Extension Activity, Interview, kids' activities, Picture Books, Reading

AND I THINK ABOUT YOU: Interview Plus SIX Book-Themed Activities

In celebration of the release of AND I THINK ABOUT YOU (Kids Can Press) I’m pleased to host picture book author Rosanne L. Kurstedt for an interview followed by SIX book-themed activities over at Read, Discuss, DO! I hope you will hop over for a read. Here’s the link: https://www.readdiscussdo.com/2022/09/and-i-think-about-you-interview-plus.html

Created by picture book author Rebecca J. Gomez, Read, Discuss, Do!  is a reading website designed to help children and their caregivers extend the magic of story time beyond the last page by following three simple steps:

Read a book. 

Talk about the book. 

Do a simple activity inspired by the book.

Happy reading!

Interview, Picture Books, Reading, review

LITTLE MOLE GOES TO SCHOOL: A Back-to-School interview with… LITTLE MOLE!!!

Oh my, but do we have a special treat for you today.  It’s an interview.  And who is our guest?  It’s Little Mole, the darling protagonist in Glenys Nellist’s newest book LITTLE MOLE GOES TO SCHOOL (Beaming Books, Fall, 2022) When I received my advanced reader’s copy a few weeks ago, I fell in love with Glenys’ sweet story about Little Mole, who is nervous about starting school for the first time. Will he like his teacher? Will he make friends? Will he be able to learn? My Little Owl worries about these things, too, so we read the story together. And guess what? Little Mole in the story (and my Little Owl, too) discover that school is a marvelous place where we all have special roles to play and gifts to offer. Little Owl loved the book so much that he asked if instead of having me interview Glenys, as I would normally do, he could interview Little Mole instead.  So that’s what we’ve done!  Take it away, Little Owl and Little Mole!

Little Owl: Hoot, hoot, welcome Little Mole. I’m so excited to meet you, but I have a confession to make. Just thinking about back-to-school makes my feathers tremble. How did you feel when you first learned you were going to be in book about going to school?

Little Mole: Hi Little Owl! I’m excited to meet you too! When I found out I would be starring in Little Mole Goes to School it was a whole big mixture of excitement and anxiety! I mean, I was thrilled to be in a book, but starting school is a big deal, and I was pretty nervous about lots of things. What if I was the last to know my alphabet? What if I wasn’t good at anything? What if I had a bad first day? (But I didn’t!)

Little Owl: I love everything about your story, Little Mole.  Did you have a favorite a-ha moment in creating it with your author, Glenys?

Little Mole: Well, when she first wrote the story, we didn’t know what the title should be. Our ideas at first were: Little Mole Saves the Day, Little Mole to the Rescue, or Little Mole is a Hero! But the a-ha moment came when we realized it should simply be called, Little Mole Goes to School. Back-to-school books are always popular (and we hope ours will be too!) 

Little Owl: The woodland world your illustrator, Sally Garland, made for you, is so fun looking. I just want do dive in and become part of the story. Do you have a favorite scene?  Why is it your favorite?

Little Mole: Sally Garland is amazing, isn’t she, and she really brought me to life! My favorite illustration might be the one at the end of the book where I’m standing with Little Lark.  In the story, I meet three new friends and we all use what we’re good at to help each other. (I won’t tell you what happened, in case you haven’t read it yet, but I felt so good about myself… as you can tell by looking at my little face!)

Little Owl: There might be a lot of other little owls and moles and mice and, oh all sorts of littles, who might be a little scared about going back to school.  How might your book help?

Little Mole: Well, I hope that my story will help anyone out there who might have their own ‘what ifs’ about going back to school. And also, in the back of the book, you’ll find five great tips to help a child who’s feeling anxious about starting school written by a child and family therapist. I’m pretty sure they’ll be helpful, too. There’s even an activity pack full of helpful and fun activities.

Little Owl:  Thank you, Little Mole, for joining me today.  Where can I ask Grammy (and anyone else who might want it) to get your book? 

Little Mole: Grammy can buy my book at her favorite bookstore, at Amazon, or wherever good books are sold. I do hope she loves it!

GUEST BIO

Little Mole was born and raised in the imagination of author Glenys Nellist and brought to life by the pen of illustrator Sally Garland. He is the star of three popular picture books, including Little Mole Finds Hope, Little Mole’s Christmas Gift, and his most recent release, Little Mole Goes to School. When he’s not digging for worms, Little Mole enjoys playing with his friends at Woodland School. He is looking forward to starring in his fourth picture book entitled Little Mole Gives Thanks, publishing August 2023 from Beaming Books.

INTERVIEWER BIO

Little Owl is the sweet protagonist in Laura Sassi’s LOVE IS KIND, published by Zonderkidz. He loves adventure, chocolate, and making new friends. This is his first time interviewing a guest for the blog.

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!! If you’d like a chance to win a fresh off the press copy of LITTLE MOLE GOES TO SCHOOL (Beaming Books, 2022) follow this blog and leave a comment letting us know. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) Thank you, Beaming Books, for providing the winning book. This giveaway ends Thursday, 9/1/22 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced the next day.

[Note: Thank you, Beaming Books, for sending me a copy of the book which I was under no obligation to review. The views and opinions expressed on this blog about books and other things are purely my own. Also, if you enjoyed this post, please consider following my blog. I post once or twice weekly. Posts are devoted to celebrating reading, writing and life!]

author spotlight, Bible, Interview, review

AUTHOR AND BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Meet Amy Houts and her NEWEST Faith-Based Book for Kids (Plus a GIVEAWAY!)

Look what landed on my porch! It’s children’s author Amy Houts’ newest release, CHRISTIAN Q & A BOOK FOR KIDS. Published by Rockridge Press it came out this month and it’s full of simple, kid-friendly answers to 100 questions kids age 6 – 9 might have about Christianity.

MY THOUGHTS: I am always on the lookout for good resources to teach little ones about faith and this one fits the bill. I appreciate the simple Q & A format with one question answered on each page. The questions are perfect for the target age group, but also thoughtful and deep enough to resonate with the caregivers reading alongside them. I also give a thumbs up to Amy for including a scripture reference in each answer. I think book is a great tool for sparking meaningful conversations with our kids about what Christianity is all about. I can’t wait to share it with my Sunday School class.

Now, in celebration of the book’s release, I am honored to have Amy on the blog with an interview. Let’s get started.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Amy, and congratulations your newest faith-based children’s book. What inspired you to take on this project?

Thank you for having me, Laura! I had learned about Callisto Media, the parent company of Rockridge Press, through another writer. Big shout out to Annette Whipple, who took the time to answer all my questions. Thank you! I contacted the company in February of 2021 by email and asked if they would add me to their database of writers. Then I waited. In November, 2021 I wrote a follow-up email specifically asking if they had a faith-based book assignment. Right place, right time! In early December, an acquisitions editor contacted me to see if I was interested in writing Christian Q&A Book for Kids. This publisher screens authors before awarding a contract by asking for a writing prompt. I was thrilled to be chosen to write this book. It has been such an inspiring challenge!

I’m so glad you took on the project. It seems right up your alley and I have to say that the questions you have chosen are spot-on for this age group. How did you select them?

First, I thought of my three grandchildren, a girl who was 5 and twin boys who were 8 at the time I started writing. I thought about questions they might have and asked them what questions they had. Each contributed one question to the book. I read books I owned and looked online at similar books, searched websites that answered faith-based  questions, and brainstormed. Since I’ve written other books for children and taught  3-6-year olds at Head Start, I knew the questions and answers needed to be very basic.  

You did a great job! Do you have any tips for ways families and churches can use this book? 

Families and children’s ministries can read and discuss one or more questions and answers at a specific time. The appendix includes good times and ways to start discussions, for example, focus on one question at the dinner table. This book is meant as a jumping off point to help clarify basic information and dive deeper into issues that are important. Parents and children can research together. 

Besides keeping this book at the ready, what advice would you give parents and caregivers who want to share their faith with their kids? 

Children are encouraged to think of and write down new questions and a few pages are provided in the book to do that. Having an open heart and mind is important—both for you and the children in your life. Be accepting of their questions, even if they express doubt. Asking questions increases understanding and strengthens faith. 

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

I have a Biblically-based Earth Care (climate change) book releasing from Bushel & Peck in March, 2023. I recently started a new assignment to write 5 books for young children with a South Korean educational publisher, Reading Gate. 

You have so many exciting things on the horizon. I can’t wait to check them all out. Thank you so much for joining us. Readers, learn more about Amy and her books in the bio and links below. And don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end of the post.

BIO: Amy is the author of over 100 books for children featuring early learning concepts. She writes for both faith-based and mainstream publishers. Amy’s faith-based books include God’s Protection Covers Me (Beaming Books) and The Giant Book of Bible Fingerplays for Preschoolers (Group Publishing). Amy’s educational books include 60 retold tales for the series, Compass Children’s Classics, 2020. Her 10 nonfiction science early readers for Highlights Press were released in 2020.

FIND AMY HERE:

Christian Q&A Book for Kids: https://amzn.to/3zBo3Of

Website: www.amyhouts.com

Twitter and Instagram: @AmyHouts

Facebook: “Author Amy Houts”

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!! If you’d like a chance to win a fresh-off-the-press copy of CHRISTIAN Q & A BOOK FOR KIDS (Rockridge Press, August 2022) follow this blog and leave a comment letting us know. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) Thank you, Rockridge Press, for providing the winning book. This giveaway ends Monday, August 15, 2022 at 11:59 pm EST. This giveaway is now over. The winner is announced here.

[Note: Thank you, Amy, for sending me a copy of the book which I was under no obligation to review. The views and opinions expressed on this blog about books and other things are purely my own.]

Interview, Picture Books, Story Time

MRS. NOAH: An Interview with Patti Richards, an Invitation, and a GIVEAWAY!

Please join me today in welcoming children’s book author Patti Richards. Patti is the author of the delightful MRS. NOAH, published by Little Lamb Books and illustrated by Alice Pieroni. Here’s the official description:

MRS. NOAH is a celebration of love, and the motivation behind all the amazing things people do to make a house a home, even when that home is an ark! Mrs. Noah knows it takes more than wood, nails, and a hammer to make their big boat a comfy place to live. Stalls need cleaning, beds need making, and food needs baking before the animals come trotting, crawling, slithering and flying aboard! And how WILL she find a place for the elephants to take a bath? Author Patti Richards shows us how Mrs. Noah gets Noah’s help with the loving details before a single raindrop falls.

I love that Patti and I have a shared love of stories inspired by Noah’s ark. For all you Noah’s ark book collectors out there, this is a clever one to add to your collection.

Later this month Patti and I have the wonderful delight of doing a shared story time at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, MI. If you live in the Grand Rapids area, I hope will join a this special multi-book double-author event which takes place July 20th at 10:30 Here are the details for that:

Because Patti and I haven’t actually met in person yet, we thought an interview would be fun. There’s also a GIVEAWAY at the end of this post for ONE FREE SIGNED COPY of Patti Richards’ MRS. NOAH. Thank you, Patti! And now, without further ado, the interview, with my questions in bold.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Patti.  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you become a writer?

Thanks so much for having me, Laura! It’s an honor to be here! 

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but one experience stands out as the time when I knew it was what I wanted to do as part of my life’s work. I was sitting in my seventh-grade language arts class working on a writing assignment (I don’t remember what we were writing about). I looked out the window and could completely picture what I was putting on the page, almost like a movie playing out in front of my eyes. It seemed so real, and I remember feeling an urgency to get it all down before it disappeared, and then the satisfaction I felt when I wrote the final word. When I got the story back there was an A at the top of the paper and a comment, “Have you ever thought about being a writer?” And that was it! Of course my journey to writing full time wasn’t a straight path…there were the years of wanting to be an actress and singer on the Broadway stage, then the calling to teach language arts and theatre for a time, then marriage, then children and being a stay-at-home mom. . .all the while always writing, always reading. Then I had an opportunity to submit a story to a local newspaper. And when they kept calling and asking me to do more I thought, “Maybe now?” and God whispered, “yes.” So little by little I built my writing resume with freelance work while learning the craft of writing for children. And then last October, my first fiction picture book for children, MRS. NOAH, was released!   

I’m glad you listened to those affirmations along the way and followed God’s whisper. And now your first book is out! What inspired you write MRS. NOAH?

I was getting my family of five ready for our very first cruise to celebrate my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. In the middle of all the planning, shopping, laundry, getting pet instructions ready for the house sitter, cleaning, stopping the mail, paying the bills, I said out loud…” If it’s this hard to get a family of five ready for a three-day cruise, how in the world did MRS. NOAH get the ark ready for all of those animals?” Of course, I had to stop in the middle of what I was doing and get the idea down and saved in my picture book idea file. From there it took almost nine years until MRS. NOAH was released into the world with lots of twists and turns along the way.  

Ha! I’m glad you recognized this gem of an idea while you were getting everyone ready for that ark, er I mean cruise ride and wrote it down.

Can you tell us about the illustrator? What was it like seeing your text come to full color with illustrations? Do you have a favorite spread?

I love Alice Pieroni’s vision for MRS. NOAH! It’s funny how you have a picture  in your head of how everything should look, but when you see the illustrator’s interpretation of the story, aside from a few tweaks that are part of every book’s journey, you realize it’s exactly what it needed to be. We’ve had so much positive feedback about her beautiful illustrations! My absolute favorite spread is the one with the giraffes and the shelves Mrs. N. builds so they’ll have a place to rest their heads! 

Humor in illustrations adds so much and Alice’s work is darling.

What would you like readers to take away from this story?

I’d like young readers and their caregivers to see that love is in the details when it comes to making a house a home. I’d also like them to see that there’s always more to a story than meets the eye, and that team work can really get the job done! 

That’s a beautiful and heartfelt message. Finally, what’s next? Are there more picture books in the pipeline?  Also, where can interested readers find your books?

Thanks so much for asking, Laura! I have two picture books coming out in the next couple of years. One is called O POSSUM’S PREDICAMENT (Blue Whale Press), about a theatre-loving opossum that’s tired of playing dead and wants to play Hamlet instead. The other picture book I have releasing in 2023 is called, MILLIE’S CHRISTMAS MIRACLE (Little Lamb Books), about a mouse and her best friend a sheep who work together to knit swaddling clothes for a very special baby. 

And I’m always shopping new material to publishing houses and am currently in search of the perfect agent! New friends can find my books on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop.org and wherever books are sold! 

Thank you for joining us today, Patti. Learn more about Patti on her website and around the web

@pattigrichards for Insta and Twitter

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pgwrites5https://www.facebook.com/pbrichards/

Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/pgwrites/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15888762.Patti_Richards

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/pattigail1/_saved/

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!! If you’d like a chance to win a SIGNED copy of MRS. NOAH (Little Lamb Books, 2021) follow this blog and leave a comment letting us know. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) Thank you, Patti, for providing the winning book. This giveaway ends Thursday, 7/14/22 at 11:59 pm EST. This giveaway is over. The winner is announced here

author spotlight, Bible, faith, Interview, Picture Books

BAPTIZED IN THE WATER: An Interview with Glenys Nellist

Today, I’m delighted to host best-selling Christian children’s author Glenys Nellist for an interview in celebration of her newest release with Zonderkidz, BAPTIZED IN THE WATER. This colorful picture book showcases beautifully diverse renderings of children and adults being baptized by the many varying means across Christian denominations. It got me thinking about my own baptism at age 12 via immersion in a little missionary church in Paris, France! As part my baptism, I also spoke aloud my profession of faith – that I had accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I’m so glad I took that step all those years ago, for it has made all the difference in this journey called life. Maybe the book will get you thinking about baptism memories as well. And now for the interview, with my questions in blue to match the lovely cover of the book. (Oh, and there’s a giveaway so be sure to check that out at the end of the post.)

Welcome, Glenys, what inspired you to write a book about baptism?

Since I’m married to a pastor, I have had the privilege of witnessing many baptisms. In our denomination the water is poured or sprinkled, but I’ve also been present at baptisms where the person was fully immersed. Each time I’ve attended this sacred event, no matter where, or how, or when it occurred, it simply felt that we were celebrating our belonging in one wonderful, united family in Christ. The inspiration, then, for writing a book on baptism came from a desire to celebrate this oneness, this unity in Christ, despite the varying traditions or beliefs that may be held. For me, baptism is a beautiful, holy, mysterious moment that none of us really understands. I hope that Baptized in the Water captures some of the mystery and meaning of this ancient sacrament. 

How do you hope churches and families will use the book?

I hope that pastors, Christian Educators, Sunday school teachers, parents and grandparents might use Baptized in the Water to inspire curious conversations with children about the mystery and meaning of baptism. I know that many churches and families have also bought the book as a baptism gift, which is wonderful!

Do you have a favorite spread?

Anna Kazimi did a beautiful job with the diverse illustrations and it’s hard to pick just one!  But I really love the following spread, because it illustrates all the different ways to be baptized.

Are there any special resources that go along with the book that readers might enjoy?

Yes! I wrote this free downloadable Activity Pack to accompany the book, which includes tips for talking with children about baptism as well as signed bookplates, commemorative bookmarks and a certificate. 

Finally, what’s next in the pipeline?

In July my next picture book with Beaming Books will be published, called Little Mole Goes to School, and then in the fall, I have three board books releasing. Good News! It’s Creation! and Good News! God Loves You (Our Daily Bread publishers) make their appearance in September, and the seventh in the Snuggle Time series, Snuggle Time Love, (Zonderkidz) hits the shelves in December. So it’s another busy year for me!

Thank you, Glenys, for joining me today. I wish you the very best with this and all your books.

BIO Glenys Nellist was born and raised in a little village in northern England. The author of multiple children’s books, including the bestselling ‘Twas the Evening of Christmas, The Wonder That is You, and five popular series: Love Letters from God, Snuggle Time, ‘Twas, Good News and Little Mole, her writing reflects a deep passion for helping children discover joy and hope in the world. Glenys lives in Michigan with her husband, David. Connect with her here:

Author Website Instagram

Facebook Twitter

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!! If you’d like a chance to win a copy of BAPTIZED IN THE WATER (Zonderkidz, 2022) follow this blog and comment below saying you’d like to be entered. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) Thank you, Zonderkidz, for providing the winning book. This giveaway ends Monday, 6/6/22 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced the next day! 

[Note: Thank you to the publisher for an advance copy at the book. The views and opinions expressed on this blog about books and other things are purely my own.]

author spotlight, Interview, Picture Books

RIBBIT! THE TRUTH ABOUT FROGS: An Interview with Author Annette Whipple

Children’s author Annette Whipple is celebrating a book birthday this week! Ribbit! The Truth About Frogs, her newest book in the Truth About Series, published by Reycraft, released this Tuesday. Like her other books in the series, this one is chock full of fascinating facts presented in a kid-friendly, engaging way. The accompanying photographs are beautiful and the layout is appealing to both kids and grown ups. I give it a froggy thumbs up! And now, in the extra special category, I’m delighted to have Annette here today for a bookish interview with my questions in bold.

First, congratulations on this newest book in your series from Reycraft. Please tell us a little bit about the series and how you came to write it and how you landed on the topic of frogs in particular.

Thanks so much, Laura! It’s great to be back! The Truth About series began with Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls. It took me year to figure out how to write it so it would be of interest to readers. I finally landed on the question-and-answer format and added the humorous sidebars. I knew I loved the structure and thought readers (and publishers) would, too.

Since then Reycraft and I have discussed additional books to make it a series. In 2021 we added Woof! and Scurry! Now we have Ribbit! The Truth About Frogs, too. Frogs was on my list of animals that are diverse enough to include tons of beautiful photographs. I knew they were cool before, but I didn’t realize just how TOAD-ally awesome they are until I began researching.

What a great series!  And I agree that the question-and-answer format works beautifully.  It also pairs well with something kids are famous for – asking questions! 

Speaking of kids, the kid in me really enjoyed the illustrated “Leaping Legs” feature of the book. Can you explain what those are and how you came up with them?

Each page spread includes an illustrated sidebar called “Leaping Legs.” In it, the frogs talk and share a bit more information with the reader—often in a humorous way. During my brainstorming process, I knew I wanted to add a bit of humor to the books, but I also didn’t want the main text to be silly or funny. I love layers of text and sidebars in other books. That’s when I realized an illustrated sidebar would be perfect—especially with the animals talking.

I think my readers will be curious about what your research process was like for this book. Did you meet a lot of frogs along the way?

I used my typical resources: books, websites, scientific journals, and YouTube. My favorite website was https://amphibiaweb.org/. I also met up with a herpetologist with the Delaware Nature Society. 

He clarified some questions I had and we definitely met some frogs. It was early enough in the spring that wood frogs and spring peepers were the main attraction. But we spotted lots of eggs and heard the calls of a lot of frogs—even in the daytime. 

Teachers and parents are always looking for ways to tie picture books into the curriculum, and I think that’s especially true for a STEM rich book like this. Do you have any extension activities your readers might enjoy?

Oh, I love this question because frogs are so much fun and really an easy way to celebrate curiosity! I created a frog teacher guide (which is also great for home use). I included 19 frog ELA and STEM activities. And it’s free!

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

I’m excited to say that Meow! The Truth About Cats will come out in the fall! You can see Meow’s cover in this trailer for The Truth About series. (It’s quick!)

I don’t have any official news to share about additional titles, but I hope to tell something in an upcoming newsletter and on social media sooner than later. 😊 

Ribbit! The Truth About Frogs and all of my books are available wherever books are sold. Ask for them at your favorite local bookstore or find them at online retailers. I’d love it if you’d request your local library to carry Ribbit! 

Thanks so much for having me, Laura! If your readers want to learn more about me or check out my resources for writers and educators, they can hop over to my website at www.AnnetteWhipple.com .

Thanks for joining me here today, Annette. I am requesting your books for purchase at my library!

author spotlight, Interview, Picture Books

COVER REVEAL: Rosanne L. Kurstedt’s AND I THINK ABOUT YOU (Plus an Interview!)

THURSDAY JOY! Picture book author Rosanne L. Kurstedt has a new picture book releasing this September with Kids Can Press and the cover is just starting to pop up on the web, so I asked if she’d be my guest for a cover reveal and interview. She said yes!  

First a little introduction: 

Written by Rosanne L. Kurstedt and illustrated by Ya-Ling Huang, AND I THINK ABOUT YOU poignantly captures the love and connection shared by a working mama bear and her cub. During the day, they are apart, but they are always thinking of each other. Told with the feel of a letter (or love song) from mama to child, it is just the kind of story I would have loved to snuggle up with with my own kids when they were little. Rosanne’s warm text pairs nicely with Ya-Ling’s dreamy watercolor illustrations. It’s delightful.

And now, the interview:

Laura: Thank you for joining me here today, Rosanne. What inspired the story?

Rosanne: The story was inspired by a bedtime ritual my older son and I developed.

Laura: I love how a simple bedtime ritual turning into a special bonding tradition.  It makes me remember fondly some of the seemingly little things I did with my kids, that became rituals or traditions of their own kind – but none exactly like this. 

Laura: What are you most excited about for its release in September?

Rosanne: There are so many things I’m excited about – but what I’m most excited about is connecting with families—hearing them talk about the book and also learning about some of the rituals they’ve developed. 

Laura: Thanks again for joining me here today, Rosanne. I can’t wait for the book to release. I am certain it will spark rich conversation, not only at your visits, but also afterwards, as parents and children use your delightful story as a spark to build their own special together-time traditions.

Learn more about Rosanne and her books here:

Website: https://www.rlkurstedt.com

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

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rlkurstedt/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RLKurstedt

Interview, review

It’s Time for… the BUNNY FINDS EASTER Friday Roundup!

Happy Friday, friends! Bunny and I have four fun things to share with you this week. First, be sure to check out my blog interview with children’s author and host, Mindy Baker, as we chat about the magical role illustrations play in board books – with a focus on a favorite spread from BUNNY FINDS EASTER. Here’s the link: https://mindybakerbooks.com/a-chat-with-laura-sassi-about-her-new-book/

Next, did you know that March 9th was “Get Ready for Easter Day?” I didn’t either, but I learned about it over at one of my favorite blogs, Celebrate Picture Books, which pairs a picture book with a holiday. Each post includes a review of a book and an activity. And for this holiday the book was… BUNNY FINDS EASTER! Here’s the link: https://celebratepicturebooks.com/2022/03/09/march-7-get-ready-for-easter/

Third, in case you missed it yesterday at 12:12 eastern, here is the replay of my Instagram LIVE interview with host Valerie Ellis, creator of Our Everyday Parables, a blog dedicated to encouraging and empowering parents to use everyday moments and kids’ books to teach, connect, listen, and inspire. We had some technical difficulties at the beginning, but they resolved and she explains in the link how you can skip over those bits.

Finally, if you haven’t already done so, be sure to enter the 25 book giveaway for BUNNY FINDS EASTER which Zonderkidz is hosting over on Goodreads. (And while you are there, please add the book to your to-read list and/or review it, if you you willing.) Thank you! Here’s the giveaway link: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/340275-bunny-finds-easter

Appearances, Interview

YOU’RE INVITED! Join Me and Host Valerie Ellis for an Our Everyday Parables LIVE Interview

Tune in this Thursday, March 10, 2022 at 12:12 eastern on Instagram for my first Instagram LIVE interview. I’ll be joining Valerie Ellis, host and founder of Our Everyday Parables, a blog dedicated to “inspiring families to faith and compassion through everyday moments and excellent books”.  

The interview will include questions from listeners, so if you have a question you’ve always wanted to ask about any of my books or about using books to foster faith in our little ones and want it answered on Instagram LIVE (squee!) please let me know in a comment here and I will share it with Valerie.  You can also DM her with questions on the Our Everyday Parables instagram page.  You can also type your question in during the interview. 

If you want to come, I highly recommend popping over to her Insta page and signing up for the reminder. It’s easy and then Instagram will remind you to come!  Neat, huh?  I signed up so I won’t forget to come either. LOL.

Oh, and there will be a multi-book giveaway too. This image gives a clue as to which four books will be included in that. I hope you can make it.

Blessings all! And remember to leave your question. Any that aren’t answered at the interview, I will put in queue to incorporate into future blog posts!

faith, Guest Blog, Interview, Life

PRAYING THROUGH MINISTRIES: An Interview with Founder Jessika Sanders

One morning this fall, in anticipation of Christmas, I prayed that God would use my Christmas picture book GOODNIGHT, MANGER to bless others and point them to Him in a special way. I made a list of possibilities: preschool visits, a Christmas Women’s program, a virtual story time. These were all things I had done in the past. But God… Don’t you love that phrase? God had something bigger in mind and He placed that idea in the heart of a woman named Jessika Sanders, founder of Praying through Ministries. The idea was to bless families who found themselves with little ones in the NICU and PICU over Christmas with a copy of GOODNIGHT, MANGER.

Following God’s prompting, Jessika reached out to me. Sensing this might be God’s special plan, I said yes, and that I wanted to write notes of encouragement to accompany each book given because my precious son, now 21, had once been a baby in the NICU as well. Then, wow, with the help of generous souls across the country who donated the books, God grew that blessing to an amazing 771 books given to families in multiple NICUs and PICUs across sixteen states. We were even in the news.

And now I have a special treat you – an interview with Praying Through Ministries’ founder and president, Jessika Sanders. The story of how her ministry came to be is amazing and I know you will be blessed. So, grab a cup of coffee and join us as we chat with my questions in bold.

Thank you for joining me here, today, Jessika.  Like me you are a NICU mama.  Can you tell us a little bit about that story and how it led you to start this ministry?

Absolutely. Unlike the vast majority of NICU moms, my son was not born premature. He was born at exactly 42-weeks.  Like I had with my second child, I went a very natural route with my pregnancy. I had the same midwife and opted out of all ultrasounds. I had my third natural birth, and my second at-home water birth. Nothing seemed all that out of the ordinary other than my belly shrinking in size the last month, but I attributed it to my son dropping and my getting ready to deliver. 

When our son arrived, the rush of hormones had my head in the clouds. I didn’t realize anything was wrong until they weighed Ezra and a few words broke the heavy silence in the room while simultaneously breaking our hearts. “4 lbs 14 oz.” I could almost feel my heart drop. Something was wrong. I looked across the room at my husband and saw the fear and anguish on his face. 

To give you some background, I had experienced a lot of spiritual warfare during my 3rd trimester. I couldn’t get rid of a nagging feeling that something was wrong. It wasn’t Godly intuition but rather the voice of the enemy. I know this because it instilled fear, a fear that threatened to consume me.  Down Syndrome. Genetic defects. Death. Still birth. Critically ill. I remember fighting with scripture. Each time a negative thought would come to mind, I would take it captive and speak truth over myself and the baby growing in my womb. Fearfully and wonderfully made. Chosen. His. A purpose and a plan. Just three weeks before my son’s arrival, I had a really powerful encounter with God, one in which I heard His voice so clear it felt almost audible. His directions were simple—read through the book of Psalms, circle the passages He told me to circle, and faithfully pray them until He told me to stop.  When I gave birth to my son I assumed the battle was over, but when we learned of his extremely low birth weight, I knew that was far from the truth. Thirty-six hours after he was born, we called an ambulance when he seized in our arms and so began the beginning of our 37-day NICU stay.

I’ll never forget the complex range of emotions I experienced while in the NICU with Ezra. Fear. Shock. Worry. Guilt. Uncertainty. Helplessness. I remember my sole and utter dependence on the Lord and crying out to Him in wordless groans. I wanted to pray continuously but I felt frozen, paralyzed by my circumstances. I sang worship songs and I prayed God’s Word back to Him—literally reading those verses He had me circle a month previously. 

And one day, as I looked around me in the hospital lounge, at the front desk, and through the corridors and into the rooms of others—I was met with pained, worried faces. My heart ached with these women and men, but as my eyes met theirs, I managed a meek smile that I hoped would warm their hearts and show them I saw them and I understood. As I rested in God’s shelter, my pain seemed to diminish. But as mine lessened, I became heightened to the pain of those around me. I wondered to myself “How does anyone do this without Jesus?” This is when our NICU stay began to change course. Suited up in His Word and forever clinging to His character and His promises, I began to reach out to help those around me. I began talking with mothers at the sign-in desk, in the lounge, and in the Ronald McDonald House. I asked about their babies and how I could pray for them. I wrote down their names and their requests.  I see now that this was the beginning of Praying Through ministries. God was slowly preparing me for what was to come.

Oh, Jessika, what an amazing story of God’s love sustaining you and your family through one of life’s most difficult situations and then, wow, God’s love flowing through you to others.  I’m glad that each step of the way you listened to God’s promptings and what a precious reminder to us all of the comfort and power in that. 

What are some of the ways your ministry reaches out to and blesses families journeying through the NICU, PICU and child loss?

The mission of Praying Through ministries is to equip and embolden men, women, and children with Biblical hope and encouragement as they journey through the difficult seasons of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the Pediatric ICU, and Child loss. We provide Biblical support through our Christ-centered online communities (Facebook), through virtual events, and through outreach care packages. 

While the obvious way we bless families is through our outreach care packages filled with personalized notes, artistic keepsakes, and carefully curated books, we are often told just how much our online communities mean to our members. It’s not uncommon for us to hear things like, “When I felt too paralyzed to pray, the Prayer Team and group members lifted me in prayer and provided words that I could pray myself.” I know that this especially blesses my heart because in addition to God doing this very thing for me with His Word, I also had one friend in particular who would periodically send me written prayers, too. Our communities are God-honoring groups where true friendships are cultivated. There is no condemnation, just a supportive group of individuals helping each other to keep their eyes fixed on Christ—even through trials and suffering.

Our ministry is also in the process of creating virtual resources and events to reach the families we serve.  Because our outreach care packages are shipped within the United States, and we have members in Canada, England, Ireland, South Africa, and Australia, virtual resources and events will allow us to bless families regardless of their country of residence. Our first virtual event was actually our “Christmas in the NICU” Live Author Reading with you, Laura!

Everything your ministry is doing amazing and so honored and humbled to have been chosen to participate in that with you. It made my Christmas… that and all the notes and books we were able to send thanks to the donations of so many. 

And I’ve been delighted to discover that you are also a writer. How does that fit in with your mission?

Yes, I am. I remember prior to Ezra, I felt like God had already given me plenty to write about what with a broken childhood, the divorce that led me to my salvation, and forgiveness. But when I was carrying Ezra, I just had this feeling that God was about to give me even more material. I never would have dreamed it would have been NICU and PICU stays with multiple close calls of almost losing him, yet that’s where He called us. With regard to how I feel my writing will fit in with our ministry’s mission, I believe there are real holes and felt needs within the audience our ministry serves. I am believing God will use me to create much-needed, faith-based resources for NICU families and resources specifically for bereaved fathers.  

And those will be a blessing.  I can’t wait to see where God takes you on that front.  Finally, I know many of my readers will be moved by your ministry. How can they be involved?

Thank you so much for asking, Laura. Our ministry is fully funded by the generous donations of others. We are always in need of financial donations for the daily running of our ministry—fees for our website, communication platforms, and for creating marketing materials found in our care packages. We also always humbly accept any of the items from our Amazon Wish List.  These are the books that make up our care packages. Generous donors can purchase them and have them sent to us directly—doing so helps cut out the turnaround time for packages to get sent out in a timely manner. To get involved in either of these ways, you can visit our the “Support Us” tab of our website.

For anyone who has experienced the NICU, PICU, or Child Loss—no matter how long ago it may have been, there is always room and an invitation for you to serve within the ministry.  We can never have too many Prayer Team members for our online, Christ-centered communities on Facebook. We are also looking to fill a few of our Board Member positions for those who have experience with accounting, social media, and marketing. To learn more about these opportunities you can visit our website under the “About Us” tab.

And lastly, you can be involved by helping us be known! We would love for you to share our ministry with others.  Whether it be sharing one on one with someone who is being impacted by the NICU, PICU, or Child Loss or sharing collaborative opportunities with your church team or local hospital, we would greatly appreciate your efforts to share our ministry within your sphere. 

Laura, I cannot thank you enough for your love offering with our first annual “Christmas in the NICU” Book Drive.  With your compassion and care, you have set the bar extremely high. It was an absolute honor to work alongside you and your precious group of friends to pull off such an incredible event. I look forward to seeing what God does next year!

Amen! Thank you, Lord, for using us to serve others this special way. And thank you, Jessika, for following God’s call. You are an inspiration to all.