Celebrating THE GREEN UMBRELLA: 10 Extension Activities!

This week I’m sharing yet another ADORABLE new picture book out just in time for Valentine’s Day. Written by Jackie Azua Kramer and charmingly illustrated by Maral Sassouni in their double debut, THE GREEN UMBRELLA (NorthSouth Books, Inc, 2017) is story of a friendly pink elephant, his green umbrella, and the imaginative friends he meets along the way.  Treat yourself to the delightful book trailer. Then help yourself to a rich serving of extension activities celebrating rain, friendship, sharing, and the power of imagination!

 

THE GREEN UMBRELLA:  10 Extension Activities 

Make umbrella valentines. With its theme of friendship and kindness, The Green Umbrella makes a perfect Valentine’s read.  Afterwards, celebrate friendship and kindness with your child by making these cute umbrella-inspired valentines using colorful paper, index cards, and those mini candy-canes that you might still have left over from Christmas!   

img_3858Be an inventor. After enjoying the story, extend the fun by having your child imagine how THEY might creatively re-purpose the umbrella if they were in the story.  Then using paper or clay, or whatever materials tickle your fancy, bring your idea to life!  (For extra fun, have have a few cocktail umbrellas on hand to be incorporated into the creation.

Put on a play.  Creatively re-enacting the story is a great way to embrace and reinforce the wonderful concepts of empathy, friendship, and imagination.  So, after reading the story, have fun retelling it using stuffed animals, puppets, or yourselves!  Don’t forget to use an umbrella as a prop!

img_3855Have an umbrella tea party. With your child’s help, fix a pot of tea (or lemonade) and arrange (or even bake) a plate of cookies.  Then grab a picnic quilt, an umbrella and, if possible, a few friends! Select a cheery spot outdoors (or indoors if it’s raining), then read and have tea under an umbrella, just the way Elephant and his friends do in the story.

IMG_3853.jpgTake a rainy day stroll.  Take advantage of the next rainy day to read the story and then take your very own stroll in the rain.  Catch rain drops on your tongue, splash through puddles, and take turns holding the umbrella for each other!  Then come inside for a book-themed rainy day snack of tea and cookies.

img_3851Shower the world with kindness (umbrella style!). Using little strips of paper brainstorm and write down 14 sweet acts of kindness.  (Ex. Hold the door open for someone; Make a card for someone; etc.)  Fold and tape the strips to the bases of little paper cocktail umbrellas.  Place umbrellas in a bowl. Each day, select an umbrella to find your surprise mission.  Then shower strangers and loved ones alike with your sweet acts of kindness.

Play umbrella hide and seek.  While one person has their eyes covered, another hides the umbrella making sure everyone else sees where it is hidden.  Then using clapping (to sound like soft rain or a raging storm) help the person whose eyes were covered to find the umbrella.  No voices allowed.  Only the pitter-patter of rain – soft if they are far from the umbrella and loud if they are close. (Warning:  This game will be a big hit!)

Play musical umbrella.  First put on your favorite children’s kindness/friendship themed album.  (We like anything Raffi at our house.)  Then, using the umbrella instead of the more traditional “hot potato”, sit in a circle and gently pass the umbrella to the music. When the music stops, everyone says one kind thing to the person holding the umbrella. Ex. You are funny.  I like your striped socks.  You make me feel welcome etc.)

Watch the book trailer. Then make your own!

Your turn!  I know I said 10, but I have a better idea! I bet you might have some, so in the comments section below, leave an idea and let’s see how many we end up with!

Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Reading! 

To learn more about Jackie, visit her website.

To learn more about Maral, visit her website.

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PICTURE BOOK EXTENSION ACTIVITY: Felt Cookie “Number Order” Game

IMG_1773Today’s craft/game would fit in nicely with a pre-k or early elementary lesson on number order and logical thinking. It can also be used as a fun extension for your  favorite cookie-themed picture book. Some of my favorite cookie themed picture books include Ame Dyckman’s TEA PARTY RULES, Laura Numeroff’s IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE and Pat Hutchins’ THE DOORBELL RANG.  

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Felt Cookie Sheet “Number Order” Game

by 

Laura Sassi

These cookies are counting on you to get their chips in number order!

To make the cookies, trace eight circles onto stiff tan felt, using a small drinking glass as a template.  Decorate each cookie by gluing on chocolate brown felt chips.  Put one chip on the first cookie, two on the second, and so on. The final, eighth cookie should have eight chips. 

Next, arrange the cookies on your gray felt “cookie sheet” in three snug rows. Your third row will have one extra space.  Snip the excess strip from your cookie sheet so that there is space for only nine cookies.

To play, mix up the cookies and place them on the cookie sheet.  See if you can arrange them in number order without picking them up! Instead, slide them around the sheet using the empty space to help you.  Have fun!

Afterwards, treat yourself to some real home-baked chocolate chip cookies.  Yum!IMG_1758.JPG

 

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: An Interview with Zonderkidz picture book author Glenys Nellist (PLUS a CRAFT and a GIVEAWAY!)

Today, in celebration of the release of the board book LITTLE LOVE LETTERS FROM GOD (Zonderkidz, 2015) I am delighted to be interviewing author Glenys Nellist.  She’s here as part of her blog tour. And since Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, Glenys has also brought along a printable Valentine’s Day craft which she will share after the interview. One lucky reader will also receive a free copy of this terrific new rhyming Bible storybook for littlest readers.  Well, let’s get started.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Glenys.  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What was your journey to becoming a writer?
I have loved reading, writing and anything to do with words ever since I can remember. It all began at primary school in England, where one day a week, I was one of the lucky few withdrawn from the classroom to sit in big, comfy armchairs in the teachers’ lounge. There, with pencil and paper at the ready, I would write. When I became a primary school teacher myself, I used to write poems and stories to use in my classroom, but it wasn’t until my husband and I came to pastor a small church in the United States, fifteen years ago, that the publishing world opened up for me. It was at that little church that I began to write my own curriculum, to be used in children’s ministry, and pretty soon had this crazy dream of writing a children’s storybook Bible. It was a dream that would take me ten years to fulfill, but it was worth pursuing!
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What inspired you to write LOVE LETTERS FROM GOD and then LITTLE LOVE LETTERS FROM GOD? 
When my four sons were young, a wonderful little book called The Jolly Postman was published in England. It was their favorite book, written in rhythm and rhyme, that told the story of a postman who delivers letters to nursery rhyme characters. The innovative feature of the book (which is still in print today) is that the pages are actual envelopes containing real letters. I can still remember the joy on my youngest son’s face as he reached inside the envelopes with his chubby little fingers to take the letters out. It was this book that became the inspiration for Love Letters from God. 
 
It was my editor’s idea to produce a toddler, board book version of the original, and Zonderkidz had already started work on condensing some of the stories. However, since I know the literacy value and the sheer fun of rhyming words for little ones, I thought it would be great to write Little Love Letters from God in rhyme. I took just eight of the original eighteen stories, and rewrote them as simple poems, while trying to retain some of the same language used in the original book. It was a challenging, but fun, exercise that I think turned out really well!
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The Bible is full of stories.  How did you select which stories would be included in the original and now the board book version of LOVE LETTERS FROM GOD?
 I knew from the outset that the original book wasn’t going to be just a retelling of Bible stories. Each story had to include its own love letter from God, and a simple Bible verse…a first person promise that God might speak directly to the child’s heart, called God’s Wonderful Words to You. Since it was quite a complex project, I drew up a chart outlining each story, what the love letter might include, and what might be an appropriate Bible verse. It was working on this chart and needing to find balance without overlap that helped me see what stories, apart from the iconic, obvious choices, should be included.
When it came to choosing stories for the toddler version, I simply chose the iconic ones, that every children’s storybook Bible should include.
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Tell us about the illustrations. How long did they take Sophie Allsopp to complete?  Was the process of bringing your words to life through pictures at all collaborative?
 I think it took Sophie about eighteen months to complete the illustrations. My editor asked me what sort of illustrations I had envisioned, and since Sophie had done some work for Zondervan in the past, they approached her. Really, I must credit my wonderful editor, Barbara Herndon for the whimsical illustrations, and for the ‘scrapbook’ feel of the finished product…that was totally her idea! From time to time, Barbara would let me have a peek at what Sophie was doing, and of course, I was delighted. I wouldn’t have changed a thing!
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Let’s take a quick peek at the book trailer for the original LOVE LETTERS FROM GOD.  It really shows how beautifully the scrapbook style illustrations enhance the text. 

What’s next?  Are there more LOVE LETTERS in the pipeline?  Also, where can interested readers find your books?
 I’m delighted to say….YES! You can be on the lookout for CHRISTMAS LOVE LETTERS which will appear on the shelves later this year, and in 2017, one written especially for girls. I also have a new SNUGGLE TIME series coming out soon! Readers can find out more at the links below. Thanks so much for having me Laura!
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It’s been my pleasure!  And now for the craft! 

Enjoy this free, downloadable Valentine Craft which features the Good Shepherd from Little Love Letters. With special thanks to Glenys’s creative friend, Debi Weaver for her cute design.

Find out more about Glenys and her books here:

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Don’t forget to enter  the GIVEAWAY!!!!! If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of LITTLE LOVE LETTER FROM GOD, written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Sophie Allsopp, simply post a comment below. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident with a street address (as opposed to a P.O. Box at least 18 years old to enter.) The contest ends Thursday, 2/18/16 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced on Friday! This giveaway is now over.  Winner has been announced.

PICTURE BOOK CRAFT: Bendy Knitted Snake Inspired by GOODNIGHT, ARK!

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Here’s a fun craft for the parent or grandparent (or aunt or uncle, or teacher or friend) of a little GOODNIGHT, ARK fan.

I love Jane Chapman’s depictions of the snakes in GOODNIGHT, ARK.  Her amicable yellow and green striped snakes appear on many of the spreads and are about the coziest looking snakes I’ve ever witnessed.  So when, in the process of sorting through my yarn drawer, I discovered some leftover yellow and green yarn balls, imagine my excitement!

Want to make your own cute Bendy Knitted Snake? Here’s how:

Gather:

green and yellow yarn (to match the snakes in GOODNIGHT, ARK)

knitting needles (I used size 6)

a yarn needle

two yellow pipe cleaners, twisted together to make one long piece (so that snake is bendable)

Create:

1. Cast on six stitches with yellow yarn. Knit a row, pearl a row, etc. until you have 12 rows. This will be the head.

2. Switch to green for two rows, then alternate four rows of yellow, with two rows of green until you reach your desired length.

3.For the tail, switch to green, reducing every other row until two stitches remain.  Cast off.

4. Using the yarn needle and green yarn, add on two green snake eyes.

5.  Before stitching the snake closed, gently poke the tip of your pipe cleaner strand through the pearl side of the head (and then back again). Fold the tip in firmly so that the pipe cleaner will stay in place and not be pokey.  Stretch the pipe cleaner out so that it fits nicely in the snakes insides.  Every so often as you stitch the underbelly closed with yellow yarn, loop a stitch around the pipe cleaner so that it stays in place. Continue until snake is completely stitched together.

6.  Now you have a cute reading buddy to share with your little reader. For extra fun, make a pair!  It might even be fun to let your snakes slither across the pages of GOODNIGHT, ARK as this friendly fellow is. Enjoy!

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OLDIE BUT GOODIE: Sheep Bible Verse Memory Craft

IMG_0462When I taught 2nd/3rd grade Sunday school I was always looking for fun crafts and clever strategies to help the kids memorize their monthly Bible verse.  With that in mind, here’s a Bible memory craft/game I came up with that I hope you, too, will find useful should you find yourself teaching Sunday School or Vacation Bible School.  It’s also makes a fun at-home activity.  Happy Spring (almost)!

DO THE SHEEP SHUFFLE

by

Laura Sassi

Shuffling these sheep into the correct word order is a great way to memorize your favorite sheep-themed Bible verse!

Gather:

9” by 12” sheet of green construction paper

9” by 12” sheet white construction paper

black marker           scissors

A sheep-themed Bible verse of your choice.   (Suggested verses:  Psalm 23:1, Psalm 100:3,  John 10:11)

Construct:

For the meadow, fold green construction paper to make a 12-box grid.

Using black marker trace eleven sheep onto white construction paper.  Color the heads and feet black. Cut out.

Select your sheep verse.  Depending on the verse length, write one or two words on each sheep.  Be sure to use all eleven sheep.

Play:

Mix the sheep and place them in the meadow.

Try to arrange the sheep in correct verse order without picking them up.  Instead shuffle them up and down the meadow grid, using the empty space to help you.

FALL CRAFT: Spooky Halloween Rings

spooky halloween ringsI 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. As a writer, I find they’re a refreshing change of pace from my regular writing mode. As a mom, I find they’re a  good excuse to spend special time with my kids. They are also a great activity for playdates.

So, in celebration of Halloween, writing, creativity and playdates, here’s an easy craft you can make with your kids using plastic ring tabs.

Spooky Halloween Rings

by

Laura Sassi

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 enjoy!

 

Cookies, cookies, cookies! (Inspired by GOODNIGHT, ARK)

photoMy nine year old has really embraced this whole book launch thing and joyfully declared this week that she wants to be a baker when she grows up.

IMG_3149And judging by these GOODNIGHT, ARK inspired animal cookies, I think she might very well do just that.  Though I would like to take credit, this project really is 100% hers.  All I did was mix the cookie dough, because stirring that is very hard, and I was in charge of the oven.  She researched how to make the frosting. She looked through GOODNIGHT, ARK and selected the animals she wanted to create. She rolled out the dough and cut the cookies. And she embellished each and everyone with superb artistic pizzazz.

In all, I think she’s spent close to 10 hours (not all at once) working on these cookies. And she’s not finished yet! She announced this morning that elephant shaped cookies are next in the production line.

And who will eat all these cookies? She plans to wrap them two by two in cellophane bags tied with colorful ribbon and hand them out to friends and neighbors. For now, though, they are going straight to the freezer until after GOODNIGHT, ARK officially releases on the 26th!IMG_3148IMG_3147

SPRING CRAFT: Do the Bible Verse Sheep Shuffle

IMG_0462Aside from writing picture books and poems, I also teach Sunday School to kindergarten though second graders.  And as Sunday school teacher, I’m always looking for fun crafts and clever strategies to help the kids memorize their monthly Bible verse.  Here’s a Bible memory craft/game I came up with that I hope you, too, will find useful should you find yourself teaching Sunday School or Vacation Bible School.  It’s also makes a fun at-home activity.  Enjoy!

DO THE SHEEP SHUFFLE

by

Laura Sassi

Shuffling these sheep into the correct word order is a great way to memorize your favorite sheep-themed Bible verse!

Gather:

9” by 12” sheet of green construction paper

9” by 12” sheet white construction paper

black marker           scissors

A sheep-themed Bible verse of your choice.   (Suggested verses:  Psalm 23:1, Psalm 100:3,  John 10:11)

Construct:

For the meadow, fold green construction paper to make a 12-box grid.

Using black marker trace eleven sheep onto white construction paper.  Color the heads and feet black. Cut out.

Select your sheep verse.  Depending on the verse length, write one or two words on each sheep.  Be sure to use all eleven sheep.

Play:

Mix the sheep and place them in the meadow.

Try to arrange the sheep in correct verse order without picking them up.  Instead shuffle them up and down the meadow grid, using the empty space to help you.

WINTER CRAFT: Valentine Tea Bags

Tea Bag Valentine

HAPPY SNOW DAY! School’s canceled for the day in my neck of the woods due to an impending snow storm.  Perfect weather for a winter craft. Here’s a simple one your kids might enjoy making. It’s great for letter and reading skills too!

Valentine Tea Bags

By

Laura Sassi

Unscramble this “tea”rrific valentine!

Gather 16 tea bags with strings.  Use scrap paper to create a heart pattern that fits over the tea bag tabs.   Use this heart pattern, to trace and cut four hearts from red paper. Then trace and cut three hearts each from white, blue, purple, and pink paper.  You should have 16 hearts total.

Arrange the hearts by color.  Use one color for each word.  Use one heart for each letter to spell the following: YOU ARE “TEA” BEST MOM!

Glue one heart one to each tea bag tab.  Let dry.

Mix the letters and arrange in Mom’s favorite tea cup or mug.  Garnish with tissue paper and place at Mom’s favorite spot for morning tea.

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To unscramble, arrange the hearts by color.  Then arrange the letters.

RAINY DAY CRAFT: Chopstick Pick Up Sticks

On rainy days my kids and I enjoy making  crafts that are also games. Here’s a fun one to make with your kids using chopsticks and paint. Enjoy!

Chopstick Pick Up Sticks

By

Laura Sassi

Transform chopsticks into gamesticks with this fun craft!

1.Without breaking them apart, lightly sand ten pairs of disposable wooden chopsticks so that no splintery edges remain.

2. While they are connected, paint the chopsticks.  Decorate each pair so that it looks different from the rest.

3. When dry, gently snap each pair of chopsticks apart to make twenty pick up sticks.

4. To play the game, hold all twenty chopsticks upright in your fist.   Then let go so that they scatter slightly.   Take turns picking up the sticks one by one.  If you pick a stick without moving the others, keep it.  Otherwise put it back and let your friend have a turn.  The player with the most sticks win.  For added challenge, give yourself an extra point for each matching pair you have at the end of the game.  After playing, tie your sticks together for safekeeping with yarn or ribbon.