FROSTED WINDOW PANES: The Magic of Picture Books – CHRISTMAS Edition

There’s a scene in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS in which Laura and Mary spend a magical morning etching pictures in the frosted windowpanes of their little cabin using Ma’s thimble.  As a child I wanted to try that, but our windows were too well-insulated to gather frost. Imagine my delight, then, a couple of winters ago, to discover thick frost completely covering the old-fashioned windows of our detached garage. For several days back during that frosty cold spell, I was itching to take my thimble and do a little ice etching of my own.  And that’s exactly what I did one day, using my keys, instead. Doesn’t it look magical?

Like window frost begging to be etched, good picture books invoke in me a nostalgic return to childhood and a reminder of the simple joys in life.  When my children were younger, our days were enriched by reading picture books. What a treat it was to curl up together on the sofa with a stack of books. The joy we found in those books was not flashy or over the top, but simple and deep. We cheered on Mike Mulligan and Maryanne, from Virginia Lee Burton’s MIKE MULLIGAN AND HIS STEAM SHOVEL (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 1939), to dig a little faster and a little deeper, and afterwards, scurried outside do our own digging in the snow.  And Sam McBratney’s GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU (Candlewick, 2005) evoked such warmth that we held our own matches to show how much we loved each other.

If you’re feeling downtrodden by the heavy-ness of life right now, may I suggest heading straight to your child’s book shelf?  Or, better yet, with the Christmas season soon upon us, perhaps it’s time to take out that box of Christmas-themed picture books you have stored in the attic (if you are like me).  Dust them off, and put them out so all can enjoy.

That’s what our family is doing this holiday season. Each night after dinner, starting on Thanksgiving, one family member will choose a book from the box to read-aloud to the rest of us. It will be our dessert!

As we read, I am certain that it won’t take long to feel that magical nostalgia, for picture books hold within their 32-pages, a much-needed reminder that our deepest joys are found in the simple pleasures of life.

Need help getting started?  Here are a few of my Christmas favorites (old and new and in no particular order):

ANGELA AND THE BABY JESUS, written by Frank McCourt and illustrated by Raul Colon (Simon and Schuster, 2007)

MOUSE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT, written by Mindy Baker and illustrated by Dow Phumiruk (Zonderkidz, 2018)

WHO IS COMING TO OUR HOUSE, written by Joseph Slate and illlustrated by Ashley Wolff (G.P. Putnam’d Sons, 1988)

LITTLE MOLE’S CHRISTMAS, writtten by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Sally Garland (Beaming Books, 2020)

THE SWEET SMELL OF CHRISTMAS, written by Patricia Scarry and illustrated by J.P. Miller (Golden Books, 1970)

SOMETHING FOR CHRISTMAS, written and illustrated by Palmer Brown (Harper and Row, 1958)

and of course…

GOODNIGHT, MANGER, written by Laura Sassi and illustrated by the wonderful Jane Chapman (Zonderkidz, 2015)

A REAL FRIEND: An Interview with Debut Picture Book Author Jennifer Wolfthal

Join me in welcoming picture book author, Jennifer Wolfthal, whose debut picture book, A REAL FRIEND (Clavis Publishing), is out this month! Kirkus Reviews hails it as “A feel-good read about a friendship that feels real, indeed” and by School Library Journal calls it “A well-told, relatable story about friendship, fighting, and making up for children everywhere.” And here’s my reaction: Playfully illustrated by Judi Abbott and told with lovely gentle humor with a message that’s universal, this story of friendship and struggle is a winner. It would make a terrific addition to your class or home libraryAnd now for the interview with my questions in bold

Thanks so much for joining us today, Jennifer. I love your sense of imagination and ability to tell a story from an authentic-feeling kid perspective. Please tell us a little bit about your journey into the book world. How did you become a writer?

Thanks for having me, Laura! I’ve always loved writing. When I was a kid, my parents and I often wrote letters to each other when we were apart. To this day, I have bags full of letters. Whether I was writing poems, stories, or in journals, I was always most comfortable communicating through writing.

As an adult, I was thankful for the opportunity to teach fourth grade for eight years. Writing is huge in fourth grade, and it was a chance for me to share this passion with my students. It’s also when I developed a love for picture books. I started this author journey by reading lots of picture books to my own children and analyzing their structure. I also read books on the craft of writing for children, joined SCBWI, wrote many manuscripts, and revised a lot! I got critiques, endured the rejections, and ultimately got my first acceptance through Clavis about a year ago. Having your first book published in the middle of a pandemic and major election definitely has it’s difficulties, but you could also see it as a little rainbow in the storm.

Yes, a lovely rainbow! And your response is a wonderful reminder that patience and endurance are important parts of the author’s journey.

What inspired you to write A Real Friend?

There were times during my classroom years where I felt more like a referee than a teacher! 🙂 Best friend drama was always at the top of the list. It seemed like every other day kids were declaring, “you’re not my best friend anymore”. Only to be playing together the next day. Lol. When brainstorming ideas for a story, I knew this was a topic kids could relate to that I wanted to write about in a fun and imaginative way. 

Ah, yes! The best stories come from kid-tested, heart-felt moments like these. I’m glad you made note of the idea and found a fun way to turn it into a story.

What would you like readers to take away from this story?

Even though friends have their ups and downs, friendship is a gift to be treasured. And real friends – always stick together. 

Perfect!

A Real Friend is your debut picture book.  How does it feel to be “post-publication”? What do you like best about this exciting new stage? 

It feels great! There’s definitely a relief in being familiar with the process. Before this year, I didn’t know much about book publishing, creating launch teams, visiting blogs, etc. Now that I have a better understanding of the ins and outs of the publishing world, I can focus more on what I love – writing stories!

Finally, what’s the one question that you wished I’d asked but didn’t.

Fun question, Laura! Here’s one: What’s something about you not many people know? Now I feel like I should answer it. Lol. Before I married my husband, I wed – Micky Mouse! My aunt dressed me up as a bride, and we had a ceremony and all. Ha! Ha! (Don’t tell Minnie.) 

Thank you so much for joining us today and best wishes with this lovely new book.

Biography: Jennifer Wolfthal graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in elementary education. She has been a certified teacher for the past fourteen years. She is also an internationally published author. Her debut picture book, A Real Friend was published in the USA in November 2020 (Clavis Publishing). Corabelle’s Butterfly is due to be released in 2021 (Doodle and Peck). She is a member of SCBWI and enjoys developing her craft through online courses and critique partners.  

You can find her on the web at:

www.jenniferwolfthalbooks.com

www.instagram.com/jenniferwolfthal

[Note: Thank you to Clavis Publishing for an advance copy of this book that I was under no obligation to review. The views and opinions expressed on this blog about books and other things are purely my own.]

LITTLE EWE: THE STORY OF ONE LOST SHEEP – Six LOVELY Endorsements!

I was looking at the LITTLE EWE page on Amazon and was delighted to spot a new addition: six endorsements for this upcoming title. I’ve never had endorsements before and I’m very grateful. They are one tool a publisher uses to introduce a new book into the world.

And now, with the permission of Beaming Books, I’m delighted to share those endorsements here. I hope they inspire you to pre-order your copy of the book. And a big thank you to the endorsers for their thoughtful descriptions and recommendations.

“This adorable counting book incorporates the parable of the Lost Sheep and teaches little ones about the Shepherd’s love. With sweet rhyming text and colorful illustrations, parents will smile when their child says, “Read it again!” –– Crystal Bowman, bestselling author of more than 100 books for children including Our Daily Bread for Preschoolers and My Mama and Me.

“Meet Little Ewe and Shepherd in this perfectly penned rhyming, counting tale. A charming new take on an old story.”   — Glenys Nellist, author of author of over 20 children’s books including Little Mole Finds Hope and Little Mole’s Christmas Gift.

“Count along with Little Ewe as she explores the countryside in this beautiful picture book for young readers. Ignoring her shepherd, Little Ewe encounters spooky eyes and other captivating creatures. Caregivers and children alike will enjoy the reminder that when we feel lost and alone, our Shepherd’s love is always near and comforting.”  — Tina Cho, author of Rice from Heaven, My Breakfast with Jesus, and The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story

“From the engaging rhythm to the emotive illustrations, Little Ewe provides parents, teachers, and leaders with a powerful tool for sharing this seemingly simple retelling of the story of the Shepherd—and that one lost sheep. Kiddos will no doubt bounce and count along to the beat, while internalizing the unconditional love of a Shepherd who is always looking for that one mischievous little ewe.” —Amy Parker, Bestselling Author & Podcast Host

“Wrapped in lilting rhyme and inviting illustrations, Little Ewe is a delightful and poignant tale of God’s love for each one. Surrounded by a clever cast of characters and engaging numeric climb, we find our sweet Ewe in need of rescue that only the Shepherd can bring. Kids and grown-ups alike will enjoy the adventure again and again.” –– Becky Kopitzke, author of The Cranky Mom Fix and The SuperMom Myth

“Little Ewe skips away from her herd on her own counting adventure under the watchful eye of the Good Shepherd. Though her distractions lead her to a dark place where she is hungry and alone, the Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine sheep to bring her back in a ‘Shepherd’s hug.’  This parable for young readers not only teaches numbers but the healing power of reconciliation.” — Rev. Elizabeth Wilder, Lead Pastor of Gethsemane Lutheran Church & School, Maplewood, Minnesota

It won’t be long now, until “ewe” too can read LITTLE EWE because it releases in just over three months –– February 23, 2021!

Please consider PRE-ORDERING your copy today from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook.com, Indiebound.com or the vendor of your choice because pre-orders really do make a difference. If you do, let me know, and I’ll add you to my list of folks to send the pre-release link for the activity kit when it’s ready.

LITTLE MOLE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT: Six Extension Activities for 4 – 8 Year Olds (Plus a GIVEAWAY)

Today I am delighted to feature  LITTLE MOLE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT, Glenys Nellist’s charming companion to LITTLE MOLE FINDS HOPE which I featured earlier this year. Published by Beaming Books and illustrated by Sally Garland LITTLE MOLE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT is a hearfelt tale of kindness and generosity set in motion by a mushroom! It would make a lovely edition to your family’s Christmas book collection.

Enjoy the book trailer. Then, in celebration of the book’s release, and in the hope of sparking kindness this holiday season and beyond, here are SIX extension activities for LITTLE MOLE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT.

Make a book-themed decoration. Add a festive reminder to your Christmas tree that kindness is the best gift of all by challenging your child to make a mushroom ornament designed by them! I chose felt, yarn, and buttons for my ornament, but there’s no limit to the creative options. Think egg carton, construction paper, clay, paper mâché! The possibilities are endless! Have fun!

Have a kindness celebration. After reading LITTLE MOLE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT, celebrate kindness by encouraging your child to do something kind for someone in their family or class. Make cards, deliver food to a shelter, or bake cookies and deliver them to a neighbor who could use a little extra love and care.

Do a Read. Discuss. Do! Author Rebecca Gomez has created a delightful reading extension initiative called Read.Discuss.Do! Here’s one she created for LITTLE MOLE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT. To find others for a wide variety of favorite titles, search the hashtag #ReadDiscussDo on social media.

Have your child read to you! After several cozy readings of the story, let your littlest ones re-read the book to you using the pictures as clues. Reading the pictures is a great pre-reading skill because it encourages interacting with the page. So, snuggle up and enjoy being “read” to. (Older kids who can read on their own, can also enjoy investigating the illustrations ways the pictures also tell part of the story.)

Tromp through rain, or snow, or sleet. Wintry weather plays an integral role in this story and your children will delight in experiencing it first hand with some fun, exploratory walks through different weather conditions. Maybe they’ll even spot Little Mole or Little Chipmunk!

Make a tasty mushroom treat. At the end of the story Little Mole and his mama enjoy a tasty mushroom treat. Mushroom dishes are not high on a child’s want-to-eat list, but this could be an opportunity to grow their palettes with a mushroom (of the store-purchased variety only) dish. At our house, stuffed mushrooms baked with yummy cheese and breadcrumbs or crumbled sausage, for example, are a hit for ALL ages. A quick google search and you’ll find a whole host of recipes. Enjoy!

BONUS:  Check out the publisher’s website for an activity pack to accompany the story, chock full of book-themed activities.

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!! If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of LITTLE MOLE’S CHRISTMAS (Beaming Books, October 2020) simply post a comment below letting me know that you’d like to enter. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway is sponsored by Beaming Books and ends Monday, 11/9/20 at 11:59 pm EST. THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER. The WINNER is announced here.

[Note: Thank you to Beaming Books for this complimentary book that I was under no obligation to review. The views and opinions expressed on this blog about books and other things are purely my own.]

TWO TOUGH TRUCKS GET LOST: Five Book-Themed Conversation Topics with Author Rebecca J. Gomez

Today I’m delighted to have talented picture book author Rebecca J. Gomez here in celebration of her newest release TWO TOUGH TRUCKS GET LOST, co-written with Corey Rosen Schwartz, illustrated by Hilary Leung and published by Scholastic. In addition to possessing delightful story telling skills, Rebecca has a knack for creating extension activities and discussion ideas to enhance any storytime. Today she’s sharing some ideas for fostering book-themed conversation with little ones after reading her book. The extra neat thing is that these ideas can be applied to almost any book. Take it away, Rebecca!

When I was a little girl, just about to start Kindergarten, my mother walked the short route to school with me so that, when the first day of school came, I could walk there on my own with confidence. I remember walking together down our street, making a left turn, and cresting a hill. From the top of that hill, I could see my school. It was simple.

So, on the first day of Kindergarten, with both parents at work and my babysitter tending my younger siblings, I set out to school on my own with confidence! But that confidence vanished when I reached the top of the hill and there was no school in sight! Fortunately, I was able to retrace my steps and make it back home, where I cried on the front stoop until my mother returned from work.

Rebecca as a child.

It was a frightening experience that I have never repeated since, though I have had plenty of scary moments in my life. That is something we can all relate to; being lost and/or scared is a universal human experience. That’s what makes TWO TOUGH TRUCKS GET LOST such a relatable book. And that relatability opens the door for lots of good discussions.

With that in mind, I’d like to share five discussion topics to help you get the conversation going with your kiddos after reading TWO TOUGH TRUCKS GET LOST!

FIVE BOOK-THEMED CONVERSATION STARTERS


1. Start with something simple. What was your favorite party of the book? Why? 

2. Make a life connection. Talk about a time when you were lost and/or scared. How did the situation get resolved?

3. Discuss illustration choices. Why do you think the illustrator included images of spooky shadows and glowing eyes in the pictures?

4. Talk about the story’s resolution. Mack and Rig were able to find their way once they were together again. Why do you think being together made a difference?

5. Life application! What might Mack and Rig have done differently in order to avoid getting separated? What should you do if you ever get lost? 

BONUS!!!

Here are a few activity ideas to try after reading TWO TOUGH TRUCKS GET LOST:

1. Set up a track and have a race with your own toy trucks or cars Even better, set up your own version of Rugged Ride Park!

2. Draw a map of your neighborhood or a favorite playground.

3. Print and color this coloring page.

Have fun with your TWO TOUGH TRUCKS GET LOST story time!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Rebecca J. Gomez has been writing stories and poems for kids since she was five years old. She also loves to hike, draw, and play games with her husband and their three children. She also coauthored What About Moose? and Hensel and Gretel: Ninja Chicks with Corey Rosen Schwartz. She is also the author of Federico and the Wolf. She lives in Nebraska, but you can visit her at rebeccajgomez.com.

FREE Christmas Printable: GOODNIGHT, MANGER Coloring Page

NEW RESOURCE! Extend your GOODNIGHT, MANGER story time even more with this printable coloring page created by Zonderkidz.  

Use it to enrich your story time as:

  • a fun post-reading coloring activity
  • the template for a Christmas card
  • the picture prompt for a writing activity
  • the back drop for a class nativity set (with each child coloring one and assembling them quilt-style on a bulletin board behind the creche)

For an even fuller experience, use it with one or more of the GOODNIGHT, MANGER activities I’ve already compiled for you under the “Books” tab. Included there you will also find my very favorite extension idea that I use at all my preschool and church Christmas visits. Can you guess what it is? This!!!

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Five Fun Facts with Nancy I. Sanders about THE VERY OLDEST PEAR TREE

Today I’m delighted to have best-selling picture book author Nancy I. Sanders here to share five fun facts about her latest picture book release, THE VERY OLDEST PEAR TREE. Illustrated by Yasmin Imamura and published by Albert Whitman and Company, it’s just the kind of historical picture book I would have read to my students back when I was a fourth grade teacher.  Here’s the official description per the publisher’s website:

In the 1630s in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, a Puritan settler planted a pear tree—the first pear tree in America. More than a century later, the tree still bore fruit, impressing a famous poet and one of the first US presidents. The pear tree survived hurricanes, fire, and vandalism, and today, more than 350 years after it was first planted, it’s alive and strong, and clones of it grow all around the US. This is the amazing true story of the Endicott Pear tree, and how it grew up with our nation.

Now grab a pear (for it’s the season!) as she shares five fun facts about the this amazing tree and the interesting discoveries she made.  My favorite?  Fact #3. I just love how Nancy’s inquisitive mind, not only led her to write the book, but it also led to the planting of Endicott trees in two national parks where the history of the tree had been lost! Thank you, Nancy for sharing this story with the world!

Five Fun Facts about The Very Oldest Pear Tree.

Written by Nancy I. Sanders.

Art by Yasmin Imamura.

Fun Fact #1

The nonfiction picture book, The Very Oldest Pear Tree, first started out as a picture book about apple trees! I had read somewhere that the Pilgrims planted apple trees, so I thought that would make a terrific picture book. But when I started researching this topic, I discovered all the apple trees died that the Pilgrims planted. However, an article showed up in my Google search about a pear tree the Puritans planted—that is STILL ALIVE nearly 400 years later! I was hooked and wanted to tell its story.

Fun Fact #2

Family members, descendants of Governor John Endecott who planted the tree in 1632, still help take care of the tree today (along with others). William T. Endicott is the current President of the John Endicott Family Association.

Fun Fact #3

Clones of the Endicott pear tree have been planted since writing this book. In my research, I discovered that twigs were cut from the original Endicott pear tree, gifted to John Adams, and planted by the former President himself on his farm in Quincy. I contacted the Adams National Historical Park to see if these pear trees were still alive. They weren’t, and the current staff at the park had never even heard of this story. They immediately looked up the research themselves, discovered that these pear trees had been actually planted, and said they wanted to plant clones of the pear tree today! Through contact with William T. Endicott and members of the Endicott family, arrangements were made with not just one, but two national parks, to plant about a dozen Endicott Pear Trees in the spring of 2020: The Adams National Historic Park, and the Minute Man National Historic Park.

Fun Fact #4

Growing up on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania, we had two pear trees. They were in the pasture for our horse and pony. I remember climbing up a tall ladder with a basket to pick pears each summer. At that time, I didn’t know there weren’t any pear trees in America until the day the Endicott pear tree was shipped over from England. Planted in 1632, the Endicott pear tree is the very oldest pear tree in America!

Fun Fact #5

The Endicott pear tree cannot bear fruit without a second pear tree near by. So when I started asking people where this second pear tree is—nobody knows! This is a mystery just waiting to be discovered!!!! It would be fun to go on a treasure hunt in the neighborhood one day to find it. 

Thanks, Laura, for featuring my newest book here on your blog! It was so much fun, and that’s a fact!

And it was my pleasure to have you here!

Nancy I. Sanders loves to go on treasure hunts to dig up interesting facts for kids to know. Lots of times she and her husband get to take trips to research everything they want to learn about the books she is writing. They traveled to Danvers, Massachusetts, to visit the Endicott Pear Tree while writing this book. When she wrote, Jane Austen for Kids, they flew to London and walked in Jane’s footsteps all over England in the places she lived or visited. Nancy is the bestselling and award-winning children’s author of over 100 books. Visit her website to find out more at www.nancyisanders.com.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Five Fun Facts about WAITING TOGETHER with Danielle Dufayet

Today I’m delighted to invite picture book author Danielle Dufayet to my blog to give a behind-the-scenes perspective on her charming new picture book WAITING TOGETHER (Albert Whitman, September 1, 2020), written by Danielle and illustrated by Srimalie Bassani.

Here’s the official blurb from the publisher’s website: Waiting is not easy! And waiting can take a long time. Like waiting on the drip, drip, drip of rain to stop or the ding of the timer for cookies to be done baking. But there’s one thing that can make waiting go a little bit faster—a friend! A perfect read aloud, this book encourages readers to enjoy every kind of wait.

I had the opportunity to read an advance pdf of the book and I couldn’t agree more! Danielle’s newest book is charming and would make a great addition to your home or school library. And now, with out further fuss, here’s Danielle with her five fun facts. Which fact surprises/encourages you the most?

Five Fun Facts about 

WAITING TOGETHER

by Danielle Dufayet

Fun Fact #1: Waiting Together was the manuscript that landed me my dream agent, Karen Grencik, at Red Fox Literary. Another agent wanted to represent it before her, but her communication style was so inconsistent and unreliable! So glad Karen took me on!

Fun Fact #2: I had to put Waiting Together away for 4 years because two other, very well-known authors, were coming out with books about waiting. (Kevin Henkes and Antoinette Portis). One morning I woke up and said, “It’s time.”

Fun Fact #3: The idea for Waiting Together came to me in an instant after I read Deborah Underwood’s wonderful The Quiet Book. There are so many different kinds of quiet and there are so many different kinds of waits.

Fun Fact #4: I revised Waiting Together at least 30 times. I tried out a bunch of different arcs and plots until I decided to make it super simple with a morning to night arc and a heavy focus on onomatopoeia.

Fun Fact #5: I wanted the take-away to be: life is full of waiting and it’s not always easy, but always better with a friend! This was such a fun story to write!

And fun to read. Thanks, Danielle, for sharing your five fun facts! And readers, the book is available at bookstores everywhere! Enjoy!

Connect with Danielle on her platforms:
website: https://www.danielledufayetbooks.com
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/danielledufayet
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/danielledufayet
Art Website:  https://www.danielledufayet.com
Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/ddaniwriter/

BIO:

Danielle Dufayet, born in Yonkers, New York, now lives in sunny San Jose, California, where she writes children’s books and paints. She also teaches English and Public Speaking (Self-Empowerment) to grades K-12. Danielle read her first picture book (Little Raccoon and the Thing in the Pool) when she was 18 whereupon she was blown away by its simplicity, timelessness and transformative power. That’s when she knew it was her calling. Thirty five years and a Master’s Degree later, she finally made her dream come true and she’ll have TWO books out in 2019 – one about inner strength and the other about self-love/compassion. Her third book, Waiting Together, by Albert Whitman, is out September 1, 2020.

[Note: Thank you to the author for a sneak peek at the book which I was under no obligation to review. The views and opinions expressed on this blog about books and other things are purely my own.]

SUMMER ON THE PORCH STORY TIME CRAFT: Egg Carton Creatures Inspired by GOODNIGHT, MANGER

Hooray for summer mornings, good books and cozy porches – perfect for story time! With that in mind, each Tuesday throughout July I have hosted Summer Story Time on the Porch (and a Craft!) on my Facebook Author page. Today is the last one. 

This week’s story time features GOODNIGHT, MANGER. It’s bedtime in this rhyming Christmas story, but between adoring animals, itchy hay, angels’ joyful singing, and three kings bearing noisy gifts, there’s too much commotion. GOODNIGHT, MANGER humorously weaves together the comforting and familiar routines of bedtime with the special magic and wonder of the manger story. I do hope you will join me for the reading. You can get there by clicking my Facebook picture in the sidebar of this blog. 

Now for the craft:

Inspired by illustrator Jane Chapman’s colorful depictions of the animals around the manger, today’s craft is to create our own stable creatures using egg cartons, paint, glue, and any other little add-ons you have on hand. As you can see by the samples made by my young assistant, the results are ADORABLE!

Here are the steps for creating your own:

  1. Read GOODNIGHT, MANGER and marvel at all the different creatures that illustrator Jane Chapman has included in the stable.

2. Next, take an empty recycled cardboard egg carton and cut the egg holders apart. Save the lid for extra bits.  

3. Then look through the illustrations in GOODNIGHT, MANGER again. How could your child transform your egg carton pieces into animals inspired by Jane’s art?

4. Shape your creature by arranging one or more cardboard egg cups together to form a body. Cut extra pieces from the lid to make heads, ears, legs… whatever!  For extra fun, use scraps of this and that to make each stable creature unique. For example, I used feathers and my sweet young assistant used cotton balls, glitter and more! Tip:  Glue the basic shape together first and let dry completely before painting and adding your extra bits. 

Tip:  Glue the basic shape together first and let dry completely before painting and adding your extra bits. 

5. TAKE A PICTURE!  I’d love to see your children’s egg carton creations, so take a picture and send them to me so I can share the pictures on social media and my blog and we can all enjoy each other’s creativity!

The virtual story time has expired, but you can still read the book! It’s available at your favorite book seller and local library. And if they don’t have it, you can ask that it be ordered.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Five Fun Facts about DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS with Carrie Finison (and a GIVEAWAY!)

Today I’m delighted to have rhyming picture book author Carrie Finison here to share five fun facts about her debut picture book release, DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS. Illustrated by Brianne Farley and published by Putnam, it’s about a generous but increasingly put-upon bear who makes batch after batch of doughnuts for her woodland friends without saving any for herself.  Take a peek at the lovely reviews Carries’s book has received from Publishers Weekly and Youth Services Book Review, then grab a doughnut and enjoy as she shares five behind-the-scenes facts about the book’s creation.  My favorite?  Fact #1. It’s a good reminder that good writing takes time.  Happy reading, all!

Five Fun Facts about

DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS

by Carrie Finison

Fun Fact #1: Draft 89 is the one that was published.

I save a new file every day that I work on a story. That doesn’t mean every one of those drafts was significantly different – sometimes I may have only changed a line or two. But it does mean 89 separate days of work on the story – plus lots of thinking time in between. Since the book is written in rhyme, it can take a LOT of revision to change even a few words. That’s because when you revise, you have to find a way to say what you want to say in rhyme – and make sure you’re not repeating a rhyme from earlier in the story. So even a small change can involve alterations to many stanzas. It’s a fun challenge, but not easy!

Fun Fact #2: MANY doughnuts were harmed in the writing of this book.

My kids were quick to point out that every important publication milestone – acceptance, completion of the manuscript, the cover reveal, and now publication, be celebrated with doughnuts. In addition to all those doughnuts, I worked to develop a doughnut recipe that would be easy enough to make with kids (with adult stove supervision). I had hoped this would be in the back of the book but, alas, we ran out of pages! However, I’ve posted the recipe on my website and also wrote about developing the recipe on the Soaring ’20’s blog.

Fun Fact #3: All the animals in the book are hibernators – except one!

In some of the earlier versions of the story, the book ended with all the animal friends going to sleep for the winter together. I went down an Internet rabbit hole (or maybe a chipmunk den?) researching hibernators and learned a lot about the different ways animals cope with winter. The only animal in the story that does not hibernate in some way is Topsy, the opossum. Poor opossums have a hard time dealing with the cold and often get frostbitten on their bare feet and tails. I’m glad that Topsy found a warm spot in her friend LouAnn’s house!

Fun Fact #4: The characters didn’t always have names.

The animals in the book didn’t have names at first, they were just called “Bear” “Raccoon” and so on. When I decided to name the main character, LouAnn, I realized all the other characters would need names, too. It was a fun afternoon dreaming up those names! My favorite is “Mouffette” which is the French word for “skunk.” Isn’t that a pretty name?

Fun Fact #5: The cast-iron pan that LouAnn uses to cook doughnuts is verrry familiar.

When I saw Brianne Farley’s illustrations for LouAnn’s kitchen, I was thrilled to see the cast-iron pan that LouAnn cooks her doughnuts in. I have the exact same pan, which once belonged to my grandmother! So now, when I read the book, I’m reminded of my grandmother. I love that LouAnn is a bit old-fashioned at heart.

Author Bio:

Carrie Finison began her literary career at the age of seven with an idea, a box of markers, and her father’s typewriter. She has been writing off and on ever since, though she has (somewhat regretfully) traded in the typewriter for a laptop. Her debut picture book is DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS (July, 2020), and a second picture book, DON’T HUG DOUG, will follow in January, 2021. She also writes for children’s magazines including Babybug, Ladybug, High Five, and Highlights. When she’s not writing, Carrie enjoys reading mystery novels, trying new recipes, and curling up on the couch for family movie nights. She lives outside Boston with her husband, son, daughter, and two cats who permit her to write in their cozy attic office. Find her online at www.carriefinison.com or on Twitter @CarrieFinison.

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!! If you’d like a chance to win a SIGNED copy of DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS (Putnam, July 2020) simply post a comment below letting me know. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) Thank you, Carrie, for providing the winning book. This giveaway ends Thursday, 7/30/20 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced the next day! NOTE: This giveaway is now over. The winner is announced here.

Special note: If you enjoyed this post, please consider following my blog or “liking” me on my Facebook Author page, Twitter, or Instagram. I’d love the support and connection.