Back-to-School Offer: Celebrate KINDNESS with a Free Author Visit with LAURA SASSI

Back-to-School Time! In celebration of the POWER OF KINDNESS, I’m offering FIVE free 20-minute virtual* visits to classrooms, libraries, church groups, day-cares or homeschool co-ops. (*Note: Can be in-person if you are local.)

 If you are interested, reach out to me via the contact tab in the About section.

IMPORTANT DETAILS

For each FREE 20-minute virtual visit I will:

  • Briefly introduce myself and describe what it means to be an author. I will also share the inspiration behind the book I will be sharing.
  • Read LOVE IS KIND, LITTLE EWE or DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE with a kindness take-away challenge for each.
  • Use puppets to aid in the storytelling.
  • Have a brief Q&A.

OPTIONAL: If you are interested in a longer virtual visit that includes a presentation of the journey a picture book takes from spark to publication, using early sketches, drafts and more, I also offer longer virtual visits that are fee-based. If a fuller visit interests you, please let me know that. My fees are reasonable and we will make the visit work to fit your budget.

Either way, I respectfully request that you or your school purchase a copy the book you select for your class library. I also request that book orders be made available to families so they can order books from the vendor of their/your choice.  I do not sell my books, but they are readily available through your favorite bookseller. I will provide a signed personally inscribed book plate for each book purchased. 

I look forward to spreading kindness in this special way this fall!  

Visits must be booked by December 1, 2021. Spots will fill quickly, so reach out to me soon via my contact tab in the About section. 

Happy Fall!

FIVE FUN FACTS about GRAMA’S HUG with Picture Book Author-Illustrator Amy Nielander

Did you know that Sunday, September 12th was Grandparents’ Day? It’s a holiday I was unfamiliar with before my picture book LOVE IS KIND came out, but one which I quickly came to embrace, not only because LOVE IS KIND celebrates the special bond between Little Owl and his grammy, but also because I dedicated that book to my own grandmothers.

Now each year, I look forward to Grandparents’ Day as a special opportunity to foster intergenerational appreciation and am always on the lookout for new books that celebrate this special bond. With that in mind, I was delighted to discover GRAMA’S HUG, a delightful new picture book, written and illustrated by Amy Nielander and published in 2020 by Page Street Books.

Here’s the official blurb:

May and Grama are a team. They do everything together, from inventing creative projects to going birdwatching to preparing for the annual space fair. And they never, ever say goodbye without a hug. May’s love of science takes her far as her inventions win year after year, helped by Grama’s support, effort, and love. She travels to space camp and eventually beyond, earning her spot as the first kid astronaut to journey into space. As May prepares for her mission to explore the cosmos, she seems ready to go without looking back, making Grama worried that she will leave without a hug. This picture book explores the importance of treasuring even the smallest moments with people you love with heartwarming illustrations, expressive characters, and delightful touches of whimsy.

And now I have an extra special treat for you. Amy Nielander is my guest today sharing FIVE fun facts about this enchanting book. Thank you, Amy, and take it away!

FIVE FUN FACTS about GRAMA’S HUG with Amy Nielander

FUN FACT #1: Grama’s Hug started off as a wordless story.

My first picture book, The Ladybug Race, is a wordless book so it felt natural for me to approach Grama’s Hug the same way. It wasn’t until I attended the Rutgers University One-on-One Conference when my mentor suggested that I add text. The story reflects a passage of time and providing more text would help a young reader understand that movement. Words continued to build as I worked with the publisher, Page Street Kids. After several revisions, May’s (and Grama’s!) voice emerged and my first picture book with text was born!   

FUN FACT #2: The book was inspired by a sentence I heard shouted out one day: “I am not leaving without a hug!” 

The idea for Grama’s Hug landed in 2013 when I was walking my daughter to school one morning. As we approached the entrance, the bell rang and kids ran in. I heard a parent yell out “I am not leaving without a hug!”. I couldn’t get that sentence out of my head and immediately wondered “Would you really just stay here if you didn’t get that hug?” The first draft took shape and I titled it I am Not Leaving Without a Hug!. It was a terrible story though and I quickly changed course after an unfortunate SCBWI round table critique. In the process of revising, a childhood memory was triggered and I began writing a more personal story. The next version was filled with every emotion that memory rattled…love, loss, sadness and joy. 

FUN FACT #3: The space shuttle in the book was inspired by a 1990s concept design called the Venture Star.

As a former product designer, one of my favorite stages in the design process was the concept phase. Imagining what the next version of a product could be always excited me! Even though concept designs have the potential to improve lives, they are often written off early because they cost too much or the technology isn’t quite there yet.  Since Grama’s Hug is a story about a 10-year-old girl going to space, it takes place in a fantastical world. I used my creative license to design a place where previous concepts in history – did not fail. This accelerated the timeline of technology. The Venture Star was built in the 1990s by Lockheed Martin. It was a re-usable spaceplane meant to replace the Space Shuttle. The design didn’t rely on rocket boosters and would reduce materials along with providing other benefits. But after a test vehicle failed, the program was canceled in 2001. As a way to express my gratitude for every designer, engineer and scientist that contributed to that project, I gave the Venture Star a welcoming world to live in (forever!) with Grama’s Hug

FUN FACT #4: May’s elementary school is named after my elementary school.

I tried to infuse the story with personal details to make it extra special for me (in hopes that readers would feel that love in the illustrations). May’s elementary school is called Winchester, which is the school I attended as a child.

FUN FACT #5: Grama’s robe resembles my late grandma’s robe. 

My dad immigrated to the U.S. before I was born and we didn’t really know my grandparents (they lived in Europe). My grandpa visited once when I was too young to remember but my grandmother visited a handful of times. She did not speak English nor did we, grandkids, speak her language. This resulted in an amplified awareness of her reactions in order to interpret dialogue. I’m not sure if it was this heightened sensitivity to all things physical, but I remember a robe she made during one of her visits and wore often. When it came time to design Grama’s outfits for the book, I knew my late grandma’s robe would be a part of her collection. It was my way of honoring a hardworking woman whose heart probably ached often, with family living so far away.

AUTHOR BIO:

Amy Nielander loves making joyful and creative picture books for children. Her first wordless book, The Ladybug Race, exhibited at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair as a Silent Book Contest finalist. Her second picture book, Grama’s Hug, received a starred review from Booklist and was included on Grand Rapids Magazine’s “Summer Fav” book list. Her third book, My Name Is Not Ed Tug! will release in 2022 by West Margin Press. Kids can create new characters with Amy every month on her CREATE A CHARACTER blog. You can also find Amy on Twitter (@nielanderamy) and Instagram (@amynielander).

DIFFERENT LIKE ME: Six Extension Activities for 4 – 8 Year Olds

Today I am delighted to feature DIFFERENT LIKE ME, written by Xochitl Dixon and illustrated by Bonnie Lui. Published by Our Daily Bread Publishing in 2020, DIFFERENT LIKE ME is a joyous celebration of what makes us, God’s children, special. Through a delightful pairing of rhyming text and illustration, Xochitl Dixon and Bonnie Lui demonstrate through the example of a group of children, that though we are different, deep inside we feel things the same, have shared interests etc. and, thus, have much in common. The book’s takeaway is captured succinctly in the closing line: 

“I look all around me and what do I see?

God made every kid different…

and special like me!”

DIFFERENT LIKE ME would make wonderful addition to your church, school or home library. I can’t wait to share it with my Sunday School kids.

Now, in the hope of using the book as the spark for meaningful conversations with your little ones, here are SIX extension activities for DIFFERENT LIKE ME:

Play “God’s Heart” using chalk.  Read the story together, then head outside or to a large room for a game of “God’s Heart”. Using chalk or tape, draw a heart on the ground big enough for all the children to fit in. Ask what the heart reminds them of: God’s love! Explain that you will be calling out directions and if the answer to the direction is YES, they should run into the heart. Examples: “Step in to the circle if you have freckles(long hair, short hair etc.).” “Skip into the circle if you like pizza..” “March into the circle if you feel happy when others share.” etc. Continue until everyone is in the heart. Then, marvel at how wonderful it is that we are each unique creations, yet we all share much in common. And the best part is we are ALL in the heart. And what does that heart stand for?  God’s love!  And what does that remind us of? That we should love each other as God loves us! Play as many rounds as time and interest permit. 

After reading, think and talk.  This story can be used as a vivid spark for conversations with your little ones about embracing our diversity, noticing the wonderful ways we are alike and celebrating that we are created and loved by God. Use Xochitl’s question guide at the end of the book to get you started.

Do a picture read through. After reading DIFFERENT LIKE ME, 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. It’s also a wonderful way to notice all the diverse and delightful details illustrator Bonnie Lui has added to the story. 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 (to quote Xochitl) – “that God intentionally created each person to be unique and to work together”.

Paint a rock that looks like YOU (or a friend… or both)! After reading the story, head outside to find some good painting rocks. Then let your children celebrate their special traits and qualities and those of others by painting portraits on rock – like this one, painted to celebrate love and acceptance! For extra fun, gather your rocks and place them in a garden or in a special spot as a reminder of God’s love for us which then can overflow from our hearts to others.

Find verses that show God’s loving care. Xochitl prefaces and concludes her story with two beautiful reminders from Scripture of God’s loving care in creating each person. As you read, point those references out to your children. They are listed simply as Genesis 1:27 and Psalm 139: 13 – 14.  After reading the story, have your children grab their bibles, or the class or family bible, and look up the verses. Then marvel at God’s love and handiwork in creating each one of us.

Wrap the reading up in prayer. Wrap up your DIFFERENT LIKE ME story and activity time in prayer, thanking God for stories like this that remind us about God’s love for us and that we are each unique and special creations.  This is a sweet opportunity both to model prayer with your child and also to let them add to the prayer in their words. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Xochitl (So-Cheel) Dixon, author of Waiting for God: Trusting Daily in God’s Plan and Pace and the2021 ECPA Christian Book Award Finalist, Different Like Me, advocates for inclusion and equity based on the strong biblical teaching of God’s intentional diversity. With her service dog, Callie, Xochitl crosses generational and cultural boundaries, reaching international readers with love through her contributions to Our Daily Bread at www.odb.org and on her blog at www.xedixon.com. She inspires others to share God’s love with Spirit-empowered courage, confidence, and joyful praises through the Christian apparel and accessories she designs for Worship Expressed at www.worshipexpressed.com.

FALL 2021 Book Events with LAURA SASSI

SAVE THE DATES. I haven’t been able to share an upcoming book events post like this since 2019! But I’ve got lots of events planned for Fall 2021 and I hope you’ll be able to join me at one or more of them. More are in the works, as well, so stay tuned for those. (And if you are a school, church, mom’s group, library, or daycare, I’m booking for those now as well. Learn more in the “Author Visits and Speaking Engagements” tab. And now… the line up!

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: It’s Time for a Read, Discuss, Do! Interview with Tina Cho

I’m so excited to be a part of a fabulous reading initiative geared to families, librarians, teachers and anyone, really, who enjoys reading picture books with their kids. 

Created by founder and picture book author Rebecca J. Gomez, Read, Discuss, Do! exists to help you 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.

And now she’s supercharged the whole experience by launching a website with newsletter devoted to all things #ReadDiscussDo! providing a wonderful landing place for book-themed lists, reviews, activities and more. And she’s asked a team of us to help! (Can you tell I’m excited!)

And today on ReadDiscussDo.com, I am interviewing my friend and children’s author Tina Cho. Tina and I met through our online critique group and I have enjoyed each and every one of her books. I even created a Picture Book Sundays lesson for her MY BREAKFAST WITH JESUS which you can find here. In today’s interview she shares her thoughts on connecting with kids through books, the benefits of reading picture books, and more! You’ll also get a little peek into her newest book THE OCEAN CALLS: A HAENYEO MERMAID STORY.

I hope will take a moment to pop on over for the interview and explore the website. Maybe you’ll even decide to sign up for the newsletter. That way you’ll be first in line for all the wonderful things we have planned for the fall. I’ll make it easy for you. Here’s the link.

Happy Reading, Discussing… and Doing!

10 Book-Themed Crafts and Activities for DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE

TEACHERS! CAREGIVERS! LIBRARIANS! I’ve rounded up TEN activities created just for DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE, perfect for kicking off the new school year, which is just around the corner, or any time of year. Enjoy!

ONE: Make a pair of fancy glasses, then pretend you are at the opera while reading DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE at Celebrate Picture Books

TWO: Do a book-themed Read, Discuss, DO! 

THREE: Discuss what it means to be a diva, then make a feathered fan like Delores uses in the book with this project created by Rebecca Gomez.

FOUR: Spark even more meaningful book-themed conversation using these seven teacher-approved discussion starters.

FIVE: Extend the story with a DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE coloring page and writing prompt.

SIX: Read the story, then create your own Delores and Fernando puppets inspired by illustrator Rebecca Gerlings puppet activity.

SEVEN: Teach a lesson on RESPECT with Diva Delores and Fernando.

EIGHT: Organize an eight-book opera-themed story time featuring Diva Delores plus seven other fabulous titles!

NINE: Create colorful tissue paper bouquets just like Delores longs for in the story.

TEN: Have your kids draw pictures of their favorite scenes/characters and then share on your socials using the hashtag #divadeloresandtheoperahousemouse.

HAVE ANY MORE IDEAS? Let me know in the comments!

BLESSINGS upon BLESSINGS: LOVE IS KIND Brings Comfort to a Kindergartner… and the Mother’s Note Brings Joy to the Author (me!)

Last week in the comments section to a post I had shared on Facebook about Feeling Blessed by a Bouquet, a kind young mom left a thoughtful comment, which blessed my day in a extra-special way.

Here are her words, shared with her permission:

Laura, not related to this, but I just wanted to tell you how much joy your book “Love is kind” brought into my daughter’s life. Last year you came into her Kindergarten classroom for the reading and we purchased an autographed copy that day. It has become her favorite book! I cannot tell you how many times she re-read it during the lockdown and then during the months of remote learning. She really connected with it and it gave her comfort during these difficult months. Thank you!”

It’s almost like this mom was reading my mind because her message to me about the impact one of my books has had on her daughter was just what this heart needed.  In fact, I was so moved, that I responded to her Facebook comment with this:

Thank you for telling me this. You made my month! This past year has been so difficult – and especially for the kids. I’m glad to know the book provided comfort. That, I know, would make Little Owl very happy!

And then after some more thought, the next day I added this: 

I’m still so moved by your sharing this. May I have your permission to quote your kind words in post about one never knows the impact ones words/book can have and an encouragement to keep writing and speaking from the heart…I was feeling a bit in a writing slump and your comment really, as I said, made my month!

Her answer: “Of course!” 

And I so share these words today as both a reminder and an encouragement for me and for you to keep writing – or developing whatever special talents you’ve been gifted – with the knowledge that, just as surely as Little Owl helped one little girl face a difficult time in her life, your story or gift will surely also impact others in ways that, most often, we will never know. 

Happy writing and creating… and connecting!

FUN NEWS! Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse is an Iowa Goldfinch Award Nominee!

The nominees for the 2021-2022 Iowa Goldfinch Award, which is given annually by the Iowa Association of School Librarians, have been selected and DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE made the list! For the complete round up of nominees plus links to the book trailers for each click here

According to the official description, the four-fold purpose of the Iowa Goldfinch Award is to:

To encourage children to read more and better books.

To discriminate in choosing worthwhile books.

To provide an avenue for positive dialogue between teacher, parent, and children about books and authors.

To give recognition to those who write books for children.

The Goldfinch Award is special because it offers school kids an opportunity to choose the winning book and to suggest books for the yearly reading list.

Delores and Fernando are delighted to be included and can’t wait to have their story shared and talked about by Iowa school kids!

If you live in Iowa, please ask your library, school or bookstore to provide books and voting materials etc. for this award. What a neat chance to be a part of celebrating reading in this special way!

And now, just for fun, here is the book trailer for DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE. Enjoy!

Free Printable LOVE IS KIND and EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO Matching Game!

Are you a parent, teacher, or librarian, looking for a fun way to extend bilingual story time using LOVE IS KIND and its adorable Spanish version EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO?  Then this easy craft/game is just for you!  It’s primary purpose is to be a matching game, but you can also use the cards as stand-ins for puppets so your little ones can retell the story in Spanish or English, or both, in their own sweet words.  

LOVE IS KIND and EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO Matching Game

MAKE:

  1. Print out the English and Spanish versions of the cards.
  2. Color in the picture squares.  Then cut out.
  3. Glue the picture squares onto construction paper squares.

PLAY: 

  1. Place the cards face down. Take turns turning over two at a time.
  2. Name the pictures in Spanish and English. If they are a match keep them. If not, place back face down.
  3. Take turns until all the cards have been matched. Player with most cards wins.

FREE PRINTABLE GAME CARDS:

GIFT IDEA: SIGNED Copies of LOVE IS KIND and LITTLE EWE! (Plus Free Shipping!)

Last month, I had the pleasure of doing a book signing at the charming gift store https://www.sugarmapletradingcompany.com in Lexington, VA. I wrote a whole post about it which you can read here if you’d like to.

At the end of the event, I signed their remaining copies and they are now available for purchase on their website. I checked and they have three copies of LITTLE EWE and six of LOVE IS KIND. After these sell, they will continue to carry the books, but they won’t be signed until I pop in again (which won’t be until November.) In other words, this is your chance to support a lovely gift store and get signed copies of some Laura Sassi books. (If you want to confirm that it’s one of the signed copies, please call the store or use the chat feature on their website.

Oh, and this is the best part: Shipping is FREE with a purchase of $35 and up! So perhaps pair the book with one of their adorable baby shower gifts. My favorite is a cute sign that you hang in the nursery that invites little ones to nightly story time. Or you could get something for yourself, of course. They have really cute bags and totes, too. Just saying. =)

Here’s the link to their online store for you to explore. The books are found under the category “books”. =)