Time for the Bunny Finds Easter BOOK SCAVENGER HUNT (and a GIVEAWAY)!

Special Note: This post was created by my ADORABLE niece. She’s just 13 but she sure knows how to create an incredible book scavenger hunt. Enjoy her post. Take it away, Miss E!

Hello, parents! If your kids (and maybe even you!) are really enjoying Laura Sassi’s new book Bunny Finds Easter, you may want to try this BOOK SCAVENGER HUNT. To start, you can read the book to refresh your child’s memory. Then, on each spread, (after reading the words) this list will give you prompts to ask your kids so that they can enjoy the wonderful illustrations even more! 

(Remember, if your kid is getting antsy, you don’t have to use all the prompts. You can also make your own–they are open to interpretation. Each illustration can spark many conversations!)

Spread #1 (Bunny waking up and choosing clothes)

  • Do you see the butterfly? (For older kids: There are six butterflies in this book. Can you find them all?) What color is Bunny’s shirt? How many outfits do you see in Bunny’s wardrobe?

Spread #2 (Scene in the kitchen)

  • Count the hot cross buns. Can you find 3 plates? Can you find 2 spoons? What do you think is cooking in the pot on the stove?

Spread #3 (Bunny painting eggs)

  • Can you name and count the colors on Bunny’s palate? Can you count the eggs Bunny painted? (You can point out to your child that the egg Bunny is painting on the left page matches the curtains! These illustrations have many thoughtful details!)

Spread #4 (Bunny picking flowers)

  • Count the bees. (For older kids: Count the flowers Bunny has picked.) Can you spot the bird’s nest?

Spread #5 (Bunny in the town)

  • How many lily pads can you find? How many chicks? Can you spot three tadpoles? Can you find the church in the distance?

Spread #6 (Easter egg hunt)

  • (For older kids: Try to find all 30 eggs.) How many animals do you see? Can you find the church? For an extra challenge, see which animals have baskets.

Spread #7 (In the church)

  • Count the animals in the room. Which ones are wearing hats? Do you see Bunny? Can you see the cross? What do you think the cross means? 

Spread #8 (Bunny and her family)

  • Have your child point to Bunny’s mommy and then her daddy. 

Spread #9 (Happy Easter)

  • Count Bunny and her friends on the Happy Easter page. Can you find the ladybug? Can you find an animal friend with a heart on his shirt? Which animals have hats? (The list goes on and on.) Then, tell your child more about what Easter is all about!

Wow, Miss E, that was AMAZING! Readers, don’t you agree? And now in celebration of this post (and the fact that Easter is just around the corner), I’m offering a FREE copy of BUNNY FINDS EASTER to one lucky reader. Details below.

BUNNY FINDS EASTER GIVEAWAY!!! If you’d like a chance to win a copy of my newest book BUNNY FINDS EASTER (Zonderkidz, 2022) follow this blog and comment below with your favorite tip from Miss E’s book scavenger hunt. (NOTE: Must be a U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) Thank you, Zonderkidz, for providing the winning book. This giveaway ends Tuesday, April 5th at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced the next day. 

TEN Things to LOVE about Children’s Magazines

In celebration of fostering a love of reading, here at 10 things to LOVE about children’s magazines.

  1. Children’s magazines can be read in one sitting or enjoyed in bits and pieces, again and again.
  2. Children’s magazines introduce young readers to fiction, non-fiction, poetry and more, in a short, engaging format.
  3. A brand new issue arrives at your doorstep or inbox each month.  (Something my kids always looked forward to.)
  4. Children’s magazines foster good reading skills by incorporating text and image to engage young readers.
  5. Children’s magazines foster not just reading, but also writing and drawing, because most include a section where children can send in illustrations or short writing pieces. (My son had his first joke published in a children’s magazine when he was eight!)
  6. Children’s magazines can be read with your little one on your lap, all cozy and snug, or independently.
  7. Children’s magazines are a light, portable alternative to a book, when you need a quick something for those grab-n-go moments.
  8. Children’s magazines are a great “comfort” read when you and your child are sitting in the waiting room at the dentist’s or doctor’s office. (That’s where I read my first Highlights for Children when I was five or six.)
  9. Children’s magazines are wonderful for pre-readers and beginning readers because there’s so much to point to, name, predict etc. Many even include games or puzzles.
  10. They’re also wonderful mentor writing texts for older readers looking to write their own narrative fiction, poetry, how-to pieces, non-fiction reports and more.

10 Things to LOVE about Picture Books

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, here at 10 things to LOVE about picture books.

  1. Picture books can be read in one sitting.
  2. Though they can be read in just one sitting, the good ones beg to be read again and again.
  3. Picture books are a magical intertwining of text and image.
  4. Picture books can be enjoyed and treasured by all ages.
  5. Picture books area an engaging introduction to littlest ones to the joy of reading.
  6. They can be read with your little one on your lap, all cozy and snug.
  7. They’re wonderful for pre-readers because there’s so much to point to, name, predict etc.
  8. Picture books are perfect when you are the guest reader in your child’s K – 2nd grade class.
  9. They’re also wonderful for grades 3 and up (yes, even through high school) as model texts for examining story structure, voice, character development, figurative language and more.
  10. And because picture books tap into universal themes like friendship, empathy, forgiveness, perseverance and more, they can serve as the spark to heartfelt conversations about life with your kids no matter what their ages.

What do YOU love about picture books?  

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.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Five Fun Facts with Amanda Cleary Eastep about her debut TREE STREET KIDS SERIES

Today I’m delighted to have long-time editor and debut middle grade author Amanda Cleary Eastep here to share five fun facts about the first two books in her debut TREE STREE KIDS series, illustrated by Aedan Peterson, edited by Marianne Hering, and published by Moody Publishers. Here’s the official description per the publisher’s website:

The Tree Street Kids live on Cherry, Oak, Maple, and Pine, but their 1990s suburban neighborhood is more than just quiet, tree-lined streets. Jack, Ellison, Roger, and Ruthie face challenges and find adventures in every creek and cul-de-sac—as well as God’s great love in one small neighborhood.

And here’s the book trailer:

Now enjoy as she shares five fun facts about the first two books in the series. My favorite? Fact #4. I just love how Amanda, inspired by her daughter, wanted to include fun facts throughout the story and how the books’ designers figured out a creative way to do that. What great team work!

Take it away, Amanda!

Five Fun Facts about Jack vs. the Tornado and The Hunt for Fang (Tree Street Kids series)

by Amanda Cleary Eastep

1. The idea for Jack vs. the Tornado (book 1) was inspired by my childhood experience with two tornados.

The main event, although not the most frightening, happened when I was about 12. My family of four lived on five acres in the middle of an endless expanse of cornfields. Tornadoes are common in the Midwest, and we were used to the blaring warnings that would burst onto the TV screen in the middle of a favorite show. Thankfully, we had a basement to hunker down in. One night, the storms were especially bad, and a twister touched down–right on top of our barn. The small chicken coop only yards away was untouched, as was our house.

Amanda’s childhood farm after the tornado. The barn was destroyed!

2. Henrietta, Jack Finch’s pet chicken, wasn’t in the original draft of Jack vs. the Tornado.

After I submitted my “final” draft to my editor, Marianne Hering, she said, “This book needs an animal. Kids love animals.” And she was right (that’s why authors need editors!). My dad had a favorite chicken that loved to sit on his lap and be petted. So Henrietta was born! Er, hatched. After I tossed her into the mix (not the Shake ‘n Bake kind), her presence in the first chapter raised the stakes. Jack’s care for her helped develop his character and deepens the readers’ empathy for him.

Amanda as a girl with her dog. Notice the chickens in the background.

3. The Hunt for Fang (book 2) has LOTS of animals.

By book 1, Jack is settling into his new neighborhood in the suburbs. As he’s making friends, he’s also making some “enemies.” Not only does he have to deal with the neighborhood bully, Jack has to protect his new puppy and his friend’s cat from the local wildlife, an animal living in the nearby forest preserve that Jack has named Fang. The main theme of this book is stewardship of God’s creation, so there’s a fun mix of everything from frogs to dogs.

4. Both Jack vs. the Tornado and The Hunt for Fang have Fun Facts too!

I love to research, and my daughter, who has an MA in environmental biology, is always spewing interesting facts. Jack’s little sister Midge does the same thing! Ellison likes quoting Bible verses and literature, and Roger is always ready with historical background. Sooo…throughout the books I’ve included Midge’s Phenomenal Facts, Ellison’s Bookmarks, and Roger’s Riveting Histories. I didn’t want these fun facts to end up as footnotes though. Moody’s designers came up with a cool idea: each fact looks as if it’s handwritten on a notecard and “taped” onto the page.

5. Books 3 and 4 will be here in Summer 2022!

Jack vs. the Tornado and The Hunt for Fang both released on April 6, 2021. The next two books will come out together as well. Book 3 is tentatively titled Lions to the Rescue! and book 4 is a mystery (literally and literally).

AMANDA CLEARY EASTEP is not related to Beverly Cleary but wishes she were. She is, however, a children’s author, and the Tree Street Kids is her debut series (Moody Publishers, 2021 and 2022). Her children’s writing has been published in LadybugThe Friend, Sunday school curriculum, and at Story Warren. She’s contributed to Christianity Today, Think Christian, and many other print and online publications. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and she leads writing workshops at her local teen center. 

Amanda is also the senior developmental editor at Moody Publishers in Chicago, working closely with nonfiction authors to help shape Christian books in the areas of Christian living, church and ministry, and personal and spiritual growth. 

You can find her on the web at:

Website: treestreetkids.com or amandaclearyeastep.com

Twitter: AmandaICleary

Facebook: /amandaclearyeastepauthor

Instagram: book_leaves

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.

SIDEWALK SIGNING JOY at Comfort Zone in Ocean Grove, NJ

This past Saturday, I had my first in-person event since the pandemic started. The signing took place on the wide sidewalk in front of Comfort Zone, a charming gift and book store on Main Avenue in historic Ocean Grove NJ. The event was safe and successful because of the thorough planning of store owner, Steve, as well as the patience and kindness of the customers who were so thoughtful of each other and of me – waiting until there was room to peruse the books at a safe distance from each other and me, always with masks on and only after a squirt of hand sanitizer! Thank you!

Here are a few pictures to capture the special day:

The view from my side of the table with a lovely bottle of hand sanitizer – an essential part of the event. Each pair of hands was squirted upon arrival at the table.
The view from the sidewalk. Such a lovely display! Do you like my mask?
About halfway through the event, I noticed Little Owl (the sweet protagonist of LOVE IS KIND) hanging out in the window behind me. Isn’t he darling?
After the event, I was hungry! Ice-cream for lunch is considered okay at the beach, right?

I didn’t get any pictures of me with customers, but my sidewalk visit to Comfort Zone made me realize how much I’ve missed the lovely interaction at signings like this. I got to hear so many stories of loved new little ones. I met several new “Grammies” who especially loved that the grandmother in LOVE IS KIND is called “Grammy” and I got to sign many, many books to wonderful children with names like Parker, Lani, Rylie, Earl, Lila, Mica, Charlie, Nicholas, Chase, Natalia and my favorite of the day – Sweet Baby James! And to hear the love in the grownups’ voices as they spelled the names for me was so heartwarming. Restoring to the soul!

Most of the books were purchased as gifts and it’s fun to imagine them being received. I hope each provides wonderful opportunity for new and growing families to bond and share in the joy of curling up together with a book and reading!

Thank you, all, for making my day!

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!

TIME TO BAKE: FIVE tips for PAIRING PICTURE BOOKS with TASTY TREATS.

Little Owl and I want to share with you something special that illustrator Lison Chaperon created to go with our book LOVE IS KIND – a muffin recipe with adorable muffin toppers! In addition to being absolutely delicious, this LOVE IS KIND-inspired baking activity has gotten me thinking about how wonderful it is when we pair picture books with a tasty book-themed treat. 

In doing so, not only are we giving our kids the opportunity to learn some baking/cooking skills, we are helping them to connect to the story in a new and fun way.  As we nibble and chat about the book, we’re also instilling in them a framework to talk about the stories we read and an opportunity to think about how picture books relate to our lives and the world. Finally, we’re fostering good critical thinking skills as we converse with our little ones about what treat would be best paired with a particular picture book.

With all this in mind, here are FIVE TIPS for PAIRING PICTURE BOOKS with TASTY TREATS.  Enjoy!

TIP #1: Pick any picture book (Better yet, let your child pick the book.)

TIP #2: Pre-read the story so you can gather your ingredients. Once you’ve selected your picture book, take a few minutes a day or two ahead of time so that you can anticipate what types of treats you and your child might want to create to pair with the story.  This way you can be sure to have the ingredients in stock for a seamless and tasty brainstorming to baking to eating experience. 

TIP #3 As you read with your child, ponder the treat-making possibilities.It’s most beneficial (and engaging) to your budding critical thinkers if you include them in the process of deciding what book-themed treat to create, though it’s perfectly acceptable, in my opinion, to gently lead them towards the ingredients you have on hand (see step two). As you are pondering, the treat might be obvious. For example, in my third book DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, Fernando the mouse loves gumdrops, popcorn, and cheese on try toast, so those would be obvious picks. 

But…

TIP #4: Sometimes you will have to be creative!  Some picture books, however, won’t have such obvious choices. My recommendation, in these instances, is to pick a character or a defining element of the story and create a treat inspired by that.  For example, on her blog, Easy Elegant Entertaining™, trained chef and cookbook author (and mom to an adorable young budding reader) used the concept of tails in GOODNIGHT, ARK to create an adorable book-themed treat.

You can also create character-based cookies for almost any book, as my daughter did for DIVA DELORES and GOODNIGHT, ARK.

TIP #5: Have fun!  (Need I say more?)  

And if you are interested in the link to the LOVE IS KIND muffin recipe with adorable muffin toppers, here it is.  

A version of this post previously appeared on Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog with a lovely review.  You can review that here, if interested.

Happy Reading and Treating!

SCHOOL VISIT: Thank you, Hillside Avenue School!

I spent a delightful couple of hours Monday morning visiting with the K-2nd graders at Hillside Avenue School. After introducing myself and sharing a couple of the sparks (real-life things that happened to my own kids) that inspired the story, I read them LOVE IS KIND, pausing occasionally to reflect on how the text and the illustrations work together to tell the story. I also challenged them to give me a nod when we got to the parts of the story that were inspired by real-life events. (Hint: They had to do with the tooth fairy and a floating five dollar bill! If this intrigues you, you’ll just have to read the story.)

Afterwards, using sketches, galleys and more, I took them on the journey a picture book takes from inspiration to publication. And all along the way, I challenged them to think about how they, too, are writers and illustrators and how the stories we create just keep getting better and better when we take those original sparks and play and play with them through multiple rounds of revision until they sparkle. Finally, we closed with a Q&A where they impressed me with their thoughtful questions.

This event helped kick off the school’s Week of Respect, a national occasion that is celebrated in schools nationwide. And since love and kindness are two thoughtful ways one can show respect, LOVE IS KIND seemed a perfect pick.

Thank you, teachers and students for a great visit. And a special thanks to the school’s very kind librarian for arranging the visit. What a fun way to start the week!

Happy reading and writing to all!