I met Laura Sassi at a workshop event held by the New Jersey chapter of the SCBWI http://www.njscbwi.org. Laura hosts a wonderful blog Laura Sassi Tales where she blogs about crafts, activities and stories for children. All right up my alley! She recently released her first picture book GOODNIGHT ARK (Zonderkidz). It’s my delight and pleasure to have this opportunity to talk to Laura about the book.
Congratulations on the publication of GOODNIGHT ARK. Noah’s Ark is a popular story. What made you decide to do a picture about it? What makes this story different?
Actually, the Noah’s Ark twist came in a roundabout way. The initial inspiration was personal experience. When my kids were little, they and the dog often bounded into our bed during storms. Getting them back to their own beds in the midst of howling winds and pounding rain was challenging. With that as my spark, but thinking that ordinary kids and pets in an ordinary bed, might be kind of boring, I kept switching up the setting until it hit me: Noah’s Ark! As soon as I had decided upon my setting, my mind whirred with all the possible animals that might pile in. I knew early on that I wanted my story to rhyme and that I wanted the rhymes to create a riddle-feel in which young readers could use the first rhyme in each pair to guess what the next animal might be. So I guess what makes it different is that isn’t a literal retelling of Noah and his ark. Rather it’s a fun rhyming bedtime story set on Noah’s Ark.
What has been the most rewarding thing since the book’s debut?
Two rewarding things come to mind. First, I feel a great sense of gratitude towards all the people who encouraged me along the way not to give my dream of writing rhyming picture books. I am grateful for my agent and editor for believing in the project and for Jane Chapman for illustrating Goodnight, Ark so delightfully. At the same time I feel a nice sense of accomplishment in knowing that I stuck with an idea from beginning to end, honing and improving it along the way, and enjoying the journey each step of the way.
I would also add that I am LOVING this post-publication stage where I get to go to schools and libraries and bookstores to do readings of GOODNIGHT, ARK and interact with my readers. I’ve always loved writing and I’ve always loved interacting with kids and now I’m getting to do both.
Which animals on the ark have kids most resonated with? Has this surprised you?
This is a fun question. GOODNIGHT, ARK is full of all sorts of wild creatures including wild boars, elephants, snakes, quail and skunks! And at every school, library, and bookstore visit, children invariably like to share which pair of wilds beasts they like best. The skunks are top contenders, possibly because I have two skunk puppet assistants who help with the story telling.
The green lizards that quietly cling to the ark walls on several pages are also quite popular. My favorite response, however, came from a sweet little kindergartner at one of the schools I visited. When asked which animals were her favorite, she said the wild boar because she thought their bristles would come in handy for scratching her back if she had a mosquito bite. Now that’s creative thinking!
DJ: Wonderful! Isn’t that why we love writing for Children? How can teachers use your book in a classroom setting?
GOODNIGHT, ARK just fun to read just for the pure enjoyment of reading – which is a love I hope to pass on to future generations. It also readily lends itself to many curriculum-based activities. It’s great for practicing prediction skills, listening for rhyme, looking for patterns, practicing counting, and addition and more. If teachers or parents are interested in specific activities, I have created several extension activities for GOODNIGHT, ARK which are available on my blog.
You have another book coming out called GOODNIGHT MANGER. Please tell us about it and about any other projects you’re working on.
Yes, GOODNIGHT, MANGER will release in October, just in time for the holiday season. In this rhyming Christmas story for little ones, it’s time for Baby Jesus to go to sleep, but between adoring animals, itchy hay, angels’ joyful singing, and three kings bearing noisy gifts, there’s just too much commotion. How will Mary and Joseph ever get him to sleep? (You’ll have to read to find out.) Zonderkidz recently sent me the folded galleys for GOODNIGHT, MANGER and Jane Chapman has again done a wonderful job with the illustrations. I can’t wait to share this story with the world!
Thanks so much for having me, Darlene. This has been a fun interview.
DJ: The pleasure has been all mine, Laura!
BIO: Laura Sassi has a passion for telling humorous stories in rhyme. She is the author of two picture books published by Zonderkidz: GOODNIGHT, ARK and GOODNIGHT, MANGER, Her poems, stories, articles, and crafts have appeared in Highlights for Children, Cricket, Ladybug, Spider and Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. and elsewhere. She writes daily from her century-old home in New Jersey where she lives with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie.
Children’s book author and poet
GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, August ’14)
Blog: https://laurasassitales.wordpress.com <https://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/
Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRsc-pKmKwM <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRsc-pKmKwM>