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:

LITTLE MOLE FINDS HOPE: Six Extension Activities for 4 – 8 Year Olds (Plus a GIVEAWAY)

Today I am delighted to feature Glenys Nellist’s charming new story LITTLE MOLE FINDS HOPE. Published by Beaming Books and illustrated by Sally Garland, this delightful hardcover picture book provides an engaging spark for conversations with your little ones about feelings of sadness. Told through the eyes of Little Mole, who comes to see that even in the darkness of his underground burrow, nature is pushing towards the light and that new hope will soon emerge in the form of spring buds and flowers, it’s a lovely way to talk about finding joy in the midst of sadness. It even includes a discussion guide for caregivers at the end. It’s a lovely book to share with the  little ones in your life.

Enjoy the book trailer. Then, in celebration of the book’s release, and in the hope of sparking some good conversations with your children, here are SIX extension activities for LITTLE MOLE FINDS HOPE.

Plant a seed in a hole. Since the author uses the analogy of winter bulbs and seeds bursting forth in spring to explain hope in the midst of sadness, recreate that sense of anticipation and joy by having your children plant some seeds or bulbs of their own. This can be done in a pot or in the garden. Either way, be sure to water gently each day and wait and watch in hopeful anticipation for the first signs of new life.

Send a note with Little Mole.  In the story Mama helps Little Mole find signs of hope when he is feeling sad.  After reading the story, let your child do the same by making a card with Little Mole on the front.  Inside the card have them write a message to someone special – perhaps a grandparent or beloved aunt or uncle or teacher – sending hope, love and joy. 

Use the book to spark a talk. One of the special treasures of this book is that it includes a thoughtfully crafted “Discussion Guide for Caregivers” at the end. The guide offers suggestions for talking about the story and tips to help a child who is feeling sad. Read these on your own ahead of time, or look at them together with your child after reading the book.

Take your children on a walk. After reading the story, take your child on a walk through your neighborhood or at a local preserve. Bring along a notebook so they can draw or keep a list of all the signs of new life they find. Be sure to look carefully for things like new buds, saplings, and tiny plants just starting to poke through the soil. Marvel together at the excitement of spotting new growth.

Take a picture read through. After reading LITTLE MOLE FINDS HOPE, let your littlest ones 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. (Older kids who can read on their own, can also enjoy investigating the illustrations ways the pictures also tell part of the story.)

Do a “Read. Discuss. Do!” Author Rebecca Gomez has created a delightful reading extension initiative called Read.Discuss.Do! Here’s one she created for LITTLE MOLE FINDS HOPE. To find others for a wide variety of favorite titles, search the hashtag #ReadDiscussDo on social media.

BONUS:  Check out the publisher’s website for a teacher’s guide to accompany the story, chock full of book-themed activities.

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!! If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of LITTLE MOLE FINDS HOPE (Beaming Books, February 2020) simply post a comment below letting me know that you’d like to enter. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway is sponsored by Beaming Books and ends Monday, 3/30/20 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced next Tuesday! 

[Note: Thank you to Beaming Books 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.]

MEET LITTLE EWE: My Companion for AUTHOR VISITS… STUFFY Style!

My decision to use puppets at author visits began quite by chance. Since a pair of skunks play an important role in my first book GOODNIGHT, ARK, and figuring that some of my very youngest readers might not be familiar with the species, I thought having a pair of skunk puppets would be a fun way to introduce the story.

The skunks were such a great hit, that when my second book, GOODNIGHT, MANGER, came out, I knew I wanted a new, book-specific puppet. Thankfully, without too much trouble, thanks again to Folkmanis, I found the perfect companion — Rooster!  

My third book, DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, stars a diva seal and opera-loving mouse.  And again, they are the warm-up act to my story times and, boy, are they a hit!  Delores even sings opera!  (She gets the kids to sing too… and the parents and teachers!)

My fourth book, LOVE IS KIND stars Little Owl and that puppet was made for me by the very kind director at one of the programs I visited. She said, “I can make you a puppet that looks just like Little Owl!” and then a few days later a delightful package arrived in the mail. Isn’t he darling! 

Now LITTLE EWE: THE STORY OF ONE LOST SHEEP will be coming out in November!  And I’m delighted to share that I’ve found my puppet. Actually, it’s not a puppet; it’s adorable Baby Gund stuffed lamb. I’ve named her Little Ewe, of course, and doesn’t she look like she’s just hopped off the cover of the new book – ready to share her story with children everywhere at author events!  She even plays music – which I think will make a lovely finale at preschool visits.  

Have all these adorable story companions inspired you?  If you decide to bring a puppet along to your next author visit and want a few tips for creative ways to incorporate puppets into your presentation, you might enjoy this guest post I wrote on Lauri Fortino’s blog on the topic USING PUPPETS TO ENGAGE YOUNG READERS.

And if you want to help Little Ewe make a big splash when she releases, please take a moment to pre-order your copy of the book now at your favorite online vendor – such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble or ChristianBook.com. You can also suggest the title to your local bookstore, which would be a wonderful way to help raise awareness of this upcoming title.

Cover Reveal – LITTLE EWE: THE STORY OF ONE LOST SHEEP

Guess what? I have a new picture coming out in 2020 with Beaming Books!  LITTLE EWE: THE STORY OF ONE LOST SHEEP is scheduled to release November 17, 2020, just in time for the holidays.

Here’s the scoop from Beaming Books:

Little Ewe would rather jump on logs and investigate spider webs than follow the shepherd when he calls. But what happens when she gets lost? How will she find her way home? Told in whimsical rhyme, this humorous counting book for our littlest ones is a delightful reminder that, like a loving parent, our Shepherd will find us and care for us, even when we wander from the path.

In Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep, award-winning author Laura Sassi and illustrator Tommy Doyle tell an endearing tale of a distracted sheep and her persistent shepherd, inspired by the Parable of the Lost Sheep in Luke 15.”

Thank you, Beaming Books, for publishing this next picture book. And now for the moment you (or at least I) have been waiting for… the COVER REVEAL! Thank you, Chirping Moms for hosting. The cover reveal plus an interview (and maybe even a sneak peek at an interior spread!) can be found by pressing here.

Happy Peeking!

GUEST PODCAST: When We Were Very Young- A Book-Loving Interview!

Do you have a favorite childhood book? I have several, but my earliest favorite book memory is of sitting in my mother’s lap while she read to me from A.A. Milne’s When We Were Very Young. I loved the rhythmic rhyming sound of Milne’s poems and memorized several, quite by accident, because I asked my mother to read them to me so often. I’ve carried the rhyming beat of those poems with me ever since. And I think they are partially to blame for my growing up to be a writer!

That’s why, when I was asked by podcaster Jody Lee Mott to take part in his Dream Garden interview series in which he interviews authors sharing their favorite books, I couldn’t resist choosing When We Were Very Young. Jody was not familiar with the poetry collection, but enjoyed reading it and coming up with thought-provoking questions. The result is fresh and fun interview. Not only will you get a taste for A. A. Milne’s poetry and why it was so foundational to my love for the written word, you’ll also get an inside peek at what makes me tick as a writer.

I hope you can find a quiet time to listen, perhaps while making supper, as I did last night. I think you’ll enjoy the podcast. And afterwards, you may just decide you want to listen to his other podcasts as well!

Curious? I’ll make it easy for you. Here’s the link.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Five Fun Facts About TWO New Books with BROCK EASTMAN

I always enjoy meeting authors through social media and was delighted to connect recently with Brock Eastman who has written not just picture books/board books but also middle grade. He’s here today to share FIVE FUN facts about his two newest releases for littlest readers, Mommy’s Favorite Smell & Daddy’s Favorite Sound both published by Harvest House. The publisher sent me a review copy of Mommy’s Favorite Smell so I could have a full sense for his books. I’ve never read a book that focuses so exclusively on smell! FUN! I hope you enjoy the post. Happy sniffing!

FIVE Fun Facts About Mommy’s Favorite Smell & Daddy’s Favorite Sound

By Brock Eastman

FUN FACT #1: My kids inspire me.

My daughter asked me, “Is this your favorite sound?” as she moved a slinky back and forth in her little hands.
“No that’s not my favorite sound,” I said.
“What’s your favorite sound?” she asked.
“Kinley, I love you,” I said.
“Daddy, I love you too,” she repeated.
I smiled and said, “That is my favorite sound!”


And that is how Little Lion came to be. After ten years and many drafts, Daddy’s Favorite Sound found a home with Harvest House. And soon there were two books, one for Daddy and one for Mommy. 

FUN FACT #2: My wife inspires me too.

All the credit for the second book’s idea, Mommy’s Favorite Smell, goes to my wife. We were driving back from a date talking about what Mommy’s Favorite could be and she shared one her favorite moments as a mom with me, and that was it. We are excited to share what Mommy’s Favorite Smell is to us, and we think you’ll probably agree. But to find out, you’ll have to read the book aloud to your kids or grandkids or classroom.

FUN FACT #3: Reading wasn’t my thing, and neither was writing.

I despised reading when I was younger, it wasn’t until I was in college that I started to enjoy reading. And with a degree in marketing, writing never occurred to me as something I might do. But God opened some doors and next thing I knew I had a 5-book contract for a middle grade series called The Quest for Truth, in fact the final book (Hope) released in July. From there I’ve continued to create new stories.

FUN FACT #4: Illustrator David Miles is amazing.

I met David Miles the illustrator for Daddy’s Favorite Sound and Mommy’s Favorite Smell through a story I wrote for Clubhouse magazine. I wrote a story called Waste Deep, which was connected loosely to The Quest for Truth galaxy. Clubhouse magazine selected David to illustrate the story, and soon he brought my story to life in ways I couldn’t even imagine.

FUN FACT #5: Readers…Parents…Imagination

I hope parents will read my stories to their soon-to-be-readers while snuggling up together with their kids, And I hope that as kids hear these stories, their imaginations will be sparked and they’ll want to read more and more. 

 Brock Eastman has a degree in Marketing and works for Compassion International. Previously he was a producer and podcast host for Adventures in Odyssey. He is the author of The Quest for Truth series, Daddy’s Favorite Sound, Mommy’s Favorite Smell, Bedtime on Noah’s Ark, Sages of Darkness series, and Imagination Station series; Showdown with the Shepherd. He writes articles for Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. Magazines. He loves reading stories to his four kids each night.

Author Website: BrockEastman.com

Amazon Author Page: http://amazon.com/Brock-Eastman/e/B005FZUM4Y/

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

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bdeastman

Back to Bedtime Routine… with GOODNIGHT, ARK and others!

 Summer is a magical time. The days are long and filled with adventure. Everything is less structured. Even bedtime routines become more relaxed. For our family that means lots of after dinner swims and strolls downtown for ice cream. And what fun it is to hang out on the front porch chatting and listening to the sounds of the night.

When my kids were little, it was even more magical because one of their favorite after dinner activities was chasing lightning bugs at twilight. Even Sophie, our pooch, would join in the fun and when the bugs landed on her black fur, she’d light up like magic in the dark! 

But as August winds down, it was (and still is) time to rein in bedtime and restore earlier, more calming bedtime routines so that everyone is rested and ready for the start of school. 

With that in mind, what FUN this morning to see GOODNIGHT, ARK included in this round up of cozy bedtime stories from Zonderkidz – perfect for sailing into fall with a cozy bedtime routine. Interested in checking out the list? I’ll make it easy for you. Press here.

PICTURE BOOKS: What Makes A Perennial Favorite?

Summer time reminds me that I LOVE perennials, those wonderful plants that bloom in my garden, season after season, where they are enjoyed by all, again and again. My favorites include my butterfly bush, the daisies, the echinacea, the black-eyed susans and, most especially, my beloved roses – that remind me of my mother who faithfully tended her to her perennials year after year. 

The joy of seeing my perennials bloom more gloriously than ever has gotten me thinking about how picture books – the good ones – are like perennials too, enjoyed by generations of kids and caregivers. 

So, what makes a picture book a perennial favorite?

I’m sure I’m just scratching the surface, but here are FIVE characteristics that I think elevate a picture book to perennial status.  What would you add? 

Characteristic #1: Perennial picture books are fun to read again and again for both kids and caregivers.  Books that have this quality tend to have fresh plot lines, fresh characters and fresh word play. They might incorporate a fun refrain or include fun sound words or rhymes, both of which engage youngest readers.  Many can also be enjoyed on more than one level, thus appealing to littlest ones and their grown up readers.

Characteristic #2: Perennial picture books have charming illustrations that engage the reader and add to the story. Children are incredibly observant and LOVE perusing illustrations for extra story clues. The extra details in perennial favorites are often related to plot or the personality of the protagonist. Sometimes, though, the illustrations engage by offering extra details. These details might be conducive to playing “I spy” as you read, or they could be humorous clues to what will happen next, or offer readers a parallel visual story as they read.  These illustrations can take many forms – but they all result in on thing – creating a magical reading experience that draws readers of all ages to return to their perennial favorites again and again.

Characteristic #3: Perennial picture books tap into universal themes that have and will most likely to continue to stand the test of time.  Perennially favorite themes include friendship, love, discovery, thankfulness, overcoming hardship etc.  However, to stand out, and remain a perennial favorite, the universal theme must be handled in a fresh and fun way. (See characteristic #1.)

Characteristic #4: In contrast to holiday-themed picture books which tend to be read just during their particular season of celebration, perennial favorites can be read and enjoyed anytime of year.  Their settings may be distinct, and usually are, but the plots of perennial favorites typically don’t focus on a particular holiday.  (Christmas picture books may be the exception because, at least in our house, my kids enjoyed several of those all year round.)

Characteristic #5: Perennial favorites often wrap up with a soothing restful ending, conducive to putting little ones to bed.  Many times this takes the form of the characters in the story literally settling down to sleep themselves, but it can also simply be a cozy feel good ending, that’s not set at bedtime, but still has that soothing, “everything’s all right” feel.

Happy reading… and I’d love to hear what you’d add to my list! 

FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: AN ANIMAL COUNTING BOOK: Six Extension Activities for Families and Classrooms

There’s a new NATURE-LOVING picture book on the trail, just in time for spring hikes and summer explorations with your child. It’s called FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: AN ANIMAL COUNTING BOOK (Pomegranate Kids, March 15, 2019) and it’s written by Vivian Kirkfield with illustrations by Mirka Hokkanen. It’s a beautiful read and perfect for sparking thoughtful conversations with your little ones about nature – and especially about endangered species.

Here’s the description from the inside flap:  

“Water wakes. Wildlife greets the day and finds shelter, safety, and fun on the river in this lyrical, ecologically oriented counting book. One willow flycatcher, two dragonflies, three kit foxes, and more thrive in their habitat. As kids count, the day turns from dawn to dusk, and the character of the water changes as quickly as a child’s moods. Animals sing, leap, tiptoe, toboggan, hoot, hunt, flit, flutter, and hover. They ride out a storm, bask in waning rays, and tuck in under the silver moon.

Filled with modern wood engravings, Four Otters Toboggan celebrates wild beauty, encouraging readers of all ages to preserve and cherish our planet. After the story is finished, children can read more about each species in the back of the book, conservation efforts, what causes animals to become endangered, and what people can do to protect wild habitats.”

Now, in celebration of the book’s release, and in the hope of sparking some good conversations with your children, here are SIX extension activities for  FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN!  

1. Take a counting hike.  After reading FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN, take your child on their own nature walk through your neighborhood or at a local preserve. Bring along a notebook so they can keep a counting list of what animals, insects etc. they see. With each creature they spot, stop an marvel at what a wondrous gift it is to able to see these animals in the wild.

Here are some creatures my kids and I have spotted over the years:

2. Make your own animal counting book.  Inspired by Vivian’s delightful text and Mirka’s wondrous illustrations (and using the counting list they tallied in the hiking activity), challenge your child to create their own nature counting book.

3. Visit a local nature center.  Extend the lessons of the book by visiting a nature center or museum in your area. For example, all within an hour radius of our our, I have taken my kids to a nature museum by the sea, in the woods, and along the marshes. Some of these museums are tiny, but what they all have in common is that they celebrate and teach about the local species in each of those habitats.  

4. Watch the illustrator create one of the engravings from the story. One of the standout features of this delightful book are illustrator Mirka Hokkanen’s amazing modern wood engravings. With that in mind, older children might enjoy hearing and watching the illustrator herself as she describes the process using the very engravings that appear in the story!  Her presentation has three parts. I’m sharing the second part because it shows her actually engraving the owls from the story!  

Here it is: 

5. Create your own simple engravings.  After watching Mirka describe her process, you children might be inspired to try their own engravings. Here’s a link to a simple block printing project from Art Class Curator that even the youngest child can do.

6. Download the “Otterly Awesome Companion Activity Book for Four Otters: A Counting Book”.  This eleven page booklet includes crafts, coloring pages, puzzles, a hands-on idea page for how to care for endangered species and more! It will provide several sessions of wonderful follow-up conversation and thought.

To learn more about Vivian Kirkfield: https://viviankirkfield.com   

To learn more about artist Mirka Hokkanen: http://www.mirkah.com/books/

To learn more about Pomegranate Kids: https://www.pomegranate.com

LOVE IS KIND Valentine Blog Tour: STOP TWO

So delighted to have LOVE IS KIND featured over at The Chirping Moms in stop two of our Valentine book tour. Why a Valentine tour? Well, because LOVE IS KIND celebrates love and kindness, making it a perfect read for Valentine’s Day! Something super neat about this stop is that the Chirping Moms and I live in the same town and we only found that out by chance! Small world, eh? (Oh, and there’s also a giveaway!) So grab that cup of tea and head on over.  Happy reading, all!

And here’s the complete list of stops I’ll be making.  I hope you will join me each step of the way.  =)