READ. DISCUSS. DO! New Social Media Campaign Celebrates READING and BEYOND!

RDDMooseThis week my author friend Rebecca J. Gomez (WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? (Atheneum, 2015) and HENSEL AND GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2016)) shared with me a  wonderful new reading campaign she and her co-author Corey Rosen Schwartz are working on called Read. Discuss. Do!

Read. Discuss. Do! (hashtag #ReadDiscussDo) celebrates reading beyond the book by creating sharable images that give simple ideas for book related discussions and activities. Rebecca got the the idea after creating an image specifically for their co-authored book WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? (pictured above) in the hopes that it would encourage people to think beyond the story when reading with kids. However, when Corey saw the original image, she and Rebecca decided it would be fun to take the idea further and include other authors and their books!

That’s when Rebecca contacted me to see if I’d like to create a short #ReadDiscussDo activity for GOODNIGHT, ARK.  I replied, yes, of course. And so Rebecca created an image for my book as well. Thank you, Rebecca.  The format is similar to her original except she’s replaced her website address with the hashtag #ReadDiscussDo.

RDD Goodnight ArkRebecca hopes this fun reading initiative and social media campaign will really take off, reaching parents, caregivers, teachers, librarians and more.

How can authors, parents, teachers, or librarians get involved?  By tweeting and retweeting and sharing on Facebook, Pinterest etc. using the hashtag #ReadDiscussDo. We can also post story time tips using that same hashtag.  Rebecca will also be creating more sharable images for other books. If you’d like to learn more, contact Rebecca via the “School Visits” tab of her website.

Finally, I’ll end with a little hashtag hunt.  Head on over to Twitter or Facebook, type in #ReadDiscussDo and see what you find.  Have fun!

STONE STORIES: What We Write and Why

Do you have favorite stories? Ones that have profoundly changed the way you look at the world?  My childhood favorites include Madeleine L’Engle’s A WRINKLE IN TIME and Kate Seredy’s THE CHESTRY OAK. But the story that’s had the biggest influence on how I view the world as a writer comes from the Old Testament. It’s found in the book of Joshua, chapters three and four. Here’s the gist of the story.

After wandering for forty years in the desert where God repeatedly provided for His people in amazing ways, yet repeatedly, they forgot His blessings, it was finally time to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land. As God had done before when He parted the Red Sea so the Israelites could safely flee Egypt, He again parted the raging waters of the Jordan River so all of Israel could safely cross into the Promised Land. This time, in hopes they’d never forget His great provision, God instructed Joshua to have twelve men hoist twelve boulders from the center of the still-parted river and place them in a pile on the shore of Promised Land.  “In the future,” Joshua explained, “when your children ask why these rocks are sitting here, tell them the amazing story of how God helped us cross the Jordan River.”

The stories and poems that we write are like those stones. When read, they have the potential to leave a deep imprint in a child’s memory, serving not only as a reminder of experiences past, but offering glimpses into ways that are good, offering hope for the future, and joy in the present moment. It is my deepest wish is that the words I write, whether religious or secular, point kids towards goodness, hope, joy, and God.

What about you?  Have you ever thought about why you write?  If stories are rocks, what kinds of rocks are you writing?

(Note: This post first appeared on my blog in November 2102, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about our mission as writers and thought it worth revisiting.)

Interview with Laura Sassi: Author of Goodnight, Ark and Goodnight, Manger

Today I’m delighted to be interviewed by Rosie on her blog Life, Army Wife Style! Thanks so much for having me, Rosie. Please pop over, dear readers, for this fun interview! Happy reading, all!

HOLIDAY GIFT IDEA: Signed (and personalized) Copies of GOODNIGHT, MANGER or GOODNIGHT, ARK!

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Can’t make it to a book signing? No problem!

I am excited to announce that this year once again, in response to requests from readers for signed copies, my local indie book store, The Town Book Store in Westfield, New Jersey, will now offer signed, personalized copies of my books for sale!

If this interests you, please call them to order the book or books you want. Be sure to explain that you would like to have them signed by the author and pass along the names you’d like included. They will take the order and do the transaction. I will then come in and sign the book or books. Readers can either pick them up in-store at no extra charge, or have them mailed. There will be a shipping fee to cover the cost of mailing, but they can give you those details.

I thought this was a nice way to make signed copies available and support a wonderful independent book store.  Their number is: The Town Book Store (908) 233-3535.

Happy Reading, all!

GOODNIGHT, MANGER Review (and a little writing advice)! Plus a GIVEAWAY!

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In celebration of the release of the board book edition of GOODNIGHT, MANGER, children’s author Lynne Marie had me on her blog yesterday sharing a little picture book wisdom that I gleaned in the process of preparing GOODNIGHT, MANGER for publication. And today she’s reviewing the book! Oh, and there’s ALSO a  GIVEAWAY! THREE good reasons to grab a cup of tea and head on over to Lynne Marie’s!  I’ll make it easy for you.  Press here. Thanks again for having me, Lynne Marie!

VISUAL LITERACY: An Extension Activity for GOODNIGHT, MANGER

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VISUAL LITERACY:  An Extension Activity for GOODNIGHT, MANGER

by 

Laura Sassi 

The ability to interpret visual clues, i.e to read the pictures, is an important skill for pre-readers and emergent readers because it encourages a deeper level of thought and reflection, laying the foundation for strong reading later. It’s an opportunity to think about story elements like plot, mood, and character. With this in mind, here are some visual-based strategies that will enrich your child’s reading of GOODNIGHT, MANGER.

PONDER THE PLOT: As the story unfolds, each spread depicts what happens as Mama, Papa, and the animals try to soothe an overtired Baby Jesus. After reading the text on each spread, pause to ponder the pictures, making observations and predictions about the plot. Say things like: “See how Mama is hugging Baby so gently.  Do you think he will sleep?” or “Look at the manger. Is it like your bed? How is it different?” and later, as Papa rocks Baby after the angels disperse, ask: “Do you think Baby will sleep now? Why or why not?” In other words, use the pictures to dig deeper into what’s going on plot-wise.

MARVEL OVER MOOD: Jane Chapman skillfully uses color and movement to capture the changing mood of the story. As you read the story, pause to consider the mood the colors convey.  For example, the first few spreads have a yellow-orange glow which fills the pages with a sense of coziness and comfort. The characters in the opening spreads are still. Their movements are gentle. But the mood shifts as soon as Baby starts to cry. The mood becomes joyous as conveyed by the vibrant movement of angels.  And the color shifts to a joyous, pure starry-skied blue. As the spreads progress, the mood while joyous, also becomes frenetic. There is so much movement and action, that it seems that Baby Jesus will never be able to sleep. Foxes dance, sheep leap, and poor Mama looks at wit’s end.  And then, at the end, the calm, cozy orange glow returns, balanced by an awesome blue star-lit sky.

CONSIDER THE CHARACTERS’ FEELINGS:  The facial expressions of Jane’s characters are eye-opening. As you read with your child, take time to consider the feelings expressed by each characters facial expressions and even body language. Note the love in Mama and Papa’s faces as they try to soothe their tired Baby. Note the doting eagerness in Hen’s body language as she offers her feathers for Baby’s bed and the uninhibited joy of the angels as they play their instruments and sing and dance in honor of the Baby’s birth. Note the exhausted exasperation on Mama’s face as the shepherds and kings arrive. Finally, notice the wonder and love on the faces of human and beast as they gather round for their closing lullaby.

EXTENSION:  Apply these visual-based reading strategies to each new picture book you read.  Have fun!

SPOTLIGHT: Holiday Cards by Martha South

img_3357My mother was a storyteller.  Like I am, but not exactly. While I use words, my mother used pictures to tell her stories. Her stories didn’t take the form of books. No, they came in the shape of paintings and sketches and – best of all – cards!

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Any occasion, large or small, provided the perfect excuse for a card.  Birthdays, Christmas, first days of school, births of grand babies, you name it… she made cards. Each card featured her signature birds – but the story each card told was one-of-a-kind.

Over the years several stand out as favorites of mine.

 

For example, I have always loved the birthday card she made for my husband the year our son turned two. The inside reads, “Lessons the Professor hoped he would never have to teach.” Then, there’s the year my son, then age three, got inventive and made himself some firefighter boots out of toilet paper rolls.  My mom had a field day with that!

img_3353But one of my all-time favorites is this – a magical Christmas card featuring a little bonbon dancing with the Nutcracker.  Inspired by my daughter who was dancing her first Nutcracker that year as a little bonbon, it turned out to be the last Christmas card my mom made for her – and one of the last cards she designed before her ALS made it too hard for her to hold the pencils. Even though she made it when she was already sick, to me, the card sparkles with the magic of Christmas and it fills me with joy.

One of my mom’s dreams was to start her own card business. And to honor that dream, my sister has set up a card business in her memory. Now in celebration of Christmas and in honor of my wonderful mom, she has added a couple of holiday cards to the collection, one of which is this delightful Nutcracker card.

If you are in the market for holiday cards to send out this season, we  would be honored if you considered sending some cards designed by Martha South. To see the cards and learn more about ordering please visit http://www.marthasouth.com.

As an extra incentive, my sister is offering free shipping for a limited time  if you use the promo code “HOLIDAYS”. Thanks, Julie!  The promo code can be entered in at Checkout. Right above “Payment Information,” there will be a blue link called “Use Gift Card or Promo Code”. Click on this, and then enter “HOLIDAYS”.

Blessings all!

Happy Book Birthday! GOODNIGHT, MANGER (board book edition)

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Hip hip, hooray!

It’s on its way!  

GOODNIGHT, MANGER, the board book,

releases today! 

With sturdy pages and a padded cover, the board book version of GOODNIGHT, MANGER is terrific for littlest readers who want to turn the pages themselves. With full text, it’s a good size– perfect for showing off all the wonderful details in Jane’s illustrations.

Interested in a signed copy?  Here’s how:  Call The Town Book Store in Westfield, NJ to order the book or books you want. Be sure to explain that you would like to have them signed by the author and pass along the names you’d like included. They will take the order and do the transaction. I will then come in and sign the book or books. Readers can either pick them up in-store at no extra charge, or have them mailed. There will be a shipping fee to cover the cost of mailing, but they can give you those details.

I thought this was a nice way to make signed copies available and support a wonderful independent book store.  Their number is: The Town Book Store (908) 233-3535.

It’s also available at your favorite local or online bookstore! Happy Reading, all!

And the WINNER is…

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I’m delighted to announce that the winner of this week’s special giveaway,  a signed copy of Jody Jensen Shaffer’s newest children’s book, THE WAY THE COOKIE CRUMBLED is…

KATY D!!!

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

Thanks again, Jody, for the interview and for putting a copy up for grabs. I’d also like to thank everyone who took the time to comment on this week’s post and to my daughter, once again, for lending me her snazzy hat for the drawing. IMG_2887

Happy reading and writing, all!

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Interview with Jody Jensen Shaffer

Today I am delighted to have my talented friend and critique partner Jody Jensen Shaffer as my guest.  Jody and I have known each other for quite a few years now, and it’s been exciting for me to follow her writerly journey. Jody has written 27 children’s books. She’s here today in celebration of her newest release THE WAY THE COOKIE CRUMBLED with illustrations by Kelly Kennedy (Simon Spotlight, July 2016). Forthcoming titles include PRUDENCE, THE PART-TIME COW which will be published by Laura Godwin at Holt Children’s in 2017 and A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK which will be available in 2018 from Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin. Well, let’s get started. 
Thanks so much for joining us today, Jody. Now that re-introductions have been made, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you become a writer? 
Thanks for having me, Laura! Like many authors, I liked to write and read when I was young. When I finished high school, I went to college and got a degree in English. (I also got my first paying magazine job. But it was for adults, not kids.) Lots of folks thought I might be a lawyer. But I had other plans. I knew I wanted to teach college students how to write, so I got a master’s in English and taught for a few years, while I was working in the corporate world. When I had kids, I wanted to stay home with them, and that’s when I got hooked on children’s literature. Oh my goodness! I loved those books! I began writing seriously for children then.
THE WAY THE COOKIE CRUMBLED has been out now for just over a week.  What do you hope readers will take away from it?
I had such a good time researching the history of cookies! I hope readers will enjoy learning about it as much as I did. The history of cookies is a fascinating story of cultures and ingredients and technology and pluck. (You’ll have to read the book to see what I mean about that last part!)
This seems like a delicious topic to research.  Was a lot of cookie nibbling involved?  But, seriously, I know readers of all ages will be interested in your process for first researching and then writing the book. Can you share a few tasty tidbits with us? 
Cookie nibbling is always a part of my research, Laura, whether my topic is cookies or not! I began my research by scouring the internet and my local libraries. I dug up all the information I could about baking and cookies and spices. I actually thought I’d discover when, where, and what the Very First Cookie was. But guess what? It wasn’t even a cookie! (Again, you’ll understand once you read the book.) After I was comfortable that I had a handle on the history of cookies, I had to decide what information to put in the book and what to leave out. Since this is a book for 6-8 year olds, I wanted to be sure I was adding the right amount of sugar and not overloading them with too much salt, if you know what I mean. I’m happy with the way it turned out, and I think readers will be, too.
Teachers and parents are always looking for ways to tie picture books into the curriculum or extend the enjoyment with post-reading activities. Do you have any extension activities your readers might enjoy?
Great question! There are all kinds of possible curriculum-extenders for this book, including studying the geography of the history of cookies, the math that recipes use, the technology of ovens, refrigeration, and factories, maybe even a little chemistry for what heat does to specific ingredients. If that’s not enough, how about how cookies are used in various cultures, including ours? The tie-ins are endlessly delicious!
Finally, what’s next? Are there more picture books in the pipeline?  Also, where can interested readers find your books?
Yes, there are more picture books in the pipeline! PRUDENCE, THE PART-TIME COW (Holt) releases in 2017, A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK (Nancy Paulsen/Penguin) releases in 2018, with more to follow! Readers can find my books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Simon & Schuster, WalMart and Target. They can find me at my blog at Just Kidding and on Twitter @jodywrites4kids.
Thanks so much for having me, Laura!
Thank YOU for coming!
AND NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!!!  If you’d like a chance to win a FREE, SIGNED copy of THE WAY THE COOKIE CRUMBLED (Simon Spotlight, July 2016) simply name your favorite cookie in the comment space below.  (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Thursday, 7/14/16 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced on Friday!  The giveaway is now over. Press here to see the winner.