TAKEAWAYS from the Write2Ignite Picture Book Master Class

On Saturday, it was my joy to lead a day-long virtual Picture Book Master Class sponsored by the faith-based non-profit Write2Ignite. We opened the day with prayer and a thought-provoking devotional on listening given by organizer Jean Hall. Over the course of the day, attendees participated in three workshops led by me with follow-up break out sessions for each. At the end of the day, attendees were asked to share their biggest takeaways from the experience. And what a delight to read them this morning over on the Write2Ignite blog. And what was my biggest takeaway? Hmmm… it’s hard to pick. Here are a few:

  • There’s a sense of encouragement in gathering with other children’s authors to discuss and celebrate picture books. As many attendees noted, they ended the day (tired) but excited about taking their writing in new directions and maybe even pulling out some old stories to give them a new chance with a fresh eye. I, too, feel refreshed and ready to dig back into my writing- inspired by the energy of our day together.
  • The day re-affirmed for me what I’ve known for a long time – that the kid lit community is a wonderfully warm and supportive one. It was a delight to gather with this group – who all share a heart for writing faith-inspired stories. Thank you for having me!
  • My last takeaway is that as writers on this journey, we are always still learning. I may have been the Master Teacher for the day, but I step into this week re-energized to keep on learning and growing as a writer. That’s why this summer, I’m excited to share that I will expanding my Picture Book with P.U.N.C.H. blog series to include even more structures. I can’t wait to dig in to stacks and stacks of picture book mentor texts to unlock and discover what makes picture books shine. I hope you will join me.

And now, I hope you will grab a cup of tea and pop over to the Write2Ignite blog to see what others took away from our special day: https://write2ignite.com/2021/04/26/takeaways-from-the-master-class-on-picture-books-heres-what-you-learned-by-carol-baldwin/

LOVE IS KIND Book Jacket Workshop: Thank you, Cranford Public Library!

IMG_7963.JPGI spent a LOVELY (and fashionable) hour at the Cranford Public Library this morning sharing LOVE IS KIND at my Book Jacket Workshop for kids ages 5+. First, we read the story. Then it was time for a quick history of book jackets, using my own jackets (and impeccable sense of style ) to demonstrate how book jackets developed from plain (like my brown corduroy) dust covers, protecting the fancy book beneath, to colorful (i.e. plaid jacket) covers meant to catch a readers eye like the adorable covers to GOODNIGHT ARK and LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz) … to even fancier (like that sequined jacket and the glittery cover of DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling Publishing) )to really make a book stand out. And then it was time for them to make their own covers and they did a FANTASTIC job! I even had the pleasure of having several kids read their flap copy to me – with adorable bios! Thank you for having me, Lauren and staff, and thanks for putting so much effort and joy into your projects, kids! Here are a few pictures that capture the feel of the morning. Let’s keep spreading BOOK LOVE!

44359859_1911586282228963_1089108985056854016_o44396275_1911586188895639_5245632575820529664_o44502074_1911585715562353_3379874056311406592_oIMG_7964IMG_7966IMG_796844390759_1911586435562281_7929085639364968448_o

PICTURE BOOK CRAFT: Feathered Fan inspired by DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE!

DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERAHOUSE MOUSE

Thank you, Rebecca Gomez, for creating this fabulous feathered fan craft to go along with DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE. The activity also includes thoughtful suggestions for a “diva-themed” discussion with your child as well as ideas for using the fan to re-enact parts of the story.  You can check it out here or by clicking the image above.

A children’s author, poet, and fan of all things creative and fun, Rebecca enjoys sharing helpful tips and inspiration for readers and writers, occasional book reviews, and random musings about life.  Her picture books WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? (Atheneum, 2015) and HENSEL AND GRETEL NINJA CHICKS, (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2016).  Check out her wonderful website/blog to learn more.

I am adding the activity to the DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE extension activities tab above. Please check back periodically for more fun book-themed activities.

 

TEACHER APPROVED: SEVEN THINGS KIDS CAN LEARN FROM DIVA DELORES and the OPERA HOUSE MOUSE!

This week DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE received a LOVELY stamp of approval from longtime Colorado teacher and dear friend, Jeananne Wright.  Thank you, Jeananne!

Now, with her permission, taking excerpts from her note, here are SEVEN THINGS KIDS CAN LEARN FROM/ BE ENGAGED WITH as they read DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE:

First, the tactile gold glitter on the front and back covers are the perfect intro to the book. The kids can feel that and know that something wonderful will be found inside!

Second, kids might not know a thing about opera or classical music or even what a diva is!

Third, the story teaches how to rely on friends and how to be a good friend.

Fourth, it also portrays forgiveness, humility and perseverance.

Fifth, after reading, it will be loads of fun for kids to think of other things that go together, like carrots and peas, salt and pepper etc.  So the book doesn’t end on the last page.

After reading the story parents/teachers and kids can also discuss the cover, author, illustrator and on the back the captions, ISBN numbers etc.

Finally, after all that, they can even practice their tra la las in an operatic voice.  Or how about taking in an opera?  What fun!

Thank you for these wonderful ideas, Jeananne, and for giving DIVA DELORES your teacher stamp of approval.  =)  

Happy Reading, all!

 

IN MEMORY OF MY EIGHTH GRADE TEACHER:  Thank you, Shirley Vaux!

IMG_5668Thursday night out of the blue, while on Facebook, I was “waved” at by my ninth grade English teacher.  I’d never been “waved” at before, but it seemed fun, so I “waved” back and then she sent me a “thumbs up”.  This teacher and I reconnected on Facebook a couple of years ago when she commented on a mutual friend’s post and I decided I wanted to reach out to thank her for the profound influence she had in fostering my love of writing.  Indeed, Mrs. Rebholz was the first teacher to encourage me not to settle for the first thought that crossed my mind during discussion or when writing, but to “keep percolating” as she called it.  I’ve written a couple of posts about  the influence her challenge to “keep percolating”  has had on my writing. You can find those here and here. But I digress.

After our friendly “wave”, I decided, on impulse, to ask her if she was in contact with another special teacher from my Valley View Junior High days.  Earlier last year, I had attempted to get in contact with this teacher, but without success.  Now, here suddenly, was a new opportunity. Full of hope, I sent her this inquiry via Facebook message:

“Are you ever in touch with Shirley Vaux? She taught creative writing and I had her in eighth grade. I kept a creative journal for her in that class which I still have. I would love to reconnect with her if she remembers me.  Is she on Facebook?”

Her answer stunned me.  “Her funeral was today.  She would have loved to know your success.  Keep percolating.”

Saddened that I had waited too long to say thank you, and a little in disbelief over the sorrowful news, I quickly googled “Shirley Vaux obituary MN” and, sure enough, there it was in the Star Tribune. As I read the obituary, I marveled at what a remarkable woman Shirley Vaux was.  Not only did she teach English for years and years, but she was also (long after I graduated) the principal of my high school.  And I could tell by the obituary, that she was a beloved wife, companion, sister, mother, grandmother, and even great-grandmother.

Overcome with emotion, I decided, again on impulse, to leave a comment using the newspaper’s comment function. This is what I wrote:

“I was just tonight asking Carolyn Rebholz, who I reconnected with via Facebook, if she was in touch with Mrs. Vaux, as I wanted to reach out and thank her for the wonderful creative foundation she helped set in place for my future writing endeavors. Alas, I was just a few days too late. She was a gifted teacher and beautiful soul. I still have (and treasure) the creative journal she had us keep in her eighth grade creative writing class. Blessings to her family.”

But now, as I’ve been percolating over the whole situation, I realize I want to remember her more fully. And the way I want to honor her memory today – is by saying THANK YOU for being one of the best teachers a young, tentative writer could have!

I had the privilege of having Mrs. Shirley Vaux for a one semester creative writing class in the spring of my eighth grade year. Over the course of the semester, Mrs. Vaux opened the channels of imagination and wordplay for her students. We wrote poems, character sketches, short stories and even picture books.  But the assignment that forever shaped who I have become as a writer was her introduction of a writer’s journal. Each day for eight weeks, we were to keep a daily writer’s journal because good writers, as she explained, needed space to write freely and explore.

IMG_5659This is the journal I chose to use. Over the course of the next eight weeks, I diligently wrote in it every day. And those moments of writing were the best moments of each day. I couldn’t wait to write!  I wrote about my memories of living France. I captured snippets of conversations on the school bus. I experimented with free verse.  And each week, Mrs. Vaux, diligently and lovingly read each entry and responded!  With comments like theseIMG_5661… and these.IMG_5663

And after the eight weeks ended, I kept writing. I’m not kidding.  By the end of high school, I had filled this many journals….IMG_5664

by the end of college, this many…IMG_5665

by the end of my first eight years of teaching this many…IMG_5666

by the time my children were school age, this many…IMG_5667

and to date… this many!IMG_5668

And when I stopped teaching to raise my family, I started submitting stories and poems to magazines.  Lots and lots of magazines.. a whole thick binder of clippings worth! IMG_5669 2 And then I delved into picture books with first one… then two…then three… with one more due out at the end of next year… with hopefully more after that!

 

 

Dear Mrs. Vaux,  I am so sorry that I missed the chance to thank you for the special role you played in getting this ball rolling.  But now, I hope, that perhaps by posting this, your loved ones can know, as indeed they must already know, what a special person you were!

THANK YOU, Mrs. Vaux and rest in beautiful peace.

(Please share, if you are so moved, in the hopes that Shirley Vaux’s loved ones will know that – near and far – she is remembered fondly and with great respect.)

Sincerely,

Laura

CHAOS TO CALM: My First TV Interview!

16178745_1429697637063282_6385255460452881871_o

Last night I had my first tv interview on a Christian parenting show called Chaos to Calm with Noelle Kirchner. We chatted about books, life, and faith.

Here’s Noelle’s official description of the  episode: “Children’s book author Laura Sassi is this month’s guest on my parenting TV series, Chaos to Calm with Noelle Kirchner! The episode topic is “The Calm of Building Faith Foundations,” and Laura will weigh in on that as an author, mother, and educator. The magic that makes her stories come alive will open new avenues for sharing faith in your own home!”

If you’d like to watch the episode, here is the link.  Be sure also to enter the wonderful 10-book giveaway that Zonderkidz has authorized in conjunction with Noelle’s episode.  For details and to enter, please visit Noelle’s blog.

Going on a PATTERN Hunt (Plus a Craft): An Extension Activity for GOODNIGHT, MANGER

img_3308Teachers and Parents:  This is the second in a series I will be posting especially for you.  Over the course of the next few weeks, and in celebration of the release of the board book edition of GOODNIGHT, MANGER,  I will be posting several book-linked activities for you to enjoy with your children. 

Going on a PATTERN Hunt (Plus a Craft):

A GOODNIGHT, MANGER Extension Activity for Pre-Readers

Seeing and recognizing patterns are important skills for pre-readers. They lay the ground work for understanding words and stories. With that in mind, here are some fun pattern-related activities you and your child might enjoy after reading “Goodnight, Manger”.

Picture Patterns: Each page of “Goodnight, Manger” is full of colors and patterns. Colors alternate to form stripes.  Shapes are repeated (ex: stars, squares, dots, rectangles, milk splashes, palm fronds). As you explore Jane’s wonderful illustrations, see how many visual patterns you and your child can find. Afterwards, grab crayons and paper and make your own patterned star ornaments. (See sample below).  Or go on a pattern hunt around your house looking for fun visual patterns in curtains, plants, tiles etc.

Text Patterns: The text, too, is patterned visually. Pre-readers might enjoy examining the lay out of words. With your child, notice how the text is clumped into verses. Count how many lines are in each verse (four) and note that this is a repeating pattern throughout the story.

Sound Patterns: When you read the story aloud you’ll note that the sounds of the words form their own patterns as well. With your child, listen for sound patterns. Each verse contains rhyming words at the end of the 2nd and 4th lines (ex: fed/bed, itches/twitches). There are also words that repeat one right after the other (ex: No! No! No! and tap, tap, tap).  After exploring different sound patterns, you and your child might enjoy making a game of creating your own sound patterns using rhyme and repetition.

EXTRA FUN:   Celebrate the joy of Christmas and reinforce the fun of patterns with this simple craft.

img_33071. Cut a simple star shape from stiff paper.

2. Review different pattern options with your child – ex. stars, stripes, dots, swirls, etc.

3. Using pencil, have your child lightly outline the patterns on the ornament, using Jane Chapman’s delightful illustrations as inspiration.  Then, using markers or crayons, color it in!

4.  Tape a yarn or ribbon loop to the back. Then, hang your pretty patterned star on a door nob or on the Christmas tree.

LULLABY TO JESUS: An Extension Activity for GOODNIGHT, MANGER

img_2084

 Teachers and Parents:  This is the first in a series I will be posting especially for you.  Over the course of the next few weeks, and in celebration of the release of the board book edition of GOODNIGHT, MANGER,  I will be posting several book-linked activities for you to enjoy with your children. 

LULLABY TO JESUS:

An Extension Activity for GOODNIGHT, MANGER

When I read GOODNIGHT, MANGER at Christian preschools and churches, I wrap up our story time together by inviting the children to join me in singing a lullaby to Baby Jesus.  Step-by-step, here is what I do.  Feel free to adjust as you see fit.

REFLECT: First, I take a moment to marvel. I tell the children that this Baby we’ve just read about was like no other baby before or after because he was fully God and fully human. That means he felt everything we do.  And like all babies, he must have cried. We briefly chat about when and why babies cry and how we comfort them.

PRETEND: Second, I have the children pretend to cradle Baby Jesus in their arms. I ask them how they should hold him –  gently, lovingly, safely. Then we all pretend to coo over the Baby Jesus we are holding with phrases like “Oh, isn’t he precious!”, “Don’t cry, sweet Jesus!”, “We love you.”

REVIEW:  Next, I ask them how the characters in the story finally got Baby Jesus to sleep. (It was by joining voices and gently singing a lullaby.)  I ask if they’d like to help Baby Jesus fall asleep too. They are always eager to do this.

SING: I introduce the lullaby by singing the first verse of the famous carol “Away in a Manger”. Feel free to use any carol of your choice. “Silent Night” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” are also easy to teach/ learn. Before they sing, we review what kinds of voices we should use to sing a baby to sleep – loud or soft?  (Soft, of course.)  Then we practice singing the opening words of the carol both ways so they can feel and hear the difference.

REJOICE: Then, with joyful hearts we cradle Baby Jesus in our arms and sing our lullaby.  Our gentle voices are so sweet that Jesus, of course, falls asleep and so, very carefully, we place him in the imaginary mangers that are right in front of us.

GIVE THANKS: Before closing, I challenge the little ones to remember the sweet gift of Baby Jesus who came to  earth – God in the form a human baby – to be the savior of our world.  I note that this is why celebrate Christmas.  Then together we pray, thanking God for loving us so much that he sent his precious Son, Jesus, to earth in the form of a tiny, humble baby.

 

 

 

GOODNIGHT, MANGER Blog Tour: Stop SEVEN

IMG_0764Thank you, Katey Howes, for interviewing me on your blog today.  Join us as we chat about creating extension activities for picture books.  (Oh, and there’s a giveaway!)

PICTURE BOOK WRITERS: Activate your SUPER POWERS!

IMG_0625A week ago Friday, I spent a delightful morning talking about writing picture books with 3rd through 8th graders at a “Meet the Experts” symposium organized for our town’s gifted program. Since students in the program will be writing their own picture books, I focused my session on what makes picture books engaging.

During our time together we focused on four qualities and had a wonderful time looking for them in the sample picture books we read together.  I then challenged them to incorporate these qualities into their own writing.

I like to think of these qualities as  SUPER POWERS. That’s right, as picture book writers, we have super powers we can activate to create engaging stories.  Now, with a wave of my wand, here FOUR SUPER POWERS you might like to activate in your own writing:

The POWER of the KID-FRIENDLY PROBLEM:  Losing a favorite toy, wanting a cookie, being afraid of a storm, not wanting to take a bath. These are just a few examples of kid-friendly problems in the books we read.  A kid-friendly problems connects the reader to your story.

The POWER of PICTURES that ADD: The hallmark of picture books, of course, is that they are illustrated. But there’s more. Good picture book writers let the pictures tell part of the story. Sometimes the pictures even include important details that are not in the text. (See Mo Willem’s KNUFFLEBUNNY for a great example of this.) As you write and revise your stories, put stars next to parts of the story that could be told (or enhanced) by the illustrations.  Then consider omitting the words from the text, instead substituting a simple illustration note, but only if absolutely necessary.

The POWER of the PAGE TURN:  With only a few sentences per spread, picture books include almost constant page turns.  These built-in pauses provide authors a great opportunity to build suspense. Consider pausing an exciting moment mid-sentence as you write.  What happens next?  To find out kids will have to TURN THE PAGE! (Note: creating a book dummy during revisions is a great way to figure out how you can take advantage of page turns.)

The POWER of HUMOR:  Kids love to laugh, or at least chuckle, and so do parents. So anytime you can infuse humor into your story, via text or illustration, go for it!

Happy Writing, all!