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!

Good News! IT’S EASTER!: Five Ways to Engage Little Ones and a GIVEAWAY!

Spring is in the air! And just as the last little piles of snow on my front lawn are melting, look what has arrived on my porch! It’s Glenys Nellist’s newest board book. Published by Discovery House and illustrated by Lizzie Walkley, Good News! IT’S EASTER is an upbeat rhyming introduction to the real meaning of Easter. And today, the author herself, has agreed to share five lovely ways to engage little ones as you read Good News! IT’S EASTER with them. (And in the EXTRA exciting department, Glenys has also offered to give one SIGNED copy of her new board book to one lucky reader! Find out how to enter at the end of the post.) Now, without further ado, here’s Glenys. Enjoy!

FIVE WAYS TO ENGAGE LITTLE ONES WITH GOOD NEWS! IT’S EASTER! by Glenys Nellist

1. Before reading the story, look at the cover together and let your child find and trace the path (featured on every page.)


2. As you begin reading, notice that every page of this book has a picture clue that you can use to invite your child to guess who, or what, will be found when they turn the page over.


3. When you reach the last two pages of the book ask your child to look at the end of the path and ask them what’s changed from the picture on the cover.


4. After reading the story, go on a “good news” hunt in your neighborhood looking for tulips, bunnies, buds, and other signs of spring and new life.


5. Bring the message of the book to life by planting seeds together, enjoy your own Butterfly Kit or take a trip to a butterfly sanctuary or nature reserve where you can observe tadpoles and baby animals. 

Thank you, Glenys, for sharing these ideas for sparking conversation using your lovely new book. To learn more about Glenys and her books visit her website or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

NOW for the GIVEAWAY!!! (Thank you, Glenys!) 

If you’d like a chance to win a FREE  copy of GOOD NEWS! IT’S EASTER written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Lizzie Walkley, let me know in a comment below. (NOTE: Must have U.S. address and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Friday 3/22/19 at 12:01 am EST. The winner will be announced that day!   THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER. Winner announced HERE.

BLOG TOUR Stop FOUR: It’s a LOVE IS KIND Valentine Sibling Craft!


CUTE! Time for STOP FOUR of the LOVE IS KIND Valentine Tour and it’s craft time! This VALENTINE BOOK INSPIRED CRAFT FOR SIBLINGS makes a great valentine, but is also fun any time of the year. And the precious conversation that she suggests to accompany the craft is priceless. Head on over to Glitter on a Dime for more on the craft as well as details regarding their book giveaway.

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a LOVE IS KIND Party!

VALENTINE BLOG TOUR KICKOFF!

With its theme that love and kindness can be shown in many ways, LOVE IS KIND is a charming pick for a class or home Valentine’s Day Party. I’ve come up with more ideas than you’d ever use for just one party, so pick the activities that suit your class or home. Happy February! (Only 14 days until Valentine’s Day!)

Gathering Activities:

Play Musical Hearts.  First put on your favorite children’s kindness/friendship themed album.  (We like Raffi at our house.)  Then, using two heart-shaped boxes (or little heart pillows, if you have some) instead of the more traditional “hot potato”, sit in a circle and gently pass the hearts in opposite directions to the music. When the music stops, the children holding the hearts each say something kind to the person holding the other heart. (Ex. You are funny.  I like your striped socks.  You make me feel welcome etc.)

Play Little Owl Hide and Seek.  While one person has their eyes covered, another hides a little stuffed owl, or you could use one of the Little Owl muffin toppers without the toothpick (See link below.) Make sure everyone, except for the person with eyes covered, sees where the owl is hidden.  Then using hoos (like an owl would sound) help the person whose eyes were covered to find the little owl.  No talking or pointing allowed.  Only hoos – soft if they are far and loud if they are close. (Warning:  This game will be a big hit!)

Make Little Owl masks. Ahead of time gather feathers, crayons, glue and string. Then using the Little Owl mask printable found in the LOVE IS KIND Activity Kit, have each child create their own Little Owl Masks. (Note: I recommend printing the masks on card stock weight paper and pre-cutting for younger children.)

The Main Entertainment:

Read the book! For extra fun, have a basket of book-themed props available and after reading, have the kids re-enact the story using stuffed animals and/or themselves. Don’t forget to include three coins and three heart-shaped boxes of chocolates!

More Party Games/Crafts:

Make Valentines: Make old-fashioned Valentines using the heart coloring page in the LOVE IS KIND Activity Kit or cut your own from colored construction paper. Little Owl glued his on a doily. Decorate with markers, stickers and a personalized message.

Decorate Cookies: Prepare heart-shaped or owl shaped sugar cookies ahead of time. Then, have a cookie decorating station where kids can decorate using toothpicks, icing, sprinkles and sugar eyeballs! (To extend the love and kindness theme, consider having them prepare a plate of cookies to give a neighbor or deliver to a nursing home – along with the postcard notes below and/or valentines above.)

Write Love and Kindness Postcards: Illustrator Lison Chaperon created awesome postcard printables to celebrate the release of LOVE IS KIND. Print one (preferably in color) for each child and glue as directed. They are located in the LOVE IS KIND Activity Kit. When dry have your child write a sweet “I love you”  or “Kind thought” message to someone special – perhaps a grandparent or beloved aunt or uncle or teacher. Then affix proper postage and take a trip to the post office to mail! Or have them deliver with some of the cookies they made (above!)

Time for Treats:

Bake muffins (the link below includes a recipe for chocolate applesauce muffins that are both healthy and delicious) or choose your own muffin or cupcake recipe. Then top them with the adorable printable muffin toppers created by Lison Chaperon. Serve with juice or water. Enjoy!

Party Favor Ideas (not necessary but fun!):

Token gift card or coupon for local bookstore or chocolate shop.

Two or three heart-shaped cookies wrapped in cellophane with pink or red ribbon.

A small satchel of foil-wrapped heart shaped chocolates, again wrapped in cellophane or tissue paper and tied with colorful ribbon.

(Note: The link to the LOVE IS KIND Activity Guide is temporarily out of order. Please check back if you’d like to access that.)

It’s a LOVE IS KIND Valentine Blog Tour!

HOOT! HOOT! (That’s Little Owl cheering!) LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz) is going on a VALENTINE BLOG tour! Why now, you ask? Well, because LOVE IS KIND celebrates love and kindness, making it a perfect read for Valentine’s Day! Pick up your copy today to share in your class, library, or at home! And come back tomorrow for the kickoff post as I share some LOVE IS KIND party ideas!

Happy Holidays 2018 – Encore! (Diva Style!)

OK. One more holiday greeting because, frankly, Delores was a little put out that I didn’t include her previously. (Plus, I couldn’t resist!) My children says there’s a fine line between funny and embarrassing, but I think this falls squarely in the latter, I mean former! And thank you Sterling Publishing, for taking a chance on DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE! Happy Holidays, everyone!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS 2018!

Wishing you all good things as we celebrate the joys of the season. I’m taking a break for Christmas to be with my family but look forward to seeing you all with new posts in 2019. Blessings all, Laura

12 Days of Christmas Books Giveaway: GOODNIGHT, MANGER

I’m excited to be teaming up with Christian Children’s Authors in a special 12 Days of Christmas Books Giveaway. The giveaway is their way of saying Merry Christmas and it’s your only chance to win a copy of GOODNIGHT, MANGER this holiday season, so I hope you’ll head on over for a peek at my post and all the others!  I’ll make it easy for you. Here is the link

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: A CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY Interview with Debut Author Tara Knudson!

Today, in celebration of the release of her debut board book CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY  (Zonderkidz, 2018) I am delighted to be interviewing author Tara Knudson.  This adorable cookie-themed book will have you in the spirit of the holidays in no time! Thank you so much for joining us, Tara. Let’s get started.

First off, congratulations! CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY has been out for just over six weeks. How has the launch been?

Thank, you Laura. I’m so happy to be featured on your blog! I can’t believe that CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY has been out for six weeks already. The launch has been exciting! I have loved reading my first book to young children and seeing their joy when I turn the pages. What a special experience!

As the countdown to Christmas begins, I am busy scheduling readings of CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY at schools, libraries, bookstores, and holiday events. It’s such a festive and magical time, and I’m so happy my book can be part of it all.

I have to agree that there is something extra special about having holiday-themed book during this festive season. It sounds like you are enjoying every moment of it.

Have you always been a writer/rhymer? Tell us a little bit about your writerly journey.

It has been a long journey! My Creative Writing folder from second grade is one of my prized possessions. Reading my first stories makes me laugh. Growing up, they were always special to me, but I did not know yet that I wanted to be a writer. 

I started writing poetry when I was in high school. As I dealt with the problems and frustrations that adolescence can bring, I often wrote poems to express my feelings. 

After college, I became a Spanish teacher and I often used children’s picture books in the classroom. I would spend hours at bookstores searching for favorite ones. It was during that time that I fell in love with picture books and decided that I wanted to write them.

In pursuit of my goal, I won a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship that allowed me to take a break from teaching and live in Barcelona, Spain for a year and experiment with writing for children. I wrote many poems and rhyming stories for children. I continued to write after my return to the U.S. As years passed, I sold articles and poems to children’s magazines and continued to work on my picture book manuscripts as I took care of my two sons. Then, I signed with an agent who helped me sell my first book.

Such a long journey, but your passion for writing and persistence shine through.

 What inspired you to write CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY?

When my youngest son was in preschool, one of the kids in his class had an egg allergy. I baked egg-free sugar cookies that all the children could enjoy and used cookie cutters to make festive shapes to celebrate different holidays throughout the year. One day, when I was on a walk, the story came out in my head. I rushed home and typed the first draft on the computer. I had a good feeling about it!

While the recipe that is included with the book is not egg-free, I hope people with allergies can tailor the recipe to meet their needs.

That’s how ideas come to me too.  That’s why I always try to have my phone or a small notebook handy. I’m glad you rushed home and wrote it down!

The illustrations really add to the cozy cookie baking feel of your rhyming text. Tell us a little bit about the artist.  Do you have a favorite spread? What makes it your favorite?

The illustrations really are cozy! Pauline Siewert created them. She lives in England and she has illustrated many children’s books. She does beautiful work! 

My favorite spread is the one where the bears are mixing the dough and using the cookie cutters. They are sweet scenes of a mother baking with her child. I love the flour on the bear’s face and also the mouse on the cookie cutter. I did not notice the mouse until after I read the book a couple of times. When I read to children, I tell them to look and see what the mouse is doing in the story. He tells a story of his own and he is very funny. Everyone enjoys him!

Finally, what’s next? Are there more picture books and projects in the pipeline?  Also, where can interested readers find your books? 

My next children’s book, EASTER EGG DAY, will be published by Zonderkidz in February, 2020. I’m very excited! Once the holidays are over, I plan to finish other writing projects that I have started.

Interested readers can buy CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY at independent booksellers as well as online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, Walmart, Zondervan, and others. Whether they read the book in a library or purchase a copy of their own, I hope CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY inspires readers to make cookies or bake together this season and build beautiful family traditions.

How exciting that you have another book in the pipeline… and I hope many more beyond that!   Thanks so much for stopping by today. And now, just for fun, please comment with the name of your favorite holiday cookie.  =)

Tara Knudson is a former teacher who has been writing poetry and stories since she was a young girl growing up in Chicago. Her published work can be found in children’s magazines, greeting cards, calendars, and a poetry anthology for teens. Christmas Cookie Day is Tara’s first picture book.

HOLIDAY GIFT IDEA: Signed Picture Books!

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Signed picture books make wonderful keepsake gifts for the little ones in your life.  And now you can give signed copies of  DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, LOVE IS KIND, GOODNIGHT ARK or GOODNIGHT MANGER even if you can’t make it to a signing. Here’s how – and their are TWO options.

OPTION 1: I am excited to announce that this year once again, in response to requests from readers for signed copies, my local indie book store, The Town Book Store in Westfield, New Jersey, will again offer signed, personalized copies of my books for sale.

If this interests you, please call them to order the book or books you want. Be sure to explain that you would like to have them signed by the author and pass along the names you’d like included. They will take the order and do the transaction. I will then come in and sign the book or books. Readers can either pick them up in-store at no extra charge, or have them mailed. There will be a shipping fee to cover the cost of mailing, but they can give you those details.

I thought this was a nice way to make signed copies available and support a wonderful independent book store.  Their number is: The Town Book Store (908) 233-3535. You can also email the owner, Anne, at anne@townbookstore.com.

OPTION 2: If you would prefer to order the books through your own local bookstore (which is wonderful too!), you can contact me via the contact tab (which is nestled under the About heading) and I can send you signed and personalized bookplates.  You will need to send me a business sized SASE (stamped and self-addressed envelope) and the names you want inscribed, but we can figure that all out via email. It’s that easy!

Happy reading and gift giving!