LITTLE EWE Book Launch Party Craft: MAKE YOUR OWN FLUFFY LITTLE EWE!

All my book launch parties up until now have been in-person, but this year is different! This year I’m having a virtual party, but one that I hope will feel just as fun as the in-person version. To give it that “in-person” feel, I’m keeping all the elements of an in-person party including a story time (of course!), games, a snack (virtual of course) and a craft!

I’ll explain about the snack as we get closer, but I wanted to share the craft today so you can be sure to have all the items on hand for the party. The materials are easy to gather and if you are local, it’ll be extra easy because I’m putting together party craft kits which you can pick up at The Town Book Store in Westfield, NJ starting later this week.

Now for the craft:

PARTY TIME CRAFT: MAKE YOUR OWN FLUFFY LITTLE EWE! 

Inspired by illustrator Tommy Doyle’s sweet rendering of Little Ewe with a red kerchief, our launch party craft will be to create our own Little Ewes. 

To make one, each child will need:

  • a cut out of lamb body (approx 2.5” x 1.5”) from card stock with three holes punched for legs and bow (as shown) 
  • two cotton balls
  • two six inch-long chenille sticks
  • a piece of yarn or ribbon (about 8 inches)
  • markers and glue. 

Here are the steps:

Begin by coloring in Little Ewe’s face on the cardboard body. Be sure to color in both sides.

Next, have each child thread the yarn through the hole at the top and tie into a bow. This will be Little Ewe’s “kerchief”.

Next, fold each 6” chenille stick in half and gently twist together to create sturdy legs, as shown.

Let each child thread a twisted strand through the front leg hole. Stop half way, then bend in half and twist (like you would a twist-tie) to secure in place.  Adjust the ends to form two short legs. Repeat for back leg hole.

Stretch and fluff the cotton balls. Then, using fingers or toothpicks, apply tacky glue to the front and back of the little lamb body and press. Let dry.

Baa-ahh! Your fluffy Little Ewe is finished and ready for a game of “Oh,where is Little Ewe?” (Rules for that can be found in the activity kit.

As a closing reminder, this is the adorable craft that I’ll be presenting at the Little Ewe Book Launch Party which will take place LIVE on my Author Facebook Page on Thursday, February 25th at 7pm eastern.  Here’s the event link for that or you can just “like” my Facebook author page and then you’ll be sure to get all the updates for this and other bookish things.  

PICTURE BOOKS and END PAPERS: Thoughts and a GAME!

There’s something magical about picture books. For starters, their size is just right for reading snuggled together your child or grandchild. And, when done well, the intentional intermingling of image and text to tell a story is sure to captivate both child and caregiver. Indeed, a good picture book can be enjoyed again and again – with new discoveries unfolding with each reading.  

For example, it wasn’t until our seventh or eighth reading of GOODNIGHT, ARK, that my daughter discovered the toothbrush sitting on the window sill and then we laughed and laughed at the idea of Noah brushing the animals’ teeth. Similarly, it was with great joy after several readings that she later noticed that Chipmunk’s Chocolate Shoppe in LOVE IS KIND sells organic chocolate which made Little Owl’s gift seem just that much more special.

And among the many extra little details I hope readers will notice in my newest release, LITTLE EWE, are the many opportunities for counting things like frogs on logs and spider webs!

Perhaps you and your little ones have also noticed extra little details and wonders as you read and re-read your favorite books.

Well, today, I’d like to share another little extra that I never paid much attention to as a child or even during my many years reading bedtime stories with my kids. I’m talking about the end papers. For those of you who aren’t as book geeky as I am, those are the papers at the very front and end of the book. One of half of these end-spreads are pasted to the front and back covers of the book and help to secure the interior pages which have been bound together and set in the spine of the cover.  

Now that I’m aware of them, I’m smitten! I mention them at school visits and I always begin the reading of a new book by investigating them. Sometimes they are plain, but more often than not, they have illustrations or designs. And when they do, those illustrations or designs connect to the story in some fashion. 

For example, the end papers of the popular KARATE KID (Running Press Kids, 2019), written by Rosanne L. Kurstedt and illustrated by Mark Chambers provide a charming clue that the book might just be about different karate poses! And the end papers of the delightful TEA PARTY RULES (Viking, 2013), written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by K. G. Campbell provide wonderful opportunity to predict with children just where this story will take place and what it might be about. 

Now, here’s a fun game to play your kids.  Have them find their favorite picture books and – before reading the book again – open up to the end papers and see if you they can figure out how the end paper illustrations connect to the story. To get you started, I’ve included a collage below with the end papers for four of my books. Can you guess which end paper goes with which book?  If so, what’s the connection?  Have fun! (Answers below.)

And the answers (but you still have to figure out the connection).

Have fun investigating the end papers of your favorite books and don’t forget that to make a game of figuring out the connections!

THE SNOWY DAY: A Stamp-themed Extension Activity

I was delighted to discover on the USPS website that one my all-time favorite stamp designs featuring illustrations from Ezra Keats’ classic THE SNOWY DAY is still available! Later this morning (perhaps as it flurries) I will scurry down town to our local post office to see if I can get some for my Christmas cards.

When they first released in 2017 I likewise hurried down to the post office and purchased my first stamp booklet inspired by this beloved children’s book. I remember that afternoon spending the LOVELIEST little while searching for the spot in my childhood copy of THE SNOWY DAY where each little stamp scene originated.

Afterwards, I thought what a great activity this would be for kids – one that engages young readers with the story, builds visual matching skills, and is just plain fun.

So now, on this wintry December morning, I’m once again sharing a step-by-step plan for a fun stamp-themed activity inspired by THE SNOWY DAY. Enjoy!

  • Gather your supplies. Purchase a set of THE SNOWY DAY stamps from your nearest post office (or on their website) and check out a copy of Ezra Keats’ THE SNOWY DAY from your local library (or purchase a copy).
  • Explore the stamps. Spend a few minutes with your child, examining the images in the stamp collection (there are eight, that then repeat.)  Have your child describe what Peter, the boy in each stamp, is doing. This might also be a good time to explain what a stamp is. What is it used for? What does the “Forever USA” mean?  Have they ever used one? (Maybe later on they can help you affix one of the stamps to an envelope with a note or picture enclosed, and send it to someone they love.)
  • Go on a SNOWY DAY picture hunt. Now get cozy with the book and stamps close by and READ!!! As you read, see if your children can find the spots where each stamp image appears.  (It’s fun! Enjoy!)
  • Make your own SNOWY DAY stamps.  After reading, extend the experience even further, by letting your children pick their own favorite snowy day moment and make their own pretend stamps (on small paper).

Happy SNOWY DAY all!

Note: I first posted a variation of this oldie-but-goodie in December 2017. It was a favorite post then and I hope it will be enjoyed this time too.

LITTLE EWE: The Countdown is ON!!

It’s hard to believe that after all the waiting and preparation LITTLE EWE: THE STORY OF ONE LOST SHEEP will be out in the world in just over two months! With that in mind, there are three things I wanted to share with you today.

First, I wanted to let you know that I’ve seen the ARC (that’s advance reading copy) and Tommy Doyle’s illustrations are darling. Thank you, Tommy and thank you, Beaming Books, for pairing us together for this project.

Here’s a sneak peek at one of the pages:

Second, based on feedback from teachers and parents, I decided to create an activity guide to go with the book. I brainstormed and drafted ideas for what to include and sent them to the amazing team at Beaming Books. They worked their magic and I’m delighted to share that it’s now available as a free download on their website. It includes ideas for discussion, crafts, games, coloring pages and a maze! You can find that here:

https://ms.beamingbooks.com/downloads/LittleEwe_ActivityKit_web.pdf

Third, I’m hoping you can help LITTLE EWE make a big splash when it releases by pre-ordering your copy today. Here’s the Beaming Books page for LITTLE EWE which includes links to several major vendors including indie bound. Thank you. =)

Blessings, all!

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.]

TWO TOUGH TRUCKS GET LOST: Five Book-Themed Conversation Topics with Author Rebecca J. Gomez

Today I’m delighted to have talented picture book author Rebecca J. Gomez here in celebration of her newest release TWO TOUGH TRUCKS GET LOST, co-written with Corey Rosen Schwartz, illustrated by Hilary Leung and published by Scholastic. In addition to possessing delightful story telling skills, Rebecca has a knack for creating extension activities and discussion ideas to enhance any storytime. Today she’s sharing some ideas for fostering book-themed conversation with little ones after reading her book. The extra neat thing is that these ideas can be applied to almost any book. Take it away, Rebecca!

When I was a little girl, just about to start Kindergarten, my mother walked the short route to school with me so that, when the first day of school came, I could walk there on my own with confidence. I remember walking together down our street, making a left turn, and cresting a hill. From the top of that hill, I could see my school. It was simple.

So, on the first day of Kindergarten, with both parents at work and my babysitter tending my younger siblings, I set out to school on my own with confidence! But that confidence vanished when I reached the top of the hill and there was no school in sight! Fortunately, I was able to retrace my steps and make it back home, where I cried on the front stoop until my mother returned from work.

Rebecca as a child.

It was a frightening experience that I have never repeated since, though I have had plenty of scary moments in my life. That is something we can all relate to; being lost and/or scared is a universal human experience. That’s what makes TWO TOUGH TRUCKS GET LOST such a relatable book. And that relatability opens the door for lots of good discussions.

With that in mind, I’d like to share five discussion topics to help you get the conversation going with your kiddos after reading TWO TOUGH TRUCKS GET LOST!

FIVE BOOK-THEMED CONVERSATION STARTERS


1. Start with something simple. What was your favorite party of the book? Why? 

2. Make a life connection. Talk about a time when you were lost and/or scared. How did the situation get resolved?

3. Discuss illustration choices. Why do you think the illustrator included images of spooky shadows and glowing eyes in the pictures?

4. Talk about the story’s resolution. Mack and Rig were able to find their way once they were together again. Why do you think being together made a difference?

5. Life application! What might Mack and Rig have done differently in order to avoid getting separated? What should you do if you ever get lost? 

BONUS!!!

Here are a few activity ideas to try after reading TWO TOUGH TRUCKS GET LOST:

1. Set up a track and have a race with your own toy trucks or cars Even better, set up your own version of Rugged Ride Park!

2. Draw a map of your neighborhood or a favorite playground.

3. Print and color this coloring page.

Have fun with your TWO TOUGH TRUCKS GET LOST story time!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Rebecca J. Gomez has been writing stories and poems for kids since she was five years old. She also loves to hike, draw, and play games with her husband and their three children. She also coauthored What About Moose? and Hensel and Gretel: Ninja Chicks with Corey Rosen Schwartz. She is also the author of Federico and the Wolf. She lives in Nebraska, but you can visit her at rebeccajgomez.com.

FALL FUN DAY: FIVE TIPS for Celebrating Fall with Author Tara Knudson

Today I am delighted to have children’s author Tara Knudson here in celebration of the release of her most recent board book with Zonderidz, FALL FUN DAY. First, enjoy the colorful cover, illustrated by Juliana Motzko. Then, enjoy her five fun tips for things to do with your little ones after reading the book.

FIVE FUN ACTIVITIES for a FUN FALL DAY

By Tara Knudson

Thank you, Laura, for inviting me to your blog today! 

FUN FALL DAY allows the reader to step inside a fall fair with a petting zoo, pumpkin patch, hayride, and more! Even if you can’t go to a fall fair this year, there are still plenty of fun things in the book that you can do at your house or nearby. Here are five activities for a fun fall day!

GO FOR A NATURE WALK. Do the fall leaves change colors where you live? If they do, enjoy them with your kids. Shuffle through the leaves on the ground and hear them crackle and crunch! Collect the prettiest ones you can find. Make leaf piles and jump in! Where I live in Florida, the leaves do not change to the beautiful shades of red, yellow, orange, and gold that are associated with fall. I have not seen colorful fall leaves in several years and I miss the beauty of them. I hope to drive north and see some this year with my family.

PICK OUT A PUMPKIN. If you can’t make it to a pumpkin patch, it is still fun to pick out a pumpkin from a farmer’s market, your local grocery store or a roadside stand. Besides carving pumpkins, it is fun to decorate them with paint, stickers, glitter, and more.

MAKE A FALL TREAT. When I was young, we used to go to a village near Chicago named Long Grove and visit the Apple Haus. We bought and ate the most delicious apple cider donuts! You can bake apple cider donuts at home or a different fall treat with apples, pumpkin, cinnamon, maple – there are so many delicious flavors of the season.

MAKE A FALL CRAFT. This picture frame activity was created by Instagram: @glitter_on_a_dime. It is a simple fall craft that children will enjoy making. There are so many great projects online. Gather ideas and create!  Here’s the link: https://www.glitteronadime.com/fall-popsicle-stick-frame-craft/

MAKE YOUR OWN RIDE. A wagon ride may not be as exciting as a hayride, but it’s still fun. Have your kids cuddle under a blanket, feel the cool fall air, and admire the beauty of the season as you ride through your neighborhood.  

Enjoy the season everyone!

Learn more about Tara Knudson and her books here. You can also follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

FREE Christmas Printable: GOODNIGHT, MANGER Coloring Page

NEW RESOURCE! Extend your GOODNIGHT, MANGER story time even more with this printable coloring page created by Zonderkidz.  

Use it to enrich your story time as:

  • a fun post-reading coloring activity
  • the template for a Christmas card
  • the picture prompt for a writing activity
  • the back drop for a class nativity set (with each child coloring one and assembling them quilt-style on a bulletin board behind the creche)

For an even fuller experience, use it with one or more of the GOODNIGHT, MANGER activities I’ve already compiled for you under the “Books” tab. Included there you will also find my very favorite extension idea that I use at all my preschool and church Christmas visits. Can you guess what it is? This!!!

Leer. Analizar. ¡Hacer!: EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO

Today I’m delighted to share a very special Read.Discuss.Do! graphic created by children’s author Rebecca Gomez for the Spanish edition of LOVE IS KIND — EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO! 

This is the same activity that she previously created in English:

A couple of week’s ago, it struck me that my Spanish language readers might enjoy this activity, so I asked Becky if she’d be up for creating a Spanish version. She said yes! It was a group effort, with special thanks to Rebecca’s husband and the Spanish team at Vida, but the final, lovely presentation is Rebecca’s. Thank you! 

Although this is the first graphic Rebecca has created in Spanish, it is far from her first Read.Discuss.Do!

This campaign (hashtag #ReadDiscussDo), which celebrates reading beyond the book by creating sharable images that give simple ideas for book related discussions and activities, was created by Rebecca in 2017. That’s when she posted her very first #ReadDiscussDo in coordination with her picture book WHAT ABOUT MOOSE?

Since then, she has created over 50 Read. Discuss. Do! graphics including one for each of my books.

Many of the graphics, as well as dozens of posts that feature either #ReadDiscussDo activities or book lists can be found on her website. She’s also planning to launch a Read, Discuss, Do! website so be on the look out for that.

In the meantime, discovering the activities is easy.  Simply search #ReadDiscussDo on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!

Thank you, Rebecca, for creating a Spanish version for this special activity. Happy reading, discussing and doing, all!

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.