FALL 2021 Book Events with LAURA SASSI

SAVE THE DATES. I haven’t been able to share an upcoming book events post like this since 2019! But I’ve got lots of events planned for Fall 2021 and I hope you’ll be able to join me at one or more of them. More are in the works, as well, so stay tuned for those. (And if you are a school, church, mom’s group, library, or daycare, I’m booking for those now as well. Learn more in the “Author Visits and Speaking Engagements” tab. And now… the line up!

COMMUNITY LOVE: Celebrating a Little Free Library DIVA style!

During the lockdown, when schools were remote and the library was only open for grab -’n – go, a family on Burchfield Avenue here in my hometown came up with a special plan to bring joy to their neighbors through books. They built and established a Little Free Library known as Suzanne’s Little Free Library. 

I first noticed this library on my walks last fall. What a lovely one it is, sturdily constructed by all members of the family and colorfully painted with some of their favorite children’s book characters. Aren’t Babar and Celeste joyfully rendered! And just look at that cedar shingled roof. Wow!

 Behind those inviting glass doors, throughout the pandemic, passers-by have been able to explore a thoughtfully curated selection of books for kids and grown ups alike. What a blessing it was during those long months — not just for me, but for the whole community —  to be able to open those Little Free Library doors and actually peruse and touch books!

Suzanne’s Little Free Library was actually one of the stops on Little Owl’s Kindness campaign, in which I left a copy of LOVE IS KIND in five area Little Free Libraries, if you remember that from last fall.

Imagine my delight, then, to discover through Instagram, that Suzanne and her family were planning a One Year Birthday Celebration for their library. What a darling idea! Taking a leap, I messaged Suzanne to see if she’d be interested in having a local author (me) be part of the fun with a special story time. She said yes, and I’m so glad she did.

The party was amazing with coloring pages and crafts for the kids and creative book-themed snacks like these delicious book worms. And there were books, of course. Oodles of books.

The attendees were friendly and book-loving. I loved every part of the party – from chatting to snacking to story time.

Of all my picture book characters, Diva Delores is the one who most relishes a party, so I decided to read DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE for the story time. As you can see, Delores and I are very expressive when we read!  

I enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of this special afternoon. And what did Diva Delores most enjoy? She loved playing a starring role in helping an adorable three-year old attendee overcome his fear of stuffed animals.

Delores also enjoyed snapping this very glam picture of us donating a copy of the book to Suzanne’s Little Free Library. Thank you, Suzanne and team for having us! And thank you for being a shining example of community kindness and positivity.

Join Me for BILINGUAL STORY TIME at the Kenilworth Public Library!

I’m so excited for this event which was originally scheduled for May 2020 but had be canceled because of a certain pesky virus. A special bilingual craft will follow. I’m still working on it, so I can’t show it to you, but it will be muy fácil y muy divertido (that’s very easy and very fun)!

Here’s the official blurb and, please note, registration is required. Thank you for having me as your guest, Kenilworth Public Library Can’t wait!

Join author Laura Sassi for a special bilingual story time at the Kenilworth Public Library as she shares EL AMOR ES BONDADASO, the Spanish version of her picture book LOVE IS KIND about Pequeño Búho (Little Owl) who wants to get his Abuelita (Grammy) chocolates but his efforts get thwarted every step of the way. Published by Zonderkidz and Vida Editorial and illustrated by Lison Chaperon, this charming and heartfelt journey celebrates the many forms that love and happiness can take. Craft to follow. Registration required by phone or in person at children’s desk:(908) 276-2451. Books will be available for purchase and signing. (Registration opens July 1st for Kenilworth residents/ July 6th for non-residents.) 

VIRTUAL STORY TIME: Little Owl visits OKLAHOMA!

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIVE Simple Steps for Using Faith-Based PICTURE BOOKS to Point Little Ones to God

At my school visits this spring, both virtual and in-person, I’ve noticed that little ones quickly pick up on several things when we LITTLE EWE together. First, they immediately identify with Little Ewe, the sweet protagonist, who is so keen to explore the world around her, despite the Shepherd’s call. Second, they are very sad when Little Ewe gets lost and overjoyed when she is found again. This concept of being lost and then found is a big deal in their life experience and something almost all can relate to. Finally, almost intuitively, they seem to understand the book is somehow “about God.”


All this reminds me what a precious opportunity we have, as our children’s shepherds, to point them to Jesus and God using picture books, such as LITTLE EWE, as the conversation spark. With that in mind, here are five simple steps for using faith-based picture books to point little ones to Jesus and God.

 
Step # 1: Think ahead of time what faith principles are best drawn from the picture book at hand. With LITTLE EWE, for example, you could talk about God’s faithful care of us or how He wants to find us when we are spiritually lost. 


Step #2: Read the story with the goal to enjoy it! The faith message you want to instill will come later, but you to don’t want to make it so heavy-handed that the pure joy of reading the story is lost.  So, for example, as you read LITTLE EWE, enjoy counting along as she explores her world. Pause along the way to explore the illustrations and ponder together how Little Ewe might be feeling as she gets further and further from Shepherd.

 
Step #3: Connect the story to their world. This step is intertwined with the one above.  Both as you read the story and after as you ponder it, ask your little ones questions that will connect them to the story. For example, with LITTLE EWE, you might ask, “Have you ever been lost?”  “How did it feel to be found?”  “Who are the shepherds in your life?”  Trust me, these will generate lots of great discussion.


Step #4: Move from the concrete to the spiritual with a simple question or two.  This is when you will draw on your goal that you set in step one. The questions will vary, of course, depending on the book you have read together.  For LITTLE EWE, your questions could be, “Who do you think is the greatest shepherd of all?”  and “Why do you think Jesus wants to find us when we are lost?”  “What do we have to do?”  (Listen to His call and obey!)  “Why?”  (Because He loves us!)


Step #5: Wrap up your special story time in prayer, thanking God for stories like, LITTLE EWE, or whatever book you are reading, that remind us about God’s love for us.  This is a sweet opportunity both to model prayer with your child and also to let them add to the prayer in their words.  

NOTE: This post first appeared as a guest post over at Christian author and speaker, Sally Matheny’s blog. Here’s the link. You might also enjoy her other inspiring posts and reviews.

LITTLE EWE Book Launch Party Craft: MAKE YOUR OWN FLUFFY LITTLE EWE!

All my book launch parties up until now have been in-person, but this year is different! This year I’m having a virtual party, but one that I hope will feel just as fun as the in-person version. To give it that “in-person” feel, I’m keeping all the elements of an in-person party including a story time (of course!), games, a snack (virtual of course) and a craft!

I’ll explain about the snack as we get closer, but I wanted to share the craft today so you can be sure to have all the items on hand for the party. The materials are easy to gather and if you are local, it’ll be extra easy because I’m putting together party craft kits which you can pick up at The Town Book Store in Westfield, NJ starting later this week.

Now for the craft:

PARTY TIME CRAFT: MAKE YOUR OWN FLUFFY LITTLE EWE! 

Inspired by illustrator Tommy Doyle’s sweet rendering of Little Ewe with a red kerchief, our launch party craft will be to create our own Little Ewes. 

To make one, each child will need:

  • a cut out of lamb body (approx 2.5” x 1.5”) from card stock with three holes punched for legs and bow (as shown) 
  • two cotton balls
  • two six inch-long chenille sticks
  • a piece of yarn or ribbon (about 8 inches)
  • markers and glue. 

Here are the steps:

Begin by coloring in Little Ewe’s face on the cardboard body. Be sure to color in both sides.

Next, have each child thread the yarn through the hole at the top and tie into a bow. This will be Little Ewe’s “kerchief”.

Next, fold each 6” chenille stick in half and gently twist together to create sturdy legs, as shown.

Let each child thread a twisted strand through the front leg hole. Stop half way, then bend in half and twist (like you would a twist-tie) to secure in place.  Adjust the ends to form two short legs. Repeat for back leg hole.

Stretch and fluff the cotton balls. Then, using fingers or toothpicks, apply tacky glue to the front and back of the little lamb body and press. Let dry.

Baa-ahh! Your fluffy Little Ewe is finished and ready for a game of “Oh,where is Little Ewe?” (Rules for that can be found in the activity kit.

As a closing reminder, this is the adorable craft that I’ll be presenting at the Little Ewe Book Launch Party which will take place LIVE on my Author Facebook Page on Thursday, February 25th at 7pm eastern.  Here’s the event link for that or you can just “like” my Facebook author page and then you’ll be sure to get all the updates for this and other bookish things.  

CHRISTMAS SEASON Offer: GOODNIGHT MANGER Story Time with the AUTHOR!

‘Tis the season for… CHRISTMAS STORY TIME WITH THE AUTHOR!!!! One of my favorite parts of Christmas is making GOODNIGHT, MANGER author visits at local preschools and churches, but with this pandemic and all, I’m missing my usual busy line-up! That has given me a wonderful idea.

From now through Christmas, I am offering free 15-minute GOODNIGHT, MANGER author visits to TEN special groups – ideal for preschools, church ministries, homeschool coops and more. These can be in–person or VIRTUAL which means I can visit near or far!

If you are interested, reach out to me via the contact tab in the About section.

IMPORTANT DETAILS:

For each FREE 15-minute GOODNIGHT, MANGER visit I will:

  • I introduce the story with the help of Rooster, my puppet. 
  • I engage the children in an interactive reading.
  • Ponder together who the real give of Christmas is — Jesus! 
  • Close by singing a lullaby to Baby Jesus.  

BONUS: Here’s a coloring page plus a whole host of follow-up activities to extend the fun after reading the book together.

REQUEST:  The visit is free, but I respectfully request that you purchase a copy the book for your class library and let families know that they can purchase copies as well. I do not sell my own books, but they are available through the major online vendors as well as your favorite local indie book stores. To help spread word to families, I can provide an order form for schools/groups to collect and order as a group from the vendor of your choosing. Or you can simply let families know that they can purchase books on their own by providing a link to the local or online vendor of your choice. Either way, be sure keep a list of first names for book inscriptions and, as a thank you, I will provide a signed and personalized book plate for each book purchased!

I look forward to spreading Christmas joy in this special way. 

This offer is good through January 1, 2021.

Joy to you!

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!

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.

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!