FIVE FUN FACTS about GRAMA’S HUG with Picture Book Author-Illustrator Amy Nielander

Did you know that Sunday, September 12th was Grandparents’ Day? It’s a holiday I was unfamiliar with before my picture book LOVE IS KIND came out, but one which I quickly came to embrace, not only because LOVE IS KIND celebrates the special bond between Little Owl and his grammy, but also because I dedicated that book to my own grandmothers.

Now each year, I look forward to Grandparents’ Day as a special opportunity to foster intergenerational appreciation and am always on the lookout for new books that celebrate this special bond. With that in mind, I was delighted to discover GRAMA’S HUG, a delightful new picture book, written and illustrated by Amy Nielander and published in 2020 by Page Street Books.

Here’s the official blurb:

May and Grama are a team. They do everything together, from inventing creative projects to going birdwatching to preparing for the annual space fair. And they never, ever say goodbye without a hug. May’s love of science takes her far as her inventions win year after year, helped by Grama’s support, effort, and love. She travels to space camp and eventually beyond, earning her spot as the first kid astronaut to journey into space. As May prepares for her mission to explore the cosmos, she seems ready to go without looking back, making Grama worried that she will leave without a hug. This picture book explores the importance of treasuring even the smallest moments with people you love with heartwarming illustrations, expressive characters, and delightful touches of whimsy.

And now I have an extra special treat for you. Amy Nielander is my guest today sharing FIVE fun facts about this enchanting book. Thank you, Amy, and take it away!

FIVE FUN FACTS about GRAMA’S HUG with Amy Nielander

FUN FACT #1: Grama’s Hug started off as a wordless story.

My first picture book, The Ladybug Race, is a wordless book so it felt natural for me to approach Grama’s Hug the same way. It wasn’t until I attended the Rutgers University One-on-One Conference when my mentor suggested that I add text. The story reflects a passage of time and providing more text would help a young reader understand that movement. Words continued to build as I worked with the publisher, Page Street Kids. After several revisions, May’s (and Grama’s!) voice emerged and my first picture book with text was born!   

FUN FACT #2: The book was inspired by a sentence I heard shouted out one day: “I am not leaving without a hug!” 

The idea for Grama’s Hug landed in 2013 when I was walking my daughter to school one morning. As we approached the entrance, the bell rang and kids ran in. I heard a parent yell out “I am not leaving without a hug!”. I couldn’t get that sentence out of my head and immediately wondered “Would you really just stay here if you didn’t get that hug?” The first draft took shape and I titled it I am Not Leaving Without a Hug!. It was a terrible story though and I quickly changed course after an unfortunate SCBWI round table critique. In the process of revising, a childhood memory was triggered and I began writing a more personal story. The next version was filled with every emotion that memory rattled…love, loss, sadness and joy. 

FUN FACT #3: The space shuttle in the book was inspired by a 1990s concept design called the Venture Star.

As a former product designer, one of my favorite stages in the design process was the concept phase. Imagining what the next version of a product could be always excited me! Even though concept designs have the potential to improve lives, they are often written off early because they cost too much or the technology isn’t quite there yet.  Since Grama’s Hug is a story about a 10-year-old girl going to space, it takes place in a fantastical world. I used my creative license to design a place where previous concepts in history – did not fail. This accelerated the timeline of technology. The Venture Star was built in the 1990s by Lockheed Martin. It was a re-usable spaceplane meant to replace the Space Shuttle. The design didn’t rely on rocket boosters and would reduce materials along with providing other benefits. But after a test vehicle failed, the program was canceled in 2001. As a way to express my gratitude for every designer, engineer and scientist that contributed to that project, I gave the Venture Star a welcoming world to live in (forever!) with Grama’s Hug

FUN FACT #4: May’s elementary school is named after my elementary school.

I tried to infuse the story with personal details to make it extra special for me (in hopes that readers would feel that love in the illustrations). May’s elementary school is called Winchester, which is the school I attended as a child.

FUN FACT #5: Grama’s robe resembles my late grandma’s robe. 

My dad immigrated to the U.S. before I was born and we didn’t really know my grandparents (they lived in Europe). My grandpa visited once when I was too young to remember but my grandmother visited a handful of times. She did not speak English nor did we, grandkids, speak her language. This resulted in an amplified awareness of her reactions in order to interpret dialogue. I’m not sure if it was this heightened sensitivity to all things physical, but I remember a robe she made during one of her visits and wore often. When it came time to design Grama’s outfits for the book, I knew my late grandma’s robe would be a part of her collection. It was my way of honoring a hardworking woman whose heart probably ached often, with family living so far away.

AUTHOR BIO:

Amy Nielander loves making joyful and creative picture books for children. Her first wordless book, The Ladybug Race, exhibited at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair as a Silent Book Contest finalist. Her second picture book, Grama’s Hug, received a starred review from Booklist and was included on Grand Rapids Magazine’s “Summer Fav” book list. Her third book, My Name Is Not Ed Tug! will release in 2022 by West Margin Press. Kids can create new characters with Amy every month on her CREATE A CHARACTER blog. You can also find Amy on Twitter (@nielanderamy) and Instagram (@amynielander).

GRANDMA SNUGGLES: TEN Ways to Stay Connected with your Grandchildren during Covid19 Curated by Glenys Nellist (and a GIVEAWAY!)

Today I am delighted to have bestselling Christian children’s author Glenys Nellist here in celebration of the release of her most recent board book with Zonderidz, GRANDMA SNUGGLES. First, enjoy these delightful snapshots of Glenys with the book and her grandchildren. Then, take a peek at the lovely book trailer.

Now enjoy Glenys’ tips for staying connected during a pandemic and remember to enter the giveaway a chance to win a copy of GRANDMA SNUGGLES (Details at end of post.) Enjoy!

Ten Ways to Stay Connected with Your Grandchildren During Covid19

Curated by Glenys Nellist

I never imagined when writing Grandma Snuggles two years ago that this little board book would be released during a pandemic—the very time when all grandmas everywhere are yearning for their snuggles. 

The advent of Covid19 has meant that many families have been unable to spend time together, and grandparents have been forced to find new ways to stay in touch with their little ones. In honor of the release of Grandma Snuggles, here are ten creative ways to stay connected with your grandchildren during Covid19:

  1. Write to them. This might sound old-fashioned, but children LOVE receiving real mail! Even if they can’t read yet, and even if they’re tiny, your letters will become treasures for them in years to come, especially if you describe the world we’re living in right now.
  2. Celebrate milestones virtually. Just because you can’t be with your grandchildren physically doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate their birthdays, class graduations or other special occasions. For example—buy or bake that birthday cake, call your grandchild via Skype, Facetime or Video Messenger, sing Happy Birthday and have them blow out the candles on the cake. (Grandpa is, of course, hiding off-camera to blow them out!)
  3. Designate a certain time and day of the week, such as ‘Friday Funnies at Five’ to share jokes over the phone.
  4. Bake together via video call… arrange for your grandchild to have the exact same ingredients on hand that you have and bake cookies, or cupcakes, or try out a new recipe.
  5. Work together on a craft via Zoom.
  6. Do a Scavenger Hunt via Zoom or video call. Think of ten regular household items that your grandchild has to find. Name them one at a time and have your grandchild race to find them. Then let them name ten items for you! For extra fun, use a timer. Who was the fastest to find their ten objects…your grandchild, or you?
  7. Do puzzles together via Zoom or Facetime. Download a printable wordsearch or crossword puzzle. Mail a copy to your grandchild or have their parents download it. Work together to complete it.
  8. Use the Zoom whiteboard feature to play Tic Tac Toe or Pictionary together.
  9. Read together via video call. For younger children, choose picture books that have lots of detail in the illustrations. After you read to them, play ‘I Spy’…ask your grandchild to spot things in the pictures. For older children who enjoy chapter books, try taking it in turns to read one chapter each.
  10. Finally (and quite possibly, my favorite activity!) is to read Grandma Snuggles to your grandchild via video call. Written in rhyme, this brand-new board book features eight grandma animals with their little ones. A fun game to play with this book is ‘Guess That Grandma.’ Read each poem to your grandchild and have them guess the animal before you show them the picture. Can you guess this one?

I have a snuggly grandma,

God made her teeth so strong!

We build our home together,

It doesn’t take us long.

And when our lodge is ready,

We’re comfy as can be!

Grandma snuggles are the best,

She’s God’s gift to me.

And here’s one more bonus activity… download and print one of these cute coloring sheets from Grandma Snuggles. Color together over Facetime, but don’t look at each other’s until you’re both finished. Then compare the colors you used. As you color, take turns to talk about your favorite things: colors/ games/ candy/ fruit / places/ animals/ books / movies/ cereal / ice-cream flavor etc.

However you choose to stay connected with your grandchild, the most important thing is to find what works for you, and simply stay in touch. 

Thank you, Glenys! These are wonderful suggestions. To learn more about Glenys and her books, check out her website.

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!! If you’d like a chance to win a complimentary copy of GRANDMA SNUGGLES (Zonderkidz, 2020) simply post a comment below letting me know. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) Thank you, Zonderkidz, for providing the winning book. This giveaway ends Thursday, 8/13/20/20 at 11:59 pm EST. NOTE: This giveaway is now OVER. The winner is announced here.

Special note: If you enjoyed this post, please consider following my blog or “liking” me on my Facebook Author page, Twitter, or Instagram. I’d love the support and connection.

LOVE IS KIND: Book Review & Baking Activity

Did you know that LOVE IS KIND celebrates the precious bond between little ones and their grandparents? Indeed, it’s Little Owl’s love for his grammy that sets the story in motion… and it’s Grammy’s love for him that brings the story to a cozy resolution.

Here’s a sweet glimpse of that bond in a special clip illustrator Lison Chaperon made to celebrate LOVE IS KIND:

And now, in celebration of Grandparents Day, I’m excited to share that LOVE IS KIND is featured over at Celebrate Picture Books today with a thoughtful review, a baking activity (see picture above) and a giveaway of the new board book edition! So grab a cup of coffee, or tea, as I prefer, and head on over. I’ll make it easy for you. Press here.

It’s the LOVE IS KIND Valentine Blog Tour STOP FIVE!

Did you know that LOVE IS KIND celebrates the precious the bond between little ones and their grandparents? Indeed, it’s Little Owl’s love for his grammy that sets the story in motion… and it’s Grammy’s love for him that brings the story to a cozy resolution.

Here’s a sweet glimpse of that bond in a special clip illustrator Lison Chaperon made to celebrate LOVE IS KIND:

Now in celebration of LOVE IS KIND and intergenerational bonding – not just with grandparents –  but with older friends and relatives as well, today I’m guest blogging at Our Out-of-Sync Life with five ideas for building special bonds between old and young.  So hop on over and…happy bonding! (Special treat: There’s also a book giveaway!)