Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Author Interview: Kindergarten Hat by Janet Lawler (little bee books)

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Kindergarten Hat

Written by Janet Lawler

Illustrated by Geraldine Rodriquez

little bee books, 2020

 

Happy book birthday to Kindergarten Hat (June 9, 2020)! As a former kindergarten and preschool teacher, I love any book that helps young students conquer their anxiety and make that leap into going to school. I enjoyed reading about Carlos, his mother, and his new teacher with the giant hat! Janet Lawler is spot on with this lovely, colorful book.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Janet! Don’t forget, everyone, to help Janet celebrate her delayed book birthday on Tuesday, July 28, at 10 AM (Connecticut time). See more info below and mark your calendar.

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Without further delay, here’s Janet!

Welcome, Janet! Tell us a little about yourself.

I started writing picture books as a second career after practicing law for more than a decade. Both careers require that you communicate clearly and simply. But writing for children is a joyful passion that gives me deep satisfaction and peace. I love how words make music, and I marvel at the way illustrators add detail and layers to my stories. Each book is a new adventure! I have had over twenty-five books published and have several more in the pipeline.

What was your inspiration for KINDERGARTEN HAT?

My son and daughter had the same terrific kindergarten teacher, 9 years apart, at our neighborhood grammar school. Judy Baccei always wore a huge flowered hat on the first day, so her students could find her easily. That hat inspired my story.

What was the writing journey you took as you wrote this book?

 My writing journey for this story started over thirteen years ago! I went through many revisions before starting to submit the story to various publishers. I did some submissions on my own and more than once put the manuscript in the “back drawer” as I worked on other stories.

Mirabel’s Missing Valentines was acquired by Brett Duquette at Sterling in 2017. Brett and I really connected throughout the editing process. So I asked my agent to submit KINDERGARTEN HAT to Brett after he’d moved to Little Bee. After one round of pre-acquisition editing, to add depth to Carlos’s emotional journey, the manuscript was acquired. Thereafter, I did another round of revisions, as well as several additional “tweaks” to get the story just right.

Everything is different right now with COVID-19, but how did you celebrate the book birthday of KINDERGARTEN HAT?

The pandemic certainly changed my plans for promoting this book! I had planned for a large launch event on May 30th that was canceled. I did a book birthday posting on my Facebook page, and both my publisher and my agency spread the word via Twitter and Instagram. I e-mailed and messaged indie bookstores and friends, fans, and family all over the country. I have recorded a virtual story time that will post live on the Kids Place of the Farmington CT Public Library on Tuesday, July 28 at 10 a.m. That will be my delayed “book birthday” launch! Anyone can visit that day or thereafter, to hear more detail about the book and listen to my full reading of the story. https://www.facebook.com/flkidsplace/

Surprise us! What else would you like to share?

I have had a 2nd book released this summer—Good Night, Little Engine. , The classic tale by Watty Piper, The Little Engine That Could, celebrates its 90th Anniversary in 2020!  Grosset & Dunlap asked me to write a rhyming bedtime story as part of the celebration. Good Night, Little Engine is beautifully illustrated by Jill Howarth. I hope that both KINDERGARTEN HAT and Good Night, Little Engine will help comfort and encourage kids during uncertain times.

Congratulations, Janet! I look forward to reading more of your books!

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Amazon Blurb:

A practically perfect first-experience story, especially for anxious hearts and gentle spirits.” Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Carlos Abredo is scared to start kindergarten, but a special teacher with an amazing hat helps give him the confidence to start the school year with a smile.

Carlos Abredo loves building forts, playing soccer, vrooming cars, and gardening. But after moving to a new town, he’s nervous to start his first day of kindergarten. What if the bus gets lost? What if he can’t make friends? What if he can’t find his teacher?! Starting school can be intimidating for anyone, but when you’re also the new kid, it can be downright scary.

When Carlos gets a letter from his new teacher, he starts to feel a little better. He picks out a gift for her, and after a much-needed hug from Mom, he sets off for his first day. But when his present is accidentally ruined, will Carlos be able to salvage his first day of school?

From Janet:

Carlos is new to town and his anxieties grow as he prepares for the first day of school and travels on the bus with a special flower for his teacher’s hat. This floral take on the starting-school theme was inspired by Janet’s son and daughter’s wonderful kindergarten teacher. She always wore a huge flowered hat on the first day, so that kids coming off the buses could find her.
It is likely that little ones starting school this fall following the corona virus crisis may be struggling with messy feelings and worries. Hopefully, the humor and heart of KINDERGARTEN HAT will make them feel less alone and help each of them start their first day with a great big kindergarten smile.


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Book Report: All Colors by Amalia Hoffman and Book Winner

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First, congratulations are in order to announce the winner of Baby’s First Nativity by Nomar Perez (Little Bee Books).

The winner is: Melissa!

Watch your mailbox, Melissa. I hope you enjoy this adorable Christmas board book. Merry Christmas!

And now, on to the book report.

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All Colors

Written and illustrated by Amalia Hoffman

Schiffer Publishing, 2019

 

I won a copy of All Colors from Kathy Tremean’s blog Writing and Illustrating and Amalia Hoffman. You can read more about Amalia Hoffman here. Thank you to Kathy and Amalia!

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Why I Love This Book:

~ The colors! I’ve seen colors represented in books many times, but usually the colors are introduced on a white background. It’s very interesting to see them on black.

~ The friendship theme (spoiler alert). We need books about being friends with others even if they are different than we are.

~ The board book. This is one durable book. Nice and sturdy for lots of use.

~ Kid-friendly. I read this one to my two youngest grands, and one immediately said, “Again!”

~ The art approach. I know this book can be used to help young readers feel confident in drawing pictures (instead of just coloring them). Each step is easy to replicate, no matter the age.

Amazon Blurb:

This board book introduces children to colors, textures, and parts of the body while conveying a message about friendship, celebrating diversity, and inclusion. As the reader turns the pages, colors are added one by one, creating the image of a boy. Different strokes and textures make up each body part, and at the end the boy joins his friends, all made of different combinations. All Colors shows that all people are made up of the same pieces, yet are all unique and full of color!

 

Thanks for stopping by. Have a great day!

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Need a fun board book that teaches colors AND how to draw a simple person? Check out ALL COLORS by Amalia Hoffman. #boardbooks #picturebooks #kidlit

Click to tweet! Thank you!

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Big Brother Sympathy

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Chocolate cake and her Minnie balloon.

Miss Autumn has been birthday princess for the last week. Minnie Mouse visited her birthday through cake, wrappings, and gifts. Cool balloon Minnie greetings floated in helium bliss and adorned Autumn’s wrist and bedroom.

Birthday girl has been hauling around a beloved Minnie balloon. Inside and outside. Can you see where this is going?

Yesterday, held free-hand instead of tied, the favorite balloon escaped and slipped from Autumn’s clasped fist. Helium filled Minnie quickly ascended to travel blue skies. The lesson of what happens to all free floating helium-filled balloons became reality.

Sobbing tears, this heart-broken nearly 3-year-old announced to the nearby world how upset she was with this loss.

Despite mama loves, the sobbing continued. And was quickly added to when big brother Donavyn began sobbing and came to mommy. With puppy Ginger tangled around her feet and two sobbing children, mommy Jamie staggered in the house to try and restore order and figure out why Big Brother was crying.

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A Minnie cake by Gramma Schlenker, a sweater hand-me-down from Auntie Chelsie (who is 28!)

And what a caring boy to cry and sob.

Big Brother Donavyn was crushed for his sister and her balloon loss. We thought something had happened to him (bee, fall, scrape) but he was sympathizing with sissy. Such a sweetheart to take on and share the feelings of his little sister!

Are you a sympathetic cryer? I have my moments when I just can’t help myself and cry right along in sympathy (or empathy, if the occasion for tears is truly a shared experience). Shared tears offers comfort.

Good job, Donavyn, for helping Sister feel better.

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Autumn is happy, just not sure how to smile at the camera AND show her card.


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Circle Time Preschool Puzzles: The Nesting Syndrome

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What to do when there is only 1 child?

Make a puzzle circle! Miss Autumn (2) was quite content to sit inside the puzzle circle and work puzzles. Simone was happy to supervise. A cozy nearby fireplace added ambiance and warmth for this cold winter day activity.

There is something about the NEST format of play. Are you a nest person? I am. I’ve always loved playing inside a circle formed by things-toys, books, supplies, whatever I’m working on-spread in a circle which surrounds me.

I really need to research this nest phenomenon. Does it point to a specific need, like security? Is nesting organizational in nature? Am I completely OCD and this is how it manifested itself when I was a child? Am I a circle person? Is this a form of marking my territory, albeit the creation of play boundaries and personal space instead of doggy pee trails? What does that mean?

Not nesting, as in I’m pregnant and preparing for the imminent birth of my child, though I also experienced that type of nesting. I clearly remember nesting the entire Memorial Day weekend. I thought I was just making things tidy, cleaning house, and putting baby things away. Lo and behold, our first baby came 3 weeks early and arrived before lunch on the Tuesday after Memorial Day. Surprise! I was baby nesting.

There is also the type of nesting performed by birds. I am not a bird. But I am amazed at the intricate, sturdy, vastly creative and unique types of nests these little bird brains build. With that in mind, I’m sure bird brain is a complement.

Back to play nesting. I have memories of Barbie nests, toy box nests (where the toy box is empty and I am surrounded by the toys), and fabric nests. The fabric nests lets you know this nesting trait carried over to my adult years. I remember a specific photo of my two preschoolers, complete with a circle of toys and nearly empty toy box. Donavyn and Autumn (grands) love sitting inside blanket nests. Is nesting hereditary?

Any ideas? Do you nest? Have you seen young children exhibit nesting? I’d love to know more about the nesting syndrome.

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Picture Books of the Moment: Gage & Autumn Picks

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Meet Gage (3 going on 4) and Autumn (2 going on 16). Gigi is also featured above, all 3 of them enjoying a Babybel cheese break.

Preschoolers have discerning tastes and interests. I’d like to add that both of these magnificent grands are eloquent, opinionated, book afficionados. Here are their current favorite picture books. And why I think each has preschool staying power.

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“Again!”

This remark nearly guarantees a great picture book. They should call it the AGAIN Award. SPOILER ALERT: Both grands love Peter and his adventures in the snow, though Gage is convinced the snowball did not melt, but is in fact, tucked beneath Peter’s chin as he sleeps. Don’t believe me? Look at that page. The background white section looks exactly like a snowball. They both love the snow adventures.

Why I think this book deserves the AGAIN Award:

Simplicity of text, universal preschool and young reader experiences, nature focus, playfulness of a child’s day in the snow

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Froggy and his silly antics keep Gage and Autumn glued to the story. They love me to read this to them as they eat lunch. They love jumping to the conclusion before I even get there. The laughing portions of the book have great child appeal.

Why I think this book deserves the AGAIN Award:

Humor, age-appropriate excitement and desire to enjoy life, Froggy’s disregard for reality (hibernate in winter), repetitive language

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Of all the books we read, this one surprises me. Not that it’s a bad book, but, you know, she dies at the end. Despite that, Gage LOVES this book. He knows the ending and he loves how the old lady gets larger and larger. I always use a sing-song voice when I read it, so music complements the retelling. Who knew?

Why I think this book deserves the AGAIN Award:

Illustrations, musical options, repetitive, cumulative, silly, full of exaggeration, contains extra details that can be shared as readers mature

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This book was a hit the very first time I read it, with both Gage and Autumn. They love memorizing the story and retelling it themselves. I did hear that older brother, Donavyn, was purposely saying the wrong thing as she was reading to herself. This made her very angry! (This might have happened with the next book instead…). Preschoolers love reading about the caterpillar.

Why I think this book deserves the AGAIN Award:

Nature aspects of change, life cycle, eating, growing, overeating; days of the week; interesting pages and features like holes and different-sized pages; simple text and easy to recall story; classic picture book tale

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This was one of the first books I dug out to share with Gage and Autumn. They loved it and immediately memorized the pattern of text and wanted to read it alone. This book is easy to figure out by simply turning the pages. The bright colorful illustrations help readers retell and enjoy the story.

Why I think this book deserves the AGAIN Award:

Predictable, patterned, colorful illustrations, teaches colors, simple text, imaginative (blue horse?!), fun to read, readers enjoy being in control and being the ‘teacher’ as they read

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Anything with a flap is award-winning for preschoolers. This simple book has repetitive text and involves visual and textual clues to use to guess the answer. Fill-in-the-blank reading is lots of fun and both Gage and Autumn love shouting the answers. Animals, flaps, mystery! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taped this book back together.

Why I think this book deserves the AGAIN Award:

Lift the flaps, simplicity, animal connections, emotions, cause and effect, thinking skills to figure out which pet is best

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Three words: Hug, Bobo, Mommy. Who says you can’t tell a story with only 3 words? Everybody knows about hugs and mommy’s. Gage and Autumn love this book because of the mommy factor. Mommy’s are important and it would be horrible if she went missing. All the animals work together to help Bobo. So many good things in three words and great illustrations.

Why I think this book deserves the AGAIN Award:

The mommy factor, hugs, friends, helping, simple text, universal needs and desires, family, being lost and getting found

Introducing the AGAIN Award. You heard it here first, friends.

Let’s find other books that deserve the AGAIN Award. For in those beloved books, we will find the joy of reading and the shared experiences of lap time.

 

 

 

 


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Throwback Thursday: Girls Can Do Anything

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This Throwback Thursday post is brought to you by Mission Friends, preschool education, and great activities for kids.

Hammer, safety glasses, wood, apron, nails. Real tools. Check.

Plus supervision.

Add Chelsie, age 5. Ready to go and do some world building. Figuratively (pretend play and exploration) and literally (girls can do anything they dream, including learning to hammer nails and build). I offered this activity to my group of preschoolers in Mission Friends. I never shied away from plans some considered slightly dangerous: hammering nails, melting crayons on a food warming tray, chopping softer fruits and veggies with butter knives. And the kids never let me down. They LOVED doing grown up jobs and took their activities seriously.

How do preschoolers and young children learn? By doing, exploring, experimenting, evaluating, planning, making mistakes, trying again.

My way of doing preschool.

“Play is the highest form of research.” Albert Einstein


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Tuesday Tots: Bubble Wrap

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This post is NOT about wrapping preschoolers in bubble wrap. But it is about how much fun tots have popping bubbles.

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Today during a sorting marathon, I discovered two small boxes filled with hand-sized rectangles of bubble wrap. Bubble wrap became the seed of creativity for my two young charges.

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First, the fine motor skills used in attempting to pop the plastic bubbles brought intense concentration. Next came sound effects-boisterous shouts for each successful popping noise. And after introducing the ‘stomp-til-you-pop’ game while standing on the kitchen floor, squeals of joy and excitement filled the house.

30 minutes. That’s the minimum time they spent focused on small squares of bubble wrap. Moms, I was able to complete several tasks while supervising the giggly kiddos.

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Mom tip: Get (save) bubble wrap!

Other activities to do with bubble wrap:

– use bubble wrap taped to a cardboard tube to make a paint roller

– add bubble wrap to cardboard strips to make bumpy roads for toy vehicles

– experiment with the protective properties of bubble wrap (drop an egg?)

– press bubble wrap in play dough or damp sand to make prints

– add bubble wrap to doll beds for mattresses (tape securely with duct tape)

– cut bubble wrap to fit inside a freezer gallon ziplock bag; seal with duct tape; let younger tots pop bubbles through the bag

– make bubble wrap shoes and walk around outside to see how well they work

CAUTION: Always supervise any play with plastic. Keep plastics and bubble wrap away from faces and mouths.

It might be noisy, but bubble wrap fun will be music to your ears.


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The Stage of WHY: Preschoolers Rock

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As a preschool educator, I would like to suggest two new developmental stages.

  1. The Stage of Why.
  2. The Stage of “Actually”

1. The Stage of Why. My 3-year-old grandson is solidly in this stage, as evidenced by lengthy ‘why’ infested conversations during our daily commutes. Today, after being unable to even count HOW MANY whys were tossed willy-nilly towards me from the back seat, I turned the tables and rephrased his questions into ‘whys’ for him. To which he replied with the actual answers to some of my lobs.

Why? Why? Why? I love answering questions and explaining things we see and do (teacher!), but sometimes, I may be close to my limit of whys. Gage is on the verge of being out of this stage, but since we are taking a pit stop in the WHY questioning period, my game of counting whys and popping the questions back to him might just keep me sane.

2. The Stage of Actually. This word, used correctly in context by the younger preschool crowd, cracks me up. It usually shows up when preschoolers are able to grasp the abstractness of this word and how they’ve heard others use it. AND they can get out that many syllables, be understood, and make sense. Actually has been visiting this 3-year-old and his conversations. Waiting for the 2-year-old to pick up on it.

Preschoolers. They ROCK. Life is enriched with their preschool-ness.

What other new developmental stages would you like to add?

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Writing for Preschoolers: It All Began When My Babies Were -Preschoolers #ThrowbackThursday

When did I begin writing for preschoolers? WAY back when.

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I’m so glad my honey took this photo. This was my first trip to Birmingham, Alabama, to attend a writer’s conference and begin writing curriculum and products for Mission Friends (preschool missions education materials).

Chelsie was three, Taylor was five, and I had dark hair (and hair, period). Judging by how old they are now, I’ve been writing for Woman’s Missionary Union for about 28 years. Time flies when preschoolers are having fun and this writer is loving every minute of the journey.

What a blessing it is to remember this opportunity from the Lord! I so love preschoolers. You know, that age is one of the funnest ever! (I know, I know. There are other ages that are also super fun. Okay, you caught me. I adore them all.)

Sweet babies, fantastic supporting husband, and dreams for endless learning activities. Now my babies have given me five grands, with three going to school this fall and only two still at home.

Enjoy those moments, mama and daddy! Those babies are gonna grow up too fast and before you know it, you’ll have a lap full of your own grands.

How about sharing a Throwback Thursday moment of your own?


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Auto Repeat (I Wish)

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Three car seats. Three preschoolers. Three strong-minded individuals. Three precious grands. Three songs.

Over and over. In equal quantities, or else. Even the 1 year-old can tell when it’s time for HER song.

Auto repeat would make life much easier in the car as we commute to preschool, the store, the post office, the library. But no. The Nana Bus has only the old-fashioned CD player. One CD at a time.

Nana has become a master at switching.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, complete with unsynchronized clapping. (Pentatonix)

Bananaphone. With hand motions. (Raffi)

Baby Beluga, formerly known as Baby Beguda and Baby Deguba. (Raffi)

Switch on, clap on, sing on. Repeat.