GUEST POST: Exploring PICTURE BOOK LAYERS with Children

Did you know picture books have multiple layers?  Those of us who write them are aware of this because it plays into how the story unfolds.  But children might not be aware of this. With that in mind, I’m delighted to share a wonderful post written by artist, teacher and children’s writer, Kathy O’Neill as she delves into the multiple layers of picture books with tips for using those rich layers to spark curiosity, faith in God, and a love of reading in our littlest ones.

And in the super special department, guess which book she features with examples of activities that delve into each rich layer? Little Ewe (Beaming Books, 2021)! Thank you, Kathy and thank you, Sally Matheny, for hosting her.

Read the post here and while you are there be sure to further explore Sally’s terrific faith-based website, chock full of bookish and educational posts for families. Kathy O’ Neill also has an engaging blog with posts to help children discover God through art history and nature.

10 Book-Themed Crafts and Activities for LITTLE EWE

TEACHERS! CAREGIVERS! LIBRARIANS! I’ve rounded up TEN activities created just for LITTLE EWE: THE STORY OF ONE LOST SHEEP (Beaming Books) — perfect for spring or summer, or any time of year. Enjoy!

ONE: Make your own fluffy Little Ewe (great for preschool storytime) and then play hide and seek.

TWO: Do a book-themed Read, Discuss, DO. (or two!)

THREE: After reading the story, play a book-themed listening game over at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog.

FOUR: Follow up a Little Ewe story time with a cute paper-plate sheep craft at Glitter on a Dime.

FIVE: Have your kids draw pictures of their favorite scenes/characters and then share on your socials using the hashtag #littleewe.

SIX: After reading the story, spark meaningful conversation using this teacher-created list of lessons to cherish from Little Ewe

SEVEN: Make a knitted Little Ewe craft (for shepherds to knit, although it is easy enough for older little lambs as well.)

EIGHT: Follow up Little Ewe story time by making an adorable little lamb resting box (for the little lamb you knitted above or the toy lamb of your choice) and playing a game found over at Celebrate Picture Books.

NINE: Share with little ones how figs made it into the book, then have a figgy snack using this behind-the-scenes post for inspiration.

TEN: Download the Little Ewe activity kit over at Beaming Books (includes craft ideas, reading ideas, coloring pages and a maze!).

LITTLE EWE: Joint Interview with Author and Illustrator Reveals SHARED HOPE

A few years ago, I had on my heart to write a counting story for littlest ones inspired by one of my favorite parables from the New Testament. I had always loved this particular parable because it was a visual and comforting reminder to me that no matter how far I wandered, or even if I lost my way, God would always be there – not just waiting for me, but actively seeking to bring me back to Him. I also loved this particular parable because it had sheep.  

If you know my books, you’ve probably figured out that the book that was on my heart to write was LITTLE EWE.  And my hope from the beginning for this particular book was that it would serve as a creative, playful way to introduce children to our Shepherd’s amazing love through the eyes of one fictional little lamb. 

In the summer of 2019, the book was accepted for publication by Naomi Krueger, acquisitions editor at Beaming Books. I was thrilled and had lots of questions for her. I asked things like who would the illustrator be? Would there be any revisions? What was the anticipated publication date? But one thing I never outrightly asked, but have always wondered, was if she had the same deep hope for the book as I did.

Well, last week, I got my answer, when I was invited by Picture Book Look Podcast hosts Kim Chaffee and Kirsti Call to participate in a special chat about LITTLE EWE with my editor, Naomi Krueger! I’ve done podcasts and radio interviews before, but never a joint one like this. Kim and Kirsti asked great questions and I LOVED hearing about Naomi’s process and thoughts in acquiring and then bringing the book to fruition. I hope you will take a listen. (It’s under 16 minutes.) Here’s the link.

But even if you don’t have time right this minute so listen to the whole episode, here’s an “audio pinch” (a new phrase for me) from the interview in which we talk about our hopes for the book. And guess what? We did share the same vision for the book from the beginning and am moved by the depth of her response to the question.

Thank you, Naomi, for acquiring this story, and to the whole team at Beaming Books, along with illustrator Tommy Doyle, for bringing it to life so charmingly. And thank you to Kim and Kirsti at Picture Book Look for interviewing us. I hope LITTLE EWE is enjoyed by sheep of all ages (and their shepherds) for years to come.

Interested in adding a copy to your home, school, or church library?  It’s available wherever books are sold.  

YOU’RE INVITED! Join Me and Host Valerie Ellis for an Our Everyday Parables LIVE Interview

Tune in this Thursday, March 10, 2022 at 12:12 eastern on Instagram for my first Instagram LIVE interview. I’ll be joining Valerie Ellis, host and founder of Our Everyday Parables, a blog dedicated to “inspiring families to faith and compassion through everyday moments and excellent books”.  

The interview will include questions from listeners, so if you have a question you’ve always wanted to ask about any of my books or about using books to foster faith in our little ones and want it answered on Instagram LIVE (squee!) please let me know in a comment here and I will share it with Valerie.  You can also DM her with questions on the Our Everyday Parables instagram page.  You can also type your question in during the interview. 

If you want to come, I highly recommend popping over to her Insta page and signing up for the reminder. It’s easy and then Instagram will remind you to come!  Neat, huh?  I signed up so I won’t forget to come either. LOL.

Oh, and there will be a multi-book giveaway too. This image gives a clue as to which four books will be included in that. I hope you can make it.

Blessings all! And remember to leave your question. Any that aren’t answered at the interview, I will put in queue to incorporate into future blog posts!

Celebrate HUG A SHEEP Day with LITTLE EWE: Craft and Review!

This past Saturday, in celebration of Hug A Sheep Day which takes place on the last Saturday in October, Little Ewe was featured over at Kathy Carroll’s wonderful Celebrate Picture Books blog. Head over there to find her review with this adorable craft that is also a game. It’s a cozy resting box for Little Ewe! It’s the craft I’ve been using at book store and library events this fall and it’s a big hit. There’s also a giveaway for a free copy of the book which ends 11/4/21.  So grab your favorite cozy November hot beverage and head on over. I’ll make it easy for you.  Here’s the link to the review/craft and here’s the link to the giveaway.  And to make that cute little knitted lamb press here. Thank you for celebrating with Little Ewe!

Back-to-School Offer: Celebrate KINDNESS with a Free Author Visit with LAURA SASSI

Back-to-School Time! In celebration of the POWER OF KINDNESS, I’m offering FIVE free 20-minute virtual* visits to classrooms, libraries, church groups, day-cares or homeschool co-ops. (*Note: Can be in-person if you are local.)

 If you are interested, reach out to me via the contact tab in the About section.

IMPORTANT DETAILS

For each FREE 20-minute virtual visit I will:

  • Briefly introduce myself and describe what it means to be an author. I will also share the inspiration behind the book I will be sharing.
  • Read LOVE IS KIND, LITTLE EWE or DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE with a kindness take-away challenge for each.
  • Use puppets to aid in the storytelling.
  • Have a brief Q&A.

OPTIONAL: If you are interested in a longer virtual visit that includes a presentation of the journey a picture book takes from spark to publication, using early sketches, drafts and more, I also offer longer virtual visits that are fee-based. If a fuller visit interests you, please let me know that. My fees are reasonable and we will make the visit work to fit your budget.

Either way, I respectfully request that you or your school purchase a copy the book you select for your class library. I also request that book orders be made available to families so they can order books from the vendor of their/your choice.  I do not sell my books, but they are readily available through your favorite bookseller. I will provide a signed personally inscribed book plate for each book purchased. 

I look forward to spreading kindness in this special way this fall!  

Visits must be booked by December 1, 2021. Spots will fill quickly, so reach out to me soon via my contact tab in the About section. 

Happy Fall!

PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: Picturing God (A Faith-Sparking Lesson)

When I was Children’s Ministry Director at a small satellite church, I planned a Sunday morning children’s program called “PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: Sparking Faith Conversations using Picture Books and Scripture”. Each week, using an engaging picture book as the spark along with games and a craft, children ages 3 – 10 delved into Scripture as we investigated what it means to be a beloved child of God. The kids enjoyed the lessons so much, that I have decided to continue with a regular blog series focusing on picture books that can be used as the spark for conversations about faith with your children. 

Today’s lesson uses PICTURING GOD (Beaming Books, 2019), written and illustrated by poet and visual artist Ruth Goring as the picture book hook. I hope it sparks thoughtful conversations with your kids.

PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: A Faith-Sparking Lesson

featuring

PICTURING GOD

by Ruth Goring

PURPOSE: To be filled with wonder and gratitude as we explore a beautiful sampling of the many “pictures” (i,e. metaphors) for God found in the Bible using Ruth Goring’s PICTURING GOD (Beaming Books, 2019) as the spark.  

OPENING PRAYER AND GATHERING GAME: What Am I? (a metaphor guessing game!)

Ahead of time write down on little cards a rich sampling of the biblical metaphors for God found in the Bible. You can use Goring’s book to get you started, but also feel free to explore the Bible on your own and add concrete examples can easily act out.  Examples:  shepherd, eagle, rock, gate, hen, light. The morning of the lesson, open in prayer, then explain that in today’s story, we will be exploring what God is like, but first  we’ll be playing a guessing game. (Don’t say yet that each is a metaphor for God.). Put the cards in a basket, then have each child pick a card and then use pantomime to act out what it is. No speaking or sounds aloud. The children will have fun guessing and can cheer each other on.

INTRODUCE THE STORY: 

Hold up the book and have someone read the title. Explain that Ruth Goring is both the illustrator and author of the book.  Ask them to take a close look and see what kinds of materials she uses to create her art.  Do they know what this is called?  (Collage.) Based on the title what do they think the book will be about? Then say there’s a special connection between our game today and the book. Do they know what it is? They are all pictures/ images that have been used in the Bible to describe God! Then read the story, pausing and marveling together at just how God is like the various metaphors ascribed to Him.

FAITH-SPARKING CHAT TIME:

After reading the story, have a round of “popcorn-style” responses (no hand raising needed) to see how many pictures of God they can remember from the book. 

Then for each, see if they describe in their own words how God is like a rock, eagle etc.

Finally, ask again where Ruth Goring found these wonderful metaphors?  Did she make them up?  No, then where did she find them? In the Bible!

DIG INTO SCRIPTURE TIME: 

Special note: For first grade and up, I recommend having several children’s bibles on hand so children can work in pairs to find the verses. They LOVE this and in the process learn how to locate biblical passages by book, chapter, and verse – a rewarding and important foundational skill for future bible study.

Wrap up the discussion by going a little treasure hunt into God’s Word to find a few of the images of God we marveled at in Goring’s beautiful book. Use the verses listed at the end of the book, but prep ahead by putting a sampling on cards to hand out to each pair of children or, depending on ages, to look up together.

STORY-BASED ACTIVITY TIME:   Create Your Picturing God Collages!

Ahead of time, gather an assortment of collage materials as well as glue and one plain white paper plate (with two holes punched at top) for each child. Then, opening up Goring’s book one once more, take a moment to marvel at how she uses bits of this and that to create beautiful images. Thus inspired, let each child pick their favorite metaphor from the book.  Neatly print it across the top. Then, dig in and start creating! Our bits of this and that included shiny gold ribbon, sequins, pom poms and tissue paper squares, but use whatever you have on hand. As each child finishes, loop yarn for hanging, but instruct them (or their parents) to carry their masterpieces home flat until they have dried. 

WRAP UP:  As children are finishing the activity, give thanks together that God loves us like a rock, shepherd, door, mother, father etc.

NOTE: Beaming Books has also created a wonderful discussion guide if you would like additional ideas: https://ms.beamingbooks.com/downloads/9781506449395%20Discussion%20Guide.pdf

SPECIAL VISIT: Little Ewe Travels to Lexington, Virginia

Last week Miss A and I (and Little Ewe and Little Owl too!) made a special trip to Lexington, Virginia, a quaint historic town nestled in the lovely Shenandoah Valley. The week was refreshing and wonderful and extra special because it was our first in-person visit with my dad since before Covid.

 How wonderful it was to be together again and we made the most of it. Our visit included daily early morning walks (for me) downtown to the Lexington Coffee Shop, a special do-together sewing project for my daughter and my dad’s wonderful Dianne, delicious meals, ice cream, and even a trip to Animal Safari Park in nearby Natural Bridge.  And, of course, chatting and catching up throughout it all. And hugs. There were lots of hugs.

But the highlight for Little Ewe (and Little Owl too!) was a special LITTLE EWE (Beaming Books, 2021) and LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018) book signing at the Sugar Maple Trading Company on Main Street. Owner Cindy Hughes and her husband Jeff and their daughters were delightful hosts.

During the signing, we had a steady stream of customers who were eager to purchase signed books, including several who were in town from Indiana for a wedding. One of those was a young teacher, who just completed her first year teaching second grade at a rural Indiana school. (And I might do a virtual author visit with her class next year. I hope so!)

Others were parents and grandparents interested in books for their little ones. One was a fellow author who I had met back in November 2019 when I gave a talk at Kendal in Lexington. It was lovely to see her again as well. 

Best of all, my dad, was there beside me, chatting and being his charming self.  He also very kindly acted as chauffeur so that several residents in his retirement community who no longer drive, could come down for the signing.  I felt so blessed!  

Then on Sunday, I was invited to read LITTLE EWE for the children’s portion of the service at Lexington Presbyterian Church.  What a special way to spend our last day in Lexington.

After church, I connected with this lovely woman who at the signing had told me that she was going to give LITTLE EWE as a gift along with a sweater with little lambs on it that she was knitting for one of her grandchildren. I said I would love to see it, so we arranged a time to do just that!  It was a joyful moment for both of us, I think, and a wonderful reminder of one of my favorite things about being a picture book author— connecting with others! 

I look forward to returning in the fall. Thank you, Lexington, for making Miss A and me feel so welcome! And, thank you, Dad, for being not only a great dad, but also the best “southern book rep” an author could hope for!

To close, here’s a fun Instagram Reel we made to promote the event beforehand. Such fun!

READ. DISCUSS. DO! with LITTLE EWE!

FUN RESOURCE! Did you know there are two Read. Discuss Do! graphics for my newest picture book, LITTLE EWE? Each one provides families, teachers, librarians etc. with a quick and easy idea to jumpstart meaningful interaction with a picture book – in this case LITTLE EWE!  I hope you will share the LITTLE EWE ideas with others using the hashtag #ReadDiscussDo. And if you want to find more activities like these but for other books, hop on over to Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and search using the same hashtag. You will be delighted by what you find.

NOTE: The Read. Discuss Do! (hashtag #ReadDiscussDo) campaign celebrates reading beyond the book by creating sharable images that give simple ideas for book related discussions and activities and is the brainchild of picture book author Rebecca J. Gomez.

LITTLE EWE: Feasting on FIGS!


One of the sweet distractions Little Ewe encounters on her day of exploring in my book LITTLE EWE (Beaming Books, 2021) is figs! And I just love how illustrator Tommy Doyle has captured their green-purple hue and deliciousness in his illustration of Little Ewe rejoicing as figs tumble after seven sparrows land on twigs.

 
The inclusion of figs in the story was not by chance. As part of honoring the biblical retelling, I wanted every encounter Little Ewe made to be rooted in the Mediterranean terrain where the original parable, told by Jesus, took place. And if you look them up, you will discover that sparrows, figs, and yes, even badgers, all resided or grew in the countryside Jesus knew and loved.

 
I also picked figs because, as a child, I didn’t even know they existed, except in the form of a fig bar, a favorite childhood cookie of mine. It wasn’t until I was all grown up that I had my first taste of an actual fig. I remember the moment vividly. We had moved to New Jersey and my Italian-American neighbor, whose mother had a fig tree on her property, shared a bowlful with us. Oh, my goodness, one bite and I was in heaven!


However, my picky-eater daughter who was about five at the time was sure she wouldn’t like them because they looked funny to her. Finally, after much joyful animated eating on my part, she agreed to nibble one. She loved it. In fact, just one fig wasn’t enough. She wanted more and more! It was a figgy feast!


Thus, it was also with picky-eaters in mind that decided to include figs in my story. 


At our house, we like to pair books that we read with treats made from foods mentioned in those books.  So, if you, like me, relish opportunities to broaden your picky-eaters palettes, may I suggest pairing LITTLE EWE with a bowl of figs? Or, if they are not in season, how about fig jam or dried figs or a fig cookie!


Happy Figgy Feasting!

Note: These figgy thoughts were first shared on the Beaming Books blog. Here’s the link. While you are there, you might also enjoy their other book-themed blog posts. Be sure also to check out their LITTLE EWE book page which includes a free downloadable activity kit, plus links to your favorite on-line vendors.