LOVE IS KIND: Story Time in… AUSTRALIA plus 7 Tips for Virtual Readings

Last week, I was delighted to see that LOVE IS KIND was the featured story time for Australian book store chain Koorong’s new virtual story time series. Their line up has been quite impressive with books featured by the likes of Max Lucado and Rick Warren so, as you can imagine, Little Owl and I were very excited to be in the line up.

The story times, read by Petronella and her adorable companion, Charlie the monkey, are fun to watch and I really enjoyed how she read LOVE IS KIND. In fact, I thought she did such a good job that I it might be worthwhile to reflect on what exactly, in my opinion, made her reading so delightful and what we, as potential virtual story time readers, might extract and learn from her charming expertise.

Here now, inspired by this story time, are five tips for making your virtual read-aloud the best it can be:

Tip #1: Choose a reading spot that has good lighting (not overly back lit) and a pleasant, but not distracting background. Her bookshelf background was perfect, but the background can also be solid. For example, I’ve done virtual storytimes against the rich brown background of my porch shingles and also against the warm creamy yellow of my living room.

Tip #2: Keep the introduction simple and include any permissions wording required by the publisher. (Check the publisher’s website for this, as each has their own specifications.)

Tip #3: Don’t rush as you read and be sure to use lots of expression (but in a natural, not overdone way.)

Tip #4: Add even more richness by incorporating different voices for each character. You might even consider taking this to the next level, as Petronella does in her reading of LOVE IS KIND, by adding a subtle expression or action for various characters. For example, each time Rabbit spoke, Petronella snuffled and scrunched her nose (just slightly) before reading her lines.

Tip #5: Pause before each page turn to allow the readers to really immerse themselves in the illustrations.

Tip #6: At choice moments, it’s okay and even fun to infuse the story with a couple of thoughtful questions or comments. For example, Petronella pauses a couple of times to say things like, “Oh no, poor Little Owl!” or “What do you think will happen now?”

Tip #7: Have fun!

Thanks again, Koorong, for featuring LOVE IS KIND and thank you, Petronella, for reading it so delightfully. If you are in Australia, I hope you will pop in at your nearest Koorong to pick up your very own copy. And if you live here in the US or Canada, I hope you will consider getting this sweet book whose message is both timeless and very timely for someone you love from a vendor in your neck of the woods.

Happy reading, all!

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 Story Time on the Porch with Author Laura Sassi

Looking for something fun to do with the kiddos this summer – virtually? How about joining me on the porch every Tuesday at 10am throughout the month of July for a live reading of one of my books. Meet my storytelling companions – Stinky and Pinky, Diva Delores and Fernando, Little Owl and Rooster – and enjoy a special craft! I thought this an engaging way to add a little extra fun into what’s turning into a stay-at-home summer for many.

INTERESTED IN PURCHASING A COPY of one of my books? The books are available wherever books are sold, but if you live locally, and want to show support for an indie bookstore — The Town Bookstore if Westfield, NJ is offering 10% off any of my books (for a limited time only). Simply mention that you attended a Summer Story Time on the Porch with Laura Sassi.  If you’d like the books signed, mention that when you call 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

If you live long-distance and want a signed copy, you can still order from The Town Book Store, though there will be a shipping fee. Or, you can order from the vendor of your choice and let me know so we can make arrangements for a signed book plate to be sent to you.

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!

The 2020 ANNA DEWDNEY READ ALOUD AWARD: Celebrating Books that Spark Compassion, Empathy and Connection

(Read to the end for a fun LOVE IS KIND connection.)

Per the official description “The Anna Dewdney Read Together Award is given annually to a picture book that is both a superb read-aloud and also sparks compassion, empathy, and connection. The award commemorates the life and work of author/illustrator Anna Dewdney, and celebrates her commitment to reading with young children and putting books into as many little hands as possible.”

This year’s award goes to author/illustrator Oge More for her picture book THANK YOU, OMU!

I love this book. My kids are big now, but it’s just the kind of story I would have read to my kids over and over again. It would make a wonderful addition to any book collection.  It is also a Caldecott winner and the illustrations are amazing.

Here’s my quick description: Omu has created a delicious stew and its mouth-watering aroma fills the neighborhood. Soon all sorts of visitors stop by for a taste and Omu gladly shares.  But, when it’s finally time for her dinner, she discovers the pot is empty!  Will she go to bed empty-bellied or will compassion and generosity prevail? 

You will have to read the story to find out.

You can also hear the author herself read it live this coming Friday, May 8th at 3pm ET as part of Children’s Book Week on the Every Child A Reader Facebook Page.

Now, the little bit of fun news – with a LOVE IS KIND connection:

Though not the winner, LOVE IS KIND is named as one of five honor books for this year’s award.  Isn’t that neat? Little Owl thinks so. Here’s the link to the official announcement

Hooray for stories that foster love and joy and connect us to others!  And hooray for the magic of reading aloud with children! Happy Monday! 

MOTHER’S DAY GIFT IDEA: A Printable “Love Is Kind” POEM for Mom!

MOTHER’S DAY GIFT IDEA! Transform LOVE IS KIND into an extra special Mother’s Day gift by adding this author-penned poem to the front end pages of the hardcover edition.  Simply print and affix – like a bookplate. 

Or, have your child decorate the front of a card with a drawing of Little Owl. Then print out this poem and affix it to the inside of their card, with their sweet handprinted signature at the bottom.  SAMPLE:

Either way, I thought this a fun way to celebrate the special bonds children have with their mothers and grandmothers.  Happy Mother’s Day! 

SPECIAL SPOTLIGHT: An Interview with Danaé Sanchez, the TRANSLATOR of LOVE IS KIND! (Plus a GIVEAWAY!)

I was delighted last Spring to learn that a Spanish edition of LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018) was in the works and couldn’t wait for its release this past December. Titled EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO and published by Vida Editorial, the Spanish division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, it’s a beautifully done edition. I’ve been practicing reading it aloud nightly in preparation for a live story time later this week and in doing so I’ve really come to love the charming flow of the translated version. This does not happen by chance! It’s the result of the efforts of a good translator. A close look at the copyright page of the Spanish edition revealed that the translator was a woman named Danaé Sanchez. I gratefully connected with her social media and asked if she’d be up for an interview. She was! I know you will enjoy her lovely spirit and keen insights into the translation process as much I have have. Here now is our interview, with my questions in bold. Enjoy!

Welcome, Danaé.  Please tell us a little bit about your journey into the book world.  How did you come to be a translator?

All my life, I had wanted to a graphic designer and when the time came to choose a career path, I applied twice for the best Design College in the country and was rejected –twice. I pouted. But God had a plan all along.  As a child I had prayed that God would use me for His Kingdom and I have a memory of finding a book by my mom’s bedside table. I opened it up and it read, “Thomas Nelson, Nashville”. I loved Nashville and said, “I am going to work there.” God was weaving His purpose in my life.

Years later, after being rejected twice in the Design school, the Lord spoke to me through my dad, suggesting that I major in translation/interpretation. I did. When the time came to do my internship, I started working with a friend who translated books for a Christian publisher. I knew I wanted to do that for the rest of my life! 

Three years later I started collaborating as a freelance translator with Thomas Nelson, Zondervan and other Christian publishers, and since June of 2009, when my journey with books began, I have translated over 70 books. Each book has been a gift from God! I am so thankful for each and every book and author I have translated.

Wow, what an amazing path your journey you have had. I’m glad you listened to that voice. And I’m so delighted with the way you translated LOVE IS KIND.  What is your process for translating a book?

First of all, thank you, Laura! I enjoyed so much translating LOVE IS KIND! 

When I get a book to translate, I normally read about the author first to get into their world –I find it very important to immerse into the world of the author. Next, I read through the book in the original language to get familiar with the book as well. 

Then, each day as I sit down with the text, I pray for my job to be excellent, and for God’s grace to be able to convey the heart of the author for their audience in the translation. 

When I finish translating the book, which might take a couple of weeks or months, depending on the genre, the length and the topic of the book, I do a first read-through to check any grammar mistakes or anything that I might have missed. Then I do a more profound check to edit it, to find a better word I could have used, and to polish the whole text. Finally I print the text to do a final proofreading because sometimes there are mistakes or typos that are not visible for the eye on a screen!

Before turning in my work to the publisher, I pray again for the book and the author. It is a blessing to translate such wonderful material to make it available for people around the world!  And I always get giddy when I get the book in my hands and see it in print for the first time!

It strikes me that, as an author, I go through many of the same steps as you do to make sure that each word is just right and captures the heart of the story I’m telling. Thank you for sharing your process.

What challenges do you face when translating a book? 

Every book sets a challenge for the translator –but these are lovely challenges! There are books that set a challenge in terms of formatting, others set a challenge in terms of the topic or the nature of the text. There are books that present a challenge for the translator when the original material hasn’t been edited or proofread, and the translator needs to re-edit the translated book so it can be easily read in the target language. 

“El amor es bondadoso” was a challenge in terms of rhythm and vocabulary. When translating a book for children, you need to find words that a child can understand, without breaking the feel or the style of the author. That is why a translator must love words and be a good reader! In this case I found a lovely “song” in the prose that I didn’t want to disrupt. So, in this case, the challenge was to try to reproduce the song, the rhythm, and to come up with an ideal term in Spanish for a couple of places where you made up words. 

The example that stands out is “tooth-er-ific” which appears in the scene where Beaver finds Little Owl’s coins and thinks the tooth fairy brought them.  Beaver is so happy that Little Owl decides to let him keep the money and wishes him a “tooth-er-ific” day.  Fortunately, in this case I found two words in Spanish that mean exactly the same. Tooth: diente. Terrific: grandioso, magnífico, genial. I chose “magnifico”, as it merged better with “diente”. So, the word I chose was: dientífico!

I love that word! It’s so much fun and definitely in keeping with the feel of the story.  And here’s a picture of both the English and Spanish pages featuring “tooth-er-fic” and “dientífico in case readers are curious for a peek:

As you reflect upon your time translating the book, is there a special moment in EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO that is your favorite? 

Yes! Little Owl’s soft heart made me cry! I cried from the very first page, because Little Owl had saved his coins to honor his Grandma on her birthday. I too have a very close connection with my Grandma and love that Little Owl honored his Grandma –which is something that children need to learn and to live now: a culture of honor. 

Little Owl’s honest heart also impacted me so much– to sacrifice for the other. When he could have spent his money to finally buy Grammy her gift, he instead used it for the good of Mrs. Mouse and her baby! (I cried again!) And why do we do all those things? For love. 

Little Owl, as Grammy said, spread love everywhere he went. I think sometimes we think that to love is to do something outrageous, when in fact, simple love can make the most impact. Being together is love. I was impacted by the message of selfless love that we need so much in this time. 

And… the illustrations are sooo lovely! They melted my heart!  I really enjoyed so much translating your book, Laura! Thank you for writing such a delightful book!

Oh, thank you, Danaé.  And I hope Little Owl’s heart melts others hearts as well, so that love and kindness overflow. 

One last question before we close.  In addition to translating, you are also an author. Tell us about your book(s). Any other works in the pipeline?

I LOVE books, but I never thought I would become an author! About seven years ago, I wrote a book about what God has done in my life. I was bullied when I was little and lived through several things that threatened to hinder His purposes for me. I didn’t know who I was, and accepted so many different names, such as failure, loneliness, depression, suicide… and those were not mine to take! But God worked through those trials to show me who I am in Him and fulfill His purpose for my life. The title of my first book is “When He Called My Name”. It’s currently only in Spanish, but I am working on translating it.  Woven into the text are stories of Bible characters who went through trials that showed them who they were in God. 

I am currently writing my second and third books. My second book is going to be a follow-up on the first book and the third book is going to talk about prayer, and the importance of knowing the Word of God, and how to pray the Word of God –a journey I started with God 7 years ago. 

Thank you, Danaé, for sharing your journey with us today. It’s been fascinating to get an inside look into all that goes into translating a book.  You remind me a bit of dear Little Owl, for like him, you put all your heart into your work, be it writing or translating. Thank you for blessing your readers in this way.

Follow Danaé here: 

INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT: @danaegabrielasanchez

BLOG: danaelivingtheword.wordpress.com

YOUTUBE CHANNEL: Danaé Living the Word

TWO LAST THINGS: First please tune in this Wednesday, April 1st at 7pm ET for my Facebook Live! reading of EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO over the the Vida Editorial Facebook page. Here’s the lovely graphic they created for that:

Finally… THE GIVEAWAY! If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO (Vida Editorial, December 2019) post a comment below. (NOTE: Must have U.S. mailing address and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway is sponsored by Vida Editorial and ends Monday, 4/6/20 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced next week! 

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

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO!

¡Feliz cumpleaños! That’s right today is the birthday of a very special book — the Spanish edition of LOVE IS KIND! The Spanish title is EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO and it’s published by the Spanish division of Zondervan, Editorial Vida.

I’m so excited for the release of this book for several reasons.

First, I’m delighted that the book’s special message of kindness and love will now reach an even wider audience.

Second, I just love the story in Spanish. I mean what could be cuter than an earnest Pequeño Buho on a quest for chocolates for his abuelita! (And just wait until you see this new version – even the 1 Corinthians text that is found in the illustrations has been seamlessly transformed into Spanish in the new version. It’s beautiful!

Third, I have for a long time wanted to re-learn Spanish, which I spoke fluently as a five year old living in Mexico. I have always regretted that I lost my ability to speak upon return to the US- due to lack of practice. Later, after we returned from France, where I, too, became fluent, and remembering my earlier regret, I worked hard to keep up that language. Now is my chance to return to the Spanish language, in the hopes that very soon I will be able to read EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO in Spanish to a group of children. That is on my list of treasured-things-to-do! Stay tuned!

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.