Happy Holidays 2018 – Encore! (Diva Style!)

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

READ. DISCUSS. DO!: Learn about Opera with DIVA DELORES!

TRA- LA-LA! Today I’m delighted to share a DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE Read. Discuss Do! graphic created by children’s author Rebecca Gomez.  The Read. Discuss Do! (hashtag #ReadDiscussDo) campaign celebrates reading beyond the book by creating sharable images that give simple ideas for book related discussions and activities.  I hope this inspires a little opera investigating (and maybe even some singing) at your house today.   Happy reading, discussing and doing! 

For more DIVA DELORES extension activities, check the Books tab above!

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Five Fun Facts about HOW COULD A BEAR SLEEP HERE? with Julie Gonzalez (plus a GIVEAWAY!)

Today I am delighted to be hosting debut picture book author Julie Gonzalez as we celebrate the release of her darling first book HOW COULD A BEAR SLEEP HERE? (Holiday House, 2018). I met Julie at an NJSCBWI Conference a few years ago and I’m so excited to see her first book come out.  Congratulations, Julie!  Now, without further fuss, here are FIVE FUN FACTS about the book from the author herself.  Take it away, Julie! 

 Five Fun Facts about HOW COULD A BEAR SLEEP HERE?

by Julie Gonzalez

Fun Fact #1:  My mom named the bear.

In early drafts I called the bear PJ because I pictured him wearing pajamas. Then a friend suggested I give him a more naturalistic bear name. I couldn’t think of one, so I turned to my mom. She’s terrific at brainstorming names. “Shelby” was her idea, and I loved it!

Fun Fact #2: Lack of sleep and a real live bear inspired the story.

At the time I wrote BEAR, I was a very tired mama in need of some quality, unbroken sleep. The refrain in the story expresses the exhaustion I felt, and other worn-out parents will relate. But the story was also inspired by this enormous bear that used to wander through my yard:

Isn’t he GORGEOUS? I call him Shelby, of course!

Fun Fact #3: The title was originally HIBERCATION, a combination of hibernation + vacation.

In fact, that’s the title on the contract!

My editor suggested the change to its present title, HOW COULD A BEAR SLEEP HERE?, which is the refrain in the story. By the time she acquired it, the plot had changed so much that the original title wasn’t as appropriate. 

Fun Fact #4: I really, really, really, really, really didn’t want to write a bear hibernation story. 

Too many of them exist. It won’t sell, I reasoned. Then every time I sat down to write, I closed my eyes and saw Shelby. He wouldn’t take no for an answer! Thank you, Shelby, for being so persistent! 

Fun Fact #5: Conferences helped shape and sell the manuscript.

I started writing the manuscript in a 2013 picture book workshop led by Brett Duquette during the Hudson Valley Children’s Writers first summer conference. I was brave enough to read my work aloud, and the positive feedback I received gave me the push I needed to pursue the idea.

Then, once I had a full draft, I attended an SCBWI Eastern PA event called Critique Fest, where I received valuable criticism and suggestions from editors, agents, and peers. 

Finally, after much revision, I was accepted to the Rutgers One-on-One. I sent my manuscript to 11 editors on the list of Rutgers mentors and heard back from my editor at Holiday House, Kelly Loughman, eight months later. The whole process from concept to publication took about five years. Publication is rarely quick or easy!

Thank you for inviting me to share, Laura. Your website is fun and full of so much valuable information. It’s my pleasure to be a small part of it!

Thank you, Julie for stopping by.  And kind readers, don’t forget to check out the giveaway (after bio)!  

Bio (from the Kidlit Authors Club website)

JULIE GONZALEZ is a former teacher and the author of the picture book How Could a BEAR Sleep Here? (Holiday House, 2018). She enjoys working with younger students, using humor and heart to encourage curiosity, imagination, and empathy. Born in Maine, raised in New Jersey, and currently living in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, she runs, hikes, and interacts with the wildlife in her wooded backyard, an area which provides constant inspiration for her stories. 

*And just to give you a bit more: I’ve taught third-grade, kindergarten, and preschool. During my preschool years, I held three story times a day, and this experience influenced my first picture book, which is a very lively read-aloud loaded with onomatopoeia.  

Be sure to check out Julie’s website  www.juliegonzalez.com

She also has an educational guide for parents and teachers: https://juliegonzalez.com/for-teachers-and-parents

NOW for the GIVEAWAY!!! (Thank you, Julie!) 

If you’d like a chance to win a FREE  copy of HOW COULD A BEAR SLEEP HERE written by Julie Gonzalez and illustrated by Stephanie Laberis, let me know in a comment below. (NOTE: Must have U.S. address and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Friday 12/14/18 at 12:01 am EST. The winner will be announced that day!  

The GIVEAWAY is now over and the winner is…. Heather!  I will be in touch today so we can get the book to you.  Thank you to ALL who entered and THANK YOU, Julie, for providing the winning copy!

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

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

8 Nativity Activities to Spark Meaningful Conversations about Christmas with Preschoolers


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

2018 Best in Rhyme Top 20!


I’m delighted to share that DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling Children’s Books) has been selected as one of this year’s top twenty contenders for the Best in Rhyme Award. The top 10 will be announced next month and finalists and winner will be announced in February at the KidLit TV studio! There are so many wonderful books/author/illustrators included in this list! Congrats to all and I hope you will each take a moment to add these titles to your to-read lists. 

For those of you unfamiliar with the Best in Rhyme Award, it is the brainchild of rhyming picture book author Angie Karcher.  Newer writers are often discouraged from writing in rhyme, but this Award celebrates the joyful reality that rhyming stories are alive and well, but that they must be impeccably written.  Past winners include Diana Murray, Penny Parker Klostermann and Lori Mortenson. To learn more, visit https://rhymerev.com.  

GUEST POST: The Story Behind H IS FOR HAIKU with Amy Losak

H is for HaikuPlease join me in welcoming special guest Amy Losak, as she shares the story behind a delightful new poetry collection for young readers, H Is For Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z, written by her late mother, Sydell Rosenberg and published this past April with Penny Candy Books. How this collection came to be is a wonderful story – that involves poetry, hard work, determination and the special bond between mother and daughter.  Thank you so much for sharing this book’s unusual journey, Amy. It is an honor to have you on the blog today.  Take it away!

H Is For Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z, by Sydell Rosenberg and Sawsan Chalabi (Penny Candy Books), came to be, is both simple and complicated:

 Syd is my mother. She died in 1996. Syd was a teacher in New York City and a published writer. Sometime in the 1960s, she developed an interest in haiku poetry. Somehow, it “found” her – and it was, I think, the expressive outlet which mom had  been searching for. (In her bio in the 1974 classic text, The Haiku Anthology, edited by Cor van den Heuvel and published by Anchor Doubleday, mom described haiku as “unfussy” but “demanding.”)

 Early on, she set out to learn as much as she could. In 1968, the Haiku Society of America (hsa-haiku.org) was formed, and mom became a charter member. (It exists today — and I’m now a member, too.)

 At some point in the 1970s or 1980s, mom developed a strong desire to create a poetry picture book. She created more than one manuscript from her individual poems, some of which had been previously published in journals. I remember that she wanted her book to be an alphabet reader, and my memory tells me that she even wanted children to be the illustrators.

 So the seeds for the book that became H Is For Haiku were planted early. That’s the simple part of the story.

 The complicated part is this: Mom, like most of us, had a busy life: she earned her Masters of Arts in 1972, taught both as a substitute and as an adult ESL teacher. She wrote constantly, and a good amount of her poetry (haiku and other forms) and other writings were published. She submitted at least one of her kids’ poetry manuscripts to some publishers, but they were rejected.

 In her later years, life became stressful and sad for mom. When my much-older father was diagnosed with dementia (and other ills), her creative and literary life didn’t come to a screeching halt, but her passions were put on the back burner. Mom became a caregiver to my dad. She had help, but it was still an extraordinarily difficult time. Those years took their toll in terrible ways on both her body and psyche. Her death at home one morning was sudden, shocking, and unexpected. Although now, when I look back on her suffering, I realize that perhaps her end was inevitable. She was defiant, in her way, but she had become worn out. She couldn’t keep going that way any longer.

 At mom’s funeral in 1996, her family resolved to try and publish the picture book she had long dreamed of. 

 Finally, decades later — after much procrastination and tentative fits and starts — I took loving steps to finish what mom had started. And I succeeded, thanks to the unerring and unending support of many people who have warmly embraced my efforts and the result.

In 2016, I connected with Penny Candy Books (pennycandybooks.com). The principals, Chad Reynolds and Alexis Orgera, who are poets themselves, saw the possibilities in mom’s simple, striking “word-picture” poems. Our visions were similar. The illustrator, Sawsan Chalabi (Schalabi.com), has a style that is vigorous and full of joy. Her art and lettering help make the poems pop!

Haiku Library 2

Courtesy of Penny Candy Books

 H Is For Haiku was released this past April: National Poetry Month. It’s our dream come true. But more importantly, I hope mom’s book, which celebrates a collection of small moments in our daily lives we may overlook, will bring bits of magic to young readers, and the adults in their lives.

 And thanks to mom, I now write and even publish my own haiku. Who knows – maybe the second picture book will be a combination of both our work. We will see!

Thank you, Amy, for sharing your story.  Interested readers can pick up a copy of H Is For Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z, by Sydell Rosenberg and Sawsan Chalabi (Penny Candy Books) at your favorite local or online bookstore.  Happy reading!

Read. Discuss. Do!: LOVE IS KIND Jelly Bean Jars

RDD Love is Kind

Today I’m delighted to continue the WORLD KINDNESS DAY celebration with this adorable Read. Discuss Do! graphic created by children’s author Rebecca Gomez.  The Read. Discuss Do! (hashtag #ReadDiscussDo) campaign celebrates reading beyond the book by creating sharable images that give simple ideas for book related discussions and activities.  It is my hope today this LOVE IS KIND Read. Discuss. Do! will inspire you and your little ones to spread love and kindness wherever you go!   Happy reading, discussing and doing!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

TAILS ON THE ARK: An Edible Extension Activity for GOODNIGHT, ARK

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It’s always fun when you discover that someone you’ve never even met has seen your book and thought enough of it to create a special activity based on the book. That’s exactly what happened last spring when I discovered that on her blog, Easy Elegant Entertaining™, Addie Gundry, trained chef and cookbook author, used the concept of tails in GOODNIGHT, ARK to create an adorable book-themed treat. Click here for her wonderful edible activity.  And thank you, Addie, for letting me share the adorable picture above.

Now to springboard off of her creativity, I’d like to add some suggestions for thoughtful questions you might ask as you are making these delightful tails inspired by GOODNIGHT, ARK!  

GOODNIGHT, ARK Tail-Themed Questions

Do all of the creatures in  GOODNIGHT, ARK have tails? Which do not?

Which is your favorite tail? Why?

How many tails can you count? (On any given page.)

Why do you think animals have tails?

If you had a tail, what would it look like?  (Draw it , or make one using Addie’s ingredients!)

Happy reading, conversing about, creating, and then eating these adorable tails! And thank you, Addie, for creating this delightful (and tasty) extension activity!

P.S. Addie Gundry has also created adorable (and I mean ADORABLE) treats to go with GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU.  Press here for her adorable Bunny Tails.

THE BIG DRAW: Illustrator Rebecca Gerlings Shares DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE

 


When Rebecca Gerlings, the illustrator of DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, told me she was going to be one of the featured artists at this year’s The Big Draw Epsom, I was excited and wanted to learn more about the event and her role.

What I learned is that The Big Draw is a big deal! The Big Draw is a “a visual literacy charity that promotes the universal language of drawing as a tool for learning, expression and invention” and, according to their website, since their launch in 2000, over four million people have participated.  That makes them the world’s largest drawing festival! This year the festival ran from 1–31 October, and involved over 400,000 people from over 25 countries!

The  2018 theme was “play” and in Epsom activities included live cellists, chalk drawing on pavements, abstract art in the square, and readings and workshops in the library.  Visitors also had the chance to meet local artists, art educators and designers – including picture book author-illustrator Rebecca Gerlings, illustrator of Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse!

Here’s a round up of Rebecca’s part of the day:

 

Rebecca read Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse, then lead a puppet-making workshop where children could take home their very own Delores and Fernando.

4439cb7b-874d-4228-8cbe-fa7765c752deShe cut 40 templates for both characters, snipped 40 woolly mouse tails, punched 80 mouse ears, and dotted 120 sticky eyes ahead of the event. 

 

The Fernando puppets were made by rolling each brown sugar-paper template into a little cone and securing it with sticky tape. A pair of ears and eyes and a woolly tail later and – voila-la-la! – Fernando!

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Once the kids had completed their puppets they popped them on stage for their debut performances!

All 40 cute Fernando puppets found new homes with their little makers. And in a flurry of feathers and glittery makery so did all 40 Deloreses!

IMG_2617It was such a smash that when the templates ran out a half hour before the end of the workshop the resourceful kiddos stayed to make cute characters out of the cotton wool balls meant for Delores’ wigs! 

Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful day!  And perhaps it will inspire you to grab a copy of DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE to read with your kiddos. And, afterwards, maybe you, too, can create puppets and put on a show!  Happy reading and creating, all!