Counting through the Week with LITTLE EWE (and Little Owl too!)

May is in full bloom here in New Jersey and Little Ewe and I (and Little Owl too, as you will see below) have been joyfully counting our way through the week with FIVE wonderful book sharing opportunities! Here’s a roundup of the meadows we visited this week. Thank you for having us!

Meadow #1: VIRTUAL AUTHOR VISIT to Minnesota! Little Ewe and I kicked off the week with a kindergarten author visit at Gethsemane Lutheran Church and School. After a very interactive and enthusiastic reading, each and every kindergartner asked a question. They also wanted me to let illustrator Tommy Doyle know how much they loved his drawings of sheep. I kindly passed the message on, of course, much to his delight. Thank you for having us!

Meadow #2: FRONT STEP STORY TIME. On Tuesday, Little Ewe and I shared LITTLE EWE with the preschoolers at St. Michael’s School in Cranford. They counted along with Little Ewe each step of the way and made wonderful animal sounds – including hooting owls and, of course, sheep! We all enjoyed being outside on such a sunny spring morning. Hooray for front steps and stories!

Meadow #3: VIRTUAL LOVE IS KIND VISIT to Michigan Little Ewe made a brief appearance, but this visit with the k – 8th graders at South Olive Christian School was Little Owl’s chance to shine as I used LOVE IS KIND to show the kids how a book goes from inspiration to publication. Something extra special about this visit is that I actually know one of the teachers – we taught together way back in early 90s when we both just starting our teaching careers. How wonderful it was to reunite via zoom!

Meadow #4: LITTLE EWE BLOG INTERVIEW. This week I am delighted to be hosted by children’s author Mindy Baker in celebration of the release of LITTLE EWE (Beaming Books, 2021). What inspired me to write LITTLE EWE? What’s my writing process like? Find the answers to these and other fun questions in Mindy’s interview. Oh, and there’s a giveaway for one fresh-off-the-press copy of LITTLE EWE! Thank you, Mindy!

Meadow #5: On Wednesday, was interviewed on Instagram LIVE! by one of our local indie bookstores, The Book House in Millburn NJ. This is part of their Local Love Wednesday’s series where they chat with a local author. We chatted about all my books, and I even got dressed up for the occasion – sort of. Curious? Here’s the link. Enjoy!

READ. DISCUSS. DO! with LITTLE EWE!

FUN RESOURCE! Did you know there are two Read. Discuss Do! graphics for my newest picture book, LITTLE EWE? Each one provides families, teachers, librarians etc. with a quick and easy idea to jumpstart meaningful interaction with a picture book – in this case LITTLE EWE!  I hope you will share the LITTLE EWE ideas with others using the hashtag #ReadDiscussDo. And if you want to find more activities like these but for other books, hop on over to Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and search using the same hashtag. You will be delighted by what you find.

NOTE: The Read. Discuss Do! (hashtag #ReadDiscussDo) campaign celebrates reading beyond the book by creating sharable images that give simple ideas for book related discussions and activities and is the brainchild of picture book author Rebecca J. Gomez.

FIVE Simple Steps for Using Faith-Based PICTURE BOOKS to Point Little Ones to God

At my school visits this spring, both virtual and in-person, I’ve noticed that little ones quickly pick up on several things when we LITTLE EWE together. First, they immediately identify with Little Ewe, the sweet protagonist, who is so keen to explore the world around her, despite the Shepherd’s call. Second, they are very sad when Little Ewe gets lost and overjoyed when she is found again. This concept of being lost and then found is a big deal in their life experience and something almost all can relate to. Finally, almost intuitively, they seem to understand the book is somehow “about God.”


All this reminds me what a precious opportunity we have, as our children’s shepherds, to point them to Jesus and God using picture books, such as LITTLE EWE, as the conversation spark. With that in mind, here are five simple steps for using faith-based picture books to point little ones to Jesus and God.

 
Step # 1: Think ahead of time what faith principles are best drawn from the picture book at hand. With LITTLE EWE, for example, you could talk about God’s faithful care of us or how He wants to find us when we are spiritually lost. 


Step #2: Read the story with the goal to enjoy it! The faith message you want to instill will come later, but you to don’t want to make it so heavy-handed that the pure joy of reading the story is lost.  So, for example, as you read LITTLE EWE, enjoy counting along as she explores her world. Pause along the way to explore the illustrations and ponder together how Little Ewe might be feeling as she gets further and further from Shepherd.

 
Step #3: Connect the story to their world. This step is intertwined with the one above.  Both as you read the story and after as you ponder it, ask your little ones questions that will connect them to the story. For example, with LITTLE EWE, you might ask, “Have you ever been lost?”  “How did it feel to be found?”  “Who are the shepherds in your life?”  Trust me, these will generate lots of great discussion.


Step #4: Move from the concrete to the spiritual with a simple question or two.  This is when you will draw on your goal that you set in step one. The questions will vary, of course, depending on the book you have read together.  For LITTLE EWE, your questions could be, “Who do you think is the greatest shepherd of all?”  and “Why do you think Jesus wants to find us when we are lost?”  “What do we have to do?”  (Listen to His call and obey!)  “Why?”  (Because He loves us!)


Step #5: Wrap up your special story time in prayer, thanking God for stories like, LITTLE EWE, or whatever book you are reading, that remind us about God’s love for us.  This is a sweet opportunity both to model prayer with your child and also to let them add to the prayer in their words.  

NOTE: This post first appeared as a guest post over at Christian author and speaker, Sally Matheny’s blog. Here’s the link. You might also enjoy her other inspiring posts and reviews.

LITTLE EWE: Feasting on FIGS!


One of the sweet distractions Little Ewe encounters on her day of exploring in my book LITTLE EWE (Beaming Books, 2021) is figs! And I just love how illustrator Tommy Doyle has captured their green-purple hue and deliciousness in his illustration of Little Ewe rejoicing as figs tumble after seven sparrows land on twigs.

 
The inclusion of figs in the story was not by chance. As part of honoring the biblical retelling, I wanted every encounter Little Ewe made to be rooted in the Mediterranean terrain where the original parable, told by Jesus, took place. And if you look them up, you will discover that sparrows, figs, and yes, even badgers, all resided or grew in the countryside Jesus knew and loved.

 
I also picked figs because, as a child, I didn’t even know they existed, except in the form of a fig bar, a favorite childhood cookie of mine. It wasn’t until I was all grown up that I had my first taste of an actual fig. I remember the moment vividly. We had moved to New Jersey and my Italian-American neighbor, whose mother had a fig tree on her property, shared a bowlful with us. Oh, my goodness, one bite and I was in heaven!


However, my picky-eater daughter who was about five at the time was sure she wouldn’t like them because they looked funny to her. Finally, after much joyful animated eating on my part, she agreed to nibble one. She loved it. In fact, just one fig wasn’t enough. She wanted more and more! It was a figgy feast!


Thus, it was also with picky-eaters in mind that decided to include figs in my story. 


At our house, we like to pair books that we read with treats made from foods mentioned in those books.  So, if you, like me, relish opportunities to broaden your picky-eaters palettes, may I suggest pairing LITTLE EWE with a bowl of figs? Or, if they are not in season, how about fig jam or dried figs or a fig cookie!


Happy Figgy Feasting!

Note: These figgy thoughts were first shared on the Beaming Books blog. Here’s the link. While you are there, you might also enjoy their other book-themed blog posts. Be sure also to check out their LITTLE EWE book page which includes a free downloadable activity kit, plus links to your favorite on-line vendors.

TEACHER APPROVED: Eight Lessons to Cherish from LITTLE EWE

This week LITTLE EWE: THE STORY OF ONE LOST SHEEP received a LOVELY stamp of approval from longtime Colorado teacher and dear friend, Jeananne Wright. Thank you, Jeananne!

Please enjoy as she shares “Eight Lessons to Cherish from LITTLE EWE”. Use one, two or as many as you would like to spark sweet conversations with your little lambs about how they (and all of us, really) are very much like Little Ewe, in need of our Shepherd’s comfort and love and also so very blessed by the many shepherds (with a small s) that God has placed in our lives – like parents and teachers and more!

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy the free downloadable activity kit that I created and Beaming Books produced. It can be found here.

LITTLE EWE is published by Beaming Books and available wherever books are sold. If you purchase it through Amazon, Barnes and Noble etc., please consider leaving a review. Or leave a review Goodreads. Reviews help a book gain visibility. Thank you so much.

PARENTS! TEACHERS! KIDMIN! Download Your FREE Activity Kit for LITTLE EWE!

Reading LITTLE EWE is just the beginning.

Here is the link to the FREE downloadable LITTLE EWE activity kit designed especially for you and your preschooler. The kit includes six pages of ideas for discussion, activities, crafts, coloring pages and a maze. It can be found by visiting the book’s page on the Beaming Books website. You’ll find it at the end of the book’s description. Here’s the link. Enjoy!

LITTLE EWE: Illustrator Tommy Doyle Shares his Creative Process

I’m delighted and honored to have Tommy Doyle, the illustrator for my newest picture book LITTLE EWE (Beaming Books, 2021), here today to share the creative process behind his wonderful illustrations. After he describes his process, enjoy a nice selection of several early sketches and their final colored counterparts. Take it away, Tommy!

Thank you, Laura, for giving me the opportunity to talk about my process for Little Ewe. I immediately identified with Little Ewe when I read the story and I loved how children can also learn counting throughout her journey.

The first thing I do when I start a new book, is read the script and the notes a couple of times over a few days so my brain starts creating pictures in my head. 

One of the first thing that stood out was that there was another part of the story that was just as important as Little Ewe, her environment. Knowing that made me realise I had to do a good visual research to help me gather all the inspiration I needed. So before starting on the pencils, I went on several image banks and gathered pictures related to each of Little Ewe’s encounter.

I then spent a couple of days on my iPad Pro sitting on the couch creating the storyboard. Once the storyboard was approved, I moved onto the colouring part. 

I also wanted the reader to visually feel the mood and emotions of each spread as they got further into the story. There are a lot of fun moments but also some moments where you can feel that sense of distress. I wanted to have each moment as strong as each other so that in the end we really feel that moment of resolution and joy. 

You did a wonderful job, Tommy! I love each and every spread and so do the little ones I have shared the story with at school visits. I especially love how you use color to capture the varying moods on each spread. The result is fantastic. Thank you, again, for sharing your process.

Now let’s enjoy a sampling of pencil sketches and final art. Can you spot any differences? Enjoy!

ABOUT TOMMY DOYLE: Tommy is a Senior Illustrator and graphic designer based in Melbourne, Australia. Originally from Montreal, Qc Canada, he now resides in Australia.He’s worked in the industry for over 20 years. Illustration is a big passion of his and he finds it is an effective and creative way to communicate a message or an emotion. His work is bold and rich in simplicity. He loves playing with shapes and textures, mixing digital and traditional mediums. Learn more about Tommy at https://www.tommydoyle.com

Where was LITTLE EWE this week?

Little Ewe and I leaped into spring with great joy this week. After what seemed like a long winter, how wonderful it has been these past few days to hear the birds chirping at dawn, to see daffodils and crocuses, and to have four wonderful book sharing opportunities! Here’s a round up and I hope you grab a cup of tea and doing a little jumping from meadow to meadow, er, I mean blog to blog, with me and enjoy what each stop has to offer.

Meadow #1: GARDEN AUTHOR VISIT! On Tuesday I had my first in-person school visit in over a year at Calvary Nursery School and Child Care. The visit took place outdoors at a good social distance and everyone was wearing masks. The children were great listeners and empathized greatly with Little Ewe during her time of being lost. Everyone was relieved when Shepherd found her and it sparked great discussion over times they have been lost and how wonderful it felt to be found. It was the highlight of my week. Here’s a collage that captures the morning:

Meadow #2: INTERVIEW! On Wednesday, Little Ewe and were invited to Pastor Noelle Kirchner’s blog. Noelle is a TV host, pastor, writer, and mother of three boys. She’s also the author of an amazing bible study which I featured on my blog last fall. In my interview with Noelle this week, I answered questions such as “What inspired me to write LITTLE EWE?” and “Do I have a favorite tradition for celebrating Easter with my family?” I also shared several picture books have I found that successfully point children to God. I hope you hop on over to find the answers. Here’s the link. =)

Meadow #3: GUEST POST: FIVE SIMPLE STEPS FOR USING PICTURE BOOKS TO POINT LITTLE ONES TO GOD. A big thank you to blogger, writer, and speaker Sally Matheny for hosting me on her blog this week as I shared a topic close to my heart: using picture books to spark meaningful faith conversations with our little ones. Earlier this month she also reviewed LITTLE EWE. You can find the review here and the guest post here.

Meadow #4: REVIEW! 12 Things to Love About Laura Sassi’s LITTLE EWE Last, but not least, leap on over to picture book author Rebecca J. Gomez’s blog for her thoughts on LITTLE EWE. Thank you, Rebecca!

Where is Little Ewe today? Celebrating PERFECT PICTURE BOOK FRIDAY with Susanna Leonard Hill (PLUS A GAME!)

Today I’m delighted to have LITTLE EWE featured on Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday Series. Head on over to get Susanna’s take on the book. And in the extra fun department, she asked me to share an activity to go along with the book. It’s a fun one! What could it be, you ask? You’ll have to pop over there to find out. I’ll make it easy for you. Here’s the link:

Interested in purchasing copies in time for Easter? They are available at Barnes and NobleAmazon,  Christian Book or your favorite local bookstore.

LITTLE EWE: Time for a CUTE Craft and a Review

CUTE! Little Ewe is featured today over at Glitter on A Dime with a craft that little ones will love. Hint: Glue and cotton balls and paper plates are involved. Plus there’s a review. Here’s the link: