Extension Activity, Interview, kids' activities, Picture Books, Reading

AND I THINK ABOUT YOU: Interview Plus SIX Book-Themed Activities

In celebration of the release of AND I THINK ABOUT YOU (Kids Can Press) I’m pleased to host picture book author Rosanne L. Kurstedt for an interview followed by SIX book-themed activities over at Read, Discuss, DO! I hope you will hop over for a read. Here’s the link: https://www.readdiscussdo.com/2022/09/and-i-think-about-you-interview-plus.html

Created by picture book author Rebecca J. Gomez, Read, Discuss, Do!  is a reading website designed to help children and their caregivers extend the magic of story time beyond the last page by following three simple steps:

Read a book. 

Talk about the book. 

Do a simple activity inspired by the book.

Happy reading!

Guest Blog, Reading

TAKING STOCK:  Thoughts on Kitchens and BOOKS (of course!) 

How did I ever take the leap from repainting and reorganizing my kitchen to books? And what on earth could scrubby brushes and cheese grates and colorful utensils have to do with fostering a love of reading with your children? Something, I promise. Find out in my post today over at Read, Discuss, Do!  

Created by founder and picture book author Rebecca J. Gomez, Read, Discuss, Do! exists to help you extend the magic of story time beyond the last page by following three simple steps: 

Read a book. 

Talk about the book. 

Do a simple activity inspired by the book.

And now I hope you’ll head on over to read the post. (And how do you like my newly spruced up kitchen?)

Picture Books, Reading, review

Eight Engaging BACK-TO-SCHOOL PICTURE BOOKS for Little Ones

I can smell it in the air, can you? The fragrance of dry leaves, the scent of new crayons and notebooks and sneakers. A new school year is just around the corner, or perhaps it has already started in your neck of the woods. As a kid I always looked forward a little nervously to the first day of school. Would I like my teacher, I wondered? Would I make friends? Would I understand what we were learning?

We didn’t take pictures of every little moment back when I was a kid like families do now, but here’s a favorite first day of school picture from my childhood. I think you can catch a glimpse of my nervousness in the way I’m holding that book bag and have my feet tucked so tidily side-by-side.

And what better way to soothe back-to-school jitters than with a picture book, or two, or eight! Each of these is engaging and full of back-to-school messages of hope and joy and acceptance. I give them all two thumbs ups!!! Enjoy!

LITTLE MOLE GOES TO SCHOOL, written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Sally Garland, is the sweet tale of Little Mole who is worried about all of the above (see the intro to this post) but learns we all have special roles to play and gifts to offer. (Beaming Books, 2022) *Stay tuned for an interview with Little Mole later this week!

TWO TOUGH TRUCKS, written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez and illustrated by Hilary Leung uses two big trucks as stand-ins for two kids. It is the perfect story to calm back-to-school nerves and set the wheels in motion for a terrific school year. Written by two of the best rhymers around, it’s also full of fun word play that will tickle the engines of young readers everywhere. (Orchard Books, 2019) See here for a post with activities I rounded up for the book when it first came out.

SCHOOL’S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, written by Adam Rex and illustrated by Christian Robinson, imagines what the very building itself might be feeling on the first day of school!  (Roaring Brook Press, 2016)

IT’S YOUR FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, BUSY BUS, written by Jody Jensen Shaffer and illustrated by Claire Messer, showcases the excitement and worries little ones experience as they prepare for their first day through the lens of a very special bus. (Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018) Check out five fun facts about the book from the author here.

I WALK WITH VANESSA, illustrated by Kerascoët, wordlessly tells the story of one girl who inspires a community to stand up to bullying. It makes a wonderful conversation starter for being the kind of people who connect rather than divide. (Schwartz & Wade, 2018)

AND I THINK ABOUT YOU, written by Rosanne L. Kurstedt and illustrated by the Ya-Ling Huang, poignantly captures the love and connection shared by a working mama bear and her cub. During the day, they are apart while at work and school, but they are always thinking of each other. Told with the feel of a letter (or love song) from mama to child, it is just the kind of story I would have loved to snuggle up with with my own kids when they were little. (Kids Can Press, 2022) *Stay tuned for a post with activities for this book coming soon!

BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB GOES TO SCHOOL, written by Annie Silvestro and illustrated by Tatjana Mai Wyss, is a delightful read celebrating friendship and books through the antics of Bunny and friends. (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2019)

MY KINDERGARTEN, written and illustrated by Rosemary Wells, charmingly captures the magic and wonder of kindergarten through a series of vignettes that take readers through the school year. This is a family favorite! (Disney-Hyperion, 2004)

In closing, what books would you add to my round up? Let me know in the comments below.

Note: If you enjoyed this post, please consider following my blog. I post once or twice weekly. Posts are devoted to celebrating reading, writing and life!

Library, Reading

10 Things to LOVE about LITTLE FREE LIBRARIES

I’ve been a big fan of Little Free Libraries ever since spotting my first one at the Jersey shore several years ago. These days, I make a point of looking for them both in my own community and when I’m visiting other places.  Recently, I discovered one while on a day trip and wanted to take a book, but didn’t have a book with me.  Instead, I left a special book mark which I happened to have in my purse.  I’ve done that that at other Little Free Libraries too.  I’ve also left copies of my own and others’ books!  

Lately, I’ve taken to keeping a tote bag by the front door with books to drop off (and space to stow the new treasures I find). My favorite Little Free Library finds include the books pictured below, an eclectic, but fun collection.

Now, in celebration of BOOKS old and new, here are 10 things to LOVE about LITTLE FREE LIBRARIES.

  1. Little Free Libraries are curated and managed by local people who love books.
  2. Each Little Free Library structure has a unique design.  (Yes, you can order building kits and the Little Free Library website offers building tips, but you can still paint and decorate it in a way that’s one-of-a-kind.) 
  3. The books in Little Free Libraries are FREE!
  4. Little Free Libraries are a great way to exchange books from your collection with books from other book lovers.
  5. The inventory in Little Free Libraries is always changing, which means each visit feels brand new.
  6. Little Free Libraries help ensure that books are accessible everywhere – and you don’t need a library card.
  7. Perusing the shelves in Little Free Libraries is a great way to discover new books.
  8. Little Free Libraries are open 24/7 – even during a pandemic!
  9. There is a world-wide Little Free Library website which includes maps which means you can easily find libraries wherever you are (or even make a special cross-country or transcontinental trip just for that purpose. Yes, people actually do that.) Here’s link to the map.
  10. You don’t need to return the books!  You can, of course, but the idea is to bring another in exchange. (That’s how the inventory stays fresh.)

INVITATION: If you enjoyed this post, please consider following my blog using the “follow blog” button either in the sidebar or by scrolling all the way down if are on a phone. I post twice weekly.

board books, Reading

10 Things to LOVE about BOARD BOOKS!

In celebration of fostering a love of reading in even the LITTLEST ones, here are 10 things to LOVE about BOARD BOOKS!

  1. Board books can be read in one sitting, but also enjoyed again and again.
  2. With stiff cardboard pages, board books are extra durable, perfect for the toddler age set. 
  3. They can also be wiped down if they get spit up on, or licked, or chewed, or held with sticky fingers (all of which happened in our house when the kiddos were little).
  4. Board books can be read with your little ones on your lap, all cozy and snug. 
  5. Board books foster good pre-reading and speaking skills because there’s so much to point to, name, predict etc. 
  6. Like picture books, board books are a magical intertwining of text and image (though sometimes they have no text at all!)
  7. Board books are an engaging introduction to littlest ones to the joy of reading.
  8. Board books can be enjoyed and treasured by all ages. 
  9. Board books make great baby shower gifts – especially paired with a cute stuffy or onesie.  
  10. Smaller than a picture book, board books are the perfect size to stuff in your stroller, purse, or diaper bag so you can have story time on-the-go at the park, in the car, at the restaurant etc.

Did you know that I have four board books out with the fifth releasing in October? Request them at your library or order for yourself today. They include Goodnight Ark, Goodnight Manger, Love is Kind, Bunny Finds Easter and my newest Happy Birthday Christmas Child which releases in October and is available for pre-order now.

board books, Easter, Extension Activity

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. 

Mentor Texts, Reading

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.
Picture Books, Story Time, Young Writers

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 Blog, Picture Books, Reading

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, middle grade

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