LOVE IS KIND: Story Time in… AUSTRALIA plus 7 Tips for Virtual Readings

Last week, I was delighted to see that LOVE IS KIND was the featured story time for Australian book store chain Koorong’s new virtual story time series. Their line up has been quite impressive with books featured by the likes of Max Lucado and Rick Warren so, as you can imagine, Little Owl and I were very excited to be in the line up.

The story times, read by Petronella and her adorable companion, Charlie the monkey, are fun to watch and I really enjoyed how she read LOVE IS KIND. In fact, I thought she did such a good job that I it might be worthwhile to reflect on what exactly, in my opinion, made her reading so delightful and what we, as potential virtual story time readers, might extract and learn from her charming expertise.

Here now, inspired by this story time, are five tips for making your virtual read-aloud the best it can be:

Tip #1: Choose a reading spot that has good lighting (not overly back lit) and a pleasant, but not distracting background. Her bookshelf background was perfect, but the background can also be solid. For example, I’ve done virtual storytimes against the rich brown background of my porch shingles and also against the warm creamy yellow of my living room.

Tip #2: Keep the introduction simple and include any permissions wording required by the publisher. (Check the publisher’s website for this, as each has their own specifications.)

Tip #3: Don’t rush as you read and be sure to use lots of expression (but in a natural, not overdone way.)

Tip #4: Add even more richness by incorporating different voices for each character. You might even consider taking this to the next level, as Petronella does in her reading of LOVE IS KIND, by adding a subtle expression or action for various characters. For example, each time Rabbit spoke, Petronella snuffled and scrunched her nose (just slightly) before reading her lines.

Tip #5: Pause before each page turn to allow the readers to really immerse themselves in the illustrations.

Tip #6: At choice moments, it’s okay and even fun to infuse the story with a couple of thoughtful questions or comments. For example, Petronella pauses a couple of times to say things like, “Oh no, poor Little Owl!” or “What do you think will happen now?”

Tip #7: Have fun!

Thanks again, Koorong, for featuring LOVE IS KIND and thank you, Petronella, for reading it so delightfully. If you are in Australia, I hope you will pop in at your nearest Koorong to pick up your very own copy. And if you live here in the US or Canada, I hope you will consider getting this sweet book whose message is both timeless and very timely for someone you love from a vendor in your neck of the woods.

Happy reading, all!

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!

And here is a link to the story time!

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!

And here, in case you missed it, is the story time!

GOODNIGHT ARK Painted Rocks SHARING TIME!

This quick little post is to remind you to send me your pictures of the rock creatures you paint. I know Jane would love to see them and so would I!

Now, as promised in my story time, here is my completed ladybug painted rock, inspired by illustrator Jane Chapman’s delightful rendering in the end pages of our book GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014).

Here are the other rock creatures I painted, inspired by Jane’s art.

And if you missed the story time, it’s still available for a limited time. Here’s the link to Tuesday’s post which includes instructions for the rocks and the story time!

Happy reading and painting!

SUMMER ON THE PORCH STORYTIME CRAFT: GOODNIGHT ARK Painted Rocks

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 GOODNIGHT ARK, my rollicking, yet ultimately soothing story about Noah trying to put the animals to sleep on at the ark! 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 Jane Chapman’s delightful renderings of the animals aboard Noah’s Ark, these painted rock animals are easy to make and fun to display.

Here are the steps for creating your own:

  1. Read GOODNIGHT, ARK and marvel at all the different kinds of creatures that illustrator Jane Chapman has included the illustrations. 
  1. Have your child find an unclaimed rock.  Examine that rock together with creative eyes.  Then look through the illustrations in GOODNIGHT, ARK again. What animal could it be transformed into?
  1. Using acrylic paints (so you can display your rock outside and the paint won’t wash off in the rain),  let your child paint their rock to look like their chosen creature. Tip:  Apply paint without diluting with water.  Let one color dry before adding another.
  1. FOR EXTRA FUN: Take a picture of your child’s finished painted rock and send it to me. With your permission, and I will double check to make sure I have it, I will share the pictures on Facebook and my blog so we can all enjoy each other’s creativity!

And here’s the story time (just in case you didn’t get a chance to watch it live.

Summer Story Time on the Porch with Author Laura Sassi

Looking for something fun to do with the kiddos this summer – virtually? How about joining me on the porch every Tuesday at 10am throughout the month of July for a live reading of one of my books. Meet my storytelling companions – Stinky and Pinky, Diva Delores and Fernando, Little Owl and Rooster – and enjoy a special craft! I thought this an engaging way to add a little extra fun into what’s turning into a stay-at-home summer for many.

INTERESTED IN PURCHASING A COPY of one of my books? The books are available wherever books are sold, but if you live locally, and want to show support for an indie bookstore — The Town Bookstore if Westfield, NJ is offering 10% off any of my books (for a limited time only). Simply mention that you attended a Summer Story Time on the Porch with Laura Sassi.  If you’d like the books signed, mention that when you call and we’ll make it happen!  The phone number for The Town Book Store is (908) 233-3535. You can also email Anne, at anne@townbookstore.com

If you live long-distance and want a signed copy, you can still order from The Town Book Store, though there will be a shipping fee. Or, you can order from the vendor of your choice and let me know so we can make arrangements for a signed book plate to be sent to you.

EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO Read Aloud by Laura Sassi!

One of my JOYS over the past couple of months has been learning to read EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO (Vida Zondervan) in Spanish so that I can read it at bilingual school and library visits (all of which have now been temporarily canceled). For the first step, my ADORABLE dad, who speaks Spanish fluently, sent me little video tutorials so I could listen and then read on my own with his voice in my head. Here is a sample of one of his sweet tutorials:

The practice schedule intensified when my publisher invited me to do a Facebook Live! Story Time on their Facebook Page. I said yes, of course, but I still had a lot of practicing to do, so Dad and I began a lovely evening pattern of connecting via FaceTime at 8:45 pm so he could listen to me read through the story and then give feedback. It was extra precious because – due to Covid-19 – we’ve both been having to shelter in place – he in Virginia and me in New Jersey.

The EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO Story Time aired on April 1st (no kidding!) and it’s now on Youtube as well. I thought perhaps you might enjoy reading along with your copy (or ordering one if you don’t yet have one) as I share this story about the many ways love can be extended to others. Here it is:

MEET LITTLE EWE: My Companion for AUTHOR VISITS… STUFFY Style!

My decision to use puppets at author visits began quite by chance. Since a pair of skunks play an important role in my first book GOODNIGHT, ARK, and figuring that some of my very youngest readers might not be familiar with the species, I thought having a pair of skunk puppets would be a fun way to introduce the story.

The skunks were such a great hit, that when my second book, GOODNIGHT, MANGER, came out, I knew I wanted a new, book-specific puppet. Thankfully, without too much trouble, thanks again to Folkmanis, I found the perfect companion — Rooster!  

My third book, DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, stars a diva seal and opera-loving mouse.  And again, they are the warm-up act to my story times and, boy, are they a hit!  Delores even sings opera!  (She gets the kids to sing too… and the parents and teachers!)

My fourth book, LOVE IS KIND stars Little Owl and that puppet was made for me by the very kind director at one of the programs I visited. She said, “I can make you a puppet that looks just like Little Owl!” and then a few days later a delightful package arrived in the mail. Isn’t he darling! 

Now LITTLE EWE: THE STORY OF ONE LOST SHEEP will be coming out in November!  And I’m delighted to share that I’ve found my puppet. Actually, it’s not a puppet; it’s adorable Baby Gund stuffed lamb. I’ve named her Little Ewe, of course, and doesn’t she look like she’s just hopped off the cover of the new book – ready to share her story with children everywhere at author events!  She even plays music – which I think will make a lovely finale at preschool visits.  

Have all these adorable story companions inspired you?  If you decide to bring a puppet along to your next author visit and want a few tips for creative ways to incorporate puppets into your presentation, you might enjoy this guest post I wrote on Lauri Fortino’s blog on the topic USING PUPPETS TO ENGAGE YOUNG READERS.

And if you want to help Little Ewe make a big splash when she releases, please take a moment to pre-order your copy of the book now at your favorite online vendor – such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble or ChristianBook.com. You can also suggest the title to your local bookstore, which would be a wonderful way to help raise awareness of this upcoming title.

Back to Bedtime Routine… with GOODNIGHT, ARK and others!

 Summer is a magical time. The days are long and filled with adventure. Everything is less structured. Even bedtime routines become more relaxed. For our family that means lots of after dinner swims and strolls downtown for ice cream. And what fun it is to hang out on the front porch chatting and listening to the sounds of the night.

When my kids were little, it was even more magical because one of their favorite after dinner activities was chasing lightning bugs at twilight. Even Sophie, our pooch, would join in the fun and when the bugs landed on her black fur, she’d light up like magic in the dark! 

But as August winds down, it was (and still is) time to rein in bedtime and restore earlier, more calming bedtime routines so that everyone is rested and ready for the start of school. 

With that in mind, what FUN this morning to see GOODNIGHT, ARK included in this round up of cozy bedtime stories from Zonderkidz – perfect for sailing into fall with a cozy bedtime routine. Interested in checking out the list? I’ll make it easy for you. Press here.

SPECIAL VISIT: Little Owl Travels to Lakeside, Ohio!

This week Miss A and I (and Little Owl) made a special trip to Lakeside Chautauqua, an historic Ohio community nestled along scenic Lake Erie which is dedicated to nurturing the mind, body, and spirit. The week was refreshing and wonderful with lots of cousin time. It included daily walks along the lake, swimming, shuffle board, and hunting for fairy gardens, delicious meals, ice cream (at least once a day) and evening entertainment at the Hoover Auditorium.

But the highlight for Little Owl (and for me too!) was a special LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz) reading at God Squad, Lakeside’s amazing kids’ ministry program for 4 – 9 year olds. Hosted by God Squad’s Chip Richter with a follow-up evening book signing hosted by Bev and Joan, the lovely booksellers at the Fine Print Book Store, the event was a big hit. I hope the pictures below capture the fun we had. Thanks to all for a great time!

And God Squad is live-streamed daily so if you want to see our visit, you can! Thank you for having us, Mr. Chip and the whole God Squad team. A special thanks also to the Fine Print Book Store for providing such a nice assortment of books.