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!

And here is a link to the story time!

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.

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.]