And the winner is…

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I’m delighted to announce that the winner of last week’s special giveaway, a brand new copy of Denette Fretz’s faith building new picture book I LOVE YOUR SMILE, CROCODILE, published by Zonderkidz, and illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic is…

Tina!!!!!

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

Thanks again, Denette, for sharing your six thoughtful extension activities. I’d also like to thank Zonderkidz for providing the winning copy.  Happy Friday, all!

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY: A Sentimental Reflection

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As Fernando, Delores and I head out for a special “Muffins with Mom” tea and storytime at a local preschool today, I find myself feeling a little sentimental about my own mom, whose birthday would have been tomorrow. She was an artist and an inspiration to me in all things, including how to live a good life despite difficult circumstances.

She never got to see DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE in final book form, but she did encourage me to keep working on it during the early drafting stage and I know she’s up there cheering me on.

And today, in a way, I, too, will be bringing my mom to “Muffins with Mom” for I will be wearing the special pin my sister and dad had made featuring her signature bird. ❤️

Happy Mother’s Day (almost) to all!  And don’t forget to give your mom a hug, if she’s still around, and tell her how much you love her!

GUEST POST: Zonderkidz Author DENETTE FRETZ with SIX Extension Activities for I WANT YOUR SMILE CROCODILE!

CoverToday I’m delighted to feature SIX  AUTHOR-CREATED EXTENSION ACTIVITIES in celebration of the release of Christian picture book author Denette Fretz’s adorable new picture book, I WANT YOUR SMILE, CROCODILE, published by Zonderkidz and illustrated by Jacki Urbanovic.  Not only is Denette a skilled children’s author, with a gift for creating stories that are fun and thought-provoking, she’s also a teacher – so her extension activities, many of them faith-based, are teacher tested and approved!

As you will see from the book trailer, I WANT YOUR CROCODILE SMILE is a clever tale of self-acceptance, starring Jack, the Meerkat, who covets all the things his zoo friends have but ultimately discovers that true contentment is only found when we accept and embrace that we are each created beautifully according to God’s perfect, purposeful design.  Enjoy the book trailer, then treat yourself  (and your kids) to Denette’s rich offering of extension activities.  Zonderkidz is also offering a GIVEAWAY so be sure to check out details for how to enter at the end of the post. Take it away, Denette!

SIX Extension Activities for I WANT YOUR SMILE, CROCODILE

Thank you for hosting me on your blog, Laura! I hope your readers and their children enjoy these activities together.

1. Become a meerkat expert.  I Want Your Smile, Crocodile follows a spunky meerkat, Jack, who thinks he would be happier if he were more like his zoo friends.  With an adult’s help, follow these video links to begin learning more about meerkats:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efRGPz1BQ6Y

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rml2Z2ytjAE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlOfIjP5-e8

2. Print and complete a meerkat word search. Now that you know more about meerkats, can you solve Jack’s clues to find thirteen meerkat words? If you get stumped, the words you are looking for are printed at the bottom of this post.

Word Search for Laura Blog JPEG

3. Read about animal features. In I Want Your Smile, Crocodile, Jack wants a crocodile smile, polar bear fur, and an elephant’s “hose nose.” What if you had animal teeth? Animal hair? An animal’s nose? Discover amazing animal facts by reading these fascinating picture books by Sandra Markle:

What if You Had Animal Teeth?

What if You Had Animal Hair? 

What if You Had An Animal Nose?

4. Design an imaginary animal. Jackie Urbanovic illustrated I Want Your Smile, Crocodile and did a fabulous job giving Jack the Meerkat jellyfish swish, porcupine spines, or an elephant’s trunk. What animals would you combine to create a new one? Print and use the template below to draw your imaginary animal. I thought this would be fun to try…and drew a “piggock!”

Piggock ScanDrawing Page for Laura Blog JPEG

5. Follow the zookeeper. Start at the beginning of I Want Your Smile, Crocodile, and follow the zookeeper through its pages. What is he doing? How is the zookeeper acting like Jesus?

6. Discuss scriptures about God’s design. Below are the “foundation scriptures” I kept in mind when writing I Want Your Smile, Crocodile. Read each scripture. How does each scripture relate to the story? Most importantly, how does each scripture relate to YOU?

  • Genesis 1:31
  • Psalm 139:14
  • Ephesians 2:10

Thanks so much for these WONDERFUL extension ideas, Denette! Enjoy another I Want Your Smile, Crocodile activity next week, when the Blog Tour stops by Rebecca J. Gomez’s site for a “Read, Discuss, Do” activity…and another chance to win a book! 

Answers for Word Search:

1.  MONGOOSE  2. SENTRY  3. MOB, CLAN, GANG  4. BURROWS  5. KALAHARI  6. CLAWS  7. INSECTS, SPIDERS, SCORPIONS, SNAKES  8. PUPS

120427-82028_cropBIO: Denette Fretz is an elementary art educator and picture book author who desires to craft humorous, inventive, and memorable parables that engage imagination and encourage life-application of biblical principles. She is the author of PIRATES ON THE FARM (Zonderkidz, 2013), CONRAD, THE COWGIRL NEXT DOOR (Zonderkidz, 2014) and I WANT YOUR SMILE, CROCODILE (Zonderkidz, 2018

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!!

If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of I LOVE YOUR SMILE, CROCODILE, written by Denette Fretz and illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic, let me know in a comment below. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident with a street address (as opposed to a P.O. Box and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Thursday, 5/10/18 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced on Friday 5/11/18! THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER. WINNER POSTED HERE.

“Scuffin” or “Mone”: 4 TIPS to TEST the TASTINESS of your STORIES

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My daughter loves creating new recipes and one of her favorite strategies in the kitchen is to take a tried-and-true favorite, and then add an unexpected twist.  Most of the time her creations are delicious, but tonight, as I’m reminiscing about her joyful kitchen spirit, I’m reminded of the time she proudly offered me her fresh out of the oven creation – “the scuffin”, as she called it, a creative combination of two favorite teatime treats – the muffin and the scone.  Sounds delish, right?

We thought so too, so before actually tasting them, we posted on Facebook this delectable-looking picture along with this tantalizing description:  

“Crispy on the outside like a scone and fluffy on the inside like a muffin…with chocolate chips too. Yum!”

Immediately, “likes” and congratulatory comments filled my Facebook timeline.  But, to our horror, when we took our first nibbles we discovered they were… awful! Thus, in the interest of full-disclosure, I added this to the post:

“…to be perfectly honest, once we tried them we both agreed that they were a little heavy and they stuck to the paper. I think, in all honesty, that they should be called “mones” instead of “scuffins” because that better connotes the feeling you have have after eating one.”

Writing can be a lot like baking. Often, the results of experimentation are successful, but sometimes instead of picture book “scuffins” we produce “mones”.  So what’s the secret to distinguishing between story drafts that are light and delicious, as opposed to “mone” inducing?  Miss A. and I are so glad you asked. Here are our suggestions:

TIP #1: Give your “scuffin”, er story, time to cool before tasting. This will allow you to remove yourself a little from the the process, so that you can discern – without so much emotion – whether your creation is light and delicious… or not.

 TIP #2: Keep track of  drafts so you know what’s working or not in each round of recipe, er story, creation, so you can add and modify intelligently. After assessing her recipe notes, Miss A. thought, perhaps, that she added too much oil to her batter, and in revising for the next batch, she used less.  The new “scuffins”, IMHO, were better, as a result. Likewise, if you keep track of changes/additions/deletions made to each draft of your story, you can more easily assess and make effective improvements.

TIP #3: Let a few trusted critiquers sample and give feedback on your latest “scuffin” in progress.  As Miss A. discovered, the feedback from a slightly more seasoned baker (me!), was just what she needed to take her “scuffin” from “mone” to “magnifique”!

TIP #4: DO NOT send to local bakeries, i. e. publishers, too soon!  Not that Miss A has even considered marketing her kitchen creations, it’s still good advice. Far too many new writers, submit their work to publishers far too quickly when patience, I have learned, is the better way… by FAR!

Well, that’s it from the Sassi kitchen today!  Happy story baking!

DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE Blog Tour: FINAL STOP!

IMG_6392“Rain drops on roses and whiskers….” Ahh, I never grow tired of singing “My Favorite Things” from THE SOUND OF MUSIC. And now I’m singing away because I just LOVE the theme of the last and final stop of the DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE blog tour. Thanks so much, Kerry Aradhya of Picture Books and Pirouettes, for putting together this lovely and creative post ! Happy reading all!

 

Laura Sassi Interview!

This gallery contains 12 photos.

Originally posted on Read. Learn. Repeat.:
Laura Sassi has a passion for telling humorous stories in prose and rhyme. She is the author of Goodnight, Ark Hardcover (Zonderkidz, 2014) and Goodnight, Manger (Zonderkidz, 2015), Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse…

GUEST POST with DANNA SMITH: My Journey from Reading Little Golden Books to Writing Them

Springtime Babies Cover HRFinally, spring is in the air!  I hear the birds chirping at sunrise. There’s a robin family building a nest in my neighbor’s tree.  The cherry blossoms are about to burst. It’s perfect timing to welcome today’s guest blogger, picture book author Danna Smith, in celebration of the release of her new springtime book, SPRINGTIME BABIES, published by Little Golden Books. Today she’ll be sharing her journey from reading Little Golden Books as a child to now writing them! Thank you so much for stopping by, Danna.  Take it away!

Wonders of NatureMost Americans can remember growing up with Little Golden Books, those little gems that captured our hearts at the store while our parents shopped. Books like The Poky Little Puppy, Scuffy the Tugboat and my favorite, Wonders of Nature, caught our attention with their distinctive gold foil spines, colorful illustrations, and exciting adventures. The first 12 Little Golden Book titles hit the shelves in 1942 during wartime when picture books were expensive, and money was scarce. At 25 cents, Little Golden Books were affordable for everyone. Today, with hundreds of titles available they continue to delight, and are still affordable—at about the price of a greeting card!

Little Golden Books aren’t just for children; adults love them too. Collectors rummage through piles of books at thrift shops and garage sales looking to find that illustrious 25 cent first edition to add to their collection. I have a small but beloved collection of my own.

Springtime Babies Cover HRImagine my delight when my agent called with news that I had an offer from Little Golden Books and then again with offers for three more books! I had to pinch myself! I remember scribbling my name in many Little Golden Books throughout my childhood. Reading was a joy and these little books were like friends. Joining the Little Golden Book family of authors and artists is a dream come true.

While I had initially written Springtime Babies as a picture book, it turned out to be perfect for Little Golden Books. Editor and author, Diane Muldrow, worked with me to cut the text from 32 pages to 24. Next, it was time for the illustrator to work her magic. When I saw the sketches and then the final color images, I was in love! Artist, Takako Fisher, did a fantastic job. I couldn’t be more pleased with her adorable, chunky animal (and human) babies.

springtime babies. pig is in a puddle

Illustrations copyright © 2018 by Takako Fisher

Springtime Babies. Babies with the farmers

Illustrations copyright © 2018 by Takako Fisher

Golden Books works about three years out which means if you sold a manuscript today in 2018, the book would most likely publish in 2020 or 2021. If you want to try your hand at writing a Little Golden Book, my advice is to draft a conceptually strong story perfect for a young audience of 2–5-year-olds. Your manuscript should be highly visual (illustratable) and original or at least have a fresh take on a familiar subject. A hook that can tie into an event or special day such as Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day is also a plus. Be sure to study the Little Golden Books line to make certain your idea is fresh. Paginating your manuscript in the way you see it published will not only help you better visualize your story but will help the editors see your vision. If your agent calls you with an offer, pinch yourself then get ready to revise!

BIO:
Danna birds nest 2017

Danna Smith is the author of a dozen books for children. Her next Little Golden Book, Rocket-Bye Baby: A Spaceflight Lullaby releases in January 2019 followed by The Colors of Summer (May 2019) and The Colors of Winter (Oct 2019).  Danna is currently living in Northern California, where she is hard at work on her next book. You can find more about her and her books online here:

Website: www.dannasmithbooks.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dannasmith8

Book Review Blog: https://picturebookplaylist.com/blog/

DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE Blog Tour: Stop SEVEN

spring book eventsFor today’s stop on the DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE blog tour, we have a special treat – a JOINT interview with illustrator Rebecca Gerlings! Joint interviews are extra special because they require extra coordination – especially when the illustrator is from the UK and the author is from NJ!  Thank you for having us, Kidlit411!  Here’s the link so you can pop on over.  (Oh, and there’s a giveaway too!) Happy reading!

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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Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse BLOG TOUR: Stop SIX

Version 2Interested in learning a bit more about the highs and lows of my writing journey, upcoming projects and more? Need a few words of writerly encouragement?  Then, head on over to today’s thoughtful interview at the The Writers’ Rumpus. I’ll make it easy for you.  Here’s the link. Thanks for having me!