Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Book Review: Happy Birthday Winter by Justin Ogden and David Condry

Happy Birthday Winter

Words by Justin Ogden

Pictures by David Condry

Justin Ogden & David Condry, 2020

I was recently gifted a copy of Happy Birthday Winter from Sylvia Liu, Elaine Kiely Kearns, and KidLit411 at http://www.kidlit411.com/2020/12/the-weekly-411-121120.html. Thank you!

Have you ever imagined having a birthday party for Winter? This delightful picture book shares the story of a young girl and her father who celebrate a very special day with Winter-the very first snowfall of the year. This easy read is just what young children need as they prepare to enjoy winter snow.

Why I Liked This Book:

~ snow and winter!

~ simple text sharing the story of a special day between a daddy and daughter

~ beautiful, colorful illustrations that make me want to join the party!

~ winter activities are highlighted as the characters enjoy the birthday party

~ easy to hold size for young hands

~ fascinating “snowflake” backmatter

~ the evident love of nature and the outdoors seen in the book

Thank you, Justin and David!

Blurb from KidLit411:

About the Book:  Happy Birthday Winter aims to bring joy and curiosity to the changing of the seasons. As the world in which the characters live changes from Fall to Winter, the characters embark on a journey to continue a tradition of celebration to welcome the Winter Season. 

Read more about Happy Birthday Winter at https://happybdaywinter.wixsite.com/happybdaywinter


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Book Review: One Little Child by Joye Smith

One Little Child

Written by Joye Smith

Illustrated by Gayle West

Woman’s Missionary Union, SBC; 2019

I was delighted to receive a copy of One Little Child. Thank you, Joye Smith and Woman’s Missionary Union!

Written by Joye Smith, preschool consultant and Preschool Resource Team Leader for Woman’s Missionary Union, this lovely picture book shares ways even the smallest child can help others around the world. Gayle West filled the pages with wonderful full-spread illustrations featuring preschoolers, families, and people in need of some of the most basic necessities. I love the combination of text and illustrations that share the stories and inspire readers to get involved in helping others.

Clothing, housing, food, access to medical care, clean drinking water, and protection from weather are just a few of the needs and situations preschoolers read about in One Little Child. While the subject matter is serious, the delicate handling of tough issues provides hope and strategies for young readers to care, pray, and help in their own way. This book is well-written using words and emotions perfect for the preschool audience and their families.

Back Cover Blurb:

Through images of children from around the world, One Little Child encourages preschoolers’ care for others and teaches that they have a place in helping others as part of God’s plan.

Read more about One Little Child at https://www.wmustore.com/one-little-child.


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The Things We Do for Cats

Eh-hem. Cats. Once you have one, I mean a cat has decided you are worthy of serving its needs, you will realize the lengths one goes to to make sure said cat is happy and has all her Highness requires.

Cat patio? Check. Multiple concrete cat patios? Why, yes. Strategically placed throughout garden areas, including under the RV deck, where, incidentally, the Great Hunter loves to gnosh on freshly caught mice and voles. And birds. One never knows when she will gift us with a leftover foot, skull, liver, or fluff of feathers. For certain there are stains we cannot get out.

Cat shelter/cute house to hang out in when the weather is inclement? The Favorite Lap Guy just built her a new pad over Christmas break.

Cat tree? Yes (and quite a furniture saver it is). New cat tree which turned out to be sized for kittens? Returned.

Replacement sisal rope added to decimated anchor leg of favorite cat tree? Just completed. Has she used it yet? Nope.

We are testing one leg at a time to see if it holds up.

Fuzzy blankets galore? Check.

Heated blanket for cold days? I mean for the people (but the cat claims it)? Plug it in and let’s get this show on the road.

Favorite cat food (both dry and canned), cat treats, and a special cat toy basket? Stashed in proper cat food basket.

Strategically placed light-weight items on top of the printer to keep the solid-weight cat from sitting there and breaking it? Done. Not you? Well. Princess Monet deems that location perfect for gazing west through the RV window.

Wire fencing placed across winterized garden beds? (You KNOW why.) All set.

Roof added to top of TARDIS garden shed so cat can shelter out of hot sun? Done and done.

Vet on speed dial to order anti-“straw” meds? Definitely. (We prefer to call tapeworms “straw.” Oh, look? Is that straw? Time for more meds. It sounds nicer than the actual term. And. They do look like bits of straw.)

Evening chores are rushed through so the Cat can have her lap of choice for her evening resting pleasure? Certainly. And, BTW, said lap is not mine. She is a Daddy’s girl through and through. Unless food is involved. Then whomever has it is favorite.

Pillows poised to be pulled to the bed edges so the Princess can sleep smack in between Mom and Dad’s heads? Ugh. Yes. Nothing like waking up with someone’s tail-end right up against your chin. Or open one’s eyes to see two alert ready-to-get-up ears pointed right at you. Sleep in? What’s that?

But. Cats. We do it all because we love our kitties. What “special” things do you do for your royal felines? Perhaps Monet needs just one or two more human habits to make her life truly happy, and you know just the right thing. Do share. Her Highness is waiting.

Do you see the cat? She’s there.


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My Monsterpiece by Amalia Hoffman, Book Birthday and Interview

My Monsterpiece

Written and Illustrated by Amalia Hoffman

Yeehoo Press (March 2, 2021)

Amazon Blurb:

Ever tried to make the meanest, wildest, scariest monster? What if even a green tongue, pointy horns, creepy sharp teeth, and claws won’t frighten anyone away?

Join the frustrated artist on a hilariously hair-raising adventure where the scary and not scary mingle and lead to the discovery that overcoming fear and prejudice can bring about a wonderful FRIENDSHIP.

I’m pleased to introduce Amalia Hoffman, author and illustrator of the upcoming book My Monsterpiece (Yeehoo Press, 2021). I met Amalia when I won a copy of her book All Colors from Kathy Temean’s Writing and Illustrating blog. https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2019/10/01/book-giveaway-all-colors-by-amalia-hoffman/

Welcome, Amalia! Let’s get to it and learn more about your newest book.

What was your inspiration for My Monsterpiece?

My inspiration for My Monsterpiece was the many years I worked with young children. I noticed that kids love to experiment with art. They explore many media and like to paint on paper plates, scraps of paper, and even grocery bags. This inspired me to create the illustrations for the book using kid-friendly art techniques and supplies.

I was inspired to create a book that will be funny and entertaining but will have a non-preachy message that when we free ourselves from bias and stereotyping, our word is more colorful and we can befriend each other even if we don’t look or behave in the same way.

-I loved that your inspiration came from the children!

What was the writing and illustrating journey you took as you created My Monsterpiece?

My Monsterpiece involved a monstrous journey of over 2 years, from the time I started exploring the idea and “playing with it” in my mind to the time it actually sold to Yeehoo Press. I spent months just making a whole menagerie of monsters. I worked with crayons, color pencils, chalk, poster paints, and finger paints. It was important to me that the monsters will be fresh and not over-done.

I had the story idea lined up but I went through dozens of revisions with agent Anna Olswanger. I shared my drafts with my critique group as well and kept tweaking the story.

After the book sold to Yeehoo Press, I had many conversations with my brilliant editor, Brian Saliba. We brainstormed over the phone and via email. Then, I went through a couple of rounds of revisions. When we felt that the story was tight and solid, I created a dummy—based on the new text, which was quite different from the original text. Since Yeehoo Press publishes simultaneously in English and Simplified Chinese, my dummy had to fit within the format and dimensions for both versions.

Once we were happy with the black and white sketches and pagination, I worked with the art director, Molly Shen, and the graphic designer, Xuyang Liu, on the final interior pages. Once these were completed, I came up with concept designs for the endpapers, final cover, and jacket design. We decided to make the jacket slightly different than the cover underneath, which is something that I really love about the book design. Also, the front endpapers are different than the endpapers on the end of the book. I believe that the endpapers are just as important as the interior pages in a picture book and I was delighted that the Yeehoo’s creative team agreed with me. We also spent many hours deciding what fonts to use and the colors of the lettering.

-It’s incredibly captivating to see how much work goes into a book when you are both author and illustrator. And the number of revisions. Wow!

What plans do you have to celebrate the release of My Monsterpiece?

I usually like to celebrate my book releases with author’s presentations. I already created a monster headpiece that I tend to wear when I present the story. It looks like a tiara with a monster head on it. I am planning very exciting Zoom and in-person presentations. My publisher, Yeehoo Press is putting together a book trailer.

I also plan to offer book giveaways and the publisher will have many freebies for costumers and for large orders.

-Great news! Hope all goes well!

I see your publisher is Yeehoo Press. What can you tell us about Yeehoo Press?

Yeehoo Press is an independent publisher who publishes in English and Simplified Chinese. Headquartered in LA, it’s part of Shanghai Yihe Industrial Co., Ltd, founded on August 2007. The company publishes over 200 titles per year with annual output value of $15 million. 

-That’s pretty amazing!

Surprise us. What else would you like to share?

Apparently, I was a very temperamental child. When I got angry with my mom and dad, I used to punish them by tearing the greeting cards I created for their birthdays and anniversaries.  Years later, when I visited my parents who lived in Jerusalem, I found an envelope with all the bits of torn art that my father saved. When I created My Monsterpiece, I showed the kid’s frustration by creating one spread that feature the kid’s torn monsters.

I remember that when I was about 8, I entered a contest, sponsored by a children’s magazine, to draw a scary witch. Apparently, just like the kid in my book, mine didn’t scare anyone and I didn’t win.

-Fascinating fun facts!

Thank you so much, Amalia, for sharing with us. Best wishes and congratulations on the upcoming release of My Monsterpiece!

To learn more about Amalia, her art, and her books, you can visit her at:

http://www.amaliahoffman.com/

https://amaliahoffman.wordpress.com/


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Gingerbread and Pillowcases

Not much was the same in 2020.

We became creative, inventive, technologically gifted, resourceful-all in the effort to live life and connect with fellow humans. Plans were ditched or tossed aside, trips canceled, 35th anniversary trips to magical locations did not occur. Birthday parties became drive-by’s. Travel screeched to a standstill as nature locations filled to overflowing with folks desperate to get outside. To get OUT. Childcare and transfer between shared-custody parents became fraught with contact points and who was sick and who was with whom when they got sick. Schooling reached new heights of teamwork between parents, teachers, and Nana’s. Vocabulary increased to include 2020-specific words like virtual learning, hybrid learning, Google Classroom, Zoom, Loom, Chrome Book, internet capabilities, mute yourself. DIY projects blossomed and not once was Lowe’s closed. I suspect they, and other home improvement stores, had a banner year of profits due to the frenzy of home projects. That, along with shortages of flour, yeast, sugar, and toilet paper gave insight to what most of us were doing. Staying home, fixing up, and baking.

The traditions were the hardest to “fix.” Outdoor gatherings, socially distant of course, and much fuss over wearing masks (cute, cotton, and washable) has become so normal, I fear for our social skills and facial expressions once the pandemic settles down.

And then Christmas. How to do gingerbread houses? Carefully. In a huge area. With only healthy grands.

And Christmas gifts? Christmas pillowcases became my idea of the year. Totally reusable gift bags, tied with jump ropes. Open your gifts, put your gift bag, er, pillowcase, on your pillow for a good, snowy night’s sleep. Why didn’t I think of this before? Sure, sewing them on Christmas Eve Day is not advisable, but it did allow me to work my way through several Hallmark Christmas Movies as I cut, pinned, sewed, and ironed. And I’ve already purchased my fabric for next year to avoid the same rush. (We might check back on that one, because having purchased fabric is not the same as having sewn the pillowcases. . ..)

Gingerbread cookies were baked yesterday. December 30. They taste just as good, no matter the date, especially plain, with coffee.

Are things looking up for 2021? I certainly hope so. But even if the recovery is slow, I know we can do it. We’ve had all of 2020 to figure out how to make things work. Like in the days of the Depression, our ancestors made do, made it work, or made do without it. We are ready.

May the Lord go before us, bless us, and keep us as we journey into the new year! See you next year!


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Haiku Moment: a la mode

arrange sweet apples

topped with winter’s cream; is it

nature’s a la mode?

a la mode by Angie Quantrell

photo by Angie Quantrell

December, West Valley


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The Season of Hope: Advent 5 Celebrating the Visit of Christ

Photo by Angie Quantrell

Text taken from Luke 1:67-69 NIV

67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
    because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn[a] of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David

Joy to the world, the LORD is come! Merry Christmas!


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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, dear ones!

May peace and joy fill your hearts and homes.

Thinking of you and praying for a new year overflowing with God’s blessings.

xo