Guess what? I have a new picture coming out in 2020 with Beaming Books! LITTLE EWE: THE STORY OF ONE LOST SHEEP is scheduled to release November 17, 2020, just in time for the holidays.
Here’s the scoop from Beaming Books:
“Little Ewe would rather jump on logs and investigate spider webs than follow the shepherd when he calls. But what happens when she gets lost? How will she find her way home? Told in whimsical rhyme, this humorous counting book for our littlest ones is a delightful reminder that, like a loving parent, our Shepherd will find us and care for us, even when we wander from the path.
In Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep, award-winning author Laura Sassi and illustrator Tommy Doyle tell an endearing tale of a distracted sheep and her persistent shepherd, inspired by the Parable of the Lost Sheep in Luke 15.”
Thank you, Beaming Books, for publishing this next picture book. And now for the moment you (or at least I) have been waiting for… the COVER REVEAL! Thank you, Chirping Moms for hosting. The cover reveal plus an interview (and maybe even a sneak peek at an interior spread!) can be found by pressing here.
¡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!
Today I am delighted to welcome debut picture book author Jean Matthew Hall as my guest with an interview as we celebrate the release of her picture book GOD’S BLESSINGS OF FALL, published by Little Lamb Books and beautifully illustrated by Olya Badulina. The book is part of the four part Bountiful Blessings series. And this interview is part of a larger blog tour. To check out the full tour list, visit Jean’s blog at https://jeanmatthewhall.com/gods-blessings-of-fall/.
Thank you for joining us today, Jean. Let’s get started with my questions in autumn orange to match the beautiful fall palette of your book’s charming cover.
Have you always been a writer? Tell us a little bit about your writerly journey.
As a child I enjoyed drawing and designing more than writing. As an adult I found myself writing many articles and handbooks for my job. It became fun. Then, when I started writing stories it really became fun!
I started writing for publication around 2007. I’ve been studying and having some success since then. God’s Blessings of Fall is my first picture book to be published. This manuscript was one of the first I worked on. I wrote the first draft in 2009.
Writing for publication is a S-L-O-W process. There is much to learn.
You are so right about the slowness of the process, but good things are worth waiting for and working towards patiently. Thanks for for that reminder, Jean!
What inspired you to writeGod’s Blessings of Fall?
I am enamored with God’s created world. I enjoy observing the changes in the seasons. So, following the adage “write what you know”, watching my four-year old grandson running around the yard chasing leaves on a crisp autumn day was the spark for this story.
I’m so glad you were intentional and recognized his joyful play as the spark to a story.
Can you tell us about the illustrator? What was it like seeing your text come to full color with illustrations? Do you have a favorite spread?
Olya Badulina lives in Russia with her husband and two children. She used her favorite medium for God’s Blessings of Fall –watercolors. She has illustrated books for authors around the world.
My favorite spread is the first one in the book. The animals are adorable throughout the book, but the barn, the golden fields and falling leaves just shout fall to me.
It was surreal holding the book and seeing the animals and scenes that had been living in my head for years. I felt both proud and humble at the same time. It was a feeling of real accomplishment to see my vision and the illustrator’s vision come together to make a lovely book.
In my experience that feeling never gets old!
What advice would you give parents and caregivers who want to share their faith with their kids?
Live your faith in front of your kids. Let them witness your faith living and at work in your day-to-day life. It shouts authenticity to them. And THAT is what attracts your children to live that kind of faith-filled life. Be careful that your words line up with your actions and attitiudes.
Beautiful advice! Yes!
Finally, what’s next? Are there more picture books in the pipeline? Where can readers find your books?
God’s Blessings of Fall is the first in the four-book Bountiful Blessings series. Books featuring the other seasons will come over the next 18 months. I also have several holiday stories trying to find homes with interested publishers. Praying that will happen soon!
Thanks, Laura, for helping me share the good news about God’s Blessings of Fall.
Thank YOU, Jean, for sharing your story here and along with your wonderful wisdom for laying good faith foundations for our little ones. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you. I look forward to seeing your other books on shelves everywhere!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jean Matthew Hall has spent most of her life singing songs, reading books, playing games, cutting, coloring and gluing with children of all ages. And, she loves it! Creating encouraging board books and picture books is her idea of fun, but her favorite times are spent with her eight grandchildren.
Jean’s picture book God’s Blessings of Fall debuted in September 2019. It is the first in her Bountiful Blessings series about the four seasons.
You can contact Jean or learn more about her here:
Now for the GIVEAWAY! If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of GOD’S BLESSINGS OF FALL (Little Lamb Books, September 2019) 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 ends Thursday, 10/31/19 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced that Friday! THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER. The winner is announced here. Thank you to all who entered.
Today I’m delighted to have best-selling picture book author Glenys Nellist as my guest to chat about her new release THE WONDER THAT IS YOU, illustrated by Aurelie Blanz and published by Zonderkidz. Here’s the captivating flap copy: “Every parent dreams of celebrating the arrival of their new child. This heartwarming picture book captures the moment that dream comes true. Filled with tender emotion and joy, THE WONDER THAT IS YOU is the perfect way to tell your little one how much they are loved.” This dreamy picture book will surely tug at the heartstrings of parents and parents-to-be. Get a sneak peek with this delightful book trailer and then enjoy the interview with my questions in green to match the cover!
Thank you for joining us today, Glenys. Even though you are a return guest, I think my readers would love to hear again a little bit about yourself and your journey into the world of children’s book writing/illustrating.
Hi Laura! Thanks for having me! I’m originally from England, where I was a primary school teacher, and I’ve always loved writing. But It wasn’t until 2000, when I relocated to the United States with my husband, who is a pastor, that my publishing journey really began. I became a Children’s Ministry Director at our small church and part of my job was to buy curriculum. It was expensive, and so I decided to write my own. As I was writing Bible stories for the teachers to use, the idea came to me to try to write a children’s Storybook Bible. I actually gave up half way through, but my husband encouraged me to finish it. LOVE LETTERS FROM GOD was my first book, published five years ago. I’ve never looked back since.
What inspired you to write THE WONDER THAT IS YOU?
On the night my eldest son was born, thirty-five years ago, I fell asleep in my hospital bed in England with my baby son in the crib beside me. During the night I had THE most amazing dream. I was flying upwards in the dark and landed on a rooftop, where I swung my legs like a little girl, overflowing with happiness because my baby had been born. I clearly remember seeing the moon and the stars, and it was as if they were rejoicing along with me. THE WONDER THAT IS YOU captures the idea that perhaps all creation rejoices when a new baby is born, or joins the family. The strangest thing about this story is that when my husband came, three days later, to take us home, I glanced back at the hospital as we were leaving It was only then that I saw the flat roof above, and recognized all the windows I had flown past that night. I realized that THIS was the building I had been sitting on that night. As crazy as it seems, I know that it was no dream. It was real.
Wow, what an amazing dream! I love the image of all creation rejoicing at the birth of each precious child.
The illustrations really add to the dreamy feeling of your lovely lyrical text. Tell us a little bit about the artist. Do you have a favorite spread? What makes it your favorite?
French illustrator Aurelie Blanz is wonderful! I just couldn’t believe how she had taken my words and brought them to life in such breathtaking images. Honestly, every spread is amazing, but if I had to pick just one, it would have to be the one that accompanies these words: It felt as if my love took flight And soared into the air, And joined creation’s welcome song As you were lying there. In this spread, a girl is flying high with the butterflies.. that’s ME!
Since the wonder and awe of being new parents is one of the beautiful themes of the book, I wondered if you had any advice for brand new parents who might be feeling exhausted/overwhelmed – albeit overjoyed.
Well, as one who had four children under the age of five, I remember well the feeling of exhaustion that can overwhelm moms as they juggle daily tasks. But I would say, in spite of the challenges and daily grind, try to enjoy your time with your little ones as much as you can. It truly does fly by! Read a lot. Laugh a lot. Spend time doing things together and make memories, because no one can take your memories away.
Wonderful advice! Hard to do sometimes, in the midst of the exhausted moment, but so worth it.
Finally, this has been a very busy year book-wise for you. Tell us a little bit about your new books. Are there any upcoming projects in the works?
With six titles published this year, 2019 has been my busiest year to date! Later this year I have two board books coming out in my Good News series, published by Discovery House. GOOD NEWS! GOD MADE ME! and GOOD NEWS! IT’S CHRISTMAS! will hit the shelves October 2nd. Then, in 2020, along with the board book version of THE WONDER THAT IS YOU, I have two picture books coming with Beaming Books that I’m really excited about. LITTLE MOLE FINDS HOPE will release in February, followed by LITTLE MOLE’S LITTLE GIFT in the fall. I sometimes can’t believe how all this happened… but it did, and I am so very grateful.
It’s been a prolific journey! I can’t wait to read each and every of your upcoming titles and wish you continued success. Thank you for stopping by today.
GLENYS NELLIST: Glenys Nellist was born and raised in a little village in northern England. The author of multiple children’s books, including the bestselling ‘Twas the Evening of Christmas and the popular series Love Letters from God and Snuggle Time, her writing reflects a deep passion for helping children discover joy in the world. Glenys lives in Michigan with her husband, David.
And now for the giveaway! (Thank you, Zonderkidz!)
If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of THE WONDER THAT IS YOU written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Aurelie Blanz, let me know in a comment below. (NOTE: Must have U.S. street address (no P.O. Boxes) and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Tuesday 9/10/19 at 12:01 am EST. The winner will be announced that day!THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER. The winner is announced here.
With sturdy pages and a padded cover, the board book version of LOVE IS KIND is terrific for littlest readers who want to turn the pages themselves. It’s a good size too – perfect for showing off all the wonderful details in Lison Chaperon’s illustrations. And this format makes a wonderful baby shower or toddler gift. Order yours today at your favorite book vendor.
Or, if you want a signed copy of this or any of my books, remember you can always call my favorite local indie bookstore, The Town Book Store in Westfield NJ.
When you call be sure to explain that you would like order a book or books to be 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join me in welcoming talented picture book author, Amy Houts, whose brand new picture book, GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME (Beaming Books), debuts TODAY! This charming faith-based story is a soothing read, and a great conversation starter with little ones about God’s protective care. With sparse text and clever rhymes, it’s a delight. I can’t wait to share it with my Sunday School kids! And now for the interview with my questions in bold.
1.Thanks so much for joining us today, Amy, and congratulations your newest faith-based picture book. Is it true that this is your 70th published book! Tell us a little bit about yourself and your prolific journey into the world of children’s book writing.
Thank you, Laura, for having me. Yes, it’s true that I have over authored over 70 children’s books. Most of them were written on assignment for educational publishers. They often ask for a series of books on a specific topic or featuring a specific character. For example, I wrote four books about pets (dog, cat, rabbit, and goldfish) for a South Korean publisher, Compass Publishing. I was asked to write five books featuring the cartoon character, Dora the Explorer. So, it adds up! Plus, I’ve been writing for many years beginning when I was at home with my baby girl, Emily. Now Emily is a busy mother of three young children.While I love writing on assignment, a book based on my own, original idea, such as God’s Protection Covers Me, means so much.
2. GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME charmingly depicts God’s constant care over, not just children, but all creation. What inspired you to write GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME using animal homes as your concrete visual?
I was inspired to write this book because of the concern I feel as a mother and grandmother. I’m a worrier! But I longed to feel calmer. Looking to God for strength, knowing that He protects us, heart and soul and spirit, gave me comfort. Often, writing helps me work through my feelings. The comparison of an umbrella keeping the rain off and a roof overhead seemed to me to be the perfect symbol to explain to a child (and to myself) how God’s protection works. The text is soothing and reassuring.
3. David Creighton-Pester’s illustrations are delightfully concrete and colorful to match your simple, yet comforting, text. Can you tell us a little bit about him? What was it like seeing your text come to full color with illustrations? Do you have a favorite spread?
David Creighton-Pester is an illustrator and graphic designer from Hamilton, New Zealand, where he lives with his wife and two young children. His website https://wanderingbert.com/ states that his interest in art started early: “Inspired as a child by picture books, animation, and all things arty, David spent endless hours drawing crazy characters and coming up with silly stories.”
I’m overjoyed that my editor at Beaming Books paired my text with David’s artwork. The first time I saw the cover and interior spread, I couldn’t help smiling. David gave life to my words. His child-like style and vibrant colors welcome the reader in.
My favorite spread shows mother and son under the umbrella—nearly home as rain pours down—while the dog and a mouse watch from their protective covering. The rhythm and rhyme of the text is how I began writing the book: “Like a roof protects a house or a crawl space for a mouse…”
4. Besides reading wonderful picture books such as this, what advice would you give parents and caregivers who want to share their faith with their kids?
Start with something kids know or are familiar with (like an umbrella) and move to something unfamiliar or harder to explain (like God’s protection). Similies and comparisons help to illustrate a concept. Focus on a feeling, like peace, comfort, or safety, and how that relates to something physical like drinking hot cocoa, being wrapped in a blanket, or watching the rain out the window.
5. Finally, what’s next? Are there more picture books in the pipeline? Also, where can interested readers find your books?
I’m always working on picture book manuscripts in all stages of development from a few lines, to a first draft, to polishing, to submission. Upcoming in 2020, four books written on assignment for educational publisher, Rubicon/Pearson, will be released. You can also read and act out my Bible fingerplays in each 2019 issue of Children’s Ministry Magazine. My books are sold through amazon.com, christianbook.com, barnesandnoble.com, and more. Visit my website http://amyhouts.com to find out more about my work.
Thank you so much for stopping by and for writing this delightful book! (And readers, don’t forget to enter the giveaway below.)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amy Houts is an award-winning author of over 70 children’s books, cookbooks, and board games that feature family themes of love and friendship, holiday celebrations, and early learning concepts. Her books include The Giant Book of Bible Fingerplays for Preschoolers(Group Publishing), which features 101 fingerplays, Bible stories, and Scripture verses. It’s a joy for Amy to share Bible truths and God’s love with young children through her writing. Amy and her husband, Steve, live in rural Northwest Missouri,an hour from Steve’s family farm. They are the parents of two grown daughters and three grandchildren.
Twitter: @AmyHouts Instagram: @AmyHouts
And now for the giveaway! (Thank you, Amy!)
If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME written by Amy Houts and illustrated by David Creighton-Pester, let me know in a comment below. (NOTE: Must have U.S. address and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Tuesday 5/28/19 at 12:01 am EST. The winner will be announced that day! THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER. TO SEE WHO WON PRESS HERE.
Today I am delighted to be hosting debut picture book author Julie Gonzalez as we celebrate the release of her darling first book HOW COULD A BEAR SLEEP HERE? (Holiday House, 2018). I met Julie at an NJSCBWI Conference a few years ago and I’m so excited to see her first book come out. Congratulations, Julie! Now, without further fuss, here are FIVE FUN FACTS about the book from the author herself. Take it away, Julie!
Five Fun Facts about HOW COULD A BEAR SLEEP HERE?
by Julie Gonzalez
Fun Fact #1: My mom named the bear.
In early drafts I called the bear PJ because I pictured him wearing pajamas. Then a friend suggested I give him a more naturalistic bear name. I couldn’t think of one, so I turned to my mom. She’s terrific at brainstorming names. “Shelby” was her idea, and I loved it!
Fun Fact #2: Lack of sleep and a real live bear inspired the story.
At the time I wrote BEAR, I was a very tired mama in need of some quality, unbroken sleep. The refrain in the story expresses the exhaustion I felt, and other worn-out parents will relate. But the story was also inspired by this enormous bear that used to wander through my yard:
Isn’t he GORGEOUS? I call him Shelby, of course!
Fun Fact #3: The title was originally HIBERCATION, a combination of hibernation + vacation.
In fact, that’s the title on the contract!
My editor suggested the change to its present title, HOW COULD A BEAR SLEEP HERE?, which is the refrain in the story. By the time she acquired it, the plot had changed so much that the original title wasn’t as appropriate.
Fun Fact #4: I really, really, really, really, really didn’t want to write a bear hibernation story.
Too many of them exist. It won’t sell, I reasoned. Then every time I sat down to write, I closed my eyes and saw Shelby. He wouldn’t take no for an answer! Thank you, Shelby, for being so persistent!
Fun Fact #5: Conferences helped shape and sell the manuscript.
I started writing the manuscript in a 2013 picture book workshop led by Brett Duquette during the Hudson Valley Children’s Writers first summer conference. I was brave enough to read my work aloud, and the positive feedback I received gave me the push I needed to pursue the idea.
Then, once I had a full draft, I attended an SCBWI Eastern PA event called Critique Fest, where I received valuable criticism and suggestions from editors, agents, and peers.
Finally, after much revision, I was accepted to the Rutgers One-on-One. I sent my manuscript to 11 editors on the list of Rutgers mentors and heard back from my editor at Holiday House, Kelly Loughman, eight months later. The whole process from concept to publication took about five years. Publication is rarely quick or easy!
Thank you for inviting me to share, Laura. Your website is fun and full of so much valuable information. It’s my pleasure to be a small part of it!
Thank you, Julie for stopping by. And kind readers, don’t forget to check out the giveaway (after bio)!
Bio (from the Kidlit Authors Club website)
JULIE GONZALEZ is a former teacher and the author of the picture book How Could a BEAR Sleep Here? (Holiday House, 2018). She enjoys working with younger students, using humor and heart to encourage curiosity, imagination, and empathy. Born in Maine, raised in New Jersey, and currently living in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, she runs, hikes, and interacts with the wildlife in her wooded backyard, an area which provides constant inspiration for her stories.
*And just to give you a bit more: I’ve taught third-grade, kindergarten, and preschool. During my preschool years, I held three story times a day, and this experience influenced my first picture book, which is a very lively read-aloud loaded with onomatopoeia.
If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of HOW COULD A BEAR SLEEP HERE written by Julie Gonzalez and illustrated by Stephanie Laberis, 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 12/14/18 at 12:01 am EST. The winner will be announced that day!
The GIVEAWAY is now over and the winner is…. Heather! I will be in touch today so we can get the book to you. Thank you to ALL who entered and THANK YOU, Julie, for providing the winning copy!
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.
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.
Please join me in welcoming special guest Amy Losak, as she shares the story behind a delightful new poetry collection for young readers, H Is For Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z, written by her late mother, Sydell Rosenberg and published this past April with Penny Candy Books. How this collection came to be is a wonderful story – that involves poetry, hard work, determination and the special bond between mother and daughter. Thank you so much for sharing this book’s unusual journey, Amy. It is an honor to have you on the blog today. Take it away!
H Is For Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z, by Sydell Rosenberg and Sawsan Chalabi (Penny Candy Books), came to be, is both simple and complicated:
Syd is my mother. She died in 1996. Syd was a teacher in New York City and a published writer. Sometime in the 1960s, she developed an interest in haiku poetry. Somehow, it “found” her – and it was, I think, the expressive outlet which mom hadbeen searching for. (In her bio in the 1974 classic text, The Haiku Anthology, edited by Cor van den Heuvel and published by Anchor Doubleday, mom described haiku as “unfussy” but “demanding.”)
Early on, she set out to learn as much as she could. In 1968, the Haiku Society of America (hsa-haiku.org) was formed, and mom became a charter member. (It exists today — and I’m now a member, too.)
At some point in the 1970s or 1980s, mom developed a strong desire to create a poetry picture book. She created more than one manuscript from her individual poems, some of which had been previously published in journals. I remember that she wanted her book to be an alphabet reader, and my memory tells me that she even wanted children to be the illustrators.
So the seeds for the book that became H Is For Haiku were planted early. That’s the simple part of the story.
The complicated part is this: Mom, like most of us, had a busy life: she earned her Masters of Arts in 1972, taught both as a substitute and as an adult ESL teacher. She wrote constantly, and a good amount of her poetry (haiku and other forms) and other writings were published. She submitted at least one of her kids’ poetry manuscripts to some publishers, but they were rejected.
In her later years, life became stressful and sad for mom. When my much-older father was diagnosed with dementia (and other ills), her creative and literary life didn’t come to a screeching halt, but her passions were put on the back burner. Mom became a caregiver to my dad. She had help, but it was still an extraordinarily difficult time. Those years took their toll in terrible ways on both her body and psyche. Her death at home one morning was sudden, shocking, and unexpected. Although now, when I look back on her suffering, I realize that perhaps her end was inevitable. She was defiant, in her way, but she had become worn out. She couldn’t keep going that way any longer.
At mom’s funeral in 1996, her family resolved to try and publish the picture book she had long dreamed of.
Finally, decades later — after much procrastination and tentative fits and starts — I took loving steps to finish what mom had started. And I succeeded, thanks to the unerring and unending support of many people who have warmly embraced my efforts and the result.
In 2016, I connected with Penny Candy Books (pennycandybooks.com). The principals, Chad Reynolds and Alexis Orgera, who are poets themselves, saw the possibilities in mom’s simple, striking “word-picture” poems. Our visions were similar. The illustrator, Sawsan Chalabi (Schalabi.com), has a style that is vigorous and full of joy. Her art and lettering help make the poems pop!
Courtesy of Penny Candy Books
H Is For Haiku was released this past April: National Poetry Month. It’s our dream come true. But more importantly, I hope mom’s book, which celebrates a collection of small moments in our daily lives we may overlook, will bring bits of magic to young readers, and the adults in their lives.
And thanks to mom, I now write and even publish my own haiku. Who knows – maybe the second picture book will be a combination of both our work. We will see!
Thank you, Amy, for sharing your story. Interested readers can pick up a copy of H Is For Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z, by Sydell Rosenberg and Sawsan Chalabi (Penny Candy Books) at your favorite local or online bookstore. Happy reading!