Appearances, Christmas, Story Time

HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD Book Launch Party Craft:  Make a Mouse!

Are you ready for the HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD Virtual Book Launch Party? I am and so is my storytelling companion, Mouse. That’s why we’re reminding you to join us on Instagram Live on Thursday, December 1st at 7pm Eastern (that’s TOMORROW!) to celebrate the release of HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD. 

Here’s the invitation:

And, now, as I promised, here is the craft!

Inspired by illustrator Gabi Murphy’s darling little mice, our party craft will be making your own mouse. These are some we made in Sunday School. Aren’t they darling? (I will introduce the craft at the party, and you can make it after the party.)

To make one, each child will need:

  • One circle cut from gray construction paper
  • Two circles cut from pink construction paper
  • One circle cut from black construction paper
  • Strips of black and gray construction paper for whiskers and tail
  • OPTIONAL:  two googley eyes
  • You will also need scissors and glue.

Here is the tutorial for the craft from The Little Crafties (and be sure to check out their YouTube channel for oodles of other great crafts:

As a closing reminder, this is the adorable craft that I’ll be presenting at the HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD Book Launch Party which will take place LIVE on my Instagram Page on Thursday, December 1st at 7pm eastern.  Here’s the link to that page: https://www.instagram.com/laurasassitales/. Just show up!  It’s that easy. And if you follow me there, you’ll be sure to get all the updates for this and other bookish things.  

Hope to see you soon!

Christmas, faith, Inspiration

SISTER MICHELLE and THE CANDLE: A Special Christmas COUNTING Memory

 

If you have followed my writing journey at all, you know that most of my books have in some way been inspired by my childhood or my children’s childhoods. My newest book, HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD, is no exception. Indeed, as I was writing it, all sorts of memories became sparks — including one that I’d like to share today.

In the fall of 1977 eight-year-old me moved with my family from Minnesota to Paris, France where everything was new and different including…school! The school my parents chose was called Marymount International School of Paris. It was a special place. For starters, it was within walking distance from our apartment which meant good exercise for us all. Second, the children who attended were from around the world and I quickly made friends from all over including Norway, Sweden, Pakistan and Scotland.

Here are two pictures from the time. The first shows me and my sister standing outside our apartment, ready for the first day of school. (I’m the taller one.) The second picture was also taken that school year and shows us with our Norwegian friend tromping to Marymount through the snow.

The third special thing about the school was that it had nuns! I had never been to a Catholic school before. The older nuns wore habits with wimples, just like the nuns in The Sound of Music. The younger nuns didn’t wear habits. Instead, they wore simple sweaters or tops in soft, solid colors, pleated skirts and sensible shoes (as my mother called them).

My teacher’s name was Sister Michelle and she was one of the younger nuns. Her classroom was situated on the 1er étage (2nd floor) of an old French maison. It had formerly been a very grand bedroom with tall decorative plaster walls, an elegant marble fireplace, and two sets of original French-door-style windows that overlooked the school’s playground.

Sister Michelle’s desk was directly in front of those windows and I remember it as being piled with books and papers and other teacher-y things.  We students sat at four clusters of desks pressed together to make “tables”. Mine was near the fireplace.  

Here is a picture my dad found of me at my table with Sister Michelle presiding. It might be hard to tell from the picture, but Sister Michelle was no-nonsense, yet kind, and she got me excited about reading and math.

But my favorite memory about her, and the one which was brought vividly to mind as I wrote this newest book, dates to December 1st, 1977. That’s the day she brought in the candle.

We all watched as she set it on a little table next to her desk. The candle was long and tapered with numbers from 1 (at the top)  to 25 (at the base) imprinted down the side. Sister Michelle then explained that the Christmas season was special and that as part of advent, we would be taking a few moments each morning to light the candle, read a short Christmas passage, say a prayer, and then blow out the the candle. Pointing to the numbers, she explained that each day we’d let the candle burn until that day’s number melted.

I had never heard of such an activity, but it soon became my favorite part of the day. That’s because Sister Michelle wasn’t the one to light the candle, read the passage, and pray. NO! We the kids did that and from my eight-year-old perspective that was amazing! She was supervising from close by, but still! I’d never lit a candle before or read a Bible verse aloud to my class.  

Looking back, I realize that those Christmas verses we read along with the candle lighting left a beautiful imprint on my heart as to what Christmas is really all about – the birth of Christ, the Savior of the World. 

The experience also opened my heart to the richness of digging into God’s word -not just for the 25 days leading up to Christmas, but every day. I have Sister Michelle to thank for that — for instilling in me the importance of pausing daily to read God’s word, to pray, and to let that moment set the course for the day.  

Of course, the little ones I wrote HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD for are too young yet to be reading and pondering scripture, but they can still enjoy slowing down to count and point to and wonder at the miracle of Christmas as they enjoy my simple recounting of the night Jesus was born.

For years I have been searching, unsuccessfully, for where I might purchase a candle like Sister Michelle had all those years ago. They are very hard to find. In fact, I had pretty much given up hope, but then, my Lexington VA friend, Phyllis, surprised me with this! It turns out Phyllis has been making numbered Christmas candles for years, giving over 50 each year to family and friends. She takes regular-old red candles and green crayon wax that she melts to inscribe the numbers using a thin paint brush. It’s almost exactly like the one Sister Michelle used except that Sister Michelle’s, as I recall, was white. I can’t wait to start lighting it on December 1st.  

How I would love it if Sister Michelle could see this post and know the impact her Christmas candle activity has had. Maybe one of your shares will land in the feed or inbox of someone who knows her. Wouldn’t that be neat? It may be a long shot, but this is the season of miracles, right?  

Blessings, all!

Note: If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog using the subscribe button in the footer or sidebar. I post once or twice weekly with inspirational reflections, tips, interviews and more.

Book Launch, Christmas

You’re Invited to the HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD Virtual Book Launch Party!

Who’s ready for a HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD Virtual Book Launch Party? I am and so is my storytelling companion, Mouse. That’s why we’re inviting you to join us on Instagram Live on Thursday, December 1st at 7pm Eastern to celebrate the release of HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD. Enjoy a reading, games, a virtual BYO snack, and a simple book-inspired craft. To access the party, simply stop by my Instagram page at 7pm Eastern on the 1st.

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. Published by Paraclete Press and 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!

Here’s the book trailer, if you want a sweet sneak peek:

BUT, WAIT. THERE’S MORE!!! Since SIGNED copies are part of the fun, I’m delighted to share that signed book plated copies are available (at a great price!) at PremiereCollectibles.com/happybirthday. So, if you want signed copies – and live too far to come to one of my in-person events, this is a great option. I’m grateful both to my publisher and to Premiere Collectibles for making this possible.

Mark your calendars! Stay tuned, very soon for the “party craft” reveal so you can be sure to have your materials ready for the party. I thought this was a fun way to celebrate with friends near and far, so please let your friends know so they can mark their calendars too.

board books, Christmas

HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD: Five LOVELY Endorsements (Plus a PPBF!)

On this chilly November Friday, as we head into what feels like the start of wintry celebrations, with Thanksgiving first up, I thought I’d take a moment to give thanks for all the support and encouragement I have experienced with the release of my new book, HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD. It’s a simply told board book that uses counting and rhyme to introduce littlest ones to real gift of Christmas – Jesus- and the feedback I’ve gotten so far is that it’s striking a tender chord in hearts of all ages. Today I thought I’d share five endorsements the book has received – including one from a Children’s Ministry Director!

I’m also delighted to share that HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD is the featured book today over at Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday. The post there includes a review and a craft/game from the author – me! Here’s the link for that. Oh, there’s a giveaway there as well. So be sure to head on over. Happy Friday!

“A fun and engaging introduction to the Christmas story.” —School Library Journal



“You will not be able to read this book without smiling! Every single page of this counting Christmas offering from Laura Sassi is filled with delight. From one stable to ten tiny toes, this book is a joyous, fun, interactive way to celebrate the season with little ones.” —Glenys Nellist, author of Snuggle Time Christmas Stories and Good News! It’s Christmas!


“A creative re-telling of a timeless story—young children will smile with the turn of each page.” —Christine Voegeli, Director of Children’s Ministry at New Providence Presbyterian Church


Happy Birthday, Christmas Child has everything I’m looking for in a faith-based picture book—lilting rhymes, a sweet story, and, most importantly, Biblical truth! It deserves a place in your holiday book basket.” —Kristin Wynalda, creator of Big Books, Little Ears

“Simply told in lovely rhyme, Happy Birthday Christmas Child is presented in a way that is true to the bible’s telling but written for youngest readers to enjoy, with things to count on every page along the way – from 1 stable to 10 tiny toes.” —Susanna Leonard Hill, New York Times bestselling children’s author

Christmas, Young Writers

OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES: Sharing the Story of Christmas

As part of my church’s Christmas outreach, we are participating in something called the Holiday Walk. Scheduled on the day after Thanksgiving, this town-wide event draws a big crowd and includes a visit from Santa and fireworks.  On our church corner, the festivities include a living nativity, a light show and, this year, a special interactive reading of HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD, with storytelling props made by our Sunday School  pre-k – 3rd graders. 

Here’s a snapshot of one of the props we made today. Next week we will make spiders and number cards and the younger class will make stars and shepherds.

Last Sunday, to introduce the project to my first through third graders, I read the book, along with the passage from Luke that inspired it. I also shared with them that stories are a great way to share our faith and the reason I know Jesus today is because someone shared the Christmas story with me when I was six years old!  And that because of that, Christmas is now a favorite time of year for me.

Indeed, Christmas is so special to me, that I have written not just one, but TWO, picture books about it: GOODNIGHT, MANGER and HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD. Over the years I’ve also written many poems about Christmas, all of which point to Jesus as the real gift of Christmas.

When I shared with the kids that I had been writing since I was their age and asked any of them if they like to write or draw, every hand shot up!  That inspired a challenge. “Who here would like to write their own retelling of the Christmas story to share with others and point them to Jesus?” Again, many hands went up, but two hearts really got the writing bug. How do I know?  

I know because this morning two young ladies, a first grader and a third grader, came to church very excited to share with me the Christmas stories that they wrote on their own time last week. And now, in the hopes of getting you excited for Christmas as well, here they are. I hope they’re warm your hearts as much as they warmed mine.

Christmas as told by a first grader:

And now, as told by a third grader:

What’s your favorite bit from each?  (I’ll tell you mine after I hear yours.)  Happy Monday!  

Note: If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog using the subscribe button in the footer or sidebar. I post once or twice weekly with inspirational reflections, tips, interviews and more.

board books, Christmas

MEET MOUSE: My Companion for HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD Author Visits

My decision to use puppets at author visits began quite by chance. Since a pair of skunks play an important role in my first book GOODNIGHT, ARK, 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 a fun way to introduce the story.

The skunks were such a great hit, that when my second book, GOODNIGHT, MANGER, came out, I knew I wanted a new, book-specific puppet. Thankfully, without too much trouble, thanks again to Folkmanis, I found the perfect companion — Rooster!  

My third book, DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, stars a diva seal and opera-loving mouse.  And again, they are the warm-up act to my story times and, boy, are they a hit!  Delores even sings opera!  (She gets the kids to sing too… and the parents and teachers!)

My fourth book, LOVE IS KIND stars Little Owl and that puppet was made for me by the very kind director at one of the programs I visited. She said, “I can make you a puppet that looks just like Little Owl!” and then a few days later a delightful package arrived in the mail. Isn’t he darling! 

For  LITTLE EWE, I opted for a stuffed toy made by Gund rather than a puppet. I named her Little Ewe, of course, and doesn’t she look like she’s just hopped off the cover of the book – ready to share her story with children everywhere at author events? 

For BUNNY FINDS EASTER, and inspired by that kind ministry director who made Little Owl, I fashioned my own felt Bunny puppet and she was indeed a hit at visits, though the bunny hat I later made I think out dazzled her.  

And now, with two weeks to go until my first HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD school visit, I’m delighted to introduce you to Mouse, my newest puppet, who arrived in the mail today.  Designed by The Puppet Company I can’t wait to share him and the book this Christmas season. 

If you decide to bring a puppet along to your next author visit and want a few tips for creative ways to incorporate puppets into your presentation, stay tuned for next week’s blog post with 10 tips for doing just that!

Christmas, Inspiration

TUESDAY THOUGHTS: Halos in Picture Books (Plus a Treasured Childhood Memory)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD is my first children’s book with halos. Can you spot them glowing on the cover over the heads of the Christmas family? They shine on each and every spread. I didn’t envision halos when I wrote the story, but I like them. They remind me of my childhood years spent in France. It was there that I was first introduced to these glowing nimbuses on family field trips to Notre Dame, Chartres and more. Then, and now, I find them to be artistically beautiful ways to represent both those who are divine (Jesus and God) and those who served God in special ways.  

So when I was asked what my take on them was and informed that there is currently great controversy over their inclusion in picture books, I was surprised. In my opinion, they are a joyous addition to HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD, providing lovely opportunity for conversations about what they are and how they can help to remind us of God’s loving mission to redeem the world.  

Here are a couple of sweet pictures from my childhood years in France. In the first, I am standing with my mother and sister on an elegant outing. Can you guess which one I am? The second is a snapshot taken by my dad on a trip to Chartres cathedral circa 1979. My mother is on the left looking up and I am sporting a very bright red hat. My sister is running joyfully in the middle.

Now, inspired by my mom who skillfully used halos to spark conversations about God on those special outings, here are FOUR suggestions for doing just that:

  1. Set halos in historical context. I was fascinated to learn as a small child that halos in Christian art date back to the time when few could read words but all could “read” pictures and so churches were designed with biblical stories visually on display in the form of statues, paintings, and stained glass windows.  And what about those halos? As my mother explained to me, they were visual clues that the figures wearing them were either divine (i.e God or Jesus) or divinely appointed helpers with a special role to play.  
  2. Introduce the idea of SYMBOLISM.  Ask your little ones if WE wear halos?  Ask them why they think we don’t?  Ask if they think Jesus actually wore a halo? What about God?  This will be an interesting conversation…. but wherever it takes you, be sure to conclude that NO, Jesus didn’t actually wear a halo, neither does God.  Halos are the creation of artists looking for a visual way to show God – or his special helpers. They are symbols, sort of like arrows – alerting us that the wearer is either God or someone important to God’s story.
  3. Read a book with halos.  As you read HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD, or another book with halos, have your little one point to the halos on each page. (Hint: They are on Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.)  Ask your child how the halos look?  Do they add a sense of warmth and love to the story?  And why do they think each has a halo?  Ponder all this together, concluding that Jesus has the halo because He’s God’s Holy Son! And Mary and Joseph have halos because they were blessed to be Jesus’ earthly parents – special helpers indeed.
  4. After reading, go on a halo field trip. One of my favorite cathedral outing memories as a child was of going on halo hunts.  I think my mom did this to keep us entertained so she could listen to the tour guide, but I loved it. This is how they worked. First, we’d pick either a large window or maybe the statuary above the entrance. Next, we’d look for and count the halos. Finally, we’d see if we could figure out who the haloed figures were and how they could remind us of God’s power and love. You can do that in your community as well either by visiting a local church that has haloed figures or perhaps a museum that has a collection of medieval church art.  At Christmas time, you might even be able to spot some halos in people’s front yard nativity scenes!

Whatever your stance on halos, I pray that you and your little ones are filled with a sense of wonder, joy and thankfulness this Christmas as we celebrate the the birth of Jesus, God’s precious Son.

SPECIAL THANKS: A variation of this post appeared over at Big Books, Little Ears last week. I’d like to thank blogger/owner Kristin Wynalda for asking me this thought provoking question.

Also, Sophie, my pooch, is a bit incensed that I haven’t yet shared her interview over at Kathy O’ Neill’s delightful blog. Would you help make her happy and smooth over my oversight by popping over for a read? And maybe leave a comment for her? Here’s the link.

Appearances, book events, Christmas

Mark Your Calendars: NOVEMBER AUTHOR EVENTS with LAURA SASSI (Plus an Interview)

MARK YOUR CALENDARS. I have several events at book stores, churches and a library planned for November with more on the way. If you are a school, church, mom’s group, library, or daycare, I’m booking now for winter and spring. Learn more in the “Author Visits and Speaking Engagements” tab. And now… the November line up, plus the link to my recent interview over at Frog on a Blog.

Book Your Holidays: Chester Authors Day

November 5, 2022 10am – 3pm
Chester Library
250 West Main Street
Chester, NJ

Lexington VA Book Book Signing with Laura Sassi

November 10, 2022, 3 – 5 pm
Downtown Books
13 W Nelson
Lexington VA

Holiday Book Signing with Laura Sassi

November 19, 2022, 11 – 3 pm
Jesus Book & Gift Store
675 US 1 South
Woodbridge, NJ

New Providence Presbyterian Church Live Nativity (with story time!)

November 25, 2022, late afternoon, specific times to follow
New Providence Presbyterian Church
1307 Springfield Avenue
New Providence NJ

’Tis the Season for Books! Book Signing with Laura Sassi

November 27, 2022, 1 – 3 pm
Periwinkles Fine Gifts
19 North Union Avenue
Cranford, NJ

“Joyful Noise” with guest author Laura Sassi

November 28, 2022 4:30 (Sign up at libertycorner.org/author-reading)
Liberty Corner Presbyterian Church
45 Church Street
Liberty Corner, NJ

And last, but not least, the link to my interview over at Frog on a Blog.

Note: If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog using the subscribe button in the footer or sidebar. I post once or twice weekly with inspirational reflections, tips, interviews and more.

Christmas, Extension Activity

PARENTS! TEACHERS! KIDMIN!  Get your FREE Activity Kit for HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD

Reading HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD is just the beginning.

Below you will find the link to the FREE printable activity kit designed especially for littlest ones.

The nineteen page kit includes:

  • “Happy Birthday, Jesus” Party Ideas and Activities
  • Printable Cupcake Toppers for the Christmas Child!
  • Printable Happy Birthday, Christmas Child! Stickers
  • 3 Coloring Pages
  • 10 “Trace and Learn” pages

Here’s the link to the FREE HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD ACTIVITY KIT.

If you decide to use any of these resources, please take pics and tag me!  I’d love to see  them being enjoyed “in the wild”!

Note: If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog using the subscribe button in the footer or sidebar. I post once or twice weekly with inspirational reflections, tips, interviews and more.

board books, Christmas

Five COUNTING Tips to Get the Most out of HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD (plus 2 Reviews and a Giveaway!)

I have FOUR fun newsie bits for today’s post. (Perfect for a book about counting.)

First, it’s been one week since HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD released and over the weekend I got my first glimpse of the book being read “in the wild” by a lovely grandmother/grandaughter pair at my book signing down in Ocean Grove. I loved watching the interaction between the two as they turned the pages together – with granddaughter proudly counting. So cute. And they purchased the first copy that day!

Second, since counting is such an integral part of this little Christmas board book, you may wonder if I had it in mind from the beginning. Find out today over at author Darlene Beck Jacobson’s blog as I reveal that plus Five Counting Tips to Get the Most our to HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD. Paraclete Press is also providing one copy for a giveaway, so you have two fun reasons to head over there.

Third, be sure to check out Sally Matheny’s review of HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD. Her reviews are always so thoughtful. Here’s the link . While you are there, I hope you will enjoy exploring her many other reviews as well.

Fourth, check out the SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL REVIEW!!! I was delighted to discover last weekend that School Library Journal reviewed HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD in their September issue. (Thanks to my librarian for letting me have a peek.) It’s a good one. What’s their verdict? See below. It’s a YES!  

Now, a SPECIAL REQUEST. Will you help this book reach little hands by recommending it for acquisition at your local library? 

Want to purchase copy? It’s available wherever books are sold. Links and more on my new designated book page.