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 It all began at primary school in England, where one day a week, I was one of the lucky few withdrawn from the classroom to sit in big, comfy armchairs in the teachers’ lounge.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!
 .
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!
.
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.
 .
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!
 .
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!
 .

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:

.
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!

IMG_0407

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!

IMG_0408

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

SUMMER CRAFT: Butterfly Barrettes

IMG_1218A few summers ago, my mom and I took the kids to the amazing Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, Colorado. The pavilion’s enormous greenhouse overflows with flowering foliage and gentle mists. We spent over an hour wandering its delightful, twisting pathways, counting butterflies and looking for matching pairs. We watched butterflies sip nectar and gasped in delight when they landed on our arms.  The morning even helped my daughter, then six, overcome her fear of bugs, since butterflies, after all, have a very fairy-like quality.

We also enjoy the butterflies in our own back yard. They’re attracted to the purple butterfly bush, as well as the daisies and echinacea that bloom along our fence. Mornings and early evening seem best for viewing.

Do you have butterflies in your neck of the woods? If so, perhaps your kids would enjoy a special morning sitting by the flowers and watching the butterflies flutter in for breakfast.  Afterwards, consider returning home and making Butterfly Barrettes. This craft of mine was published several years ago in HIGHLIGHTS FOR CHLDREN and can now be found on their website along with a variety of crafts, activities and stories.  Enjoy!

MOTHER’S DAY CRAFT: Tea for Two and Book Marks Too!

IMG_0302As class parent for my daughter’s second grade class, I wanted to put together a Mother’s Day craft that was purposeful, unique, and easy-to-make. That’s a tall order, but almost immediately my art-loving eight year old said, “What about watercolor book marks?” And I answered, “Great idea!”

For fun, we decided each kid will make not one, but two, bookmarks, matching in every way except for size. For gift-giving pizazz, we’re packaging them in clear cellophane bags tied with ribbon. The package will include two tea bags along with a pre-printed poem.

Mother’s Day is still a week away, but I have feeling these will be a colorful hit. So be our guest and make your own.  Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother/Child Book Marks (with Tea)

What you need:

thick watercolor paper cut into mother-sized and child-sized book marks

watercolors and brushes             jars or cups with water for rinsing brushes

assorted colored and textured yarn     pencil or pen (for note on back)

hole puncher        tea bags             clear gift bags and printed gift tag (see poem below)

How to make them:

First, have each child write a sweet note on the back of the “mother-sized” book mark.  Then have them sign their names and date each book mark.

Second, have the children place the book marks side by side and right side up.  Then using watercolors paint have them paint matching designs on both.  (Tip:  Encourage children to rinse brush in water between colors so book mark colors don’t get “muddy”.)

Once the paint has dried, punch a hole in the bottom of the book mark. Loop, then tie, several colorful yarn or ribbon strands for the tassel.

Finally, have the kids place their mother/child bookmarks, along with two bags of tea, in a clear cellophane gift bag.  Tie the bags shut with festive ribbon along with an optional pre-printed tag using the poem below.

It’s Mother’s Day

Hip-hip-hooray!

Let’s find a spot

To read today.

Side by side,

Just you and me

With book marks

And two cups of tea!

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY

Love,

Child’s name