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.

FREE Printable GOODNIGHT ARK Coloring Pages!

NEW RESOURCE!!!! I’ve been sharing these coloring pages in hardcopy form at school visits for several years now, but old-fashioned me never thought about making them available here. Thank you to Zonderkidz for creating them and I hope you and I hope they provide some coloring fun after reading the book.

LOVE IS KIND: FIVE TIPS for Fostering KINDNESS in our Kids

I’m excited to share that a lovely little interaction on Twitter with a first grade teacher who shared how she had just read LOVE IS KIND to her students and tagged me – has resulted in an end of the year virtual school visit with the first graders at her school! I sometimes get discouraged  that all this social media socializing doesn’t seem to make a difference – but here’s a positive example of it working in a special way to make a very memorable experience for some first graders (and their parents and teachers) during these stressful times. I will let you know how it goes!

What makes this special visit extra special is that one of the very reasons I wrote LOVE IS KIND was to show in fun story form what love and kindness in action could look like. Now, in celebration of this teacher and her class, I thought it would be fun to share a few book-inspired tips to foster kindness in our kids. My hope is that they will inspire you and your little ones to follow in Little Owl’s footsteps and spread love and kindness near and far.

Tip #1: Be kind yourself. As Grammy from LOVE IS KIND would most certainly remind us, our little owls, I mean kids, are watching our every move. They are learning from us, seeing if our words match our actions. If we want them extend love and kindness to others, we must first be intentional about being kind ourselves in ways big and small.

Tip #2: Brainstorm ways to be kind. Little Owl was kind and loving every step of the way on his quest to get Grammy those chocolates, but he didn’t realize it until Grammy pointed it out. Sometimes reminders are helpful, so after reading the story, spend a few minutes brainstorming with your children some ways we can be kind to others. Consider having an older child write down your family’s ideas, then put them on the fridge as a visible daily reminder.

Tip #3: Make “good manners” a habit. Did you notice how polite Little Owl was throughout the story? And how good manners came so naturally to him? He said things like, “Have a good day!”, “Congratulations!” and “That’s nice.” I suspect Little Owl’s mama and papa and teacher were hard at work on a daily basis instilling those simple niceties. As parents (and grandparents) and caregivers, we can do the same with our kids so that when they are out and about those kind and friendly interactions are second nature.

Tip #4: Wear “kindness glasses.” I like to wrap up author visits by challenging the kids to be kind to those around them just like Little Owl. To help them remember this, I have them first hold their hands together so that thumbs and fingers touch to form a heart shape. I explain that these are their kindness glasses and I ask them to look through them every morning when they wake up and we all try it, which generates giggles all around. Then, while looking at them through my heart-shaped glasses, I challenge them to find at least one opportunity before the sun sets to extend kindness to another in an unexpected way. The silliness is part of the magic and it sets the tone for a good day. (Note: This tip pairs nicely with tip #2)

Tip #5: Catch each other being kind! Grammy caught Little Owl completely by surprise when she pointed out that he’d shown love and kindness along the way to Grammy’s house. And what was Little Owl’s reaction? He was thrilled! He realized HE was the gift and that his kindnesses towards others were better than any store-bought gift. Likewise, your children will be delighted when you notice their kind deeds. And this, I am certain, will spur them on to more and more and more! And that should make every parent’s heart sing. It sure makes mine!

Blessings to you and your kids as you lovingly instill in them hearts for spreading love and kindness.

Note: A version of this post previously appeared on Jean Matthew Hall’s delightful blog.  Please also enjoy her review of my book GOODNIGHT, MANGER, along with her rich archive of posts about both the writing and reading of picture books. And while you are there, be sure to check out her Bountiful Blessings Picture Book Series. Thank you, Jean!

TIME TO BAKE: FIVE tips for PAIRING PICTURE BOOKS with TASTY TREATS.

Little Owl and I want to share with you something special that illustrator Lison Chaperon created to go with our book LOVE IS KIND – a muffin recipe with adorable muffin toppers! In addition to being absolutely delicious, this LOVE IS KIND-inspired baking activity has gotten me thinking about how wonderful it is when we pair picture books with a tasty book-themed treat. 

In doing so, not only are we giving our kids the opportunity to learn some baking/cooking skills, we are helping them to connect to the story in a new and fun way.  As we nibble and chat about the book, we’re also instilling in them a framework to talk about the stories we read and an opportunity to think about how picture books relate to our lives and the world. Finally, we’re fostering good critical thinking skills as we converse with our little ones about what treat would be best paired with a particular picture book.

With all this in mind, here are FIVE TIPS for PAIRING PICTURE BOOKS with TASTY TREATS.  Enjoy!

TIP #1: Pick any picture book (Better yet, let your child pick the book.)

TIP #2: Pre-read the story so you can gather your ingredients. Once you’ve selected your picture book, take a few minutes a day or two ahead of time so that you can anticipate what types of treats you and your child might want to create to pair with the story.  This way you can be sure to have the ingredients in stock for a seamless and tasty brainstorming to baking to eating experience. 

TIP #3 As you read with your child, ponder the treat-making possibilities.It’s most beneficial (and engaging) to your budding critical thinkers if you include them in the process of deciding what book-themed treat to create, though it’s perfectly acceptable, in my opinion, to gently lead them towards the ingredients you have on hand (see step two). As you are pondering, the treat might be obvious. For example, in my third book DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, Fernando the mouse loves gumdrops, popcorn, and cheese on try toast, so those would be obvious picks. 

But…

TIP #4: Sometimes you will have to be creative!  Some picture books, however, won’t have such obvious choices. My recommendation, in these instances, is to pick a character or a defining element of the story and create a treat inspired by that.  For example, on her blog, Easy Elegant Entertaining™, trained chef and cookbook author (and mom to an adorable young budding reader) used the concept of tails in GOODNIGHT, ARK to create an adorable book-themed treat.

You can also create character-based cookies for almost any book, as my daughter did for DIVA DELORES and GOODNIGHT, ARK.

TIP #5: Have fun!  (Need I say more?)  

And if you are interested in the link to the LOVE IS KIND muffin recipe with adorable muffin toppers, here it is.  

A version of this post previously appeared on Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog with a lovely review.  You can review that here, if interested.

Happy Reading and Treating!

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

LITTLE MOLE FINDS HOPE: Six Extension Activities for 4 – 8 Year Olds (Plus a GIVEAWAY)

Today I am delighted to feature Glenys Nellist’s charming new story LITTLE MOLE FINDS HOPE. Published by Beaming Books and illustrated by Sally Garland, this delightful hardcover picture book provides an engaging spark for conversations with your little ones about feelings of sadness. Told through the eyes of Little Mole, who comes to see that even in the darkness of his underground burrow, nature is pushing towards the light and that new hope will soon emerge in the form of spring buds and flowers, it’s a lovely way to talk about finding joy in the midst of sadness. It even includes a discussion guide for caregivers at the end. It’s a lovely book to share with the  little ones in your life.

Enjoy the book trailer. Then, in celebration of the book’s release, and in the hope of sparking some good conversations with your children, here are SIX extension activities for LITTLE MOLE FINDS HOPE.

Plant a seed in a hole. Since the author uses the analogy of winter bulbs and seeds bursting forth in spring to explain hope in the midst of sadness, recreate that sense of anticipation and joy by having your children plant some seeds or bulbs of their own. This can be done in a pot or in the garden. Either way, be sure to water gently each day and wait and watch in hopeful anticipation for the first signs of new life.

Send a note with Little Mole.  In the story Mama helps Little Mole find signs of hope when he is feeling sad.  After reading the story, let your child do the same by making a card with Little Mole on the front.  Inside the card have them write a message to someone special – perhaps a grandparent or beloved aunt or uncle or teacher – sending hope, love and joy. 

Use the book to spark a talk. One of the special treasures of this book is that it includes a thoughtfully crafted “Discussion Guide for Caregivers” at the end. The guide offers suggestions for talking about the story and tips to help a child who is feeling sad. Read these on your own ahead of time, or look at them together with your child after reading the book.

Take your children on a walk. After reading the story, take your child on a walk through your neighborhood or at a local preserve. Bring along a notebook so they can draw or keep a list of all the signs of new life they find. Be sure to look carefully for things like new buds, saplings, and tiny plants just starting to poke through the soil. Marvel together at the excitement of spotting new growth.

Take a picture read through. After reading LITTLE MOLE FINDS HOPE, 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 LITTLE MOLE FINDS HOPE. To find others for a wide variety of favorite titles, search the hashtag #ReadDiscussDo on social media.

BONUS:  Check out the publisher’s website for a teacher’s guide 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 FINDS HOPE (Beaming Books, February 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, 3/30/20 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced next Tuesday! 

[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.]

A Christmas READ. DISCUSS. DO!: Celebrate the Nativity with a Picture Book and A Puppet Show!!

This post is inspired by children’s author, Rebecca Gomez’s wonderful Read. Discuss. Do! initiative where she pairs a picture book with an engaging follow-up discussion starter and activity. Check out the hashtag #ReadDiscussDo for a wealth of creative book-themed ideas!

Now for my special Christmas edition:

Pairing a faith-based Christian picture book with an activity is a great way to spark meaningful conversations with our kids about what Christmas is really all about – Jesus!  With that in mind, here’s an activity that I created for my Sunday school kiddos last year. The activity was given as a gift, wrapped in paper and included the finger puppets along with the instructions. I instructed them not to open until Christmas Eve, but you could modify that to meet your needs.  However, keep in mind that they liked the mystery of not being able to open the gift right away. It added to the excitement.  Afterwards, I heard back from families that it was a big hit!  I think what the kids liked best about this nativity-themed activity was that it was phrased as a “special Christmas assignment” and what parents liked best about it was that it brought the significance of Christmas into the conversation in an engaging, kid-friendly way.  

If you choose to recreate this “SPECIAL CHRISTMAS ASSIGNMENT” for your family, Sunday school class, or homeschool co-op, here’s what you will need.

  1. First, ahead of time, make or order some simple nativity themed puppets – one set per child or one set per family. I ordered mine from Oriental Trading.  
  2. On sturdy paper, type up the instructions – as seen in the picture above.
  3. When it’s time to open the gift, be sure to have several of your family’s favorite nativity-themed picture books on hand.  Of course, I would LOVE if you included my nativity-themed picture book GOODNIGHT, MANGER in the mix and here are a few other suggestions (both new and old) to get you started:

GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz) written by Laura Sassi and illustrated by Jane Chapman.

THE LITTLE SHEPHERD (Beaming Books) written by Elizabeth Jaeger and illustrated by Irene Montano

WHO IS COMING TO OUR HOUSE? (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers) written by Joseph Slate and illustrated by Ashley Wolff

‘TWAS THE EVENING OF CHRISTMAS (Zonderkidz) written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Elena Selivanova

CHRISTMAS IN THE MANGER (HarperFestival) written by Nola Buck and illustrated by Felicia Bond

GOOD NEWS! IT’S CHRISTMAS! ( Our Daily Bread) written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Lizzie Walkley

4. After reading and talking about the book, give your children the gift of time and creative materials like Legos, blocks, cardboard, markers etc. to plan their puppet show.  

5. Watch their nativity-themed productions, then marvel together at the wonder of Jesus – the real gift of Christmas!

CLOSING THOUGHT: What nativity-themed picture books would you add to my list? Thank you!

PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: God’s Protection Covers Me (A Faith-Sparking Lesson)

Over the summer I planned a series for our church’s 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 start an occasional blog series focusing on picture books that can be used as the spark for conversations about faith with your children. Today’s lesson uses GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME (Beaming Books, 2018), written by Amy Houts and illustrated by David Creighton-Pester, as the picture book hook. I hope it sparks thoughtful conversations with your kids.

PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYSA Faith-Sparking Lesson

featuring

GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME

by Amy Houts

PURPOSE:  To recognize that just as various structures/coverings protect natural creatures, God’s protection covers us. Using Houts’ lovely metaphors as the spark, we’ll delve into Scripture for promises that God indeed cares for us with an everlasting love and protects us in the palm of His hand.

OPENING PRAYER AND GATHERING GAME: Building Card Houses

Open in prayer, then explain that today, we’ll be reading a story about all the kinds of structures animals build or find for protection.  Can they name some?  What do we build to protect us?  Houses! Tell them it’s time to do a little building – with cards!  Using only a deck of playing cards, challenge them to build their own houses. Demonstrate two building methods:  triangular and four-card cell. This article from wiki-how will give you helpful construction tips, if needed, so you can demonstrate before the kids have their turn.

INTRODUCE THE STORY:  Introduce the story by showing the book cover.  Ask what protection means?  What are some ways they protect themselves?  (Wearing helmets, using seatbelt etc.) Have you ever thought about how God protects us?  Ask them to be thinking about that as you read them the story.  Then read the story.

FAITH-SPARKING CHAT TIME:

  1. Marvel at all the amazing ways animals are protected in nature.
  2. Brainstorm all the ways their parents protect their precious children – them!
  3. Ask, “Do you think God protects us?”  Yes!  “How?” He provides all good things – including families that care and watch over us, bodies that are designed to fight infection, human intellect that has allowed man to make medical advances to fight disease, create safer cars etc. and MIRACLES!  Yes, God is not limited by what is possible.  He invites our prayers to protect and provide for us even in the midst of the IMPOSSIBLE!
  4. And where can we find reminders of God’s protection? In the Bible!

DIG INTO SCRIPTURE TIME

Wrap up the discussion by digging into scripture together to find beautiful reminders of God’s protective love and care.  Use these verses to get you started: 

Psalm 5:11-12   Psalm 32:7       Psalm 116: 5 – 7  

Matthew 6: 25 – 26  I Peter 5:7

STORY-BASED ACTIVITY TIME:  Select from one of the engaging activities provided by the publisher in the GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME Activity Guide.

WRAP UP:  As children are finishing the activity – remember together all the animals and protective things mentioned in the story.  Ask what those can remind us of?  God’s protection covers us!  That is wonderful news indeed.


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!