Are you ready for the HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD Virtual Book Launch Party? I am and so is my storytelling companion, Mouse. That’s why we’re reminding you to join us on Instagram Live on Thursday, December 1st at 7pm Eastern (that’s TOMORROW!) to celebrate the release of HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD.
Here’s the invitation:
And, now, as I promised, here is the craft!
Inspired by illustrator Gabi Murphy’s darling little mice, our party craft will be making your own mouse. These are some we made in Sunday School. Aren’t they darling? (I will introduce the craft at the party, and you can make it after the party.)
To make one, each child will need:
One circle cut from gray construction paper
Two circles cut from pink construction paper
One circle cut from black construction paper
Strips of black and gray construction paper for whiskers and tail
OPTIONAL: two googley eyes
You will also need scissors and glue.
Here is the tutorial for the craft from The Little Crafties (and be sure to check out their YouTube channel for oodles of other great crafts:
As a closing reminder, this is the adorable craft that I’ll be presenting at the HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD Book Launch Party which will take place LIVE on my Instagram Page on Thursday, December 1st at 7pm eastern. Here’s the link to that page: https://www.instagram.com/laurasassitales/. Just show up! It’s that easy. And if you follow me there, you’ll be sure to get all the updates for this and other bookish things.
Over the years, I’ve discovered that something extra magical happens when I add puppets to my story times. The kids love it! Interested in giving puppets a try? Here are ten tips to get you started.
Before the story time.
1. Pick a puppet that fits the book. The puppet you choose can either be a protagonist, like my seal, mouse and owl, or minor characters such as my skunks, rooster, or my newest mouse. The most important thing is that you have a good reason for picking that puppet – a reason that enhances your story time. For example, the skunks are useful in introducing an important and fun subplot in GOODNIGHT, ARK. (They are hiding under the bed in every spread until – at last – they make a big stink that’s important to the resolution of the story.) And that rooster, while very minor to GOODNIGHT, MANGER, becomes a fun and engaging way to introduce the concept of loud vs. quiet voices when putting a baby to bed.
2. Play… and plan ahead of time! This is probably obvious, but it’s worth spending time in advance putting together a little stand-up routine for you and your puppet. This is your chance to tap into your inner comedian. The more you ham it up, the more the kids will love it!
3. Practice your ventriloquist skills. There are two ways to use your puppet. Either you can just talk with it and it can shyly nod, react etc., OR you can have that puppet actually converse with you, or “cock-a-doodle-doo” as my rooster does and SING as that darling Diva Delores loves to do! If you decide to have them speak, then I’d recommend practicing your ventriloquist skills in front of a mirror ahead of time.
During the story time.
4. Use your puppets to break the ice. If you are a little shy, like me, then you’ll probably agree that mingling is easier with a buddy. In that awkward “before the story time officially begins” period, I’ve discovered that EVERYBODY enjoys a little mingling with the author and her storytelling companion – especially when it’s a cute stuffed animal puppet.
5. Have your puppets help introduce the story. This takes a little planning ahead of time (see step 2), but a short puppet routine is a great way to introduce the themes of your story, any special concepts, or just to get the kids excited. For DIVA DELORES, for example, my seal puppet likes to sing for the audience so they can hear what opera sounds like. Then she invites them to join along in singing the refrain that appears on certain spreads in the book. And Mouse, my storytelling companion for HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD, will introduce littlest ones to the concept of counting and birthdays! We might even play a fun counting game during that “break the ice” time.
6. Have the children model for the puppets what “good listening” looks like before you read. It’s amazing how eager young readers are to engage with the puppets, and I’ve discovered over time that little ones especially like the opportunity to model for my puppets what good listeners look like. So, I have THEM show the puppets what it looks like to sit quietly with eyes on reader, ready to be read to.
7. Use your puppets to engage young readers in some post-reading ponderings. After my readings, I like for the kids to reflect with me on what the characters in the story learned and I’ve found that involving the puppets in the process is effective and popular. For example, after reading GOODNIGHT, MANGER we ponder what made the difference in getting Baby Jesus to sleep. (The answer has to do with creating a quiet, peaceful atmosphere). Then, together, we see if we can teach our very NOISY rooster to do a quiet cock-a-doodle-doo. If he learns well, we invite him to join as we sing a final lullaby to Baby Jesus. For LOVE IS KIND, Little Owl helps me select volunteers to share their post-reading thoughts on how they, too, can be kind.
8. Include your puppets in the story time farewell. This can be very motivational if your audience is getting antsy because you can promise your young participants that if they hold on just a little longer, then they can pet and hug the visiting puppet! They love this! And I am just charmed by how many “I love yous” each puppet has so gently received over the last eight years since I first started using puppets.
After the story time.
9. Have a puppet de-briefing session with yourself. After each story time, I find it helpful to evaluate what worked, what didn’t, and what I could do next time to make that puppet even more integral to my story time. For example, it wasn’t until I had done a few story times in that I decided to have my GOODNIGHT, ARK skunk puppets engage my audience in a little quiet “thumbs up” challenge. But it worked so well, that now, at every GOODNIGHT, ARK story time, my skunk puppets challenge the audience to quietly put “thumbs up” as soon as they spot the skunks on each spread – which makes for a nice set up to the stinky climax!
10. Most important: HAVE FUN! Yes, let’s not forget this last important tip. If you are having fun, it will be contagious!
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Please join me today in welcoming children’s book author Patti Richards. Patti is the author of the delightful MRS. NOAH, published by Little Lamb Books and illustrated by Alice Pieroni. Here’s the official description:
MRS. NOAH is a celebration of love, and the motivation behind all the amazing things people do to make a house a home, even when that home is an ark! Mrs. Noah knows it takes more than wood, nails, and a hammer to make their big boat a comfy place to live. Stalls need cleaning, beds need making, and food needs baking before the animals come trotting, crawling, slithering and flying aboard! And how WILL she find a place for the elephants to take a bath? Author Patti Richards shows us how Mrs. Noah gets Noah’s help with the loving details before a single raindrop falls.
I love that Patti and I have a shared love of stories inspired by Noah’s ark. For all you Noah’s ark book collectors out there, this is a clever one to add to your collection.
Later this month Patti and I have the wonderful delight of doing a shared story time at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, MI. If you live in the Grand Rapids area, I hope will join a this special multi-book double-author event which takes place July 20th at 10:30 Here are the details for that:
Because Patti and I haven’t actually met in person yet, we thought an interview would be fun. There’s also a GIVEAWAY at the end of this post for ONE FREE SIGNED COPY of Patti Richards’ MRS. NOAH. Thank you, Patti! And now, without further ado, the interview, with my questions in bold.
Thanks so much for joining us today, Patti. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you become a writer?
Thanks so much for having me, Laura! It’s an honor to be here!
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but one experience stands out as the time when I knew it was what I wanted to do as part of my life’s work. I was sitting in my seventh-grade language arts class working on a writing assignment (I don’t remember what we were writing about). I looked out the window and could completely picture what I was putting on the page, almost like a movie playing out in front of my eyes. It seemed so real, and I remember feeling an urgency to get it all down before it disappeared, and then the satisfaction I felt when I wrote the final word. When I got the story back there was an A at the top of the paper and a comment, “Have you ever thought about being a writer?” And that was it! Of course my journey to writing full time wasn’t a straight path…there were the years of wanting to be an actress and singer on the Broadway stage, then the calling to teach language arts and theatre for a time, then marriage, then children and being a stay-at-home mom. . .all the while always writing, always reading. Then I had an opportunity to submit a story to a local newspaper. And when they kept calling and asking me to do more I thought, “Maybe now?” and God whispered, “yes.” So little by little I built my writing resume with freelance work while learning the craft of writing for children. And then last October, my first fiction picture book for children, MRS. NOAH, was released!
I’m glad you listened to those affirmations along the way and followed God’s whisper. And now your first book is out! What inspired you write MRS. NOAH?
I was getting my family of five ready for our very first cruise to celebrate my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. In the middle of all the planning, shopping, laundry, getting pet instructions ready for the house sitter, cleaning, stopping the mail, paying the bills, I said out loud…” If it’s this hard to get a family of five ready for a three-day cruise, how in the world did MRS. NOAH get the ark ready for all of those animals?” Of course, I had to stop in the middle of what I was doing and get the idea down and saved in my picture book idea file. From there it took almost nine years until MRS. NOAH was released into the world with lots of twists and turns along the way.
Ha! I’m glad you recognized this gem of an idea while you were getting everyone ready for that ark, er I mean cruise ride and wrote it down.
Can you tell us about the illustrator? What was it like seeing your text come to full color with illustrations? Do you have a favorite spread?
I love Alice Pieroni’s vision for MRS. NOAH! It’s funny how you have a picture in your head of how everything should look, but when you see the illustrator’s interpretation of the story, aside from a few tweaks that are part of every book’s journey, you realize it’s exactly what it needed to be. We’ve had so much positive feedback about her beautiful illustrations! My absolute favorite spread is the one with the giraffes and the shelves Mrs. N. builds so they’ll have a place to rest their heads!
Humor in illustrations adds so much and Alice’s work is darling.
What would you like readers to take away from this story?
I’d like young readers and their caregivers to see that love is in the details when it comes to making a house a home. I’d also like them to see that there’s always more to a story than meets the eye, and that team work can really get the job done!
That’s a beautiful and heartfelt message. Finally, what’s next? Are there more picture books in the pipeline? Also, where can interested readers find your books?
Thanks so much for asking, Laura! I have two picture books coming out in the next couple of years. One is called O POSSUM’S PREDICAMENT (Blue Whale Press), about a theatre-loving opossum that’s tired of playing dead and wants to play Hamlet instead. The other picture book I have releasing in 2023 is called, MILLIE’S CHRISTMAS MIRACLE (Little Lamb Books), about a mouse and her best friend a sheep who work together to knit swaddling clothes for a very special baby.
And I’m always shopping new material to publishing houses and am currently in search of the perfect agent! New friends can find my books on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop.org and wherever books are sold!
Thank you for joining us today, Patti. Learn more about Patti on her website and around the web
NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!! If you’d like a chance to win a SIGNED copy of MRS. NOAH (Little Lamb Books, 2021) follow this blog and leave a comment letting us know. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) Thank you, Patti, for providing the winning book. This giveaway ends Thursday, 7/14/22 at 11:59 pm EST. This giveaway is over. The winner is announced here.
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 this summer we are launching our second annual summer reading challenge. Each week features a fun reading theme with suggested books and ideas for engaging with books in creative and kid-friendly ways. Jump in whenever! Download the printable calendar (plus bookmarks) here.
In the super fun category, this week’s theme is Tasty Treats and, as part of the fun, Rebecca has put together a delightful Snack and a Story post featuring LOVE IS KIND. Thank you, Rebecca! Here’s the link so you can check it out.
Reading to the young is fun, but can be challenging if you are new to it. With that in mind, here are twelve tips for capturing and keeping the attention and interest of preschool – K-2 audiences at picture book read-aloud events. (Perfect for authors or anyone reading aloud to this age range.)
BEFORE THE STORY:
Have the children gather around you – close up.
Begin with a focusing activity, such as a song or clapping response game (or a fun book-themed gameshow style quiz as I do with LITTLE EWE).
Briefly tell a little bit about who you are, your inspiration for story etc. in a playful, kid-friendly way. (Optional: Bring a long a couple of props to help with this. I bring puppets and, perhaps a hat or other book-themed apparel, such as my most recent bunny hat that I wore whilst reading BUNNY FINDS EASTER!)
DURING THE STORY:
4. Be animated and excited. Read with expression.
5. Make eye contact. Remember, you aren’t just reading, you are interacting with your readers.
6. Before turning each page, be sure to hold the book up and pan it around the room slowly so everyone has a chance to enjoy the illustration.
7. Involve the children in the storytelling. (By using body motions and sounds, for example.)
8. Pause occasionally to point out something from the illustrations that they might not notice, but which adds to the story.
9. As you read, occasionally ask questions like “What do you think will happen next? Would you want to be…?” (But don’t do #8 and #9 so much that you break the flow of the story.)
AFTER THE STORY:
10. Share a fun post-reading activity such as a simple craft or song.
11. Depending on age and attentiveness of group, have a brief Q&A session.
12. Thank the children for being such a great audience and thank their parents or guardians for bringing them to the event. Remember also to thank the event host.
In celebration of Valentine’s Day, here at 10 things to LOVE about picture books.
Picture books can be read in one sitting.
Though they can be read in just one sitting, the good ones beg to be read again and again.
Picture books are a magical intertwining of text and image.
Picture books can be enjoyed and treasured by all ages.
Picture books area an engaging introduction to littlest ones to the joy of reading.
They can be read with your little one on your lap, all cozy and snug.
They’re wonderful for pre-readers because there’s so much to point to, name, predict etc.
Picture books are perfect when you are the guest reader in your child’s K – 2nd grade class.
They’re also wonderful for grades 3 and up (yes, even through high school) as model texts for examining story structure, voice, character development, figurative language and more.
And because picture books tap into universal themes like friendship, empathy, forgiveness, perseverance and more, they can serve as the spark to heartfelt conversations about life with your kids no matter what their ages.
Recently, it was my pleasure to be interviewed by podcast host Andrew Jackson for his children’s story time program, StoryJumpers, a bi-weekly Christian podcast that features a children’s book read by the author and an interview with the author. The podcast airs today, January 14th, 2022 over at The Bridge Podcast Network, part of The Bridge, a community supported, non-commercial Christian radio station serving Delaware, South Jersey, parts of Maryland and beyond.
Today’s episode features my picture book LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018) about Little Owl who wants to show his grammy how much he loves her by buying her a heart-shaped box of chocolates, but his efforts are thwarted at every step. In the end, he learns that love and kindness can be shown in many ways and that HE is the gift when he is kind and loving towards others — a gift much better than chocolate.
Thank you, Andrew, for being such a great host! I had a wonderful time. Here’s the link:
During the lockdown, when schools were remote and the library was only open for grab -’n – go, a family on Burchfield Avenue here in my hometown came up with a special plan to bring joy to their neighbors through books. They built and established a Little Free Library known as Suzanne’s Little Free Library.
I first noticed this library on my walks last fall. What a lovely one it is, sturdily constructed by all members of the family and colorfully painted with some of their favorite children’s book characters. Aren’t Babar and Celeste joyfully rendered! And just look at that cedar shingled roof. Wow!
Behind those inviting glass doors, throughout the pandemic, passers-by have been able to explore a thoughtfully curated selection of books for kids and grown ups alike. What a blessing it was during those long months — not just for me, but for the whole community — to be able to open those Little Free Library doors and actually peruse and touch books!
Suzanne’s Little Free Library was actually one of the stops on Little Owl’s Kindness campaign, in which I left a copy of LOVE IS KIND in five area Little Free Libraries, if you remember that from last fall.
Imagine my delight, then, to discover through Instagram, that Suzanne and her family were planning a One Year Birthday Celebration for their library. What a darling idea! Taking a leap, I messaged Suzanne to see if she’d be interested in having a local author (me) be part of the fun with a special story time. She said yes, and I’m so glad she did.
The party was amazing with coloring pages and crafts for the kids and creative book-themed snacks like these delicious book worms. And there were books, of course. Oodles of books.
The attendees were friendly and book-loving. I loved every part of the party – from chatting to snacking to story time.
Of all my picture book characters, Diva Delores is the one who most relishes a party, so I decided to read DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE for the story time. As you can see, Delores and I are very expressive when we read!
I enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of this special afternoon. And what did Diva Delores most enjoy? She loved playing a starring role in helping an adorable three-year old attendee overcome his fear of stuffed animals.
Delores also enjoyed snapping this very glam picture of us donating a copy of the book to Suzanne’s Little Free Library. Thank you, Suzanne and team for having us! And thank you for being a shining example of community kindness and positivity.
I’m so excited for this event which was originally scheduled for May 2020 but had be canceled because of a certain pesky virus. A special bilingual craft will follow. I’m still working on it, so I can’t show it to you, but it will be muy fácil y muy divertido (that’s very easy and very fun)!
Here’s the official blurb and, please note, registration is required. Thank you for having me as your guest, Kenilworth Public Library Can’t wait!
Join author Laura Sassi for a special bilingual story time at the Kenilworth Public Library as she shares EL AMOR ES BONDADASO, the Spanish version of her picture book LOVE IS KIND about Pequeño Búho (Little Owl) who wants to get his Abuelita (Grammy) chocolates but his efforts get thwarted every step of the way. Published by Zonderkidz and Vida Editorial and illustrated by Lison Chaperon, this charming and heartfelt journey celebrates the many forms that love and happiness can take. Craft to follow. Registration required by phone or in person at children’s desk:(908) 276-2451. Books will be available for purchase and signing. (Registration opens July 1st for Kenilworth residents/ July 6th for non-residents.)
Last week, I was delighted to see that LOVE IS KIND was the featured story time for Australian book store chain Koorong’s new virtual story time series. Their line up has been quite impressive with books featured by the likes of Max Lucado and Rick Warren so, as you can imagine, Little Owl and I were very excited to be in the line up.
The story times, read by Petronella and her adorable companion, Charlie the monkey, are fun to watch and I really enjoyed how she read LOVE IS KIND. In fact, I thought she did such a good job that I it might be worthwhile to reflect on what exactly, in my opinion, made her reading so delightful and what we, as potential virtual story time readers, might extract and learn from her charming expertise.
Here now, inspired by this story time, are five tips for making your virtual read-aloud the best it can be:
Tip #1: Choose a reading spot that has good lighting (not overly back lit) and a pleasant, but not distracting background. Her bookshelf background was perfect, but the background can also be solid. For example, I’ve done virtual storytimes against the rich brown background of my porch shingles and also against the warm creamy yellow of my living room.
Tip #2: Keep the introduction simple and include any permissions wording required by the publisher. (Check the publisher’s website for this, as each has their own specifications.)
Tip #3: Don’t rush as you read and be sure to use lots of expression (but in a natural, not overdone way.)
Tip #4: Add even more richness by incorporating different voices for each character. You might even consider taking this to the next level, as Petronella does in her reading of LOVE IS KIND, by adding a subtle expression or action for various characters. For example, each time Rabbit spoke, Petronella snuffled and scrunched her nose (just slightly) before reading her lines.
Tip #5: Pause before each page turn to allow the readers to really immerse themselves in the illustrations.
Tip #6: At choice moments, it’s okay and even fun to infuse the story with a couple of thoughtful questions or comments. For example, Petronella pauses a couple of times to say things like, “Oh no, poor Little Owl!” or “What do you think will happen now?”
Tip #7: Have fun!
Thanks again, Koorong, for featuring LOVE IS KIND and thank you, Petronella, for reading it so delightfully. If you are in Australia, I hope you will pop in at your nearest Koorong to pick up your very own copy. And if you live here in the US or Canada, I hope you will consider getting this sweet book whose message is both timeless and very timely for someone you love from a vendor in your neck of the woods.