LITTLE MOLE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT: Six Extension Activities for 4 – 8 Year Olds (Plus a GIVEAWAY)

Today I am delighted to feature  LITTLE MOLE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT, Glenys Nellist’s charming companion to LITTLE MOLE FINDS HOPE which I featured earlier this year. Published by Beaming Books and illustrated by Sally Garland LITTLE MOLE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT is a hearfelt tale of kindness and generosity set in motion by a mushroom! It would make a lovely edition to your family’s Christmas book collection.

Enjoy the book trailer. Then, in celebration of the book’s release, and in the hope of sparking kindness this holiday season and beyond, here are SIX extension activities for LITTLE MOLE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT.

Make a book-themed decoration. Add a festive reminder to your Christmas tree that kindness is the best gift of all by challenging your child to make a mushroom ornament designed by them! I chose felt, yarn, and buttons for my ornament, but there’s no limit to the creative options. Think egg carton, construction paper, clay, paper mâché! The possibilities are endless! Have fun!

Have a kindness celebration. After reading LITTLE MOLE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT, celebrate kindness by encouraging your child to do something kind for someone in their family or class. Make cards, deliver food to a shelter, or bake cookies and deliver them to a neighbor who could use a little extra love and care.

Do a Read. Discuss. Do! Author Rebecca Gomez has created a delightful reading extension initiative called Read.Discuss.Do! Here’s one she created for LITTLE MOLE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT. To find others for a wide variety of favorite titles, search the hashtag #ReadDiscussDo on social media.

Have your child read to you! After several cozy readings of the story, let your littlest ones re-read the book to you using the pictures as clues. Reading the pictures is a great pre-reading skill because it encourages interacting with the page. So, snuggle up and enjoy being “read” to. (Older kids who can read on their own, can also enjoy investigating the illustrations ways the pictures also tell part of the story.)

Tromp through rain, or snow, or sleet. Wintry weather plays an integral role in this story and your children will delight in experiencing it first hand with some fun, exploratory walks through different weather conditions. Maybe they’ll even spot Little Mole or Little Chipmunk!

Make a tasty mushroom treat. At the end of the story Little Mole and his mama enjoy a tasty mushroom treat. Mushroom dishes are not high on a child’s want-to-eat list, but this could be an opportunity to grow their palettes with a mushroom (of the store-purchased variety only) dish. At our house, stuffed mushrooms baked with yummy cheese and breadcrumbs or crumbled sausage, for example, are a hit for ALL ages. A quick google search and you’ll find a whole host of recipes. Enjoy!

BONUS:  Check out the publisher’s website for an activity pack to accompany the story, chock full of book-themed activities.

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!! If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of LITTLE MOLE’S CHRISTMAS (Beaming Books, October 2020) simply post a comment below letting me know that you’d like to enter. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway is sponsored by Beaming Books and ends Monday, 11/9/20 at 11:59 pm EST. THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER. The WINNER is announced here.

[Note: Thank you to Beaming Books for this complimentary book that I was under no obligation to review. The views and opinions expressed on this blog about books and other things are purely my own.]

OCTOBER CRAFT FOR KIDS: Spooky Halloween Rings

When I’m between projects or want to vary my writing, I sometimes make and write crafts for kids. Over the years, I had more than 50 crafts published, or accepted for publication at various magazines including Highlights for ChildrenPack-O-FunFamilyFun and Clubhouse Jr.

To be successful, crafts must be simple with clear, step-by step instructions. They also need a hook- something fresh and different to make them stand out from the rest. Most of the crafts I’ve sold have had some purpose beyond their cuteness. Many have doubled as games or holiday decorations. Most take some seemingly ordinary items like bottle caps or old margarine lids and repurpose them in a fresh, fun way.

I like making and writing crafts for many reasons. As a former teacher, I find they’re a valuable and fun way to teach kids how to follow step-by step directions. The written directions can also be used as models to teach kids how to write their own instructions. Now I also do them for each book I write – just for fun and give my readers different ideas for activities to do after reading my books.

Today, in celebration of Halloween and writing and creativity, I’d like to share an easy craft you can make with your kids using plastic ring tabs.

Spooky Halloween Rings

What you Need:

  • plastic ring tabs (from juice or milk cartons)
  • felt scraps: orange, black, white, green
  • black embroidery thread
  • white tacky glue
  • scissors

How to Make It: 

  1. Trace and cut out simple Halloween shapes such as a cat, pumpkin, or ghost from black, orange, or white felt. Glue these on to the round part of the plastic ring tab.
  2. For the pumpkin, cut eyes and toothy grin from black felt and a stem from green felt. Glue on.
  3. For the ghost, glue on two eyes and an oval mouth cut from black felt scraps.
  4. For the cat, cut and glue two green felt eyes. Snip four two-inch strands of embroidery thread , tying them together with a central knot. Snip the ends till the are perfect whisker length and glue in place.
  5. Once dry, slip the rings on your fingers and say “Boo!” or “Trick-or-Treat!” or “Meow!”.

NOTE: I first shared this craft in October of 2012 – when my blog was still brand new! For other crafts, check the tag “crafts”.

SUMMER ON THE PORCH STORY TIME CRAFT: Egg Carton Creatures Inspired by GOODNIGHT, MANGER

Hooray for summer mornings, good books and cozy porches – perfect for story time! With that in mind, each Tuesday throughout July I have hosted Summer Story Time on the Porch (and a Craft!) on my Facebook Author page. Today is the last one. 

This week’s story time features GOODNIGHT, MANGER. It’s bedtime in this rhyming Christmas story, but between adoring animals, itchy hay, angels’ joyful singing, and three kings bearing noisy gifts, there’s too much commotion. GOODNIGHT, MANGER humorously weaves together the comforting and familiar routines of bedtime with the special magic and wonder of the manger story. I do hope you will join me for the reading. You can get there by clicking my Facebook picture in the sidebar of this blog. 

Now for the craft:

Inspired by illustrator Jane Chapman’s colorful depictions of the animals around the manger, today’s craft is to create our own stable creatures using egg cartons, paint, glue, and any other little add-ons you have on hand. As you can see by the samples made by my young assistant, the results are ADORABLE!

Here are the steps for creating your own:

  1. Read GOODNIGHT, MANGER and marvel at all the different creatures that illustrator Jane Chapman has included in the stable.

2. Next, take an empty recycled cardboard egg carton and cut the egg holders apart. Save the lid for extra bits.  

3. Then look through the illustrations in GOODNIGHT, MANGER again. How could your child transform your egg carton pieces into animals inspired by Jane’s art?

4. Shape your creature by arranging one or more cardboard egg cups together to form a body. Cut extra pieces from the lid to make heads, ears, legs… whatever!  For extra fun, use scraps of this and that to make each stable creature unique. For example, I used feathers and my sweet young assistant used cotton balls, glitter and more! Tip:  Glue the basic shape together first and let dry completely before painting and adding your extra bits. 

Tip:  Glue the basic shape together first and let dry completely before painting and adding your extra bits. 

5. TAKE A PICTURE!  I’d love to see your children’s egg carton creations, so take a picture and send them to me so I can share the pictures on social media and my blog and we can all enjoy each other’s creativity!

The virtual story time has expired, but you can still read the book! It’s available at your favorite book seller and local library. And if they don’t have it, you can ask that it be ordered.

SUMMER ON THE PORCH STORYTIME CRAFT: Pass It On Kindness Pots Inspired by LOVE IS KIND

Hooray for summer mornings, good books and cozy porches – perfect for story time! With that in mind, each Tuesday throughout July I will be hosting Summer Story Time on the Porch (and a Craft!) on my Facebook Author page. Here’s the schedule:

This week’s story time features LOVE IS KIND about Little Owl who wants to show his grammy how much he loves her by getting her chocolates, but the quest proves much more difficult than he ever imagined! I do hope you will join me! You can get there by clicking my Facebook picture in the sidebar of this blog. 

Now for the craft:

Inspired by Little Owl, who extended love and kindness everywhere he went, today’s craft is to paint a little kindness pot, plant a seed or small plant in it, and then spread love and kindness by giving it as a gift to someone. Here’s what you and your child need to do:

  1. Read LOVE IS KIND and think about all the ways Little Owl was kind and loving.
  1. Purchase a small pot or find one around the house. Using Lison Chaperon’s colorful illustrations as inspiration, encourage your child to decide how they will share the themes of LOVE and KINDNESS on the pot’s exterior.
  1. Using acrylic paints (so you can water the plant and the paint won’t wash off),  have your child paint their pot Little Owl style. Tip:  Apply paint without diluting with water.  Let one color dry before adding another.
  1. Add a little potting soil and either a seed or a small plant.  Press soil down gently so plant/seed is properly secured in the pot. Water lightly.
  1. Finally have your child “pass on” a little kindness and love to someone by delivering their “Pass It On Kindness Pot” to someone special.
  1. FOR EXTRA FUN: Before giving away the “Pass It On Kindness Pot”, take a picture of your child’s finished pot and send it to me. With your permission, I will share the pictures on Facebook and my blog so we can all enjoy each other’s creativity!

And here, in case you missed it, is the story time!

SUMMER ON THE PORCH STORYTIME CRAFT: Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse BOUQUETS

Hooray for summer mornings, good books and cozy porches – perfect for story time! With that in mind, each Tuesday throughout July I will be hosting Summer Story Time on the Porch (and a Craft!) on my Facebook Author page. Here’s the schedule:

This week’s story time features DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, an ode to cooperation and the joy of performance starring a new diva seal and the little mouse who wants to help her, but she thinks she deserves bigger help than a mouse! I do hope you will join me! You can get there by clicking my Facebook picture in the sidebar of this blog. 

Now for the craft:

Inspired by Rebecca Gerlings’ delightful depiction of Diva Delores being showered with bouquets these tissue paper bouquets are easy to make and fun to give away. 

Here are the steps for creating your own:

  1. Read DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE and perhaps have a quick discussion about the tradition of throwing bouquets to performers on stage. Hint: It’s a way to show admiration and love. 
  1. Gather five chenille sticks, a little glue, twenty 4” squares of colorful tissue paper in assorted colors, a bit of ribbon or yarn and a small piece of paper folded in half to make a note. 
  1. For each flower, stack four tissue squares. Using thumb and fingers, pinch the center to create the base to a flower, as shown.
  1. Wrap the end of a chenille stick tightly around the pinched base of the flower, using a tiny dab of glue to secure.  Bend the stick so its upright, like a stem.
  1. Gently fluff and the tissue paper flower, snipping the corners to make them rounded, if you choose.
  1. Once you have five flowers, arrange them in a colorful bouquet, tying with ribbon or yarn. 
  1. Finally, add a card, then “shower” someone you love (to use the wording from the story) with the bouquet.
  1. FOR EXTRA FUN: Take a picture of your child’s finished bouquet. With your permission, and I will double check to make sure I have it, I will share the pictures on Facebook and my blog so we can all enjoy each other’s creativity!

NOTE: Facebook Live reading of DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books, is no longer available. But the good news is the book is still available at book stores and at your local library. If they don’t have it, you can request it, for which Delores, Fernando and I would be most grateful. And if you’d like us to come to a reading for your class or library or organization, reach out to me via the contact tab above. I’d love to hear from you.

GOODNIGHT ARK Painted Rocks SHARING TIME!

This quick little post is to remind you to send me your pictures of the rock creatures you paint. I know Jane would love to see them and so would I!

Now, as promised in my story time, here is my completed ladybug painted rock, inspired by illustrator Jane Chapman’s delightful rendering in the end pages of our book GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014).

Here are the other rock creatures I painted, inspired by Jane’s art.

And if you missed the story time, it’s still available for a limited time. Here’s the link to Tuesday’s post which includes instructions for the rocks and the story time!

Happy reading and painting!

SUMMER ON THE PORCH STORYTIME CRAFT: GOODNIGHT ARK Painted Rocks

Hooray for summer mornings, good books and cozy porches – perfect for story time! With that in mind, each Tuesday throughout July I will be hosting Summer Story Time on the Porch (and a Craft!) on my Facebook Author page. Here’s the schedule:

This week’s story time features GOODNIGHT ARK, my rollicking, yet ultimately soothing story about Noah trying to put the animals to sleep on at the ark! I do hope you will join me! You can get there by clicking my Facebook picture in the sidebar of this blog.

Now for the craft:

Inspired by Jane Chapman’s delightful renderings of the animals aboard Noah’s Ark, these painted rock animals are easy to make and fun to display.

Here are the steps for creating your own:

  1. Read GOODNIGHT, ARK and marvel at all the different kinds of creatures that illustrator Jane Chapman has included the illustrations. 
  1. Have your child find an unclaimed rock.  Examine that rock together with creative eyes.  Then look through the illustrations in GOODNIGHT, ARK again. What animal could it be transformed into?
  1. Using acrylic paints (so you can display your rock outside and the paint won’t wash off in the rain),  let your child paint their rock to look like their chosen creature. Tip:  Apply paint without diluting with water.  Let one color dry before adding another.
  1. FOR EXTRA FUN: Take a picture of your child’s finished painted rock and send it to me. With your permission, and I will double check to make sure I have it, I will share the pictures on Facebook and my blog so we can all enjoy each other’s creativity!

And here’s the story time (just in case you didn’t get a chance to watch it live.

The LOVE IS KIND Puppet Craft Challenge!

THANK YOU for joining me for the LOVE IS KIND Puppet Challenge! I just finished live streaming on Facebook and thought I would take a minute to share the challenge with you here. Please find the video of the Facebook Live stream here, or simply scroll down for the instructions below. (The video is just for extra fun.) I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Inspired by Little Owl, who extended love and kindness everywhere he went – and in very creative ways – the goal of this challenge is for children to extend love and kindness by creating a fabulous one-of-a-kind Little Owl puppet. They will then use that puppet to make someone else feel special and loved.  Here’s what you and your child need to do:

  1. Read LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018) and think about all the ways Little Owl was kind and loving.
  1. Using materials found at home have your child design their own, original Little Owl puppet. Possible construction materials include: brown bags, construction paper, felt, newspaper, fabric, Legos, an old sock or mitten, a yogurt tub or milk container, feathers, sequins etc. Be creative and have fun!
  1. Once the puppet is finished, spread joy by using the puppet as a side kick (like I do in my story times) to share LOVE IS KIND (or another story of your choice) with a special person in your child’s life – either in person or virtually! 
  1. FOR EXTRA FUN: Take a picture of your child’s puppet or you and your child reading with the puppet and send it to me. With your permission, and I will double check to make sure I have it, I will share the pictures on Facebook and my blog so we can all enjoy each other’s creativity!

WANT MORE IDEAS: Download the free LOVE IS KIND Activity Kit found here: https://www.zonderkidz.com/resources/freebies/.

INTERESTED IN PURCHASING A COPY? LOVE IS KIND is available wherever books are sold, but if you live locally, and want to show support for an indie bookstore — Anne, at The Town Bookstore if Westfield, NJ is offering 10% off any of my books (for a limited time only). Simply mention that you watched my Facebook Live Story Event.  If you’d like the books signed, mention that to Anne and we’ll make it happen!  The phone number for The Town Book Store is (908) 233-3535. You can also email Anne, at anne@townbookstore.com

Celebrate OPERA DAY with DIVA DELORES & THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE!

Did you know that February 8th is Opera Day! Delores knows and she’s dee-lighted that she and Fernando are featured today over at Celebrate Picture Books, a wonderful blog that pairs picture books with holidays. DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE (Sterling, 2018) is a perfect pick and we are so happy to be featured today.

To get you in the mood for opera, enjoy the DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE book trailer…

… then pop on over to Kathryn Carroll’s blog for a treat that includes a craft inspired by my great grandmother’s opera glasses which I used to gently hold (and sometimes even play with) as a child. I’ll make it easy for you. Here’s the link: https://celebratepicturebooks.com/2020/02/08/february-8-opera-day/

TWO TOUGH TRUCKS: Six Extension Activities for 3 – 6 Year Olds (And a Giveaway!)

There’s a new TRUCK-LOVING picture book that recently roared onto bookshelves everywhere, just in time the new school year. It’s called TWO TOUGH TRUCKS (Orchard Books, September 2019) and it’s co-written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, with illustrations by Hilary Leung. Using two big trucks as stand-ins for two kids, it’s the perfect story to calm back-to-school nerves and set the wheels in motion for a terrific school year.  Written by two of the best rhymers around, it’s also full of fun word play that will tickle the engines of young readers everywhere. 

Now, to celebrate reading in general – and this book in particular – here are six book-themed extension activities perfect for 3 – 6 year olds. So, invite your kiddos to find a good spot to read… then extend the fun with one, two, or all of these activities (which rhyme, by the way, just because). 

Take a local truck tally! After reading TWO TOUGH TRUCKS, have each child grab an index card and pencil, then take a little drive to look for trucks of all sizes.  For younger kids, simply tally the number of trucks you spot.  (This is a good opportunity to teach them how to tally- a wonderful counting skill.) For older children, consider having them list the different types of big trucks they see, then make tallies for each of those categories.

Have a mini-truck rally! Inspired by Rebecca’s and Corey’s truck-racing text and Hillary’s wondrous setting, grab your favorite toy trucks (and/or cars) and head outside to the sandbox, playground, or even your backyard. Rev up your engines for some good old-fashioned races, challenges, and maybe even a few stunts.  

Take a picture read through. After reading TWO TRUCKS, let your littlest ones re-read it to you using the pictures as clues. Reading the pictures is a great pre-reading skill because it encourages interacting with the page. So, snuggle up and enjoy being “read” to. (Older kids who can read on their own, can also enjoy investigating the illustrations ways the pictures also tell part of the story.)

Do a “Read. Discuss. Do!” Author Rebecca Gomez has created a delightful reading extension initiative called Read.Discuss.Do! Here’s one she created for this book. To find others for a wide variety of favorite titles, search the hashtag #ReadDiscussDo on social media.

Have a truck-themed book fest. After reading the story, your kids might be inspired to read more truck-themed books. If so, head to the library and have a truck-themed book fest!  Your librarian can help you find some good books.

Painting truck tracks is the best!  Mess and grime and MUD are part of the fun when it comes to trucks (at least in my opinion). That’s why I’ve selected this messily adorable craft for post-reading artsy fun. Be sure to spread out some newspaper or a vinyl cloth before running those trucks through the paint! Smocks also advised. Afterwards, simply rinse the trucks off in a bucket of water -which also becomes an activity in and of itself that your kids will LOVE!

I found many renditions of this craft online. Here’s the one I thought had the clearest instructions: 

Thanks for stopping by today. I hope these extension ideas inspire you and your littles to extend the conversation and the fun after reading TWO TOUGH TRUCKS.  If you enjoyed this post, please help me to grow my audience (and ensure that you’ll be among the first to know about new posts) by following my blog or liking my Facebook Author Page. Thank you.

Now for the GIVEAWAY! If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of TWO TOUGH TRUCKS (Orchard Books, September 2019) simply post a comment below. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Thursday, 10/3/19 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced that Friday!