AUTHOR VISITS… Puppet Style!

IMG_1044My decision to use puppets at author visits began quite by chance. Since a pair of skunks play an important role in my first book, and figuring that some of my very youngest readers might not be familiar with the species, I thought having a pair of skunk puppets would be an engaging way to introduce the story. Quite honestly, the former teacher (and crowd control freak) in me, also thought skunk puppets might be a friendly way to help young audiences settle down before and during the reading since, as you know, skunks are notorious for making a big stink if they get startled.

Well, the skunks were such a great hit, that when my second book came out, I knew I wanted to pair that story with a book-specific puppet as well. Without too much trouble, thanks to the wonderful puppet designers at Folkmanis, I found the perfect companion — Rooster!

Rooster’s very loud which, quite frankly, is a big problem because Goodnight, Manger is a bedtime story and bedtime is supposed to be quiet. So together, the kids and I decide that we’ll show Rooster what “quiet” looks and sounds like. After we’ve read the story, we see if we can teach him do a quiet cock-a-doodle-doo.  If he learns well, we invite him to join as we sing a lullaby to Baby Jesus. And once again, like those stinky skunks, Rooster, too, has been a big hit.

In fact, these darling puppets have been so popular at author events, I’ve decided that each and every picture book that I write must be paired with at least one puppet. So far I’ve been lucky and have found perfect matches.  Now, with more books in the publication pipeline, I am again in the market for puppets.  Without revealing too much…. I need an adorable mouse, an owl, and if possible, a seal!  Any leads?  =)

Happy author visits, all! And perhaps you, too, will decide to bring a puppet along to your next author visit.

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‘Tis the Season for BOOK EVENTS!

IMG_1044Please join me at one of these upcoming book events. I’d love to see you!  

Saturday November 5, 2016 1 – 4 pm.  Stop in at Farley’s Bookshop in New Hope, PA where I’ll be chatting with customers and signing books.

Tuesday, November 15,  2016 4:30 pm.  Join me for an interactive story time featuring GOODNIGHT, ARK and GOODNIGHT, MANGER at the Fanwood Library. Meet my storytelling companions – Rooster, Stinkie and Pinkie – and enjoy some fun book-themed coloring pages.

Saturday November 26, 2015 10 – noon.  I’ll be reading my books and chatting with customers as part of Small Business Saturday at The Town Book Store in Westfield, NJ.

Saturday December 10 2016 11- 1:30 pm.  Join me for festive readings of GOODNIGHT, ARK and GOODNIGHT, MANGER with puppets, then shop at the Cranford United Methodist Church’s Christmas Shoppe and Soup Festival. Note: The festival is open from 10 – 3pm.

GOOD MORNING, LAKESIDE CHAUTAUQUA: A Christmas Story Time… in August!

fine print lakesideThis week I returned once again to Lakeside Chautauqua for a visit which included a “Goodnight, Manger” author story time.  Hosted by Bev and Joan, the lovely booksellers at the Fine Print Book Store, our Christmas-themed story time took place  this Monday morning at 10:00 am. I hope the pictures below capture the fun we had. Thanks to all for a great time!

Ahead of time, Bev and Joan did a terrific job of promoting the event which took place at Green Gables, the charming Victorian home of the Lakeside Women’s Club.

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The story time began with a cheerful rendition of “Jingle Bells!” with bells and all.  Next, to remind us of the real Christmas story, we enjoyed a lively pageant with children and parents playing the key roles. We even had sheep, a camel, and a cow!
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My basket served as the perfect impromptu manger for Baby Jesus.

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Then it was time to introduce Rooster, read “Goodnight, Manger”, and sing a lullaby to Baby Jesus.

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Afterwards, everyone enjoyed a simple ornament craft and coloring page. I even got to sign a few books!
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 Merry Christmas… in August to all!

A SURPRISE AUTHOR VISIT on the Last Day of First Grade!

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Two weeks ago I received a surprise phone call from one of the first grade teachers at Hillside Avenue School with a special request. Her students had brainstormed special activities to make the end of the school year extra fun.  Their top vote?  Invite a MYSTERY READER to visit on the last day of school.  Would I be willing, this teacher asked, to come and be, not just a MYSTERY READER, but a MYSTERY AUTHOR as well?  Since I LOVE visiting with school kids, I said yes, of course!

Today was the day.  Since the visit was a surprise, I tried to arrive as inconspicuously as possible. Here I am (above) giving the “top secret” signal just outside the main office.

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Then it was time to quietly roll my author-visit cart down to Room 8.  I snapped this picture just before entering the room.  Then… SURPRISE!  (I loved seeing all those wiggly-toothed smiles and could feel the EXCITEMENT in the room.)

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While the children gathered on the rug, I set up my display. Soon it was time for introductions and an enthusiastic discussion about where we – as writers and artists – get our ideas.  They all had such good thoughts!

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Next we all enjoyed an interactive reading of GOODNIGHT, ARK with the help of my skunk puppets!  We paused occasionally to notice things like word choice and page turns and how the illustrations added extra (and often funny) details to the story.  What attentive readers they were!

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Finally, I challenged the first graders to be writers and illustrators over the summer. And here’s the special part. If they write a snazzy story or poem that includes an illustration that includes extra details and, if their parents agree, they may send snap shots of their pieces to me via their teachers and I will post them on my blog!  I can’t wait to see their work.  =)

In the meantime…

HAPPY SUMMER ALL! And don’t forget to weave some reading,  writing… and drawing time into every week!

SUMMERTIME STORY TIMES (with Skunks and Rooster!)

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Looking for something fun to do with the kiddos this summer? How about joining me for one of these summertime story times? Meet my puppet companions who help with the storytelling and enjoy a special craft.

Tuesday July 19, 2016 Join me for a GOODNIGHT, ARK story time and book signing with craft.  Berkeley Heights Public Library, NJ.  10:30 am.

Thursday July 28, 2016 Join me for a GOODNIGHT, ARK story time and book signing with craft.  New Providence Public Library Library, NJ.  10:00 am.

Monday August 1, 2016  Join me for “Christmas in August”!  Sing carols, participate in a reading of GOODNIGHT, MANGER and enjoy a craft or two.  More details TBA.  Lakeside, Ohio.

 

BARNES & NOBLE BOOK FAIR: Thank you, Let’s Play in Italian Preschool and Kindergarten!

IMG_0658I spent a lovely Saturday morning sharing GOODNIGHT, ARK with the cute kids from Let’s Play in Italian, a preschool and kindergarten in Scotch Plains. The story time took place at the Barnes and Noble in Springfield and was part of their book fair.

When I first arrived the children were enjoying a wonderfully animated sing-a-long with Italian-American artist and singer  Michela Musolino.  Using various instruments and props including a shell and an expresso cup, she brought Italian folk lore and music to life.  I enjoyed listening to her sing in Italian with her deep, rich voice while the children echoed back phrases in Italian. IMG_2072

Then it was time for GOODNIGHT, ARK. First, I introduced the book and those stinky skunks!

Then I read the story. “Watch out or this bed will BREAK!”IMG_2106

 

Afterwards there was time to pet the skunks and sign a few books.

When story time was over, the children reconvened for some interactive folk dancing with Michela.

Thank you Barnes and Noble and Let’s Play in Italian for having me. I think we all had a great time!

SCHOOL VISIT: Thank you, Frances C. Smith Center for Early Childhood Education

I LOVED reading GOODNIGHT, ARK to the adorable and attentive three and four year olds at The Frances C. Smith Center for Early Education in Elizabeth, NJ this morning. I was guest author as part of their Barnes and Noble Book Fair. As always, the skunks were a big hit. I was also impressed by what good listeners the children were. Thanks for having me!  

Happy reading, all!

Celebrating World Read Aloud Day 2016 with More SKYPE VISITS!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of Skyping with school children at Loganville Christian Academy in Loganville, GA and Vancouver Christian School in Vancouver, BC. The visits were in celebration of World Read Aloud Day. After introductions and an interactive reading of GOODNIGHT, ARK, there was time for a brief Q&A.  I was impressed by the questions posed by these six through eight year olds. They asked things like:

“What was your favorite picture book when you were a kid?”
“How do you think of ideas for your books?”
“How long does it take to write a book?”
“How do you think of a title for your book?”
“How do you add good details in your writing?”

“What do you want kids to get out of reading your books?”

I loved these questions because they show that these inquisitive young students are aren’t only thinking like readers, they are also thinking like writers! Great job, kids!

Finally, I’d like to extend a special thanks to the librarians at both of these schools for reaching out to me to set up the visits. I would also like to thank children’s author Kate Messner for putting together her World Read Aloud Day author Skype volunteer list for 2016.

If you are a librarian or a teacher interested in having me visit your school, please reach out to me using the “Contact” tab above.

Happy Reading all!

SKYPE VISIT: Thank you, International Christian School Uijongbu!

IMG_2390Monday evening, I spent a delightful 20 minutes Skyping with the K– 5th graders at International Christian School Uijongbu in South Korea.  It was actually Tuesday morning for them and they were bright-eyed and ready to go!  After introducing myself and sharing the inspiration for Goodnight, Ark, I read them the story, pausing occasionally to reflect on how the text and the illustrations work together to tell the story. Afterwards they impressed me with their thoughtful questions. Even though we were separated by a continent and an ocean, it almost felt as if we were in the same room. What a wonderful use of technology!

This event was in celebration of World Read Aloud Day, though we had to schedule it a little early. The official date for World Read Aloud Day is February 24th, 2016. I will be Skyping with two schools that day – one in Georgia and one in Canada. I can’t wait!

To learn more about World Read Aloud Day, press here. If you would like to set up  an author visit with me for your class, please reach out to me using the contact tab above.

Thank you again, teachers and students for a great visit! And a special thanks to my writing friend, Tina Cho, who teaches at the school, for arranging the visit.

Happy reading and writing to all!

FUN MAIL: GOODNIGHT, ARK Sails to South Korea!

IMG_1602IMG_1604I received a neat package in the mail this week from my author friend, Tina Cho, all the way from South Korea!  The package included several fun things.  First, she sent me a copy of the debut issue of a Korean children’s devotional magazine, I Love Jesus.  The magazine is colorful and engaging and includes daily devotionals for grades 1 – 3 for the entire month of January.  And guess what it also includes?  A review of GOODNIGHT, ARK written by Tina!  The review is short and sweet and the entire issue is is delightful. Even though she’s eleven, my daughter wants to do the devotionals with me – so we’ll be doing them starting February 1. Thanks, Tina!

IMG_1605In addition to reviewing GOODNIGHT ARK, Tina used it in her class. Her students read and discussed the story.  Then they wrote me letters, which she included in the package! (We are planning to Skype so I can answer their questions “live”.)

 

 

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After reading the story and having the children write me delightful letters, Tina also incorporated the “It’s Raining Rhymes” extension activity from my blog into her lesson. It looks like they enjoyed it!

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Thank you, Tina, for sharing GOODNIGHT, ARK with your students.  For more ideas for how to use GOODNIGHT, ARK in the class room or at home press here.  For details regarding how to set up a free 20 minute Skype session press here.  Happy reading all!