SUMMER ON THE PORCH STORYTIME CRAFT: GOODNIGHT ARK Painted Rocks

Hooray for summer mornings, good books and cozy porches – perfect for story time! With that in mind, each Tuesday throughout July I will be hosting Summer Story Time on the Porch (and a Craft!) on my Facebook Author page. Here’s the schedule:

This week’s story time features GOODNIGHT ARK, my rollicking, yet ultimately soothing story about Noah trying to put the animals to sleep on at the ark! I do hope you will join me! You can get there by clicking my Facebook picture in the sidebar of this blog.

Now for the craft:

Inspired by Jane Chapman’s delightful renderings of the animals aboard Noah’s Ark, these painted rock animals are easy to make and fun to display.

Here are the steps for creating your own:

  1. Read GOODNIGHT, ARK and marvel at all the different kinds of creatures that illustrator Jane Chapman has included the illustrations. 
  1. Have your child find an unclaimed rock.  Examine that rock together with creative eyes.  Then look through the illustrations in GOODNIGHT, ARK again. What animal could it be transformed into?
  1. Using acrylic paints (so you can display your rock outside and the paint won’t wash off in the rain),  let your child paint their rock to look like their chosen creature. Tip:  Apply paint without diluting with water.  Let one color dry before adding another.
  1. FOR EXTRA FUN: Take a picture of your child’s finished painted rock and send it to me. With your permission, and I will double check to make sure I have it, I will share the pictures on Facebook and my blog so we can all enjoy each other’s creativity!

And here’s the story time (just in case you didn’t get a chance to watch it live.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Michelle Lord Chats about THE MESS THAT WE MADE

Today I am delighted to welcome one of my first critique partners, Michelle Lord, for an interview to celebrate the release of her recent picture book THE MESS THAT WE MADE, published by Flashlight Press and gorgeously illustrated by Julia Blattman. I spotted her book at the ALA Mid Winter Meeting this past January and not only snapped this picture, but also enjoyed savoring every word and illustration. Written in flawless rhyme, echoing the traditional “This is the House that Jack Made,” Michelles’ story offers teachers, librarians and caregivers a wonderful way to engage children in issues of preservation- specifically relating to the world’s oceans. Now for the interview, with my questions in bold.

Welcome, Michelle. Please tell us a little bit about your journey into the book world. Have you always been a writer? 

As a child, I loved to read and escaped into a book whenever I could. I wrote and illustrated my first book, Freddy the Fly, at age five. I returned to writing when my own children were young. I read many picture books in those days (and still do), and admired the artful combination of words and pictures. I decided to give it a try…  

I joined SCBWI, took classes, went on retreats, and learned as much as I could about writing for children. Lee & Low Books published my first book in 2006. I belong to a critique group of wonderful women who help take my writing to the next level. My kids are now all in their twenties, and I’m still working to find the right combination of words to tell a good story.

Congratulations on the release of your beautiful new picture book with Flashlight Press.  What inspired you to write THE MESS THAT WE MADE? 

Thank you! Kids inspired me to write this book. I feel terrible that they will inherit such a mess! The ocean is vital to all of our lives. Humans depend on the ocean for the air we breathe—it produces more than half of the world’s oxygen. Millions of plants and animals make their home in the ocean and provide us with needed food and medicine. Besides, who doesn’t love splashing through the surf or listening to waves crash ashore at sundown? We must appreciate and take care this precious resource—the ocean. 

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? 

My editor, Shari Dash Greenspan, and I had various back-and-forth emails regarding the type of illustration that would best fit my story. An illustration style that wasn’t too cartoony was important to me because of the subject matter. Shari wanted to find an illustrator who had a mastery of light. When Shari sent samples of Julia Blattman’s work, I agreed that her style art complimented my text. When I finally saw the completed illustrations, I was amazed by the beautiful illustrations Julia created! The images really moved me from sadness to triumph as the characters work their way through the story. Art is powerful.

One of my favorite illustrations in THE MESS THAT WE MADE shows seals swimming around their plastic-free environment after the characters have cleaned up the mess that we made. The text reads, “We protest the boat of welded steel, collect the nets and free the seal, that eats the fish…” This image gives me hope.

 Your book stunningly brings into focus the pressing need to protect our seas. Can you offer any advice for teachers/parents for how they can use this book to spark meaningful conversation and action with their kids?

Some people may think that children are too young to learn about the devastation of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I believe children should learn the reality of plastic pollution. Most of us don’t think about how our daily choices impact the planet—that the plastic bag from the grocery store could end up in the ocean. I hope my book gives children a glimpse of the harm plastic causes for sea life. If THE MESS THAT WE MADE can start conversations about environmentalism and inspire people to create change, I’ve accomplished my goal. Children have the power to make a difference in their world. Julia’s illustrations alone motivated me to think more about plastic use in my own life. 

The backmatter contains calls to action, things kids and families can do to fight ocean pollution. One suggestion is cut down on single-use plastics. Children, parents, and educators can also look up the locations of ocean garbage patches on the map provided, or discover how long it takes for common things we use to decompose.

Plastics that are used one time before being discarded are called single-use plastics. Items like water bottles, grocery bags, and food baggies are single-use plastics and compose approximately 40% of ocean trash. If each of us enacted a few changes, we could make a big difference. We can help save our oceans if we forgo straws, drink from reusable water bottles, and pack snacks in reusable containers. 

During this time when many of us around the world are wearing disposable masks and gloves, please dispose of these in the trash instead of on the ground. Reusable masks with or without a filter create less waste. Stay well!

Thank you, Michelle! And now for a final treat, enjoy listening to this recording from the publisher of the author herself reading the book!

About the author: Michelle Lord is the author of several books for children including Paterson Prize Honor Book A Song For CambodiaNature Recycles, and Animal School: What Class Are You? She lives with her family in New Braunfels, TX. Find her on the web at https://michellelordbooks.com.

PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: My Breakfast with Jesus (A Faith-Sparking Lesson)

Last summer I planned a series for our church’s Sunday morning children’s program called PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS:  Sparking Faith Conversations using Picture Books and Scripture. Each week, using an engaging picture book as the spark, along with games and a craft, children ages 3 – 10 delved into Scripture as we investigated what it means to be a beloved child of God.  The kids enjoyed the lessons so much that I have decided to keep up with an occasional blog series focusing on picture books that can be used as the spark for conversations about faith with your children. Today’s lesson uses MY BREAKFAST WITH JESUS (Harvest House Publishers, 2020), written by Tina Cho and illustrated by Guy Wolek as the picture book hook. I hope it sparks thoughtful conversations with your kids.

Note: Since at the time I write this, most churches are still gathering virtually, rather than in person, this lesson is designed for a zoom-like format. I hope it provides and engaging opportunity for your kids to get excited about their faith, virtually.  Blessings, all!

PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: A Faith-Sparking Lesson

featuring

MY BREAKFAST WITH JESUS

by Tina Cho

PURPOSE:  To recognize that just as Jesus and his disciples gathered around meals to fellowship and pray, children and families around the world still gather to start the day with breakfast and a prayer – with Jesus! After exploring Cho’s engaging text and Wolak’s colorful illustrations, we’ll delve into Scripture to see what Jesus had to say about prayer as well as take a peek at Jesus’ most famous prayer, using it as a model for our closing prayer.  

OPENING PRAYER AND GATHERING ACTIVITY: 

(When you send the invitation for your virtual lesson, tell the kids that they’ll be having breakfast together (virtually) in Sunday school and to come ready to share what they are eating.) 

Open the actual lesson in prayer, then explain that since today we’ll be reading a story about breakfasts, we thought it would be fun to see what we are each eating this morning. Then have a breakfast “show and tell.”

INTRODUCE THE STORY: 

Introduce the story by showing the book cover. Read the title together. Ask them what they think it means to have breakfast with Jesus.  How is that possible?  Next, look at the cover illustration and wonderful end pages. What do they show?  Do they recognize any of the foods shown?  Based on their responses, ask them to predict what the story will be about.  Then read the story.

FAITH-SPARKING CHAT TIME: 

After the first spread, ask is this like your breakfast?  What’s different? Marvel at how amazing it would be to actually get to eat with Jesus.  Point out the box in the bottom that shows the story in the Bible that inspired this scene – and Tina Cho’s book!

Then, for this and each of the following spreads, marvel at the wonderful diversity of breakfasts and children eating those breakfasts. But what do they all have in common?  They are all eaten by people of love Jesus and want to share His love with others!

Ask the children why they think Tina Cho wrote the book.  Allow time for responses, concluding together that maybe it was to remind us that Jesus loves ALL his children – and wants us to keep spreading spreading His love to others each and every day – and that breakfast and prayer time with Jesus is a great way to start each day.

DIG INTO SCRIPTURE TIME: 

Wrap up the discussion by digging into scripture to find examples of what Jesus had to say about prayer.  Ponder together how each can inspire us to pray at breakfast —or anytime! Use these verses to get you started: 

Mark 11:24 Luke 6:27 – 28 Matthew 6:9 -13 (The Lord’s Prayer)

STORY-BASED FOLLOW-UP ACTIVITY: 

Before closing in prayer, explain that you will be putting together a Breakfast With Jesus Recipe Book for the group. Each child who wishes to participate should send you (and you can give these details in a follow up email) a picture of their favorite breakfast, along with a simple instructions for making it, and a short prayer that can be said before eating it. Once you have everyone’s pictures, recipes and prayer, create a simple document to share. It will be a lovely and tasty memento to remember the story and it’s wonderful message of the joy that is found in diversity and the sharing of Jesus’ love.

Sample Recipe and Prayer

Steel Cut Oats with Berries

  1. With a parent’s help for the stove, prepare oatmeal according to package instructions.
  2. Spoon cooked oatmeal into a bowl and top with butter, brown sugar and berries. Enjoy!

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for this beautiful morning and the gift of a hot breakfast. I pray that it gives me the energy to share your love with my neighbors today. I love you, Jesus! Thank you for loving me. Amen.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT TINA CHO and her wonderful books.

[Note: Thank you to Harvest House Publishers 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.]

LOVE IS KIND: FIVE TIPS for Fostering KINDNESS in our Kids

I’m excited to share that a lovely little interaction on Twitter with a first grade teacher who shared how she had just read LOVE IS KIND to her students and tagged me – has resulted in an end of the year virtual school visit with the first graders at her school! I sometimes get discouraged  that all this social media socializing doesn’t seem to make a difference – but here’s a positive example of it working in a special way to make a very memorable experience for some first graders (and their parents and teachers) during these stressful times. I will let you know how it goes!

What makes this special visit extra special is that one of the very reasons I wrote LOVE IS KIND was to show in fun story form what love and kindness in action could look like. Now, in celebration of this teacher and her class, I thought it would be fun to share a few book-inspired tips to foster kindness in our kids. My hope is that they will inspire you and your little ones to follow in Little Owl’s footsteps and spread love and kindness near and far.

Tip #1: Be kind yourself. As Grammy from LOVE IS KIND would most certainly remind us, our little owls, I mean kids, are watching our every move. They are learning from us, seeing if our words match our actions. If we want them extend love and kindness to others, we must first be intentional about being kind ourselves in ways big and small.

Tip #2: Brainstorm ways to be kind. Little Owl was kind and loving every step of the way on his quest to get Grammy those chocolates, but he didn’t realize it until Grammy pointed it out. Sometimes reminders are helpful, so after reading the story, spend a few minutes brainstorming with your children some ways we can be kind to others. Consider having an older child write down your family’s ideas, then put them on the fridge as a visible daily reminder.

Tip #3: Make “good manners” a habit. Did you notice how polite Little Owl was throughout the story? And how good manners came so naturally to him? He said things like, “Have a good day!”, “Congratulations!” and “That’s nice.” I suspect Little Owl’s mama and papa and teacher were hard at work on a daily basis instilling those simple niceties. As parents (and grandparents) and caregivers, we can do the same with our kids so that when they are out and about those kind and friendly interactions are second nature.

Tip #4: Wear “kindness glasses.” I like to wrap up author visits by challenging the kids to be kind to those around them just like Little Owl. To help them remember this, I have them first hold their hands together so that thumbs and fingers touch to form a heart shape. I explain that these are their kindness glasses and I ask them to look through them every morning when they wake up and we all try it, which generates giggles all around. Then, while looking at them through my heart-shaped glasses, I challenge them to find at least one opportunity before the sun sets to extend kindness to another in an unexpected way. The silliness is part of the magic and it sets the tone for a good day. (Note: This tip pairs nicely with tip #2)

Tip #5: Catch each other being kind! Grammy caught Little Owl completely by surprise when she pointed out that he’d shown love and kindness along the way to Grammy’s house. And what was Little Owl’s reaction? He was thrilled! He realized HE was the gift and that his kindnesses towards others were better than any store-bought gift. Likewise, your children will be delighted when you notice their kind deeds. And this, I am certain, will spur them on to more and more and more! And that should make every parent’s heart sing. It sure makes mine!

Blessings to you and your kids as you lovingly instill in them hearts for spreading love and kindness.

Note: A version of this post previously appeared on Jean Matthew Hall’s delightful blog.  Please also enjoy her review of my book GOODNIGHT, MANGER, along with her rich archive of posts about both the writing and reading of picture books. And while you are there, be sure to check out her Bountiful Blessings Picture Book Series. Thank you, Jean!

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Five Fun Facts with Rebecca J. Gomez about FEDERICO AND THE WOLF (and a GIVEAWAY!)

Join me in welcoming fellow rhymer and picture book author, Rebecca J. Gomez, whose brand new picture book, FEDERICO AND THE WOLF (Clarion Books), delightfully illustrated by Elisa Chavarri, releases tomorrow! FEDERICO AND THE WOLF received a lovely review from Kirkus and a starred review from School Library Journal. Rebecca’s spot-on rhyming makes the story a joy to read aloud and is a deliciously latino take on the traditional Little Red Riding Hood. As a student of Spanish, I especially appreciated her infusion of Spanish words throughout the story. Now, you are in for a special treat as she shares FIVE FUN FACTS about the book’s creation. (And don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end!)

Five Fun Facts about FEDERICO AND THE WOLF

By Rebecca Gomez

1. FEDERICO AND THE WOLF sold quickly!

The manuscript sold the same year that I wrote it. I wrote the first draft in January 2017, and the offer from Clarion came the following November. I often tell kids at school visits about how slow this business can be, but ten months have never seemed so short!

2. I owe my daughter for the pico recipe.

Most of the credit for the pico de gallo recipe in the book’s back matter goes to my daughter Samantha, whose love for salsa and willingness to experiment in the kitchen with me led to the “perfect pico” recipe. We used tomatoes and jalapeños grown in our very own back yard.

3. No major revisions!

The text of this story changed very little once my editor, Anne Hoppe, got her hands on it. I was prepared to do a round or two (or three) of major revisions, but  Anne loved it as it was and only asked me to do a few minor tweaks. Based on my experiences with my previous editors, I was both stunned and relieved!

4. Elisa was on my dream illustrator list.

Elisa Chavarri was on my list of dream illustrators long before Clarion chose her to illustrate Federico’s story.  How lucky is that! I could not have asked for a better illustrator for FEDERICO AND THE WOLF. 

5. Habanero peppers are as hot as they say!

I tasted a fresh habanero pepper (mentioned at some point in the book) many years ago on a dare from my husband. I barely took a mouse-sized nibble, but I can promise you that those peppers are every bit as hot as they say! I can still feel the burn on my lips when I think about it. 

BIO:

Rebecca J. Gomez enjoys writing stories as much as she enjoys reading them. When she isn’t reading or writing, her favorite things to do are baking, creating art, and hiking through the woods with her husband and three grown children. She lives in Nebraska, where she grows a salsa garden every summer. 

On the web at:

http://www.rebeccajgomez.com

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!! If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of FEDERICO AND THE WOLF (Clarion Books, May 2020) leave a comment below. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Monday, 5/25/20 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced next Tuesday! THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER. The winner is announced here.  

[Note: Thank you to the author for a sneak peek at 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.]

The 2020 ANNA DEWDNEY READ ALOUD AWARD: Celebrating Books that Spark Compassion, Empathy and Connection

(Read to the end for a fun LOVE IS KIND connection.)

Per the official description “The Anna Dewdney Read Together Award is given annually to a picture book that is both a superb read-aloud and also sparks compassion, empathy, and connection. The award commemorates the life and work of author/illustrator Anna Dewdney, and celebrates her commitment to reading with young children and putting books into as many little hands as possible.”

This year’s award goes to author/illustrator Oge More for her picture book THANK YOU, OMU!

I love this book. My kids are big now, but it’s just the kind of story I would have read to my kids over and over again. It would make a wonderful addition to any book collection.  It is also a Caldecott winner and the illustrations are amazing.

Here’s my quick description: Omu has created a delicious stew and its mouth-watering aroma fills the neighborhood. Soon all sorts of visitors stop by for a taste and Omu gladly shares.  But, when it’s finally time for her dinner, she discovers the pot is empty!  Will she go to bed empty-bellied or will compassion and generosity prevail? 

You will have to read the story to find out.

You can also hear the author herself read it live this coming Friday, May 8th at 3pm ET as part of Children’s Book Week on the Every Child A Reader Facebook Page.

Now, the little bit of fun news – with a LOVE IS KIND connection:

Though not the winner, LOVE IS KIND is named as one of five honor books for this year’s award.  Isn’t that neat? Little Owl thinks so. Here’s the link to the official announcement

Hooray for stories that foster love and joy and connect us to others!  And hooray for the magic of reading aloud with children! Happy Monday! 

MOTHER’S DAY GIFT IDEA: A Printable “Love Is Kind” POEM for Mom!

MOTHER’S DAY GIFT IDEA! Transform LOVE IS KIND into an extra special Mother’s Day gift by adding this author-penned poem to the front end pages of the hardcover edition.  Simply print and affix – like a bookplate. 

Or, have your child decorate the front of a card with a drawing of Little Owl. Then print out this poem and affix it to the inside of their card, with their sweet handprinted signature at the bottom.  SAMPLE:

Either way, I thought this a fun way to celebrate the special bonds children have with their mothers and grandmothers.  Happy Mother’s Day! 

TIME TO BAKE: FIVE tips for PAIRING PICTURE BOOKS with TASTY TREATS.

Little Owl and I want to share with you something special that illustrator Lison Chaperon created to go with our book LOVE IS KIND – a muffin recipe with adorable muffin toppers! In addition to being absolutely delicious, this LOVE IS KIND-inspired baking activity has gotten me thinking about how wonderful it is when we pair picture books with a tasty book-themed treat. 

In doing so, not only are we giving our kids the opportunity to learn some baking/cooking skills, we are helping them to connect to the story in a new and fun way.  As we nibble and chat about the book, we’re also instilling in them a framework to talk about the stories we read and an opportunity to think about how picture books relate to our lives and the world. Finally, we’re fostering good critical thinking skills as we converse with our little ones about what treat would be best paired with a particular picture book.

With all this in mind, here are FIVE TIPS for PAIRING PICTURE BOOKS with TASTY TREATS.  Enjoy!

TIP #1: Pick any picture book (Better yet, let your child pick the book.)

TIP #2: Pre-read the story so you can gather your ingredients. Once you’ve selected your picture book, take a few minutes a day or two ahead of time so that you can anticipate what types of treats you and your child might want to create to pair with the story.  This way you can be sure to have the ingredients in stock for a seamless and tasty brainstorming to baking to eating experience. 

TIP #3 As you read with your child, ponder the treat-making possibilities.It’s most beneficial (and engaging) to your budding critical thinkers if you include them in the process of deciding what book-themed treat to create, though it’s perfectly acceptable, in my opinion, to gently lead them towards the ingredients you have on hand (see step two). As you are pondering, the treat might be obvious. For example, in my third book DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, Fernando the mouse loves gumdrops, popcorn, and cheese on try toast, so those would be obvious picks. 

But…

TIP #4: Sometimes you will have to be creative!  Some picture books, however, won’t have such obvious choices. My recommendation, in these instances, is to pick a character or a defining element of the story and create a treat inspired by that.  For example, on her blog, Easy Elegant Entertaining™, trained chef and cookbook author (and mom to an adorable young budding reader) used the concept of tails in GOODNIGHT, ARK to create an adorable book-themed treat.

You can also create character-based cookies for almost any book, as my daughter did for DIVA DELORES and GOODNIGHT, ARK.

TIP #5: Have fun!  (Need I say more?)  

And if you are interested in the link to the LOVE IS KIND muffin recipe with adorable muffin toppers, here it is.  

A version of this post previously appeared on Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog with a lovely review.  You can review that here, if interested.

Happy Reading and Treating!

And the winner of EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO is…

I’m delighted to announce that the winner of last week’s special giveaway,  a brand new copy of EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO (Vida Editorial, 2019) written by Laura Sassi and illustrated by Lison Chaperon is…

Pamela H!!

Congratulations!  I will be in touch with you shortly so we can get the book to you.

Thank everyone who took the time to comment. Happy reading and writing, and keep spreading love and kindness!

EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO Read Aloud by Laura Sassi!

One of my JOYS over the past couple of months has been learning to read EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO (Vida Zondervan) in Spanish so that I can read it at bilingual school and library visits (all of which have now been temporarily canceled). For the first step, my ADORABLE dad, who speaks Spanish fluently, sent me little video tutorials so I could listen and then read on my own with his voice in my head. Here is a sample of one of his sweet tutorials:

The practice schedule intensified when my publisher invited me to do a Facebook Live! Story Time on their Facebook Page. I said yes, of course, but I still had a lot of practicing to do, so Dad and I began a lovely evening pattern of connecting via FaceTime at 8:45 pm so he could listen to me read through the story and then give feedback. It was extra precious because – due to Covid-19 – we’ve both been having to shelter in place – he in Virginia and me in New Jersey.

The EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO Story Time aired on April 1st (no kidding!) and it’s now on Youtube as well. I thought perhaps you might enjoy reading along with your copy (or ordering one if you don’t yet have one) as I share this story about the many ways love can be extended to others. Here it is: