BLESSINGS upon BLESSINGS: LOVE IS KIND Brings Comfort to a Kindergartner… and the Mother’s Note Brings Joy to the Author (me!)

Last week in the comments section to a post I had shared on Facebook about Feeling Blessed by a Bouquet, a kind young mom left a thoughtful comment, which blessed my day in a extra-special way.

Here are her words, shared with her permission:

Laura, not related to this, but I just wanted to tell you how much joy your book “Love is kind” brought into my daughter’s life. Last year you came into her Kindergarten classroom for the reading and we purchased an autographed copy that day. It has become her favorite book! I cannot tell you how many times she re-read it during the lockdown and then during the months of remote learning. She really connected with it and it gave her comfort during these difficult months. Thank you!”

It’s almost like this mom was reading my mind because her message to me about the impact one of my books has had on her daughter was just what this heart needed.  In fact, I was so moved, that I responded to her Facebook comment with this:

Thank you for telling me this. You made my month! This past year has been so difficult – and especially for the kids. I’m glad to know the book provided comfort. That, I know, would make Little Owl very happy!

And then after some more thought, the next day I added this: 

I’m still so moved by your sharing this. May I have your permission to quote your kind words in post about one never knows the impact ones words/book can have and an encouragement to keep writing and speaking from the heart…I was feeling a bit in a writing slump and your comment really, as I said, made my month!

Her answer: “Of course!” 

And I so share these words today as both a reminder and an encouragement for me and for you to keep writing – or developing whatever special talents you’ve been gifted – with the knowledge that, just as surely as Little Owl helped one little girl face a difficult time in her life, your story or gift will surely also impact others in ways that, most often, we will never know. 

Happy writing and creating… and connecting!

FUN NEWS! Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse is an Iowa Goldfinch Award Nominee!

The nominees for the 2021-2022 Iowa Goldfinch Award, which is given annually by the Iowa Association of School Librarians, have been selected and DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE made the list! For the complete round up of nominees plus links to the book trailers for each click here

According to the official description, the four-fold purpose of the Iowa Goldfinch Award is to:

To encourage children to read more and better books.

To discriminate in choosing worthwhile books.

To provide an avenue for positive dialogue between teacher, parent, and children about books and authors.

To give recognition to those who write books for children.

The Goldfinch Award is special because it offers school kids an opportunity to choose the winning book and to suggest books for the yearly reading list.

Delores and Fernando are delighted to be included and can’t wait to have their story shared and talked about by Iowa school kids!

If you live in Iowa, please ask your library, school or bookstore to provide books and voting materials etc. for this award. What a neat chance to be a part of celebrating reading in this special way!

And now, just for fun, here is the book trailer for DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE. Enjoy!

Free Printable LOVE IS KIND and EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO Matching Game!

Are you a parent, teacher, or librarian, looking for a fun way to extend bilingual story time using LOVE IS KIND and its adorable Spanish version EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO?  Then this easy craft/game is just for you!  It’s primary purpose is to be a matching game, but you can also use the cards as stand-ins for puppets so your little ones can retell the story in Spanish or English, or both, in their own sweet words.  

LOVE IS KIND and EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO Matching Game

MAKE:

  1. Print out the English and Spanish versions of the cards.
  2. Color in the picture squares.  Then cut out.
  3. Glue the picture squares onto construction paper squares.

PLAY: 

  1. Place the cards face down. Take turns turning over two at a time.
  2. Name the pictures in Spanish and English. If they are a match keep them. If not, place back face down.
  3. Take turns until all the cards have been matched. Player with most cards wins.

FREE PRINTABLE GAME CARDS:

FIVE Traits That Make PICTURE BOOKS Perennial Favorites

Summer time reminds me that I LOVE perennials, those wonderful plants that bloom in my garden, season after season, where they are enjoyed by all, again and again. My favorites include my butterfly bush, the daisies, the echinacea, and black-eyed susans.

The joy of seeing my perennials bloom more gloriously than ever has gotten me thinking about how picture books – the good ones – are like perennials too, enjoyed by generations of kids and caregivers. So, what makes a picture book a perennial favorite?

I’m sure I’m just scratching the surface, but here are FIVE characteristics that I think elevate a picture book to perennial status.  What would you add? 

NOTE: This is my first time doing a post like this. What do you think? For comparison, see a previous version I posted in the summer of 2019: https://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/2019/07/03/picture-books-what-makes-a-perennial-favorite/

SPECIAL VISIT: Little Ewe Travels to Lexington, Virginia

Last week Miss A and I (and Little Ewe and Little Owl too!) made a special trip to Lexington, Virginia, a quaint historic town nestled in the lovely Shenandoah Valley. The week was refreshing and wonderful and extra special because it was our first in-person visit with my dad since before Covid.

 How wonderful it was to be together again and we made the most of it. Our visit included daily early morning walks (for me) downtown to the Lexington Coffee Shop, a special do-together sewing project for my daughter and my dad’s wonderful Dianne, delicious meals, ice cream, and even a trip to Animal Safari Park in nearby Natural Bridge.  And, of course, chatting and catching up throughout it all. And hugs. There were lots of hugs.

But the highlight for Little Ewe (and Little Owl too!) was a special LITTLE EWE (Beaming Books, 2021) and LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018) book signing at the Sugar Maple Trading Company on Main Street. Owner Cindy Hughes and her husband Jeff and their daughters were delightful hosts.

During the signing, we had a steady stream of customers who were eager to purchase signed books, including several who were in town from Indiana for a wedding. One of those was a young teacher, who just completed her first year teaching second grade at a rural Indiana school. (And I might do a virtual author visit with her class next year. I hope so!)

Others were parents and grandparents interested in books for their little ones. One was a fellow author who I had met back in November 2019 when I gave a talk at Kendal in Lexington. It was lovely to see her again as well. 

Best of all, my dad, was there beside me, chatting and being his charming self.  He also very kindly acted as chauffeur so that several residents in his retirement community who no longer drive, could come down for the signing.  I felt so blessed!  

Then on Sunday, I was invited to read LITTLE EWE for the children’s portion of the service at Lexington Presbyterian Church.  What a special way to spend our last day in Lexington.

After church, I connected with this lovely woman who at the signing had told me that she was going to give LITTLE EWE as a gift along with a sweater with little lambs on it that she was knitting for one of her grandchildren. I said I would love to see it, so we arranged a time to do just that!  It was a joyful moment for both of us, I think, and a wonderful reminder of one of my favorite things about being a picture book author— connecting with others! 

I look forward to returning in the fall. Thank you, Lexington, for making Miss A and me feel so welcome! And, thank you, Dad, for being not only a great dad, but also the best “southern book rep” an author could hope for!

To close, here’s a fun Instagram Reel we made to promote the event beforehand. Such fun!

Five Fun Facts about WOOF! THE TRUTH ABOUT DOGS with Author Annette Whipple

Today I’m delighted to have children’s author and animal lover Annette Whipple here to share five fun facts about her newest book WOOF! THE TRUTH ABOUT DOGS published by Reycraft Books. Here’s the official teaser from the publisher’s website:

How do dogs communicate? Why do dogs sniff butts? Are dogs just tame wolves? These and other questions are answered by the author, along with some extra information provided by the dogs themselves in this second book in THE TRUTH ABOUT series.

As a former teacher and parent, I give this book hearty “woof” for interest and appeal. Annette has done her research well and managed to pack the book full of fascinating facts about dogs.The accompanying photographs are engaging and the layout is appealing to both kids and grown ups. And now Annette has agreed to be my guest today sharing fun tidbits about the book. Enjoy!

Fun Fact #1

Woof! The Truth About Dogs is the second book in The Truth About animal series. The first book, Whooo Knew, featured owls. Dogs were a natural choice for the second book. With so many photographs included in the books, I knew pooches would make readers smile. I knew I’d learn a lot while researching and writing—and I did! Did you know some puppies are born with green fur? I didn’t! (The color changes over time.) 

Fun Fact #2

Dogs talk with barks and growls, but they also communicate with their bodies! Watch their tails, ears, and even lips for more canine communication.  

Fun Fact #3

Puppies are born with closed eyes because they only have the chance to develop for two months within their mothers. After a couple of weeks their eyes open and their hearing develops. That’s when they get more active, too!

Fun Fact #4

Dogs sniff butts to learn more about other pooches. With one big whiff they can even tell the mood of their new canine companion. (Of course, they learn a lot about you when they smell you, too!) 

Fun Fact # 5

I don’t have a pet dog now, but my first dog was named Dog. He was a wonderful Lab/golden retriever mix. I have many fond memories with him, including dancing together to my dad’s 45s (before CDs were available). 

Thanks so much for letting me share about Woof! The Truth About Dogs with these five fun facts. The book includes even more facts and science about our furry friends. A big bonus: The hardcovers of this series include posters that kids love. Laura, maybe I can return to share more facts for my upcoming books in the series featuring spiders, frogs, and cats because FACTS ARE FUN! As you might imagine, my recent research fascinates me.

About the Author:

Annette Whipple celebrates curiosity and inspires a sense of wonder while exciting readers about science and history. She’s the author of ten fact-filled children’s books including The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide (Chicago Review Press) and The Truth About series (Reycraft Books) including Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls and Scurry! The Truth About Spiders. Get to know Annette and explore her resources for writers at www.AnnetteWhipple.com

[Note: Thank you to the author for the opportunity to preview the book with a digital ARC 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.]

GUEST POST: Five MORE Tips to Foster a Love of Reading in Little Ones with Picture Book Author MINDY BAKER

On Monday I shared 10 Tips to Foster a Love of Reading in Little Ones. At the end of the post, I invited readers to share other ideas. Picture book author Mindy Baker responded on Instagram with such thoughtful additions that I asked her if she’d be willing to share them with you all today. She said yes! Mindy Baker is an educator (who really knows her stuff!) as well as the author of one of my favorite Christmas picture books, MOUSE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT (Zonderkidz, 2018) about a mouse whose small act of faith on Christmas Eve sparks a chain reaction of hope and love, demonstrating that even the smallest creature can make a big difference. Now, without further fuss, enjoy FIVE more tips to foster a love of reading in little ones. And afterwards be sure to check out and sign up for Mindy’s new mini-magazine. (See link at end.)

FIVE MORE TIPS TO FOSTER A LOVE OF READING IN LITTLE ONES

by Mindy Baker

  1. Make sure to have a kid-sized bookshelf or reading area where books are in reach and accessible. 
  2. Change the themes of the books kept in your reading area periodically to keep it interesting.
  3. As you read, ask questions to engage your little one.
    • I wonder what will happen next in the story? 
    • I wonder what the main character is thinking?
    • How do you think the main character feels? 
    • Can you find the _____?  (Ask about something in the illustrations)
    • Point to the ______? (Name something that the child could point to)
    • What color is the ______? (Name an item in the illustrations)
  4. Don’t force your child to sit through a long book they don’t have the attention span for…remember, you don’t have to finish every page of every book!
  5. Use a silly character voice and make sound effects as your read…the sillier the better! 

Author Bio

Mindy Baker, author of Mouse’s Christmas Gift, Zonderkidz 2018, resides in Indiana with her family where she is a high school Spanish teacher. She is a contributor for the new Read, Discuss, Do! website www.readdiscussdo.com as well as the website www.christianchildrensauthors.com. Through her writing, she hopes to plant seeds of truth in the hearts of her readers. Her goal is to help you connect with the kids in your life through books and quality time. You can connect with Mindy at www.mindybakerbooks.com.

Instagram: @mindybakerbooks https://www.instagram.com/mindybakerbooks/

Facebook: @mindybakerbooks  https://www.facebook.com/mindybakerbooks

Twitter: @mindybakerbooks https://twitter.com/MindyBakerBooks

Pinterest: @mindybakerbooks https://www.pinterest.com/mindybakerbooks/_saved/

Special offer!

Mindy has a new mini-magazine that offers book reviews, book activities, and links to play ideas. Opt in by going to the homepage of her website and signing up or by clicking on this link.

10 TIPS to Foster a LOVE of READING in LITTLE ONES

  1. Make bedtime storytime a nightly ritual.  I can think of no better way to associate reading with cozy comfort and love than to snuggle up and read with your child at bedtime. It was a nightly ritual/tradition at our house with at least three picture books read each night. As the kids got older and started reading on their own, bedtime reading continued to be a favorite tradition and my son even requested a special reading flashlight because he loved it so much (and so he wouldn’t keep his little sister awake as she drifted off to dreamland in the lower bunk).

2. Have a sunrise storytime. Both my kids loved this when they were little. Since I was up early too with my tea, when they came down for that first morning hug, we often kicked off the day by reading a picture book or two together before they wandered into the back room to play. My son’s favorite sunrise storytime books were the DK Eyewitness books. We both learned so much! My daughter preferred books about fairies and mermaids.

  1. Celebrate reading as a treat rather than a chore. If you treat reading and books as something special and wondrous – your littles will grow up with that mindset as well. This means avoiding the urge to set the timer or enforcing that they read a certain number of books each day. Instead, make reading time a special time to be treasured each day. 
  1. Let your kiddos catch you reading… and have books nearby (that interest them) so they can imitate you. Kids follow our lead – humbling but true. I’m certain one reason I’m a life-long reader is that as I child I saw my parents reading. This concept is so close to my heart that I wrote a whole post about it: https://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/do-your-children-ever-catch-you-reading/
  1. Take a weekly trip to the library. I wrote a whole post about this too: https://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/2016/01/18/ten-tips-to-encourage-little-ones-to-become-library-lovers-for-life/
  1. Bring along a bag of picture books for long car rides as a form of old-fashioned or, as I prefer to call it, timeless entertainment.  These days, with all of our devices, it’s so automatic to let your kids mindlessly and endlessly plug into their favorite entertainment programs. May I suggest, instead, opening books and reading on the road?  Even if they can’t read on their own yet, they can “read” the story aloud in their own words.  Audio books that pair with picture books are another option. When they grow up, if they are at all like my kids, they will fondly remember the books they read on the road. Reading will become part of the trip!
  1. Participate in a summer reading challenge. My favorite is the Read, Discuss, Do Summer Challenge because it’s all about having fun reading, rather than about keeping track of hours etc. Some kids thrive on that, I’m sure, but for my kids, keeping track felt very much like school and my goal over the summer was to show them that reading was fun (and a treat in and of itself – hence tip #3).
  1. Go on a picture book picnic. This is as easy including a picture book (or several) when you pack a summer lunch to take anywhere. When the kids get hungry, unfurl the picnic blanket, feast on yummy sandwiches and have an impromptu outdoor storytime.

9. Host a weekly neighborhood story time on your porch (or backyard or wherever). Have your kids help you pick two or three books to read each week, then spread out a cozy quilt and invite the neighbor kids over for stories. Add lemonade, cookies and a craft and you’ll be the hit of the neighborhood! 

10. Go on a hunt for your local Little Free Libraries. Stop and read a selection from each one. For extra fun, have each child bring along a book to donate and let them pick one to bring home. (I love doing this too!)

Celebrate NATIONAL SKUNK DAY with GOODNIGHT ARK (and a QUIZ!)

Did you know that in addition to being Flag Day, June 14th is also National Skunk Day?! And since a pair of the little stinkers play an important role in GOODNIGHT, ARK, I’ve grown especially fond of the species.

So now, in celebration of skunks, not just once a year, but every day, here’s a fun quiz to test your skunk expertise.

1. TRUE or FALSE:  All skunks have black and white stripes.

2.TRUE or FALSE: A batch of baby skunks is called a litter.

3. TRUE or FALSE: Spraying that stinky mist is a skunk’s first defense mechanism.

4. Which of the following predators are IMMUNE to the skunk’s stinky spray?

A. foxes         B. coyotes             C. great horned owls       D.badgers

5. TRUE or FALSE: Bathing in tomato juice is the best remedy for “de-skunking”.

ANSWERS: (Skunk’s honor: no peeking until after the quiz.)

1. FALSE: All skunks are black and white which acts as a warning for predators to keep away. The specific fur patterning, however, varies.  Different types of skunks have different black and white patterns including stripes, spots, and swirls.

2. TRUE: Skunk babies are born in the spring. Mother skunks typically give birth to between two and ten babies per year.  The babies follow their mother around until late summer when they are ready to be on their own.

3. FALSE: Lifting the tail and spraying is a skunk’s LAST line of defense. Before resorting to spraying, skunks give several warning signs including growling, stomping feet and, finally, raising  tails and hind legs while stomping. These advanced warning signals give predators time to back-off without getting sprayed.

4. C. Great Horned Owls, and most larger birds of prey, are immune to the skunk’s stinky spray.

5. FALSE: Actually, according the Humane Society plain old tomato juice isn’t all that effective because it lacks the acidity necessary to neutralize the chemicals in the stinky spray.  Adding vinegar helps somewhat, but the best way to  “de-skunk”, according the Humane Society, is to make your own odor neutralizing home remedy.  For more on that, visit this helpful post from Humane Society.

To learn more about skunks check out these great resources from National Geographic, the University of Michigan and the Humane Society.

VIRTUAL STORY TIME: Little Owl visits OKLAHOMA!

In the totally FUN department, about a month ago my lovely publicist at Zonderkidz alerted me that Love Is Kind, Little Ewe and Goodnight Manger had all made the Oklahoma Bestsellers list. Here’s proof:

Seizing the moment, I asked my publicist if one of the indie bookstores that tally this list might be interested in having me for a virtual story time. She kindly reached out to Best of Books in Edmond, OK to ask and the answer was…. YES!

The story time took place yesterday at 1pm central. Since I’m all about natural lighting and Little Owl is all about staying cool, we picked this lovely spot by our front corner window and close to an air conditioning vent as our storytelling spot.

What was extra special about this reading, besides the fabulous lighting =), was that after the reading I got to share some neat behind-the-scenes artifacts PLUS I read excerpts from two different translations. So if you want to hear me read a snippet in Spanish and French and learn how to say “Love is kind” and “Little Owl” in those languages, here’s your chance.

I’m sharing the story time below in the hopes that you and your littles might use it for your own story time this summer. See if you can get of the book ahead of time from your favorite store or your local library. And if your local library doesn’t have it, please recommend it for purchase.

After the storytime, extend the experience with one of these extension activities or pick your own. Have fun! And if you really want to bring joy to a certain Little Owl, post a picture of your project on your favorite social outlet and tag us! We LOVE seeing kid-created book-themed art. =) NOTE: If you prefer not to click this embedded link, you can also go directly to the Best Of Books Facebook page and search their videos for this story time.