CREATING AND CONNECTING: One Picture Book Author’s Journey

laurasassi5In January the editor of my alumni magazined asked if I might be interested in writing a piece for their new essay series on the Princeton Alumni Weekly website called “Voices”.  My name came to his attention because of my blog (just in case you’ve ever been torn about the benefit vs. effort of keeping a blog), and he asked if I might be interested in writing something about my experiences as an author of children’s books.

I said yes.  And today that piece is live! Titled “Creating and Connecting: One Picture Book Author’s Journey”, the essay is about how my passion for story has opened my heart and broadened my sense of community.  I’d be honored if popped on over for a read. Happy reading all!

 

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AUTHOR VISITS… Puppet Style!

IMG_1044My decision to use puppets at author visits began quite by chance. Since a pair of skunks play an important role in my first book, 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 an engaging way to introduce the story. Quite honestly, the former teacher (and crowd control freak) in me, also thought skunk puppets might be a friendly way to help young audiences settle down before and during the reading since, as you know, skunks are notorious for making a big stink if they get startled.

Well, the skunks were such a great hit, that when my second book came out, I knew I wanted to pair that story with a book-specific puppet as well. Without too much trouble, thanks to the wonderful puppet designers at Folkmanis, I found the perfect companion — Rooster!

Rooster’s very loud which, quite frankly, is a big problem because Goodnight, Manger is a bedtime story and bedtime is supposed to be quiet. So together, the kids and I decide that we’ll show Rooster what “quiet” looks and sounds like. After we’ve read the story, we see if we can teach him do a quiet cock-a-doodle-doo.  If he learns well, we invite him to join as we sing a lullaby to Baby Jesus. And once again, like those stinky skunks, Rooster, too, has been a big hit.

In fact, these darling puppets have been so popular at author events, I’ve decided that each and every picture book that I write must be paired with at least one puppet. So far I’ve been lucky and have found perfect matches.  Now, with more books in the publication pipeline, I am again in the market for puppets.  Without revealing too much…. I need an adorable mouse, an owl, and if possible, a seal!  Any leads?  =)

Happy author visits, all! And perhaps you, too, will decide to bring a puppet along to your next author visit.

MOPS Visit: Thank you, Woodside Chapel!

I LOVED reading GOODNIGHT, ARK  and GOODNIGHT, MANGER to the adorable toddlers and preschoolers at the Woodside Chapel MOPS group this morning.  I was also honored to share an inspirational Easter message with the moms as well as some tips for sharing our faith with our kids. Afterwards, I enjoyed signing books and chatting. Thanks for having me!  

MOPS stands for Mothers of Preschoolers. MOPS groups typically meet monthly at a local church.  Meetings may include a devotion, speaker, craft for the moms, as well as special story time/play time/ and crafts for the little ones.  Today’s meeting also included a tasty breakfast. To learn more about MOPS, check out their website at www.mops.org. You can also find encouraging words on their blog, Hello, Dearest.

Celebrate NATIONAL READING AWARENESS MONTH with KidLitTV’s READ ALOUD LIVE STREAM!

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This week, in celebration of PICTURE BOOKS and READ ALOUD TIME, KidLitTV will be hosting a READ ALOUD LIVE STREAM. The event will take place tomorrow, Friday, March 3rd, from noon – 3pm EST. The festivities will be streamed  LIVE on the KidLitTV Facebook page and will include picture book readings from a whole host of authors and illustrators (including me)  who will be sharing their own books. I will be reading Goodnight, Ark.

So, please join us and share the magic of reading with your kiddos tomorrow afternoon. Tune in for a few minutes, or for 30 minutes, whatever works best.  We’re looking forward to celebrating reading aloud TOGETHER… LIVE with you!

Thank you, KidLitTV, for organizing and hosting this event.  Here’s the link to their Facebook page so you can easily hop on over: https://www.facebook.com/KidLitTV/ Happy reading all!

 

GOOD MORNING, LAKESIDE CHAUTAUQUA: A Christmas Story Time… in August!

fine print lakesideThis week I returned once again to Lakeside Chautauqua for a visit which included a “Goodnight, Manger” author story time.  Hosted by Bev and Joan, the lovely booksellers at the Fine Print Book Store, our Christmas-themed story time took place  this Monday morning at 10:00 am. I hope the pictures below capture the fun we had. Thanks to all for a great time!

Ahead of time, Bev and Joan did a terrific job of promoting the event which took place at Green Gables, the charming Victorian home of the Lakeside Women’s Club.

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The story time began with a cheerful rendition of “Jingle Bells!” with bells and all.  Next, to remind us of the real Christmas story, we enjoyed a lively pageant with children and parents playing the key roles. We even had sheep, a camel, and a cow!
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My basket served as the perfect impromptu manger for Baby Jesus.

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Then it was time to introduce Rooster, read “Goodnight, Manger”, and sing a lullaby to Baby Jesus.

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Afterwards, everyone enjoyed a simple ornament craft and coloring page. I even got to sign a few books!
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 Merry Christmas… in August to all!

Stop by the BHPL BOOK BLOG for a FUN INTERVIEW!

13507225_10153848033924094_2368832568996490477_nIn anticipation of my GOODNIGHT, ARK story time visit at the Berkeley Heights Public Library next Tuesday, I was interviewed by the librarian! We had the nicest time chatting about writing  picture books, working with an illustrator, living in New Jersey and more. Curious? Then hop on over. I’ll make it easy. Press here.

NOTE:  The GOODNIGHT, ARK story time will take place next Tuesday, July 19th at 10:30 in the Children’s Room of the Berkeley Heights Public Library. Please join us if you can.

A SURPRISE AUTHOR VISIT on the Last Day of First Grade!

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Two weeks ago I received a surprise phone call from one of the first grade teachers at Hillside Avenue School with a special request. Her students had brainstormed special activities to make the end of the school year extra fun.  Their top vote?  Invite a MYSTERY READER to visit on the last day of school.  Would I be willing, this teacher asked, to come and be, not just a MYSTERY READER, but a MYSTERY AUTHOR as well?  Since I LOVE visiting with school kids, I said yes, of course!

Today was the day.  Since the visit was a surprise, I tried to arrive as inconspicuously as possible. Here I am (above) giving the “top secret” signal just outside the main office.

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Then it was time to quietly roll my author-visit cart down to Room 8.  I snapped this picture just before entering the room.  Then… SURPRISE!  (I loved seeing all those wiggly-toothed smiles and could feel the EXCITEMENT in the room.)

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While the children gathered on the rug, I set up my display. Soon it was time for introductions and an enthusiastic discussion about where we – as writers and artists – get our ideas.  They all had such good thoughts!

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Next we all enjoyed an interactive reading of GOODNIGHT, ARK with the help of my skunk puppets!  We paused occasionally to notice things like word choice and page turns and how the illustrations added extra (and often funny) details to the story.  What attentive readers they were!

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Finally, I challenged the first graders to be writers and illustrators over the summer. And here’s the special part. If they write a snazzy story or poem that includes an illustration that includes extra details and, if their parents agree, they may send snap shots of their pieces to me via their teachers and I will post them on my blog!  I can’t wait to see their work.  =)

In the meantime…

HAPPY SUMMER ALL! And don’t forget to weave some reading,  writing… and drawing time into every week!

SUMMERTIME STORY TIMES (with Skunks and Rooster!)

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Looking for something fun to do with the kiddos this summer? How about joining me for one of these summertime story times? Meet my puppet companions who help with the storytelling and enjoy a special craft.

Tuesday July 19, 2016 Join me for a GOODNIGHT, ARK story time and book signing with craft.  Berkeley Heights Public Library, NJ.  10:30 am.

Thursday July 28, 2016 Join me for a GOODNIGHT, ARK story time and book signing with craft.  New Providence Public Library Library, NJ.  10:00 am.

Monday August 1, 2016  Join me for “Christmas in August”!  Sing carols, participate in a reading of GOODNIGHT, MANGER and enjoy a craft or two.  More details TBA.  Lakeside, Ohio.

 

SCHOOL VISIT: Thank you, Frances C. Smith Center for Early Childhood Education

I LOVED reading GOODNIGHT, ARK to the adorable and attentive three and four year olds at The Frances C. Smith Center for Early Education in Elizabeth, NJ this morning. I was guest author as part of their Barnes and Noble Book Fair. As always, the skunks were a big hit. I was also impressed by what good listeners the children were. Thanks for having me!  

Happy reading, all!

SKYPE VISIT: Thank you, International Christian School Uijongbu!

IMG_2390Monday evening, I spent a delightful 20 minutes Skyping with the K– 5th graders at International Christian School Uijongbu in South Korea.  It was actually Tuesday morning for them and they were bright-eyed and ready to go!  After introducing myself and sharing the inspiration for Goodnight, Ark, I read them the story, pausing occasionally to reflect on how the text and the illustrations work together to tell the story. Afterwards they impressed me with their thoughtful questions. Even though we were separated by a continent and an ocean, it almost felt as if we were in the same room. What a wonderful use of technology!

This event was in celebration of World Read Aloud Day, though we had to schedule it a little early. The official date for World Read Aloud Day is February 24th, 2016. I will be Skyping with two schools that day – one in Georgia and one in Canada. I can’t wait!

To learn more about World Read Aloud Day, press here. If you would like to set up  an author visit with me for your class, please reach out to me using the contact tab above.

Thank you again, teachers and students for a great visit! And a special thanks to my writing friend, Tina Cho, who teaches at the school, for arranging the visit.

Happy reading and writing to all!