, original idea, such as God’s Protection Covers Me, means so much.  

2. GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME charmingly depicts God’s constant care over, not just children, but all creation. What inspired you to write GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME using animal homes as your concrete visual?

I was inspired to write this book because of the concern I feel as a mother and grandmother. I’m a worrier! But I longed to feel calmer. Looking to God for strength, knowing that He protects us, heart and soul and spirit, gave me comfort. Often, writing helps me work through my feelings. The comparison of an umbrella keeping the rain off and a roof overhead seemed to me to be the perfect symbol to explain to a child (and to myself) how God’s protection works. The text is soothing and reassuring. 

This excerpt is from God’s Protection Covers Me by Amy Houts, illustrated by David Creighton-Pester, published by Beaming Books, used by permission.

3. David Creighton-Pester’s illustrations are delightfully concrete and colorful to match your simple, yet comforting, text. Can you tell us a little bit about him? What was it like seeing your text come to full color with illustrations?  Do you have a favorite spread?

David Creighton-Pester is an illustrator and graphic designer from Hamilton, New Zealand, where he lives with his wife and two young children. His website https://wanderingbert.com/ states that his interest in art started early: “Inspired as a child by picture books, animation, and all things arty, David spent endless hours drawing crazy characters and coming up with silly stories.”

I’m overjoyed that my editor at Beaming Books paired my text with David’s artwork. The first time I saw the cover and interior spread, I couldn’t help smiling. David gave life to my words. His child-like style and vibrant colors welcome the reader in.  

My favorite spread shows mother and son under the umbrella—nearly home as rain pours down—while the dog and a mouse watch from their protective covering. The rhythm and rhyme of the text is how I began writing the book: “Like a roof protects a house or a crawl space for a mouse…”

4. Besides reading wonderful picture books such as this, what advice would you give parents and caregivers who want to share their faith with their kids? 

Start with something kids know or are familiar with (like an umbrella) and move to something unfamiliar or harder to explain (like God’s protection). Similies and comparisons help to illustrate a concept. Focus on a feeling, like peace, comfort, or safety, and how that relates to something physical like drinking hot cocoa, being wrapped in a blanket, or watching the rain out the window. 

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

I’m always working on picture book manuscripts in all stages of development from a few lines, to a first draft, to polishing, to submission. Upcoming in 2020, four books written on assignment for educational publisher, Rubicon/Pearson, will be released. You can also read and act out my Bible fingerplays in each 2019 issue of Children’s Ministry Magazine. My books are sold through amazon.comchristianbook.combarnesandnoble.com, and more. Visit my website http://amyhouts.com to find out more about my work. 

Thank you so much for stopping by and for writing this delightful book! (And readers, don’t forget to enter the giveaway below.)

Photo by Bob Delsol

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amy Houts is an award-winning author of over 70 children’s books, cookbooks, and board games that feature family themes of love and friendship, holiday celebrations, and early learning concepts. Her books include The Giant Book of Bible Fingerplays for Preschoolers(Group Publishing), which features 101 fingerplays, Bible stories, and Scripture verses. It’s a joy for Amy to share Bible truths and God’s love with young children through her writing. Amy and her husband, Steve, live in rural Northwest Missouri,an hour from Steve’s family farm. They are the parents of two grown daughters and three grandchildren.

Twitter: @AmyHouts Instagram: @AmyHouts

And now for the giveaway! (Thank you, Amy!) 

If you’d like a chance to win a FREE  copy of GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME written by Amy Houts and illustrated by David Creighton-Pester, let me know in a comment below. (NOTE: Must have U.S. address and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Tuesday 5/28/19 at 12:01 am EST. The winner will be announced that day! THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER. TO SEE WHO WON PRESS HERE.

Facebook: Author Amy Houts

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Five Fun Facts with about TEN CLEVER NINJAS with Sarah Floyd (Plus a Giveaway!)

Today I am delighted to be hosting children’s author Sarah Floyd as we celebrate the release of her newest picture book TEN CLEVER NINJAS, published by Clear Fork Publishing. Here’s the publisher’s description: “A very clever ninja and his nine ninja buddies spar across the countryside, build a secret hideout, and solve a sweet cupcake clue. Ki-ya! The upbeat rhythm and lively illustrations will appeal to children ages 2-6.” Sounds, adorable, right? Now, without further fuss, here are FIVE FUN FACTS about the book from the author herself.  Take it away, Sarah! 

Five Fun Facts about Ten Clever Ninjas 

by 

Sarah Floyd

1. The ninjas theme developed from my son’s passion for all things ninja.

When my son was little, he loved to dress up as a ninja—he was a ninja for three Halloweens in a row! When friends came over to play, we’d pull out the dress-up box, and other than a short Star Wars phase, ninjas always won! So, when the idea of a rhyming counting book began percolating, “ninjas” was a natural theme.    

2. The illustrator for Ten Clever Ninjas is a doctor! 

Marcin Bruchnalski practiced medicine for two years before deciding to enroll in the Academy of Fine Arts, where he devoted himself to becoming an artist instead. It’s easy to understand why his characters move in such a lifelike manner, and with such natural expressions—Marcin is both a doctor and an artist! 

3. One of the ninjas uses a wheelchair. 

Ninja #8, who rolls to the rescue in his wheelchair, was inspired by a childhood friend. He liked to be in the middle of the action and never let his wheelchair stop him from doing the things he loved. 

4. “Ki-ya” and similar sounds are part of martial arts. 

Martial artists make a loud sound called a “kihap,” defined as a spirited shout, which helps focus their energy when sparring or practicing powerful moves. That sound comes out as “ki-ya!” which is seen as a bubble of text in art in several illustrations in the book.   

5. Ten Clever Ninjas has a foundation in my own childhood.

My friends and I rambled around the woods of California, much like the ten ninjas in the story, climbing trees, building forts, and gathering new friends along the way. Our parents trusted us to be careful, smart (clever!), and come home in time for dinner (or cupcakes!).   

Thank you, Laura, for inviting me and my ten ninjas to your blog! Ki-ya!! : ) 

It has been my pleasure, Sarah! =)

Author Bio: Sarah Floyd was born in Carmel Highlands, California, where she and her friends explored, climbed trees, and built forts in the woods that surrounded their homes—much like the characters in Ten Clever Ninjas. When she was in first grade her family moved to San Francisco, and then to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She always brought her favorite books, wherever she moved, and she always found new friends who loved to read. Now she writes books for children and teens—for her, it’s the best job in the world!

Sarah is also the author of Butterfly Girl and is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She lives in Florida with her husband and teenage son, a green belt in Taekwondo. To learn more, please visit sarahfloydbooks.com

And now for the giveaway! (Thank you, Sarah!)

If you’d like a chance to win a FREE  copy of TEN CLEVER NINJAS written by Sarah Floyd and illustrated by Marcin Bruchnalski, let me know in a comment below. (NOTE: Must have U.S. address and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Friday 5/3/19 at 12:01 am EST. The winner will be announced that day!

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: The Inspiration Behind DADDY, CAN YOU SEE THE MOON? by Gayle Krause

Join me in welcoming fellow rhymer and picture book author, Gayle Krause, whose brand new picture book, DADDY, CAN YOU SEE THE MOON (Clear Fork Publishing), debuts this month! Gayle is the author of several books and a talented poet. She and I met as critique partners years ago in the critique group, The Poets’ Garage. Today, I am honored to have her as my guest sharing the inspiration behind her newest book. Thank you, Gayle!

The Inspiration behind DADDY, CAN YOU SEE THE MOON by Gayle Krause

Some people say children inspire them, some say it’s a feeling, or a dream. For this special picture book, I can’t explain how it came to be. My stories are usually filled with fantastic creatures, magic, or some silly, humorous happening. But not this one! This picture book is serious, and for me that’s a complete 180.

As former Early Childhood Educator, I taught Children’s Literature to prospective teachers as part of their training program for over thirty years. I also directed a Laboratory Pre-K, affiliated with my teaching course. It was there, as I sat on the floor of the nursery school, reading countless picture books to the preschoolers, or acting out fairytales as creative dramatic presentations that I became uniquely attuned to the young child’s mind.

DADDY, CAN YOU SEE THE MOON? was a combination of the memory of one little boy that was having a difficult time accepting the time frame of his dad’s separation from the family (preschoolers do not understand the concept of time) and the military family reunions shown on the news each night when soldiers come home to surprise their children at school, baseball games, or parades.

I will say this. The idea for Daddy, Can You See The Moon? came all at once— the story, the rhyme, and the emotion. Good stories always come fast. Straight from the heart, with no pre-judging or revising before you choose the words. And this story is timeless…

Soldiers will always be deployed and children will always be waiting patiently, counting the days when their Mom or Dad returns from war. But sometimes they don’t come home the same way they left. In Daddy, Can You See the Moon? a young boy and his soldier dad share special moments by looking at the moon each night. But when Dad comes home wounded, his son discovers it’s the power of love that kept them connected all along, and he plays a major part in his father’s recovery. 

We chose April 9, 2019 as the release date to celebrate The Month of The Military Child. So if you know a soldier, who was deployed and came back wounded, this book may help the family heal. And for those of you who aren’t in the military, it’s a universal story about the love of family. 

Thank you, Gayle! I wish you the very best as you launch this very special book.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gayle C. Krause is a member of SCBWI, and a past member of the Historical Novel Society and the Poet’s Garage. She’s served on the Rhyming Revolution Selection Committee, choosing the “best” rhyming picture book for 2015-2018. A Master educator, she’s taught Children’s Literature to prospective teachers at the secondary and post-secondary levels. Ms. Krause writes fantasy, contemporary, and historical fiction for Young Adult, Middle Grade, and young children. She’s been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul series, Scholastic Book Clubs, and in various Young Adult Anthologies. Her previous work, RATGIRL: Song of the Viper was a 2013 nominee for the Boston Globe/Horn Book and International Reading Awards. Follow Gayle’s writing journey at http://www.gayleckrause.comhttp://www.gayleckrause.com on Facebook and Twitter @GeeCeeK. New books coming in 2019. Daddy, Can You See the Moon? – April, 9, 2019 – #PB #woundedwarriors #military. Once Upon a Twisted Tale, a MG Fractured Fairytale Poetry Collection, Quest of the Ungnome. Clearfork/Spork Publishing.

YOU ARE YOUR STRONG: A JOINT Author and Illustrator Interview with Danielle Dufayet and Jennifer Zivoin

Published by Magination Press, Books for Kids from The American Psychological Association.

Today I am delighted to be doing a joint interview with picture book author Danielle Dufayet and illustrator Jennifer Zivoin.  YOU ARE YOUR STRONG (Magination Press, 2019) is Danielle’s debut work.  Jennifer has illustrated many books, but this is their first collaboration.  Thanks so much for joining us today.

From the Front Flap: “YOU ARE YOUR STRONG is an empowering exploration of children’s emotions that will develop self-awareness, peace and calm. With diverse characters and scenes featuring a range of different family relationships…the book shows kids that they will have help along the way to being strong and in control.”

Now for the interview with my questions bolded.

Laura: Please tell us a little bit about yourselves and your journey into the world of children’s book writing/illustrating.

Danielle: I was not a reader as a child –too busy running outside and climbing trees! I wasn’t read to either – just wasn’t a tradition in our household, but before you feel sorry for me…I am now a published children’s book author!! I always loved writing, however, even as I child. I’d write poems to express my feelings and observations. When I graduated high school I told myself I wanted to be a children’s book author. I read an awesome picture book by Lilian Moore (Little Raccoon and the thing in the Pool). I was blown away by its simplicity and deep message – all executed in the sweetest, most entertaining way! I thought, I’m going to do that too!

Jennifer: I have always been attracted to visual storytelling, and originally thought that I wanted to pursue animation.  However, illustration turned out to be the perfect fit for me.  I love being able to conceptualize and then bring to life the entire visual world of each book, from the character designs to the settings to the lighting in each piece.  I began illustrating children’s books in 2006 when I was chosen as the artist for the “Pirate School” books by Brian James. A few years later I signed with my agent Mela at MB Artists, and have been illustrating books and children’s projects ever since.

Laura: So interesting, Danielle, that you weren’t a reader, but clearly always a keen observer and participant in all the wonders of the world – climbing trees etc. That is so key to writing! And, wow, Jennifer, what a great journey into the field and I’m also particularly grateful to have had one of my magazine pieces illustrated by you! 

Danielle, can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind this book?

Danielle: The inspiration behind this book was: Life (going through a difficult situation where I was feeling mad, sad, scared and worried all at once.) and Art: I saw the movie, Room, in which a 5 year old boy (played by Jacob Tremblay) tells his mom his (long) hair is his strong. Later, he cuts it off to give to his mom who’s had a nervous breakdown. It made me ask myself: what is my strong? Turns out, I am my strong –we all are our own strong! And sharing strong is good! 


Laura:  And such a good message it is! 

Jennifer, you have illustrated over 30 picture books. What drew you to  Danielle’s YOU ARE YOUR STRONG?

Jennifer: The editors at Magination Press selected me as the illustrator for “You Are Your Strong,” and when I received the manuscript, I loved the way that the text made me feel.  The words were empowering and poetic.  Since the text focused heavily on emotions, there was tremendous freedom for me to explore how I wanted to create characters and environments.

Laura:  And you did an amazing job!  One of the most striking aspects of your illustrations, in addition to your wonderfully charming and diverse depiction of children, is your sweeping use of color to capture each emotion.  Tell us about this choice. How did you choose your colors?

Jennifer: First, I chose a color palette for the whole book.  Then from that palette I selected only about 4 colors for each page – a main color representing the emotion, an accent color to make the character stand out, and usually two other colors that blended nicely with my other choices.  For example, pages about sadness were filled with shades of blue while pages about anger were bright red.  Then, I used light and the color strokes to define the atmosphere, movement and energy of each page.   For pages in which the emotion is directed externally towards another person or the environment, the lighting and movement were bold and energetic.  For emotions that were directed inwardly and were more contemplative, the scenes were softer.  

Laura: This is so interesting and I’m delighted that the publisher has permitted us to share one of your interiors so readers can get an idea of what we are talking about. In this illustration you use red to depict anger. 

Published by Magination Press, Books for Kids from The American Psychological Association.

Laura:  Danielle, teachers and parents are always looking for ways to tie picture books into the curriculum or extend the enjoyment with post-reading activities. Do you have any extension activities your readers might enjoy?

Danielle: I have a handout that kids can fill in as to what their strong is. It asks: what are the things that bring out the happy, calm, brave and gentle already in you? The key word is already. I want kids to know they already have everything they need inside of them!

Laura: Sounds great! And I would also add that your book also includes wonderful “Note to Parents and Caregivers” by Julia Martin Burch, PhD which includes thoughtful tips and suggestions for helping children handle strong emotions.

Finally, for both of you, what’s next? Are there more picture books and projects in the pipeline?  Also, where can interested readers find your books?

Danielle: I have a couple of manuscripts out on submission and I’m working on a funnier picture book right now about impulse control, friendship and the love of picture books! 

Jennifer: I am currently creating the artwork another of Danielle’s titles through Magination Press, which readers can look forward to in the next year!  In addition to this forthcoming publication, I am keeping busy illustrating several other book projects.  I am also excited to have finished a dummy for my first authored/illustrated picture book, which I hope to see on bookstore shelves someday.

Thank you BOTH so much for stopping by today and I wish you the greatest success with this new book.  Learn more about Danielle and Jennifer below.

Danielle Dufayet, born in Yonkers, New York, now lives in sunny San Jose, California, where she writes children’s books and paints. She also teaches English and Public Speaking (Self-Empowerment) to grades K-12. Danielle read her first picture book (Little Raccoon and the Thing in the Pool) when she was 18 whereupon she was blown away by its simplicity, timelessness and transformative power. That’s when she knew it was her calling. Thirty-five years and a Master’s Degree later, she finally made her dream come true and she’ll have TWO books out in 2019 – one about inner strength and managing big emotions, called You Are Your Strong and the other, Fantastic You!,  about self-love/compassion.

Website: https://www.danielledufayetbooks.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/danielledufayet

Twitter: https://twitter.com/danielledufayet

Art Website: https://www.danielledufayet.com

Jennifer Zivoin has always loved art and storytelling, so becoming an illustrator was a natural career path. She has been trained in media ranging from figure drawing to virtual reality, and earned her bachelor of arts degree with highest distinction from the honors division of Indiana University.  During her professional career, Jennifer worked as a graphic designer and then as a creative director before finding her artistic niche illustrating children’s books.  When she is not creating art in her studio, her favorite hobbies include drinking cocoa while reading a good book, swimming on hot summer days, and spending time outside with her family.

Jennifer lives in Carmel, Indiana. 

Visit her at http://www.JZArtworks.com

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Five Fun Facts about LITTLE TIGER and LITTLE PANDA with Debut Author Julie Abery

Today I am delighted to be hosting children’s author Julie Abery as we celebrate the release of her darling debut board books LITTLE TIGER and LITTLE PANDA published by amicus ink. Congratulations, Julie!  Now, without further fuss, here are FIVE FUN FACTS about the books from the author herself.  Take it away, Julie! 

Five Fun facts about Little Tiger and Little Panda

by Julie Abery

1. Little Tiger won a contest.

Little Tiger started out as an idea for a book about a paper tiger. I had enrolled in Susanna Hill’s Making Picture Books Happen course and had just finished writing a story about an origami owl entitled Paper Owl. Paper Tiger was my next idea. I had spent time at the library researching tigers and wrote a list of tiger-ish words in my notebook, and soon after I spotted Vivian Kirkfield’s 50 Precious Words contest in March 2016. I flicked through my notebook looking for inspiration…and Little Tiger was born. I was overjoyed, astonished and very humbled to be awarded first prize!

2. Little Tiger sold 15 months after it was first written.

In April 2017, my agent, the fabulous Essie White of Storm Literary Agency, received an email from the acquiring editor at amicus ink in the U.S., expressing interest in Little Tiger and Little Panda to publish as board books. Essie asked my thoughts…I don’t think I waited many minutes before responding YES!

3. Where did the idea for Little Panda come from?

Little Panda was written following an editor’s feedback on Little Tiger. She thought that it might be possible to write other ‘little’ books. Plus, of course, Little Tiger didn’t want to be an only book, he wanted to be part of a series!

4. There are two active verbs in every stanza.

Just like human little ones, Little Tiger and Little Panda are all about action. The rhyming stanzas follow the young animals as they venture out on their own and get into a little trouble, but luckily mama is never too far behind. 

5. Little Tiger and Little Panda will soon be joined by others in the LITTLE ANIMAL FRIENDS series.

Who will they be? Little Tiger and Little Panda cannot wait to introduce you. Coming Spring, 2020 from amicus ink.

Thanks for having me, Laura!

Thank YOU, Julie! I’m excited that there will be more little animal friends in this charming series. I wish you the very best and enjoy the journey!

BIO:

Julie Abery is a children’s author and Pre-K teacher. Originally from England, she has spent half her life living in Europe, bringing up her three (now grown up) children and experiencing new languages and cultures. She now calls Switzerland home.

Julie taught Pre-K for many years at international schools. Through those years, picture books were her friends and allies bringing rhyme, rhythm and repetition to the ears of her young students. It is the magic that picture books create for children that inspires her to write.

Website: https://littleredstoryshed.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @juliedawnabery

Facebook: @julieabery

Good News! IT’S EASTER!: Five Ways to Engage Little Ones and a GIVEAWAY!

Spring is in the air! And just as the last little piles of snow on my front lawn are melting, look what has arrived on my porch! It’s Glenys Nellist’s newest board book. Published by Discovery House and illustrated by Lizzie Walkley, Good News! IT’S EASTER is an upbeat rhyming introduction to the real meaning of Easter. And today, the author herself, has agreed to share five lovely ways to engage little ones as you read Good News! IT’S EASTER with them. (And in the EXTRA exciting department, Glenys has also offered to give one SIGNED copy of her new board book to one lucky reader! Find out how to enter at the end of the post.) Now, without further ado, here’s Glenys. Enjoy!

FIVE WAYS TO ENGAGE LITTLE ONES WITH GOOD NEWS! IT’S EASTER! by Glenys Nellist

1. Before reading the story, look at the cover together and let your child find and trace the path (featured on every page.)


2. As you begin reading, notice that every page of this book has a picture clue that you can use to invite your child to guess who, or what, will be found when they turn the page over.


3. When you reach the last two pages of the book ask your child to look at the end of the path and ask them what’s changed from the picture on the cover.


4. After reading the story, go on a “good news” hunt in your neighborhood looking for tulips, bunnies, buds, and other signs of spring and new life.


5. Bring the message of the book to life by planting seeds together, enjoy your own Butterfly Kit or take a trip to a butterfly sanctuary or nature reserve where you can observe tadpoles and baby animals. 

Thank you, Glenys, for sharing these ideas for sparking conversation using your lovely new book. To learn more about Glenys and her books visit her website or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

NOW for the GIVEAWAY!!! (Thank you, Glenys!) 

If you’d like a chance to win a FREE  copy of GOOD NEWS! IT’S EASTER written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Lizzie Walkley, let me know in a comment below. (NOTE: Must have U.S. address and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Friday 3/22/19 at 12:01 am EST. The winner will be announced that day!   THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER. Winner announced HERE.

Meet Laura Sassi: Cardinal Rule Press Author Interview Series

Yesterday I participated in my first Facebook LIVE Interview. Hosted by the delightful Maria Dismondy of Cardinal Rule Press, our 10 minute chat was part of their Winter Author Interview Series. Here’s their pitch for the series:

Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a children’s author? Or maybe you are interested in hearing how award-winning authors got their start?

CEO of the publishing company, Cardinal Rule Press, Maria Dismondy,is hosting an interview series this winter with children’s book authors. Find out the inside scoop on how their journey began and hear about a day in the life of an author! We hope aspiring writers, classrooms and other fans nationwide will enjoy this exciting series!

I LOVE the mission of this series and thoroughly enjoyed being interviewed. You can check out their list of upcoming interviews here. Maria also hosted a Fall series and those interviews can be the Cardinal Rule Press blog.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Five Fun Facts about HOW COULD A BEAR SLEEP HERE? with Julie Gonzalez (plus a GIVEAWAY!)

Today I am delighted to be hosting debut picture book author Julie Gonzalez as we celebrate the release of her darling first book HOW COULD A BEAR SLEEP HERE? (Holiday House, 2018). I met Julie at an NJSCBWI Conference a few years ago and I’m so excited to see her first book come out.  Congratulations, Julie!  Now, without further fuss, here are FIVE FUN FACTS about the book from the author herself.  Take it away, Julie! 

 Five Fun Facts about HOW COULD A BEAR SLEEP HERE?

by Julie Gonzalez

Fun Fact #1:  My mom named the bear.

In early drafts I called the bear PJ because I pictured him wearing pajamas. Then a friend suggested I give him a more naturalistic bear name. I couldn’t think of one, so I turned to my mom. She’s terrific at brainstorming names. “Shelby” was her idea, and I loved it!

Fun Fact #2: Lack of sleep and a real live bear inspired the story.

At the time I wrote BEAR, I was a very tired mama in need of some quality, unbroken sleep. The refrain in the story expresses the exhaustion I felt, and other worn-out parents will relate. But the story was also inspired by this enormous bear that used to wander through my yard:

Isn’t he GORGEOUS? I call him Shelby, of course!

Fun Fact #3: The title was originally HIBERCATION, a combination of hibernation + vacation.

In fact, that’s the title on the contract!

My editor suggested the change to its present title, HOW COULD A BEAR SLEEP HERE?, which is the refrain in the story. By the time she acquired it, the plot had changed so much that the original title wasn’t as appropriate. 

Fun Fact #4: I really, really, really, really, really didn’t want to write a bear hibernation story. 

Too many of them exist. It won’t sell, I reasoned. Then every time I sat down to write, I closed my eyes and saw Shelby. He wouldn’t take no for an answer! Thank you, Shelby, for being so persistent! 

Fun Fact #5: Conferences helped shape and sell the manuscript.

I started writing the manuscript in a 2013 picture book workshop led by Brett Duquette during the Hudson Valley Children’s Writers first summer conference. I was brave enough to read my work aloud, and the positive feedback I received gave me the push I needed to pursue the idea.

Then, once I had a full draft, I attended an SCBWI Eastern PA event called Critique Fest, where I received valuable criticism and suggestions from editors, agents, and peers. 

Finally, after much revision, I was accepted to the Rutgers One-on-One. I sent my manuscript to 11 editors on the list of Rutgers mentors and heard back from my editor at Holiday House, Kelly Loughman, eight months later. The whole process from concept to publication took about five years. Publication is rarely quick or easy!

Thank you for inviting me to share, Laura. Your website is fun and full of so much valuable information. It’s my pleasure to be a small part of it!

Thank you, Julie for stopping by.  And kind readers, don’t forget to check out the giveaway (after bio)!  

Bio (from the Kidlit Authors Club website)

JULIE GONZALEZ is a former teacher and the author of the picture book How Could a BEAR Sleep Here? (Holiday House, 2018). She enjoys working with younger students, using humor and heart to encourage curiosity, imagination, and empathy. Born in Maine, raised in New Jersey, and currently living in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, she runs, hikes, and interacts with the wildlife in her wooded backyard, an area which provides constant inspiration for her stories. 

*And just to give you a bit more: I’ve taught third-grade, kindergarten, and preschool. During my preschool years, I held three story times a day, and this experience influenced my first picture book, which is a very lively read-aloud loaded with onomatopoeia.  

Be sure to check out Julie’s website  www.juliegonzalez.com

She also has an educational guide for parents and teachers: https://juliegonzalez.com/for-teachers-and-parents

NOW for the GIVEAWAY!!! (Thank you, Julie!) 

If you’d like a chance to win a FREE  copy of HOW COULD A BEAR SLEEP HERE written by Julie Gonzalez and illustrated by Stephanie Laberis, let me know in a comment below. (NOTE: Must have U.S. address and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Friday 12/14/18 at 12:01 am EST. The winner will be announced that day!  

The GIVEAWAY is now over and the winner is…. Heather!  I will be in touch today so we can get the book to you.  Thank you to ALL who entered and THANK YOU, Julie, for providing the winning copy!

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: A CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY Interview with Debut Author Tara Knudson!

Today, in celebration of the release of her debut board book CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY  (Zonderkidz, 2018) I am delighted to be interviewing author Tara Knudson.  This adorable cookie-themed book will have you in the spirit of the holidays in no time! Thank you so much for joining us, Tara. Let’s get started.

First off, congratulations! CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY has been out for just over six weeks. How has the launch been?

Thank, you Laura. I’m so happy to be featured on your blog! I can’t believe that CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY has been out for six weeks already. The launch has been exciting! I have loved reading my first book to young children and seeing their joy when I turn the pages. What a special experience!

As the countdown to Christmas begins, I am busy scheduling readings of CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY at schools, libraries, bookstores, and holiday events. It’s such a festive and magical time, and I’m so happy my book can be part of it all.

I have to agree that there is something extra special about having holiday-themed book during this festive season. It sounds like you are enjoying every moment of it.

Have you always been a writer/rhymer? Tell us a little bit about your writerly journey.

It has been a long journey! My Creative Writing folder from second grade is one of my prized possessions. Reading my first stories makes me laugh. Growing up, they were always special to me, but I did not know yet that I wanted to be a writer. 

I started writing poetry when I was in high school. As I dealt with the problems and frustrations that adolescence can bring, I often wrote poems to express my feelings. 

After college, I became a Spanish teacher and I often used children’s picture books in the classroom. I would spend hours at bookstores searching for favorite ones. It was during that time that I fell in love with picture books and decided that I wanted to write them.

In pursuit of my goal, I won a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship that allowed me to take a break from teaching and live in Barcelona, Spain for a year and experiment with writing for children. I wrote many poems and rhyming stories for children. I continued to write after my return to the U.S. As years passed, I sold articles and poems to children’s magazines and continued to work on my picture book manuscripts as I took care of my two sons. Then, I signed with an agent who helped me sell my first book.

Such a long journey, but your passion for writing and persistence shine through.

 What inspired you to write CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY?

When my youngest son was in preschool, one of the kids in his class had an egg allergy. I baked egg-free sugar cookies that all the children could enjoy and used cookie cutters to make festive shapes to celebrate different holidays throughout the year. One day, when I was on a walk, the story came out in my head. I rushed home and typed the first draft on the computer. I had a good feeling about it!

While the recipe that is included with the book is not egg-free, I hope people with allergies can tailor the recipe to meet their needs.

That’s how ideas come to me too.  That’s why I always try to have my phone or a small notebook handy. I’m glad you rushed home and wrote it down!

The illustrations really add to the cozy cookie baking feel of your rhyming text. Tell us a little bit about the artist.  Do you have a favorite spread? What makes it your favorite?

The illustrations really are cozy! Pauline Siewert created them. She lives in England and she has illustrated many children’s books. She does beautiful work! 

My favorite spread is the one where the bears are mixing the dough and using the cookie cutters. They are sweet scenes of a mother baking with her child. I love the flour on the bear’s face and also the mouse on the cookie cutter. I did not notice the mouse until after I read the book a couple of times. When I read to children, I tell them to look and see what the mouse is doing in the story. He tells a story of his own and he is very funny. Everyone enjoys him!

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

My next children’s book, EASTER EGG DAY, will be published by Zonderkidz in February, 2020. I’m very excited! Once the holidays are over, I plan to finish other writing projects that I have started.

Interested readers can buy CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY at independent booksellers as well as online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, Walmart, Zondervan, and others. Whether they read the book in a library or purchase a copy of their own, I hope CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY inspires readers to make cookies or bake together this season and build beautiful family traditions.

How exciting that you have another book in the pipeline… and I hope many more beyond that!   Thanks so much for stopping by today. And now, just for fun, please comment with the name of your favorite holiday cookie.  =)

Tara Knudson is a former teacher who has been writing poetry and stories since she was a young girl growing up in Chicago. Her published work can be found in children’s magazines, greeting cards, calendars, and a poetry anthology for teens. Christmas Cookie Day is Tara’s first picture book.