Easter Treats Recall Ancient Myths by Marilyn Ostermiller.

From chocolate bunnies to colored eggs, traditional Easter treats can be traced back to the 13th century.

The Easter Bunny tradition is thought to stem from the German myth of Osterhas, a rabbit said to have laid colored eggs in early spring. In anticipation of his arrival, children made nests for him, according to history.com

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Decorated eggs date back to pagan festivities in the 13th century that also celebrated spring’s arrival. Easter is a Christian holy day marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s traditionally celebrated the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of spring.

Recipes for festive Easter sweets abound. Easter egg bread, which involves baking dyed Easter eggs into braided loaves of sweet bread, are attention-getters.  A word of caution, guests can eat the dyed eggs if the loaves are kept refrigerated from the time they are taken out of the oven, until they are served. Otherwise, display your Easter egg bread proudly, but   treat the eggs like you would any nonedible decoration.

thumbnail_IMG_1129Chick and Egg Cupcakes are showstopper on the Easter dinner dessert cart. The recipe is available online on the Food Network app in the App Store. 

Contemporary Easter egg hunts combine the traditions of searching for the eggs left by the Easter bunny with the practice of decorating eggs.

How to produce an Easter egg hunt:

Ask your invited guests to RSVP.

Find a backup location in case of inclement weather, especially if the hunt is for real eggs. Sniffing out an elusive rotten egg weeks later is no fun.

          If you ask invitees to bring their own basket, offer a reward for the most original basket. Designate someone to anonymously judge the baskets before the egg hunt. Reward the winner. Maybe with a five second head start for the egg hunt.

           If you do provide baskets, pails, gift bags or another festive container  remember to keep the size relative to the number of eggs your hunters are likely to find. Basket is a relative term. Gift bags and pails work as well.

          Include about a dozen eggs for each participant.  Artificial grass to line the baskets is a nice touch.

          Hide the eggs strategically based on the ages of the hunters. If the age range is wide, offer two hunts.        egg in tree

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          Some hunts rely on hard boiled eggs. Plastic eggs filled with candy, small plastic toys, or money are popular too.

          Prizes are optional.

thumbnail_img_1886Marilyn Ostermiller is a longtime journalist who enjoys tracing the history of traditional holiday foods.

Book Giveaway: AVEN GREEN SLEUTHING MACHINE by Dusti Bowling

Comment for a chance to win this amazing book!

Writing and Illustrating

Dusti Bowling has written a new chapter book picture book, AVEN GREEN SLEUTHING MACHINE, illustrated by Gina Perry and published by Sterling Children’s Books. It is available in bookstores April 13th and available for pre-order on Amazon now. Sterling has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner living in the United States.

All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Dusti and Gina.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered…

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On Earth Day and Everyday…We Can All Do Our Part to Stop Climate Change.

A 2019 study from the Swiss Institute of Integrative Biology suggested that planting 1 trillion trees would dramatically reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and significantly help stop global climate change. Mar 10, 2020

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A trillion trees sounds like an impossible goal. But every time you plant a tree in your yard, on school grounds, or in your neighborhood open spaces, you reduce greenhouse gas because they are natural carbon absorbers (a mature tree can absorb up to 48lbs of carbon a year).

Every time you plant a tree, you are part of the solution for reducing and stopping the effects of global warming. For more information about planting trees visit:

https://onetreeplanted.org/pages/tree-facts

https://onetreeplanted.org/blogs/stories/flatten-curve-carbon-emissions

There are other things you can do to take care of Mother Earth as well:

We can continue to recycle properly and phase out our consumption of single-use plastics (recycling just 1 lb. of plastic #1 saves 22.9 kWh of energy and 47.4 lbs. of CO2 emissions).

Support programs like www.4ocean.com whose products are made from reclaimed ocean plastics. One pound of plastic is removed from the ocean for every item purchased.

We can commit to reducing the 1/3rd of food that is wasted globally by composting, shopping smart, and meal planning.

Switch to organic produce.The good news is that organic systems that emphasize soil health help farmers and ranchers increase resilience to the impacts of climate change. … Organic systems do this by capturing and storing more carbon (CO2) in the soil (carbon sequestration). They also release fewer greenhouse gases. Apr 27, 2020

To learn more about how organically grown fruits and vegetables help the environment visit:

How Organic Agriculture Helps Mitigate Climate Change

For information on how to start a compost pile of your own visit:  https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/gardening/advice/a23945/start-composting/

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Contact local food banks or soup kitchens to see if they will accept your food donations.

We can incorporate more plant-based meals into our diets.

Every small thing we do makes a difference when each of us pitches in. Planet Earth is our home…the only home we have. We owe it to ourselves and to all the plants and animals we depend on to be good stewards of the earth. Please pass this on and share it.

Two Winners For Two Picture Books…

Today I am happy to announce the winners for the recent give-away for copies of two picture books featured o this blog.

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A copy of LITTLE EWE by Laura Sassi goes to Julie. (don’t have a last name, but I will contact you via email.)

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A copy of DON’T CALL ME FUZZYBUTT by Robin Newman goes to Ashley Sierra. Please forward you address to my email so I can get the books out to each of you.

Congratulations to the winners and many thanks to all who commented on these amazing books.

Why Freedom of Information is Important.

As writers and book authors, we value the written word and our protected right to express our views without fear of imprisonment, censorship or various other punishments.  Many people are not so fortunate.  Today’s post celebrates our right to KNOW what takes place in this country we call a Democracy.

Take a moment to recognize what we take for granted: the right to demonstrate and express opposing points of view; the right to read whatever we want to; the right to ask our leaders to change laws we don’t think are working; the right to know what goes on behind the doors of government.

Tomorrow is FREEDOM OF INFORMATION DAY.  Here is more information from http://www.NationalDayCalendar.com about this important aspect of our freedom:

Freedom of Information Day 2021: Liberty and open access to all

On March 16, we celebrate the anniversary of former President James Madison. But that day, we also celebrate the legacy he and the founders of this country left us – open government.

Madison, known as the Father of the United States Constitution, once wrote that a “popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps, both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-freedom-of-information-day-march-16/

No Butts About It! Name-Calling Is Not Acceptable by Robin Newman

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One question I get asked all the time is, “What inspired you to write this story?” My latest book, DON’T CALL ME FUZZYBUTT!, was inspired by my son. Around the time when he was in third grade, he went through a terrible-no-good-very-bad phase where he used to think it was cool to say bad words. After all, these were words he wasn’t allowed to say that older children and adults did say. And he’d hear these words everywhere—in the lunchroom, at recess, and on the walk home from school. And once he learned a new word (even a bad word), he was more than eager to give his new-found word a test drive to the great delight of his proud parents. 

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My first drafts of Don’t Call Me Fuzzybutt! focused on using bad words. In fact, the book was originally titled, Bear Said a Bad Word. But as the book evolved in the yearlong revision process, it became clear that the story wasn’t just about saying a word that should never ever be repeated. It was about calling others names and the hurt feelings that ensued.

Name-calling, use of bad words, and gossip, not only sting in the moment they’re said, but they can cause permanent damage in how children see themselves and how others view them. I wrote DON’T CALL ME FUZZYBUTT! to show children in a very gentle way the hurt that can result from one’s words.

In DON’T CALL ME FUZZYBUTT, Bear is an extremely light sleeper. But if Bear doesn’t get his much needed 243 ½ hours of sleep (to be precise), he turns grizzly. So, Bear builds a brand-new door to keep the noise out of his den. As it happens, one of Bear’s neighbors is Woodpecker. He is a master carpenter with a speciality in real estate development. But lately, he’s been noticing that his houses are disappearing. One day Woodpecker discovers a trail of debris and this of course leads him to Bear’s new front door. Words are exchanged. Feelings are hurt. And Bear and Woodpecker need to figure out how to resolve their problems.

We all have moments when we’re feeling grizzly. Books and activities that promote social emotional learning (SEL) can help students learn how to better manage their emotions. One such activity is teaching students how to craft an “I-Statement.”  An I-Statement looks like:

I feel . ..

when . . .

because . . .

For example:

Hilary uses my favorite magic marker and often forgets to put the cap back on.  

I feel sad when Hilary uses my favorite magic marker because she often forgets to put the cap back on and dries out the ink.

In conjunction with the above, students can collaborate just as Bear and Woodpecker did, by making and decorating their own bird houses. I found these wooden houses at Michael’s for $ 0.99 cents each.

For the activity, students will need a clean cardboard container or pre-fabricated birdhouse, construction or decorative paper, twine, glue and/or tape, scissors, hole punch, and decorating materials (paint, markers, pencils, glitter, stickers, buttons, twigs, beads, etc.).

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More information on how to use DON’T CALL ME FUZZYBUTT! in the classroom will be available in the teacher’s guide. Coming soon!

On March 13th at 3PM, Robin will be having her virtual launch at Books of Wonder via Crowdcast. Please join me for the fun!

Here’s the link re the event:https://booksofwonder.com/blogs/upcoming/launch-event-for-dont-call-me-fuzzybutt-by-robin-newman

Launch Event For Don’t Call Me Fuzzybutt! By Robin Newman – Books of Wonder
Books of Wonder is delighted to host the virtual event for Don’t Call Me Fuzzybutt! by ROBIN NEWMAN on Saturday, March 13th at 3pm EST via Crowdcast! Celebrate the release of this amazing picture book with ROBIN NEWMAN as she shares her newest book and answers questions from the audience during the live feed! Ages 6 & Up, Saturday, March 13th at 3pm EST via Crowdcast.booksofwonder.com

The first 100 orders will also receive a free FUZZYBUTT giveaway! 

thumbnail_Newman_RobinRaised in New York and Paris, Robin Newman is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the City University of New York School of Law. She was a practicing attorney and legal editor, but she now prefers to write about witches, mice, pigs, bears, and peacocks. Author of the award-winning Wilcox & Griswold Mystery Series, she’s a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, National Writing Project’s Writers Council, the Bank Street Writers Lab, and PEN America, CYAB. Robin lives in New York with a motley crew of fuzzybutts, including a husband, son, and three spoiled dogs. She is represented by Liza Fleissig at Liza Royce Agency. For more information, please visit www.robinnewmanbooks.com.

Robin is giving away a copy of DON’T CALL ME FUZZYBUTT to one winner chosen at random from those who leave a comment on this post. Winner will be announced on this blog at a later date. Share the post on social media for a second entry.

Who Won a Zoom Visit From Author Vivian Kirkfield?

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of interviewing PB author Vivian Kirkfield and talked about her newest book FROM HERE TO THERE: INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY THE WORLD MOVES.

In that post Vivian offered a zoom visit with one lucky person chosen at random. Today I am happy to announce the winner.

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CONGRATULATIONS to Judy Shemtob! I will put you in touch with Vivian.

Thanks to all who entered and you can learn more about Vivian and her wonderful books at: http://www.viviankirkfield.com

Laura Sassi Presents: LITTLE EWE: The Story of One Lost Sheep + A chance to win a copy.

Today I am delighted to bring you an interview with award-winning picture book author LAURA SASSI. Laura will talk about her latest book titled LITTLE EWE: THE STORY OF ONE LOST SHEEP Illustrated by Tommy Doyle  http://www.beamingbooks.com

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What inspired you to write about a “lost sheep”?

The “lost lamb” who I have sweetly named Little Ewe in my story is inspired by one of my favorite of Jesus’ parables. The parable is about a shepherd who realizes one sheep is missing and so he leaves the flock to find that one and bring it safely home.  As a child I loved this beautiful reminder that, like the shepherd in the parable, Jesus came to find the lost and, oh my, how wonderful it feels to be found. My hope is that, like Little Ewe in my story, readers of all ages will sense the comfort and joy of knowing that our Shepherd, too, wants to find us and care for us when we are lost.

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The rhyme scheme is gentle and perfect for the story. Did you intend to write it in rhyme?

I think “gentle” is a lovely way to describe the feel of the rhyme and rhythm of the text. Yes, from the beginning, I intended for this story to rhyme. My vision was to tell the tale in gently bouncing quatrains that would evoke the playfulness of Little Ewe’s day of adventure as she wanders from the flock and also capture the gentle comfort of being found at the end of the day.

Did you plan on making the story a counting one? Tell us how that came about.

I knew from the beginning that I wanted this to be a counting story. One of my favorite aspects of Jesus’ parable was that the shepherd left the 99 to find that one lost sheep. That counting aspect really resonated with me, but I didn’t want my story to be the typical counting book where readers just look for objects on the page that don’t necessarily relate to the plot. Rather, I wanted the counting in LITTLE EWE to be an integral part of the story, helping to escalate the tension as Little Ewe wanders farther and farther from Shepherd and to conjure feelings of comfort when she is found. I hope readers will agree it adds a rich dimension to the story.

What message do you want young children to take away from the story?

This answer is easy! I want children to know that just like Little Ewe, they, too, have shepherds who care for them. These kind shepherds include special people like parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. teachers and more. And who is the kindest shepherd of all?  God, who cares for and loves them and wants them to return safely home, even when they wander from the path.

Please check out the link for an activity kit that can be used with the book. It is filled with puzzles, craft activities, coloring pages and more.

ACTIVITY KIT:  https://ms.beamingbooks.com/downloads/LittleEwe_ActivityKit_web.pdf

Here is Darlene’s review for this book:

“Little Ewe is out grazing with her herd when her curiosity makes her ignore calls to come, instead wandering off to explore. She frolics all day until dark descends and she realizes she is alone, lost, and afraid. Under the loving and attentive care of the Shepherd, Little Ewe is reunited with the flock once again. Told in gentle rhyme, this counting book is a fresh and thoughtful addition to the genre. It reminds readers that since God watches over us, we are never alone and we need not be afraid. A comforting message for all.”

I am giving away a copy of LITTLE EWE to one lucky reader drawn at random from those who leave a comment on this post. Share the post on social media and you will have a second chance to win. Just let me know where you share it.

laura sassi shotLaura Sassi has a passion for telling stories in prose and rhyme. She is the author of five picture books including the best-selling Goodnight, Ark, which was a 2015 Christian Book Award Finalist; Goodnight, Manger; Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse, which won First Honor Book for the 2019 Best in Rhyme Award; Love Is Kind, which was a 2020 Anna Dewdney Read Together Award Honor Book; and Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep. Her next book, Bunny Finds Easter, will release in 2022. In addition to books, she’s published over one hundred poems, stories, crafts, and articles in various children’s publications.

A graduate of Princeton University and UCLA, Sassi had a successful teaching career before becoming a children’s author. She’s been a homeschool mom, children’s ministry director, historic museum interpreter, and more. She writes daily from her home in New Jersey and finds special joy in sharing her love of reading and writing with the next generation at school visits and other book events.

Katey Howes Talks About Bodily Autonomy and Consent in Her New PD: Rissy No Kissies.

Today it is my pleasure to host award-winning picture book author KATEY HOWES who will talk about her new book RISSY NO KISSIES. The book explores the topics of bodily autonomy and consent, very important concepts to instill in young children. Here is my review of this important book:

“When a love bird doesn’t like to get or give kisses, she wonders if something is wrong with her. How can she show those she loves that she cares?

With gentle assurances in words and illustrations, this story teaches young children and those they love, the importance of bodily autonomy and consent. It should be a part of every child’s library and is the perfect introduction for discussions about these important concepts.”

And now, here’s Katey!

Thanks so much for having me on your blog today, Darlene. I’m delighted to share a little bit about the process of writing my consent-themed picture book, Rissy No Kissies. (Illustrated by Jess Engle)

Rissy Cover

How and why did you decide to write on this topic?  

One of my three kids is exceptionally cuddly. The other two are much less comfortable with physical expressions of affection. I’ll admit that, early on, this was sometimes difficult for me to accept and respect. Even knowing how important it is for children to have control of their own bodies, there were times I really just wanted to give them a squeeze!

But as they grew, I grew, too – in my understanding of sensory processing differences, in my joy at seeing the unique ways they shared love, and in my conviction that there were not enough resources – for kids OR parents – that explained how common our family’s experience was. I grew more convinced that families needed books highlighting how natural it is to have differing preferences regarding touch and affection, resources that teach the importance of bodily autonomy and consent.

I had been playing with the idea for several months when I visited Minneapolis while promoting another picture book, Be A Maker. Lerner Publishing is headquartered there, and their team was so kind to me, helping me contact local schools and bookstores and setting me up with a tour of their offices. During that trip, I had the chance to meet up with my Be A Maker editor, Shaina Olmanson, and to bounce some of my manuscript ideas off of her. Shaina also felt strongly that kids and caregivers could really use stories that shined a light on boundaries, autonomy and consent. Her interest motivated me to work even harder on this concept!

How did you arrive at a rhyming scheme to tell the story? 

It’s funny. Often, I try really hard not to rhyme, but can’t seem to get away from it. When I first started writing this story, I kept finding rhyming couplets in my work, even when I was aiming for prose. At first, I contained the rhyme to a refrain between prose sections. The original refrain was:

 Kisses are something

That Love Birds like best

But Rissy No Kissy

Is not like the rest

With reflection, I realized this refrain centered Rissy’s differences, not her strengths. I dropped it and worked to rewrite with a focus on Rissy’s powerful opinions and proud voice. My character notes show a few words I used to envision Rissy:

Determined

Tenacious

Persistent

Emphatic!!

That descriptor “emphatic” made its way into a new refrain:

“No kissies,” Rissy chirruped, with a most emphatic squeak.”

and soon set up a rhythm and rhyme scheme that I was able to use to structure the entire text. If you check my notebooks from the time, you’ll find extensive lists of words that rhyme with “chirp,” “tweet,” and “squeak.”

Did you know from the start it would be lovebirds?

I almost always write human characters, so this book was a departure for me. It was, however, a calculated departure.

I knew going in that, for kids who have been made to feel left out or rejected when their preferences don’t fit in with other’s expectations, the interactions in this book could be really painful. Seeing a character too much like themselves being called rude, mean or sick because they don’t like hugs and kisses might make the book too emotionally taxing – and I wanted it to be a book that instead balanced the honesty of those hard moments with warmth and light and comfort.

The rhyming text helps strike that balance, as do the soothing palette and adorable characters illustrator Jess Engle created. By making Rissy an animal, we let readers put a little distance between her experience and their own.  By making her a lovebird specifically, we play on the idea that your whole species might be defined by a certain way of sharing love – but that you don’t have to be.

Please add anything else you want readers to know

There have been a number of picture books about autonomy and consent released recently, and I am so thrilled to see this. No one book speaks to every reader, or gets all aspects of this nuanced concept across. I’d love for teachers and parents to check out other suggestions including: 

In addition to reading books on the topic, it’s important for caregivers to grow their knowledge base and practice the skills needed to set, communicate, and respect boundaries. I highly recommend following @comprehensiveconsent on Instagram for daily parenting advice from a fabulous and frankly funny consent educator.

You can also check out this printable lesson plan created by my cousin-in-law (that’s a thing, right?) and curriculum expert Leah Robinson. It includes a lovebird craft and role play cards (sample below) perfect for 4-8 year olds learning about consent.

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You’ll find even more activities on my website – including this kid-friendly recipe for Sunflower Love Cookies: perfect to pair with Rissy No Kissies.

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Katey Howes HeadshotKatey Howes is an award-winning picture book author and literacy advocate. Her picture books Be A Maker and Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe are popular in maker spaces and STEM education, and her debut book, Grandmother Thorn, was named an Anna Dewdney Read Together Honor Book. A former physical therapist, Katey lives in Eastern Pennsylvania with her husband, three daughters, and a pup named Samwise Gamgee. She loves reading, weaving, cooking, camping and travel. In addition to writing for children and raising kids who love books, Katey contributes to parenting, literacy, and STEAM education websites.

“You can order a signed copy of Rissy No Kissies from my local indie, Newtown Bookshop. Just follow this link: https://www.newtownbookshop.com/katey-howes-author-page

I’m also happy to snail mail a signed bookplate to you with proof of purchase. Email howes_kathryn@yahoo.com with mailing address and personalization request. Or tag @kateywrites on Twitter with a photo of your copy or receipt for your pre-order. I will follow and DM for your mailing address. “

Love to Read? Share It With Kids on March 2: Read Across America.

“When people make the time to read with children, children get the message that reading is important.” NEA

Students, parents, teachers and people from many walks of life, will read to children March 2,  in recognition of “National Read Across America Day,” a program the National Education Association established 20 some years ago.

Athletes and actors will issue reading challenges to young readers. Governors and other elected officials will recognize the role of reading with proclamations.

Naomi Gruer, a children’s writer and preschool teacher, participated in a remote event,   “World Read Aloud Day,” a few years ago.

“Reading to kids made me so happy because, in that moment, we explored the world inside the story together.”

To prepare the children for the online experience, Naomi asked them to listen for certain things as she read — a funny incident or a silly outcome or a character acting in a peculiar way. “The minute I was on Skype with the kids, everything else melted away. It was as if I was in the classroom with them,” she said.

Later, as a Microsoft Guest Educator, she was asked by several educators to read to their students. One request came from a teacher in Spain, who wanted English to be read to her classroom.

Naomi applied the same format to all her remote classroom sessions: an introduction, followed by reading (either chapters or picture books depending on the age of the students.)

“They listened actively and were ready to point out and discuss the humor. Introducing students to my dog was the ultimate ice breaker.” Naomi blogs at https://bmoreenergy.wordpress.com

What You Can Do:

There are many free and low cost ways to provide children with books in print, online, audio and video formats. For example, the “We Need Diverse Books” program provides free diverse books to schools serving low-income students around the country.

To learn more:

Visit https://www.nea.org/professional-excellence/student-engagement/read-across-america/support-your-readers/free-materials

How to help kids develop the reading habit:

  • Keep books everywhere you spend time. Put them in the car, in every room of the house and tuck them in backpacks and purses.
  • Visit the library often. Knowing how to use the library and learning the benefits of a library fosters a love of reading as well as a genuine respect for the services libraries provide.

Do you have a favorite children’s book? Please share it in the Comment section.

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist and voracious reader of  children’s books.