EASTER EGG DAY: Five Fun Traditions that Inspired the Book with Author Tara Knudson (and a GIVEAWAY!)

Today I am delighted to welcome children’s book author Tara Knudson in celebration of her darling new Easter board book EASTER EGG DAY (Zonderkidz, 2020). Told in light verse, it’s a celebration of a beloved Easter tradition – decorating Easter eggs. Tara’s charming text opens with:

“Easter eggs,

Family fun!

White eggs dyed

One by one. ”

Tara then takes the reader through a family’s egg decorating celebration. Illustrated by Pauline Stewart, each spread is full of color and warmth and the most adorable little rabbit family. The back cover has instructions for decorating your own eggs – a fun and concrete way to extend the story.

And now, I have a special treat for you as the author herself shares five fun Easter memories that inspired her to write the book. Take it away, Tara!

About the Author

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. She is the author of Christmas Cookie Day and Easter Egg Day, as well as the forth coming Fun Fall Day and Valentine’s Day Treats, all published by Zonderkidz.

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!! If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of EASTER EGG DAY (Zonderkidz, February 2020) simply post a comment below letting me know that you’d like to enter. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Thursday, 3/26/20 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced that Friday! 

[Note: Thank you to the author for this complimentary book that I was under no obligation to review. The views and opinions expressed on this blog about books and other things are purely my own.]

Celebrate OPERA DAY with DIVA DELORES & THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE!

Did you know that February 8th is Opera Day! Delores knows and she’s dee-lighted that she and Fernando are featured today over at Celebrate Picture Books, a wonderful blog that pairs picture books with holidays. DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE (Sterling, 2018) is a perfect pick and we are so happy to be featured today.

To get you in the mood for opera, enjoy the DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE book trailer…

… then pop on over to Kathryn Carroll’s blog for a treat that includes a craft inspired by my great grandmother’s opera glasses which I used to gently hold (and sometimes even play with) as a child. I’ll make it easy for you. Here’s the link: https://celebratepicturebooks.com/2020/02/08/february-8-opera-day/

The Christmas Memory That Inspired GOODNIGHT, MANGER

Have you ever wondered what inspired the author to write your favorite Christmas picture books? Well, we can’t answer to every story, but this week I’ve teamed up with fellow Christmas picture book authors Glenys Nellist, Mindy Baker, Crystal Bowman and Elizabeth Jaeger to present five days of “What Inspired the Story?” where we’re each sharing a short video clip describing a Christmas memory or tradition that inspired us to write our books.

Today it’s my turn today to share the inspiration behind GOODNIGHT, MANGER. And if you want to be sure to hear all the others, I invite you to like/follow me and the others on Facebook and Twitter. That way you’ll be sure to see all five of us share our stories because I’ll be sharing everyone’s inspirational clips all week. Enjoy!

A Christmas READ. DISCUSS. DO!: Celebrate the Nativity with a Picture Book and A Puppet Show!!

This post is inspired by children’s author, Rebecca Gomez’s wonderful Read. Discuss. Do! initiative where she pairs a picture book with an engaging follow-up discussion starter and activity. Check out the hashtag #ReadDiscussDo for a wealth of creative book-themed ideas!

Now for my special Christmas edition:

Pairing a faith-based Christian picture book with an activity is a great way to spark meaningful conversations with our kids about what Christmas is really all about – Jesus!  With that in mind, here’s an activity that I created for my Sunday school kiddos last year. The activity was given as a gift, wrapped in paper and included the finger puppets along with the instructions. I instructed them not to open until Christmas Eve, but you could modify that to meet your needs.  However, keep in mind that they liked the mystery of not being able to open the gift right away. It added to the excitement.  Afterwards, I heard back from families that it was a big hit!  I think what the kids liked best about this nativity-themed activity was that it was phrased as a “special Christmas assignment” and what parents liked best about it was that it brought the significance of Christmas into the conversation in an engaging, kid-friendly way.  

If you choose to recreate this “SPECIAL CHRISTMAS ASSIGNMENT” for your family, Sunday school class, or homeschool co-op, here’s what you will need.

  1. First, ahead of time, make or order some simple nativity themed puppets – one set per child or one set per family. I ordered mine from Oriental Trading.  
  2. On sturdy paper, type up the instructions – as seen in the picture above.
  3. When it’s time to open the gift, be sure to have several of your family’s favorite nativity-themed picture books on hand.  Of course, I would LOVE if you included my nativity-themed picture book GOODNIGHT, MANGER in the mix and here are a few other suggestions (both new and old) to get you started:

GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz) written by Laura Sassi and illustrated by Jane Chapman.

THE LITTLE SHEPHERD (Beaming Books) written by Elizabeth Jaeger and illustrated by Irene Montano

WHO IS COMING TO OUR HOUSE? (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers) written by Joseph Slate and illustrated by Ashley Wolff

‘TWAS THE EVENING OF CHRISTMAS (Zonderkidz) written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Elena Selivanova

CHRISTMAS IN THE MANGER (HarperFestival) written by Nola Buck and illustrated by Felicia Bond

GOOD NEWS! IT’S CHRISTMAS! ( Our Daily Bread) written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Lizzie Walkley

4. After reading and talking about the book, give your children the gift of time and creative materials like Legos, blocks, cardboard, markers etc. to plan their puppet show.  

5. Watch their nativity-themed productions, then marvel together at the wonder of Jesus – the real gift of Christmas!

CLOSING THOUGHT: What nativity-themed picture books would you add to my list? Thank you!

CHRISTMAS THOUGHTS: The Inspiration behind GOODNIGHT, MANGER

Last week I had the honor of sharing my writing journey before a delightfully packed hall of residents and guests at Kendal at Lexington, the vibrant continuing care community where my dad lives.  The talk was enjoyed by all (me included, once I got over my butterflies), especially because it was accompanied by a colorful slide show.  The favorite slide by far was this one depicting two tender moments that inspired me to write GOODNIGHT, MANGER.

On the left, my daughter, then two, gently cares for her new baby doll, given to her by my mother on her birthday. It was with the same tenderness, just a couple of months later (and for several Christmases beyond that as well), that she would care for the little Baby Jesus that was part of our nativity set.  She’d carry him around the house saying things like, “Baby Jesus crying. It’s okay, Baby.”  Then she’d gently feed him or rock him and sing a lullaby. Before listening to her tender play, I’d never thought of Baby Jesus as ever crying. But, he was human (and God) and so he must have cried.  (And in GOODNIGHT, MANGER, He does!)

On the right, you can see what a noisy and unhappy participant my sweet daughter was in the Christmas Pageant held at her school when she was three. Moments after this picture was snapped, I scooped Miss A. up and enjoyed snuggling with my little angel while we watched the nativity story unfold together. There were plenty of angels that day, so it was just fine that she sat out, and the NEXT year she was happy to participate. I think, at barely three, she was overwhelmed by the packed chapel – just as Baby Jesus, in my story, was also overwhelmed by the bustling stable.

A third inspiration experience, not pictured above, was the sweet memory of singing lullabies to Baby Jesus with my kids. Miss A. and I even recorded ourselves doing it once, so we could share the moment with my parents who lived half a country away. You can see it here:

Finally, GOODNIGHT, MANGER was prompted by a personal desire to write a fun Christmas-themed book that would center on Christ, rather than Santa, in what has become a very secularized Christmas season. I wanted to write a Christmas story that would be fun for anyone to read, but which would point them in the direction of Jesus – the real gift of Christmas.

Here’s my closing thought for the day: With only six weeks or so until Christmas, now is the time, before the hustle-bustle of the holiday season sets in, to be thoughtful and intentional about how you will share the story of Christmas with your little ones. 

With this in mind, over the course of the next few weeks, I will be sharing ideas new and old describing different ways families, teachers etc. can share the Christmas story with their children in vibrant and engaging ways. And I, of course, would be honored if GOODNIGHT, MANGER makes your list of Christ-focused stories to share with your children this Advent Season.  Blessings all! 

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a LOVE IS KIND Party!

PARTY TIME! With its theme that love and kindness can be shown in many ways, LOVE IS KIND is a charming pick for a class or home Valentine’s Day Party. I’ve come up with more ideas than you’d ever use for just one party, so pick the activities that suit your class or home. Happy Valentine’s Day! (Only one month away!)

Gathering Activities:

Play Musical Hearts.  First put on your favorite children’s kindness/friendship themed album.  (We like Raffi at our house.)  Then, using two heart-shaped boxes (or little heart pillows, if you have some) instead of the more traditional “hot potato”, sit in a circle and gently pass the hearts in opposite directions to the music. When the music stops, the children holding the hearts each say something kind to the person holding the other heart. (Ex. You are funny.  I like your striped socks.  You make me feel welcome etc.)

Play Little Owl Hide and Seek.  While one person has their eyes covered, another hides a little stuffed owl, or you could use one of the Little Owl muffin toppers without the toothpick (See link below.) Make sure everyone, except for the person with eyes covered, sees where the owl is hidden.  Then using hoos (like an owl would sound) help the person whose eyes were covered to find the little owl.  No talking or pointing allowed.  Only hoos – soft if they are far and loud if they are close. (Warning:  This game will be a big hit!)

Make Little Owl masks. Ahead of time gather feathers, crayons, glue and string. Then using the Little Owl mask printable found in the LOVE IS KIND Activity Kit, have each child create their own Little Owl Masks. (Note: I recommend printing the masks on card stock weight paper and pre-cutting for younger children.)

The Main Entertainment:

Read the book! For extra fun, have a basket of book-themed props available and after reading, have the kids re-enact the story using stuffed animals and/or themselves. Don’t forget to include three coins and three heart-shaped boxes of chocolates!

More Party Games/Crafts:

Make Valentines: Make old-fashioned Valentines using the heart coloring page in the LOVE IS KIND Activity Kit or cut your own from colored construction paper. Little Owl glued his on a doily. Decorate with markers, stickers and a personalized message.

Decorate Cookies: Prepare heart-shaped or owl shaped sugar cookies ahead of time. Then, have a cookie decorating station where kids can decorate using toothpicks, icing, sprinkles and sugar eyeballs! (To extend the love and kindness theme, consider having them prepare a plate of cookies to give a neighbor or deliver to a nursing home – along with the postcard notes below and/or valentines above.)

Write Love and Kindness Postcards: Illustrator Lison Chaperon created awesome postcard printables to celebrate the release of LOVE IS KIND. Print one (preferably in color) for each child and glue as directed. They are located in the LOVE IS KIND Activity Kit. When dry have your child write a sweet “I love you”  or “Kind thought” message to someone special – perhaps a grandparent or beloved aunt or uncle or teacher. Then affix proper postage and take a trip to the post office to mail! Or have them deliver with some of the cookies they made (above!)

Time for Treats:

Bake muffins (the link below includes a recipe for chocolate applesauce muffins that are both healthy and delicious) or choose your own muffin or cupcake recipe. Then top them with the adorable printable muffin toppers created by Lison Chaperon. Serve with juice or water. Enjoy!

Party Favor Ideas (not necessary but fun!):

Token gift card or coupon for local bookstore or chocolate shop.

Two or three heart-shaped cookies wrapped in cellophane with pink or red ribbon.

A small satchel of foil-wrapped heart shaped chocolates, again wrapped in cellophane or tissue paper and tied with colorful ribbon.

(Note: The link to the LOVE IS KIND Activity Guide is temporarily out of order. Please check back if you’d like to access that.)

Happy Holidays 2018 – Encore! (Diva Style!)

OK. One more holiday greeting because, frankly, Delores was a little put out that I didn’t include her previously. (Plus, I couldn’t resist!) My children says there’s a fine line between funny and embarrassing, but I think this falls squarely in the latter, I mean former! And thank you Sterling Publishing, for taking a chance on DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE! Happy Holidays, everyone!

GOODNIGHT, MANGER: 8 Nativity Activities to Teach Little Ones about Christmas

One of my favorite Christmas memories is watching my daughter play with the Baby Jesus that was part of our Christmas nativity. All through December she’d carry him around the house saying things like, “Baby Jesus crying. It’s okay, Baby.”  Then she’d gently feed him or rock him and sing a lullaby. Before listening to her tender play, I’d never thought of Baby Jesus as ever crying. Her sweet play inspired me to write “Goodnight, Manger”, a Christmas bedtime picture book that not only serves as a fun reminder that Jesus was once a baby who cried and felt everything we feel, but which also keeps Christ, rather than Santa, as the focus during the holiday season.   Now, inspired by GOODNIGHT, MANGER, here are:

8 Nativity Activities to Spark Meaningful Conversations about Christmas with Preschoolers


1. Play “I Spy…an angel!” Identify the figures in the Christmas story using the nativity as your playground. After you “spy” each figure, ask simple questions like “Who was Mary?” or “What were the shepherds doing that night?”


2. Play “I Count… three sheep!” Preschoolers love counting. After each count, think about how everyone in the nativity was looking forward to meeting Baby Jesus. Ask them what they think about that.


3. Play “Where is Baby Jesus?” In this variation of hide and seek, take turns hiding Baby Jesus in the nativity (or beyond). Each time you find Him, marvel about how exciting it must have been to see God’s promise for a Savior fulfilled in the birth of a special baby – Jesus!


4. Re-enact the Nativity. Using Luke 2:1-20 as your guide, re-enact the Christmas story using the figurines. Add animal sounds and alleluias to bring the story to life. For extra fun, you can also retell your nativity-themed picture books (such as Goodnight, Manger, for example) using figurines. Be sure to always link back to the all important message that Jesus is the gift of Christmas.  


5. Sing Carols. While holding the appropriate figurines, sing carols that relate to the nativity story.  For example, pretend the angels are flying as you sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” Have the wise men march as you sing “We Three Kings.” Place Baby Jesus in the manger as you sing “Away in a Manger,” etc.


6. Care for Baby Jesus. Just as my daughter did, let your child take care of Baby Jesus. Pretend to gently rock and feed him. Maybe even sing him a tender lullaby. Then be amazed together – that God loves us just like we love little babies. He cares for us and comforts us. His biggest gift ever? Sending Jesus to be the Savior of the world.


7. Make your own nativity figurines. Little ones love anything hands on, so roll up your sleeves and make sheep, shepherds, angels and more using whatever materials you fancy. Play dough, felt, glue, paper, crayons and even blocks are all perfect materials for a fun afternoon of nativity building. 


8. Go on a Nativity Hunt. Here’s a fun activity that will get you and your children outside on a crisp day. Walk around your neighborhood looking for nativity lawn scenes. Name the figures you see and celebrate! This also makes a good activity to keep children busy and engaged while running errands in the car.

A version of this post previously appeared on Noelle Kirchner’s amazing blog .  Thank you, Noelle, for having me and for letting me share here!

HOLIDAY GIFT IDEA: Signed Picture Books!

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Signed picture books make wonderful keepsake gifts for the little ones in your life.  And now you can give signed copies of  DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, LOVE IS KIND, GOODNIGHT ARK or GOODNIGHT MANGER even if you can’t make it to a signing. Here’s how – and their are TWO options.

OPTION 1: I am excited to announce that this year once again, in response to requests from readers for signed copies, my local indie book store, The Town Book Store in Westfield, New Jersey, will again offer signed, personalized copies of my books for sale.

If this interests you, please call them to order the book or books you want. Be sure to explain that you would like to have them signed by the author and pass along the names you’d like included. They will take the order and do the transaction. I will then come in and sign the book or books. Readers can either pick them up in-store at no extra charge, or have them mailed. There will be a shipping fee to cover the cost of mailing, but they can give you those details.

I thought this was a nice way to make signed copies available and support a wonderful independent book store.  Their number is: The Town Book Store (908) 233-3535. You can also email the owner, Anne, at anne@townbookstore.com.

OPTION 2: If you would prefer to order the books through your own local bookstore (which is wonderful too!), you can contact me via the contact tab (which is nestled under the About heading) and I can send you signed and personalized bookplates.  You will need to send me a business sized SASE (stamped and self-addressed envelope) and the names you want inscribed, but we can figure that all out via email. It’s that easy!

Happy reading and gift giving!

 

LOVE IS KIND: Six Book-Themed Extension Activities to Celebrate LOVE and KINDNESS!

LoveisKind_emailheader_650x254_BDid you know that tomorrow is World Kindness Day?  It’s wonderful to have a day to officially recognize kindness, and hopefully it will prompt us to extend kindness and love to each other each and every day. One of the reasons I wrote LOVE IS KIND was so that kids could see through a fun story just how varied and wonderful extending love and kindness to others can be!  Here now, to help you celebrate KINDNESS after reading LOVE IS KIND, are six book-themed extension activities. Enjoy!

  1. Version 2PUT ON A PLAY.  Creatively re-enacting the story is a great way to embrace and reinforce the wonderful message of the story.  So, after reading LOVE IS KIND, have fun retelling it using stuffed animals, puppets, or yourselves!  Don’t forget to grab three coins, a dollar bill, and a crinkled coupon! For extra fun, write the snippets from I Corinthians 13 that are found within the illustrations on sentence strips.  Then have one child hold up at the right places during the re-enactment.  
  1. IMG_7380DO A PICTURE READ THROUGH.  After reading LOVE IS KIND, flip things around by having your child re-read it to you using the pictures as clues! Reading the pictures is a great pre-reading skill because it encourages interacting with the page. So, snuggle up and enjoy being “read” to.  Reading the story again and again is also a good way to take to HEART the message of the story – that kindness and love aren’t found in a box – even one filled with chocolates. 
  1. MEMORIZE I CORINTHIANS 13: 4 – 8a by SINGING it!   This famous Bible passage was inspirational to LOVE IS KIND and snippets of it appear throughout the story.  As you read, look for them in the illustrations!  Afterwards, open your bibles and play around with various familiar tunes that you could sing the passage to. My favorite pick:  Sing to the tune of “Happy Birthday”  and when you get to the finale – “Love never fails” sing that to the “Happy Birthday” postscript – “…and many more.”  Songs, as you probably know, are a great (and fun) way to memorize all sorts of things because the melodies and words combined stay with us – our whole lives.
  1. 38298026_1792465114173807_3188628633023414272_nSEND a “KINDNESS” POSTCARD to SOMEONE SPECIAL.  Illustrator Lison Chaperon created awesome postcard printables to celebrate the release of LOVE IS KIND. Print one (preferably in color) for each child and glue as directed.  Post card printables are found in this Love is Kind Activity Kit from Zonderkidz. When dry have your child write a sweet “I love you”  or “Kind thought” message to someone special – perhaps a grandparent or beloved aunt or uncle or teacher.  It’s a perfect opportunity to reinforce correspondence conventions, address writing skills, and old-fashioned empathy.  Then affix proper postage and take a trip to the post office to mail!
  1. IMG_7709SPREAD SOME EDIBLE LOVE.  After reading LOVE IS KIND, bake a batch of your favorite sugar cookies – heart-shaped, of course. Decorate with icing, then arrange them on a plate and deliver them to a neighbor, family member, or friend who could use a little extra dose of love and kindness. Or, if you have heart-shaped molds (available at your favorite craft or confectionary making shop) make your own heart-shaped chocolates and deliver those instead. Or, bake some muffins and top them with these delightful character-themed muffin toppers (with recipe), created by the illustrator and have a kindness tea party.
  1. COLOR, make an OWL MASK or DRAW ! After reading LOVE IS KIND, print out one of these adorable coloring pages and have fun coloring while you talk about your favorite bits of the story which can all be found in the LOVE IS KIND Activity Kit Zonderkidz has created to accompany the book.  Or, have your child DRAW their favorite scene. Then talk about what made it their favorite. Have fun!  

Tune in again tomorrow as I celebrate WORLD KINDNESS DAY with a special post and giveaway over at Noelle Kirchner’s blog.  Pop over today to see her kindness devotional.  I’ll post the link for tomorrow’s visit on my blog tomorrow.

Happy Reading, all… and I hope your day is filled with KINDNESS AND LOVE!

Note:  A variation of this post appeared at Becky Kopitzke’s wonderful blog in August as part of my blog tour. Thank you for having me, Becky!