AUTHORS SHARING ORNAMENTS! This week I’m teaming up with picture book authors Mindy Baker, Jill Roman Lord and Tama Fortner to present FOUR days of book-themed ornaments inspired by our Christmas themed picture books. Each day this week, families can pop over to our Facebook and Instagram pages to hear a little bit about each book and then do the craft! Today is my day! I just finished sharing my ornament online and thought I would take a minute to share the clip here and then provide more detailed instructions for the ornament.
Enjoy the short video. Then scroll down for the instructions.
Wide-Awake Baby Jesus
A Christmas Ornament Inspired by
Story Summary: It’s bedtime for baby Jesus, but who knew a stable could be so loud? Mama, Papa, and all of the animals try to lull the baby to sleep, but between itchy hay, angels singing, and three kings bearing gifts, it’s too noisy. Cuddle up as everyone tries working together to shepherd Baby into peaceful dreams.
Now, to make the ornament:
Gather your materials. (Feel free to substitute with items you have around the house). To make mine I used: 1/2 large craft stick, a small square of cloth, a 9″ bit of twine, a 7″ bit of colorful ribbon, a circle of gold sparkly paper, two google eyes, marker, glue and scissors.
2. Glue the ribbon loop for hanging ahead of time. (See picture.) This makes assembling the rest easier.
3. Refer back to the story as you add the remaining parts to the craft stick, using the experience as an opportunity to talk about Jesus, the real gift of Christmas. I suggest using the following order:
4. As you wrap and glue the fabric square around the body say, “This reminds us of the quilt Mary used in the story to keep Baby Jesus warm”.
5. As you tie the twine around the body say, “This itchy twine reminds us of the itchy hay in the manger on that Christmas so long ago.”
6. As you use markers to add hair, lips and those ten little toes at the bottom say, “These remind us that Baby Jesus wiggled toes and cried sometimes, just like you did when you were little.”
7. As you glue on the google eyes say, “This reminds us of what a hard time Baby Jesus was having falling asleep in the story.”
8. As you glue the gold halo behind the head say, “This halo reminds us that Baby Jesus is God’s son – sent to earth to be our Savior. He’s the real gift of Christmas.
There’s a scene in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS in which Laura and Mary spend a magical morning etching pictures in the frosted windowpanes of their little cabin using Ma’s thimble. As a child I wanted to try that, but our windows were too well-insulated to gather frost. Imagine my delight, then, a couple of winters ago, to discover thick frost completely covering the old-fashioned windows of our detached garage. For several days back during that frosty cold spell, I was itching to take my thimble and do a little ice etching of my own. And that’s exactly what I did one day, using my keys, instead. Doesn’t it look magical?
Like window frost begging to be etched, good picture books invoke in me a nostalgic return to childhood and a reminder of the simple joys in life. When my children were younger, our days were enriched by reading picture books. What a treat it was to curl up together on the sofa with a stack of books. The joy we found in those books was not flashy or over the top, but simple and deep. We cheered on Mike Mulligan and Maryanne, from Virginia Lee Burton’s MIKE MULLIGAN AND HIS STEAM SHOVEL (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 1939), to dig a little faster and a little deeper, and afterwards, scurried outside do our own digging in the snow. And Sam McBratney’s GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU (Candlewick, 2005) evoked such warmth that we held our own matches to show how much we loved each other.
If you’re feeling downtrodden by the heavy-ness of life right now, may I suggest heading straight to your child’s book shelf? Or, better yet, with the Christmas season soon upon us, perhaps it’s time to take out that box of Christmas-themed picture books you have stored in the attic (if you are like me). Dust them off, and put them out so all can enjoy.
That’s what our family is doing this holiday season. Each night after dinner, starting on Thanksgiving, one family member will choose a book from the box to read-aloud to the rest of us. It will be our dessert!
As we read, I am certain that it won’t take long to feel that magical nostalgia, for picture books hold within their 32-pages, a much-needed reminder that our deepest joys are found in the simple pleasures of life.
Need help getting started? Here are a few of my Christmas favorites (old and new and in no particular order):
ANGELA AND THE BABY JESUS, written by Frank McCourt and illustrated by Raul Colon (Simon and Schuster, 2007)
MOUSE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT, written by Mindy Baker and illustrated by Dow Phumiruk (Zonderkidz, 2018)
WHO IS COMING TO OUR HOUSE, written by Joseph Slate and illlustrated by Ashley Wolff (G.P. Putnam’d Sons, 1988)
LITTLE MOLE’S CHRISTMAS, writtten by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Sally Garland (Beaming Books, 2020)
THE SWEET SMELL OF CHRISTMAS, written by Patricia Scarry and illustrated by J.P. Miller (Golden Books, 1970)
SOMETHING FOR CHRISTMAS, written and illustrated by Palmer Brown (Harper and Row, 1958)
and of course…
GOODNIGHT, MANGER, written by Laura Sassi and illustrated by the wonderful Jane Chapman (Zonderkidz, 2015)
Today I am thrilled to interview talented children’s book author Karen Roster-Gruber in celebration of not one, but TWO 2020 releases. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TREES, illustrated by Holly Sterling and published by Kar-Ben Publishing is a cheery board book celebrating Tu B’Shevat—Jewish Arbor Day. Told in song-like verse, it captures the joy of planting a tree with three diverse children working together to get the job done. A CROWDED FARMHOUSE FOLKTALE, illustrated by Kristina Swarner and published by Albert Whitman, is Karen’s delightful retelling of an old Yiddish folktale. Told in a combination of prose and spot-on cumulative verse, it had me smiling with each page turn. Kristina Swarner’s illustrations, rendered in ink and watercolor with lots of texture and humor, work well with Karen’s charming text to capture the feel of a traditional folktale, but with modern humor.
Both are delightful and would make wonderful additions to your home or school library. I will be recommending them for purchase at my local town library. Now, the moment, you’ve all been waiting for — the interview with my questions in bold.
Congratulations on the release of both of these fabulous books. Let’s start with A CROWDED FARMHOUSE FOLKTALE. I’m smitten with this cumulative tale based on a Yiddish folktale. What inspired you to retell it? Is there anything special about the names Earl and Marge?
My parents are named Earl and Marge and I finally got to use them in a book! I tried getting my grandmother’s name in there as well, but the publisher took it out. Her name was Zelda.
I wanted to reimagine a Yiddish folktale and make it a story that everyone could enjoy, so I took out the Rabbi and the Yiddish words, and added in a wise woman because times have changed.
I also wanted to make the tale a bit more lyrical. I added a touch of rhyme–a repeated refrain, which kids love. Kids also like when they can predict something.
Right now this tale is perfect, as everyone is feeling like Farmer Earl, stuck in a too-small space with their cats, dogs, and kids during COVID; It’s too crowded!
HA! Yes, we can all relate to that cooped up feeling. That’s for sure!
The illustrations by Kristina Swarner mirror perfectly the folksy, whimsical feel of your text. Can you offer any tips for caregivers for how to make the most of this pairing? (Ex: stop and count, play “find the…” etc?)
Everytime I look at my book, I find things that I didn’t see before. Illustration-wise, the only thing I can take credit for is the duck on the front cover taking a bite out of the letter “A” in the word “FOLKTALE.” The duck was already on the roof in the sketches and sooooo very close to the letter “A,” that I thought it would be hysterical. I called my editor and she agreed.
She told the illustrator and it was done.
There’s also a toilet paper scene that quacks me up!
Many people I know are telling me that they have their kids counting the ducks, the horses, and the goats on each page. And, asking them to find certain things–like the duck in the toilet or the mouse underneath the bed.
I tell people to take notice of the fabric on the wise woman’s dresses, the drapes, and the wise woman’s chair. Look at the patterns on the wallpaper. And, to pay close attention to what appears in the wise woman’s windows. It will give the children an idea of what the wise woman will say to Farmer Earl next. Her plants grow in each instance as well.
In addition, the cats in the book are not amused with all of the ducks, horses, and goats coming into the house, so their facial expressions are a killer.
Here’s the toilet paper scene:
I agree. There are SO many ways young readers can delight in the joy of discovering the many details in both illustration and text.
Oh my goodness, life is good. Two books out in the same month – each as darling as the other! Tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TREES.
In the past, I’ve had two books come out in the same year, but I’ve never had two come out in the same month! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TREES came about because I was invited to a luncheon sponsored by the PJ Library. When they told us what they were looking for, they said that they needed good board books. So, I went home and looked in my file for the many board books that I had written. I found one called, “Happy Birthday to the Trees.” I sent it to the PJ Library and won a 2000 author incentive award. Then my agent found a publisher for it.
(For my first 14 books I didn’t have an agent though. For these two I did.)
You certainly have a gift for rhythm and rhyme. Both stories shared today have very distinct rhythmic voices and rhyme patterns. As an author, how do you decide the verse style you will use for a given story?
It literally happens to me at 3am. With A CROWDED FARMHOUSE FOLKTALE, after reading countless folktales from all over the world and settling in on two, the next morning I wrote this on a sticky note. That note became the repeated refrain for the book.
I can relate to that! Good thing you keep sticky notes and a pen by your bedside. This has been such a lovely chat, Karen. In closing, where can interested readers find your books?
You can order both of these books from any bookstore near your house. If you want signed copies, though, I signed extra copies at my local bookstore: The Bookworm. To get a signed copy here’s their number. They can ship anywhere. 908-766-4599.
BIO: Karen Rostoker-Gruber is a multi-award-winning author of over 16 books with hundreds of thousands of copies sold. Farmer Kobi’s Hanukkah Match, was named a National Jewish Book Award Finalist and was awarded the 2016 Outstanding Children’s Literature Award from the Church and Synagogue Library Association. Her books Bandit (Marshall Cavendish 2008), Bandit’s Surprise (Marshall Cavendish 2010), and Ferret Fun (Marshall Cavendish 2011) all received starred reviews in School Library Journal; Rooster Can’t Cock-a-Doodle-Doo (Dial 2004) and Bandit were both International Reading Association Children’s Book Council Children’s Choices Award recipients; three of her books, Rooster Can’t Cock-a-Doodle-Doo(in 2005), Bandit (in 2009), and Ferret Fun (in 2012) were all chosen for the 100 Best Children’s Books in the Bureau of Education and Research’s Best of the Year Handbook. Rooster Can’t Cock-a-Doodle-DooandFerret Fun were nominated for the Missouri Show Me Award; Bandit was nominated for the South Carolina Book Award; and Rooster Can’t Cock-a-Doodle-Doo was a Dollywood Foundation selection two years in a row (in 2007 the Dollywood Foundation bought 73,579 copies and in 2008 it bought 88,996 copies). Karen’s book, Maddie the Mitzvah Clown, published by Apples and Honey Press, a division of Behrman House, was named a PJ Library book selection in July of 2017 and went out to 21,000 4-year-olds in the US and Canada. Karen’s latest books, Happy Birthday, Trees (KarBen) and A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale (Whitman), will both be out in 2020. Karen is an active member of SCBWI, has twice co-chaired the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature’s One-on-One Conference, and is one of the co-founders of The Book Meshuggenahs. http://www.karenrostoker-gruber.com
[Note: Thank you to Kar-Ben Publishing and Albert Whitman for the sharing ARCs which I was under no obligation to review. The views and opinions expressed on this blog about books and other things are purely my own.]
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.]
When I’m between projects or want to vary my writing, I sometimes make and write crafts for kids. Over the years, I had more than 50 crafts published, or accepted for publication at various magazines including Highlights for Children, Pack-O-Fun, FamilyFun and Clubhouse Jr.
To be successful, crafts must be simple with clear, step-by step instructions. They also need a hook- something fresh and different to make them stand out from the rest. Most of the crafts I’ve sold have had some purpose beyond their cuteness. Many have doubled as games or holiday decorations. Most take some seemingly ordinary items like bottle caps or old margarine lids and repurpose them in a fresh, fun way.
I like making and writing crafts for many reasons. As a former teacher, I find they’re a valuable and fun way to teach kids how to follow step-by step directions. The written directions can also be used as models to teach kids how to write their own instructions. Now I also do them for each book I write – just for fun and give my readers different ideas for activities to do after reading my books.
Today, in celebration of Halloween and writing and creativity, I’d like to share an easy craft you can make with your kids using plastic ring tabs.
Spooky Halloween Rings
What you Need:
plastic ring tabs (from juice or milk cartons)
felt scraps: orange, black, white, green
black embroidery thread
white tacky glue
How to Make It:
Trace and cut out simple Halloween shapes such as a cat, pumpkin, or ghost from black, orange, or white felt. Glue these on to the round part of the plastic ring tab.
For the pumpkin, cut eyes and toothy grin from black felt and a stem from green felt. Glue on.
For the ghost, glue on two eyes and an oval mouth cut from black felt scraps.
For the cat, cut and glue two green felt eyes. Snip four two-inch strands of embroidery thread , tying them together with a central knot. Snip the ends till the are perfect whisker length and glue in place.
Once dry, slip the rings on your fingers and say “Boo!” or “Trick-or-Treat!” or “Meow!”.
NOTE: I first shared this craft in October of 2012 – when my blog was still brand new! For other crafts, check the tag “crafts”.
Mother’s Day, for me and perhaps for you, too, is bittersweet. On the sweet side, I feel so blessed to be a mother and I love spending the day with my children. On the sad side, my heart also hurts a bit because it reminds me of my mother, who was so wonderful, and who I still miss. And so, in her loving memory, and with thanksgiving for the a very special editor and illustrator who both played important roles in blessing my mom in her last days, I’d like to share a special memory. I hope it blesses you too, with the reminder of just how powerful simple acts of kindness can be.
Here’s how this special memory unfolded:
It was October 2013 and my mother was suffering from ALS. Except for labored one or two word bursts, had lost the muscular ability to speak and was growing weaker day by day. One morning as I was praying for her – she lived 6 hours away in Virginia – it suddenly struck me that she might not live long enough to see my first book, GOODNIGHT, ARK, published.
My mom had been a great encourager to me on this journey into children’s book writing and I’d always appreciated her artistic perspective (she was an artist) as she read and critiqued my manuscripts. She and I had been so excited to learn that Jane Chapman would illustrate, and now, I realized, she might not get the chance to see those illustrations.
A wave of sadness poured over me and I emailed my editor, Barbara Herndon, at Zonderkidz, to ask she if she had a sketch or illustration sample or anything that I could share with my mother while she was still able to communicate – even if only in a limited way. Within the hour, she responded that yes, of course, she could send something – and not just anything – she had already special ordered two folded galleys of the entire book – and when would I need them by.
Already feeling blessed beyond measure by this act of kindness, I now added that my sister and I had a special trip planned to see our mother. In just over a week, we’d both be swooping in from our faraway homes for a special mother-daughter weekend. It was short notice, but Barbara did not hesitate. She said she would do her very best to make sure they arrived in time for that visit and immediately made arrangements for them to be ailed by overnight express to my parents in Virginia.
The pictures here, taken by my sister, show me with my mom and dad opening the package from Barbara and then enjoying the folded galley together.
Because Barbara responded so quickly and so kindly, my mom was able to enjoy Jane’s illustrations and she even got to communicate her love for the illustrations with Jane via a short email. Then, Jane – in her own act of kindness – sweetly responded to my mother’s thoughtful artistic reflections about Janes’ illustrations.
It was a very special shared moment made possible by a compassionate editor who responded above and beyond the call of duty to make something special happen for a dying woman (my mom) and her daughter (me).
I will forever be grateful for that act of kindness and it came just in the nick of time. My mom passed away a month later – and that trip with those folded-galleys turned out to be our last -and very treasured – time together.
And now, on this Mother’s Day, if you find yourself missing your own mom, perhaps this will inspire you to dig deep and find a special memory that will bless your soul.
Did you know that February 8th is Opera Day! Delores knows and she’s dee-lighted that she and Fernando are featured today over at Celebrate Picture Books, a wonderful blog that pairs picture books with holidays. DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE (Sterling, 2018) is a perfect pick and we are so happy to be featured today.
To get you in the mood for opera, enjoy the DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE book trailer…
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.
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.
On sturdy paper, type up the instructions – as seen in the picture above.
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!
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.
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.