LOVE IS KIND:Celebrating Acts of Kindness with Laura Sassi (and a give-away!)

photo promo with text love is kind instagramSince a central theme of LOVE IS KIND is spreading love and kindness, Darlene asked me to reflect on three acts of kindness that have touched me as a picture book author. It’s a delightful topic and one that makes my heart sing with gratitude and joy for the many, many examples of kindness that I have both witnessed and been the recipient of.  However, as I ponder which to choose, one stands out – and it’s one that I’ve for a long time been seeking a way to honor – so I hope that it’s okay, Darlene, that I have chosen just one. It involves the editor of LOVE IS KIND – so it’s really a perfect fit. Zonderkidz editor, Barbara Herndon, edited not just this book, but my first two as well, and she is a remarkable person with a very kind heart. I hope her example will inspire us all to spread love and kindness as the opportunities unfold before us.  
Here’s how this act unfolded:
It was October 2013 and my mother was dying of ALS. Except for labored one or two word bursts, had lost the muscular ability to speak and was growing weaker day by day. One morning as I was praying for my mom – who lived 6 hours away in Virginia – it suddenly struck me that she might not live long enough to see my first book, GOODNIGHT, ARK, published. My mom had been a great encourager to me on this journey into children’s book writing and I’d always appreciated her artistic perspective (she was an artist) as she read and critiqued my manuscripts. She and I had been so excited to learn that Jane Chapman would illustrate, and now, I realized, she might not get the chance to see those illustrations. 
 A wave of sadness poured over me and I emailed my editor, Barbara Herndon, at Zonderkidz, to ask she if she had a sketch or illustration sample or anything that I could share with my mother while she was still able to communicate – even if only in a limited way.  Within the hour, she responded that yes, of course, they could send something  – and not just anything – she had already special ordered two folded galleys of the entire book – and when would I need them by.  
Already feeling blessed beyond measure at this act of kindness, I now added that my sister and I had a special trip planned for mid-October to see our mother – we’d both be swooping in from our faraway homes for a special mother-daughter weekend. It was short notice, but Barbara did not hesitate. She said she would do her very best to make sure they arrived in time for that visit and immediately made arrangements for them to be mailed by overnight express to my parents in Virginia.  
The pictures here show me with my mom and dad opening the package from Barbara and then enjoying the folded galley together. 

Because Barbara responded so quickly and so kindly, my mom was able to enjoy Jane’s illustrations and she even got to communicate her love for the illustrations with Jane via a short email. Then, Jane – in her own act of kindness – sweetly responded to my mother’s thoughtful artistic reflections about Janes’ illustrations.  

It was a very special shared moment made possible by a compassionate editor who responded above and beyond the call of duty to make something special happen for a dying woman (my mom) and her daughter (me). I will forever be grateful for that act of kindness and it came just in the nick of time. My mom passed away a month later – and that trip with those folded-galleys turned out to be our last -and very treasured – time together. 
Zonderkidz has offered to give one copy of LOVE IS KIND to one reader of this post. To qualify, you must be a U.S. resident with a street address (as opposed to a P.O. Box) and at least 18 years old to enter. Leave a comment describing an act of kindness you were the recipient of.  One name will be drawn at random from all who entered.
Darlene here:  LOVE IS KIND is a beautiful story that is destined to become a classic.  Here is my review of this special book:

Owl takes the coins he’s saved to buy his beloved grammy a box of chocolates for her birthday. When he drops the coins, and they are picked up by beaver, Owl sees how happy beaver is and doesn’t ask for the coins back.  Owl has other opportunities to buy the chocolates, but things happen along the way and Owl returns to grammy feeling sad because he has nothing to give her for her birthday. After he tells grammy  what happened, she reminds Owl of all the love he spread everywhere he went and how that was the best gift a grammy ever got.

Based on LOVE as described in 1 Corinthians 13, this heart-warming story of kindness celebrates the love between kids and their grandparents. The sweet and delightful illustrations remind readers of all the ways we express Love. A rare treat and the perfect gift for parents and grandparents to share with their little “Owls”.

BIO: Laura Sassi has a passion for telling stories in prose and rhyme.  A graduate of Princeton University and UCLA, she had a successful teaching career before becoming a children’s author. She is the author of four picture books including the best-selling GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014) which was a Christian Book Award Finalist, GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, 2015), DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling, 2018) which was featured on BBC’s Cbeebies Bedtime Stories, and LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018).  She lives in
New Jersey with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie.

Laura Sassi with Sunflowers.jpg
Laura Sassi
Children’s book author and poet
GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, August ’14)
GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, October ’15)
LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, Fall  ’18)

Interview With Picture Book Author Laura Sassi

I met Laura Sassi at a workshop event held by the New Jersey chapter of the SCBWI 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?              Image 1

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.          

Storytelling skunks

Storytelling skunks

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!     IMG_3053

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.

Laura Sassi
Children’s book author and poet
GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, August ’14)

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