Christmas, Young Writers

OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES: Sharing the Story of Christmas

As part of my church’s Christmas outreach, we are participating in something called the Holiday Walk. Scheduled on the day after Thanksgiving, this town-wide event draws a big crowd and includes a visit from Santa and fireworks.  On our church corner, the festivities include a living nativity, a light show and, this year, a special interactive reading of HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD, with storytelling props made by our Sunday School  pre-k – 3rd graders. 

Here’s a snapshot of one of the props we made today. Next week we will make spiders and number cards and the younger class will make stars and shepherds.

Last Sunday, to introduce the project to my first through third graders, I read the book, along with the passage from Luke that inspired it. I also shared with them that stories are a great way to share our faith and the reason I know Jesus today is because someone shared the Christmas story with me when I was six years old!  And that because of that, Christmas is now a favorite time of year for me.

Indeed, Christmas is so special to me, that I have written not just one, but TWO, picture books about it: GOODNIGHT, MANGER and HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD. Over the years I’ve also written many poems about Christmas, all of which point to Jesus as the real gift of Christmas.

When I shared with the kids that I had been writing since I was their age and asked any of them if they like to write or draw, every hand shot up!  That inspired a challenge. “Who here would like to write their own retelling of the Christmas story to share with others and point them to Jesus?” Again, many hands went up, but two hearts really got the writing bug. How do I know?  

I know because this morning two young ladies, a first grader and a third grader, came to church very excited to share with me the Christmas stories that they wrote on their own time last week. And now, in the hopes of getting you excited for Christmas as well, here they are. I hope they’re warm your hearts as much as they warmed mine.

Christmas as told by a first grader:

And now, as told by a third grader:

What’s your favorite bit from each?  (I’ll tell you mine after I hear yours.)  Happy Monday!  

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Picture Books, Story Time, Young Writers

10 Things to LOVE about Picture Books

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, here at 10 things to LOVE about picture books.

  1. Picture books can be read in one sitting.
  2. Though they can be read in just one sitting, the good ones beg to be read again and again.
  3. Picture books are a magical intertwining of text and image.
  4. Picture books can be enjoyed and treasured by all ages.
  5. Picture books area an engaging introduction to littlest ones to the joy of reading.
  6. They can be read with your little one on your lap, all cozy and snug.
  7. They’re wonderful for pre-readers because there’s so much to point to, name, predict etc.
  8. Picture books are perfect when you are the guest reader in your child’s K – 2nd grade class.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

What do YOU love about picture books?  

author spotlight, Author Visit, Young Writers

HYBRID AUTHOR VISIT: Inspiring Young Writers in Australia!

A lovely 3rd grade teacher from Australia reached out to me because her students are writing their own stories and she thought it would be special if they could meet an author and ask questions about writing. This is the second time we have done this, but with a new group of students. Before the visit she read LOVE IS KIND to them. Next, because it was hard to get a steady “live” video connection, I sent them a short video introducing myself and welcoming them to ask me questions via email. I received their questions just before they went on holiday and returned them yesterday. Once again, their questions are WONDERFUL and I thought you might enjoy reading a few of them. I’m also including a short excerpt from my video chat with them. What a marvelous use of technology and wonderful way to inspire children near and far to be readers and writers.

First, the video clip:

Next, three of their amazing questions, along with my responses.

 How much do you write in a day?

Sometimes I write a whole page. Sometimes I write a few sentences.  Sometimes, if I’m at a tricky part and have some story bits that need working through, my writing will take the form of notes or lists.  But even when I’m not writing, I’m very often thinking about writing and what is going happen next in a story I’m working on. That’s why I always keep pen and paper handy.

 In your book, Love is Kind, why do you have different lengths of text on each page?

This is a very good question. It shows you are reading like a writer! I think it’s a matter of keeping the story varied and interesting. Just as it would be very monotonous to have every single sentence be exactly the same number of words, it’s very boring to have the text on every page look exactly the same. Variety is the spice of life, and that’s true in page layout as well.

 What inspires you to write books that include morals?

It’s not that I purposely write stories with morals. It’s more that in a good story the protagonist needs to grow and learn something and be a better Little Owl, for example, by the end than he was at the beginning.  This is true of life too, isn’t it?  We hope to grow and learn as we journey along life’s way.

Finally, here’s an invitation for teachers to please reach out to me if you would like a visit – either in person, or virtually, or some sort of hybrid like this! And I still have a handful of free KINDNESS AUTHOR visits left. For more details on that visit: https://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/2020/09/28/back-to-school-offer-celebrate-kindness-with-a-free-author-visit/

Author Visit, school visits, Young Writers

SURPRISE MAIL: A Thank You Note from Australia (and a FREE SKYPE Invitation for YOU!)

There’s nothing quite as special as getting a surprise package in the mail – especially one that’s postmarked Australia! I knew immediately who the special parcel was from – lovely group of third grade girls and their teacher who were interested in learning the ins-and-outs of writing! Their teacher, Ms. Barry, had reached out to me in June to see if we could Skype. As it turned out, we were too far from each other to get a reliable internet connection, so instead I sent them a short video introduction with an invitation to ask me questions via email. They took me up on my invitation to ask questions and I answered each and every one. You can see my post about that here.

What fun it was, then, to receive this lovely thank you note from the girls, along with two darling koala bear stuffies. Their kind words brought me such joy that I thought you might enjoy seeing the note, too, along with my video thank you to them.

My video “thank you” note to them:

Now, in celebration of spreading my love of reading and writing with the next generation, HERE’S MY INVITATION: This wonderful visit happened because a teacher reached out to me via the contact tab in the banner above. I LOVE connecting in special ways like this. And I’d like to extend the invitation now to teachers near and far. So, in celebration of books and words, I’m offering FIVE free 2O minute Skype sessions with classes and/or homeschool co-ops. We can tailor the visit to your needs, but typically it includes me reading one of my books, talking a wee bit about how I wrote it, followed by a Q & A , which, in my humble opinion is the best part because it allows the children to interact with a real-live author! If this interests you, please reach out by using the contact tab (in the “about” section) and we’ll get something on the calendar!

Happy reading and writing, all! Laura

Author Visit, school visits, Writing, Young Writers

SPECIAL TREAT: Inspiring Young Writers… in Australia!

SO SPECIAL! A lovely 3rd grade teacher from Australia reached out to me because her students are writing their own stories and she thought it would be special if they could meet an author and ask questions about writing. We tried to make it “live” but couldn’t get a good connection, so instead I sent them a short video introducing myself and welcoming them to ask me questions via email. On Friday, Ireceived their questions and they are WONDERFUL and I thought you might enjoy reading a few of them. I’m also including a short excerpt from my video chat with them. What a marvelous use of technology and the former teacher in me LOVED sharing my joy of writing with the next adorable generation “down under”!

First, the video clip:

Now a picture from their end along with the sweet thank you notes they penned on the class white board:

Finally, three of their amazing questions, along with my responses. (There were 26 in all.)

How does it feel being an author? (Lauren)

It takes a lot of discipline and you have to have thick skin because it takes a lot of rejections before a story is accepted by a publisher. All that hard work feels good, though. Plus, it’s a chance to see the world through writer’s eyes and that brings me joy.  I love being an author.

 Are any of the characters in your books describe you or a family member? (Ava)

I would say that the characters or, more typically, the events in my stories often describe things that have happened in our family. For example, the scene in LOVE IS KIND where the tooth fairy has forgotten to come was inspired by a very traumatic situation in our house when the tooth fairy forgot to come as well. Don’t worry, though, because in both the story and in real life, it all worked out in the end.

Were you shy about the idea of other people reading your stories and books? (Taleeya)

I was a bit at first – especially when the first reviews of the books came out! Now, though, I treasure the idea of children and their parents enjoying my books at story time. They were a joy to write I hope they bring joy to others who read them.

(And the other 23 questions were just as thoughtful. Well done, girls!)

HAPPY READING AND WRITING, ALL!

Extension Activity, Picture Books, Young Writers

LOVE IS KIND: Student Art and Kindness Reflections!

It’s always fun for an author to receive mail – especially the kind that includes student artwork and thoughtful writing inspired by one of their books. That’s exactly what happened this week!  Now, with permission, I’m delighted to share teacher and author Tina Cho’s students’ work along with her explanatory note about how she used LOVE IS KIND with her students in South Korea. Thank you, Tina!

“I read LOVE IS KIND last week for Fall, and we had also read nonfiction books about owls. So it was perfect! I had them draw Little Owl and write how they can be kind. Attached are papers. Below is what they said in case you can’t make it out.”
What a delightful way to integrate learning about owls with thinking about how to extend love and kindness to one another. Little Owl gives this project a thumbs up… and so do I!
Now, without further fuss, here are the art projects with captions beneath for clarity.  Enjoy!

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I can help my mom.

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I eat eggs, be kind at breakfast with Grandma.

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I can share my stuffed animal.

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I love my mom and dad. I play games (with them).

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I help my mom clean the room.

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I can be kind to my dad (helping him work on their jeep

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I hug my mom.

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I share with mom flower.

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I share an apple.

book events, Picture Books, Reading, Young Writers

LOVE IS KIND Book Jacket Workshop: Thank you, Cranford Public Library!

IMG_7963.JPGI spent a LOVELY (and fashionable) hour at the Cranford Public Library this morning sharing LOVE IS KIND at my Book Jacket Workshop for kids ages 5+. First, we read the story. Then it was time for a quick history of book jackets, using my own jackets (and impeccable sense of style ) to demonstrate how book jackets developed from plain (like my brown corduroy) dust covers, protecting the fancy book beneath, to colorful (i.e. plaid jacket) covers meant to catch a readers eye like the adorable covers to GOODNIGHT ARK and LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz) … to even fancier (like that sequined jacket and the glittery cover of DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling Publishing) )to really make a book stand out. And then it was time for them to make their own covers and they did a FANTASTIC job! I even had the pleasure of having several kids read their flap copy to me – with adorable bios! Thank you for having me, Lauren and staff, and thanks for putting so much effort and joy into your projects, kids! Here are a few pictures that capture the feel of the morning. Let’s keep spreading BOOK LOVE!

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Appearances, Author Visit, Etc., Young Writers

EXTRA! EXTRA! News Reporter Miss A. Weighs in on Latest AUTHOR VISIT!

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As part of our homeschool time together, I have looked for opportunities to make writing experiences as authentic as possible for my reluctant writer, so when Miss A. asked if she could join me on a Friday afternoon author visit to her old elementary school, I said yes – IF she agreed to be a journalist for the afternoon – taking notes on the visit, conducting a few interviews, and then putting it all together into a news article, using the format we’ve been examining while reading our local newspaper together.  She fully embraced the assignment!  Take it away, Miss A!

AUTHOR LAURA SASSI VISITS SCHOOL

By Miss A.

CRANFORD – On Friday, May 4th, my mother, picture book author Laura Sassi, came to Bloomingdale Avenue School to share her new book, Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse with kindergarteners through second graders. The purpose of her visit was to get kids excited about reading and writing and to share a little bit about how a picture book goes from inspiration to publication. 

Starting at 1:00 pm, three different groups came to the auditorium for this special event. The students quietly listened to their teachers and all had smiles on their faces. The kids looked very excited and happy to see that a special guest had come to visit them at their school. 

Dressed like a diva herself, and using lots of expression, even singing, Laura Sassi read her newest book. The kids “ooohed” and “aaahed” as if they were watching fireworks. After reading Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse, the author showed the students the very first drafts of her story. She even showed the kids pictures of what Diva Delores looked like before she was a seal. The kids were surprised that she was once a hippo! Untitled

A few days after the visit, I had the chance to interview a student and two teachers to see what they thought of the visit. Everyone was very positive. Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Benoit, said that the favorite part for her students was “the author in costume and the use of her voice demonstrating not just fluency, but voices and even sound effects”.   She added that because of the visit, “The use of voices is starting to show up in speech bubbles in their writing.”  

Second grade teacher, Mrs. Oricchio, praised the visit as making “the art of writing a ‘real world’ experience” for her students.  She added, “I think Mrs. Sassi’s energy and passion for her work really came through and inspired my young writers.”

I was lucky enough to get student feedback as well! Second grader, Taylor, explained that her favorite part of the visit was when the author “dressed up fancy and was reading Diva Delores”.  She added that the visit also inspired her to make a writing notebook for her own stories. 

It was amazing being able to see my author mom in action reading her book. I could tell that the teachers and all the students enjoyed the visit. My mom enjoyed it too, especially when one of the students raised her hand and said, “You look like a movie star!” But my favorite moment was when I was able to reunite with all my teachers from kindergarten through second grade. I was so happy to be able to see my teachers and I was so happy to see so many kids enjoying and listening to the book.

Etc., Reading, Young Writers

FAN MAIL with MISS A: Thank you, Tami Charles!

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Today Miss A. – my reluctant reader and writer – asked if she could write a guest post to share her excitement over receiving an author-response to a recent fan letter she wrote to an author whose book she LOVED.  Maybe, I need to rephrase this… Today, my daughter, who USED to be a reluctant reader and writer – asked if she could write this guest post.  My response?  Of course!  Take it away, Miss A.! 

Have you ever been inspired to write a letter to an author whose book you loved?  Well, I was inspired to write one to author Tami Charles after reading her book Like Vanessa (Charlesbridge, 2018).

Like Vanessa is about a girl named Vanessa who enters a school pageant as a way of finding her happiness and who discovers that happiness isn’t found exactly where she thought it was.  

After reading Tami’s book, I just knew I had to reach out to her.  In the letter, I told her how much I loved her book and how I found her book such an inspiration for me. I found her book inspiring because I’ve always had trouble having to speak up for myself. Her book shows me that I can be strong and have confidence in myself.

I’ve written fan letters before, but never gotten a response. This time, however, was different because in the mail today I received a special letter from Tami Charles! And here is a little piece of that letter:

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In her wonderful letter, she explained that she wrote the book for girls just like me and she thanked me for writing her an old-fashioned letter!  I may even get to meet her this summer!  

Thank you, Tami, for inspiring me with your book and for taking the time to answer my letter!  I will keep it tucked forever in my copy of Like Vanessa!

Picture Books, Young Writers

FUN MAIL: Kindergartners Read and Respond to DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE

IMG_6375What a delightful surprise to have this bright pink yarn-bound book arrive via special delivery right to my doorstep (Thank you, Mrs. Timberlake!) from the cute, hardworking kindergartners in Mrs. DeVestern’s classes at the Ben Franklin School in Edison, New Jersey.

It seems they’ve been learning all about authors, illustrators, picture books, and the magic of putting words and illustrations together.  And do my delight, after reading DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, they decided to write and illustrate their favorite parts of the story. The teacher gathered their responses in a book and had them delivered to me!

Thank you, Mrs. DeVestern and thank you, kindergartners!  You did a wonderful job picking the most important and best parts of the story. I shall treasure each and every one of your responses.  And now, I’d like to share just a sampling.  The last picture is, of course, my thank you note back to them!  Aren’t their illustrations and sentences wonderful?

Happy reading, all!

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