The Book I Bought for April: God Is Always Good

GodIsEach month I buy a book to support retailers and other authors and to recommend to my readers. You can find this year’s picks for JanuaryFebruary, and March at those links and find a roundup of the books I bought for 2014 here.

Why do bad things happen, and where is God when they do? Nearly everyone asks those questions. And if even if children don’t ask them, you can bet they are thinking them just the same.

I like this book, written by Tama Fortner and illustrated by Veronica Vasylenko, because it answers the questions for young children by focusing on who God is and what He is like.

A mother rabbit and her bunny child converse throughout the book, beginning with the child’s question “Mommy, what is God like?”

Each spread contains a question or statement from the child (“Does God make bad things happen?” … “But it’s hard to love bullies and people who are mean.”), a brief response from the mother that ends with a summary statement about God’s character, and a related Bible verse.

Picture books written as conversations between a child and an adult can be wearing to read aloud, but the text in this book, although it is a conversation, is artfully done–explaining difficult concepts simply, in childlike language:

It’s sad when people cry and are hurting.

We always want the ones we love to be happy and healthy and smiling. So when they are not, it makes us sad and breaks our hearts. That’s when it’s time to turn to God and tell Him all about it. Pray for those who are hurting and sick, and then remember this: no matter how tough things may be . . .

GOD IS WITH US WHEN WE ARE HURTING.

The book’s questions and answers fit what God has told us in his Word to the understanding of young children: God created a good world, He has good plans for us, sin is the cause of the bad things that happen, God is always caring for us, God uses his people to show his great love, heaven is wonderful, God never changes, God keeps his promises, He sent Jesus to save us.

God is always good—it’s teaching we need all need to grasp!

My favorite lines are probably these:

When the troubles of this world start to worry you, be brave and believe this . . .

GOD IS BIGGER THAN ANY BADNESS.

The subtitle is Comfort for Kids Facing Grief, Worry, or Scary Times. I suspect many parents and grandparents might find a good dose of comfort here too.

– Diane

A Favorite Book for Babies!

peekazooWhen grandson #3 was born in 2012, my husband and I cared for him during the workday for four months. (We loved it!).

Our daughter gave us our “orders” each morning. One directive I especially loved was “Be sure and read to him.”

She is a speech and language pathologist and knows better than I do about the importance of reading to children to encourage language development and so much more.

And it’s never too early to begin.

Among our family’s books for babies, our favorite is Peek-a-Zoo, from the Little Scholastic line.

Our first grandchild loved this fabulous touch-and-feel book filled with interesting textures and flaps. He nearly wore it out!

His brother, grandson #2, loved it well also, and now the newest addition to their family, grandson #4, explores it too.

Peek-a-Zoo makes a wonderful baby gift. A friend who saw this video on Facebook wrote to say, “I know this book well! My daughter loved it, and now the boys do too. It is well worn now and lives in the truck. (And it was from you!)”

Yes, our family has been blessed with babies, and now we’re blessing babies with books!

 

Say&PrayFinalI’m happy to announce the title of my next book! Coming in July, look for Say & Pray Bible, from Tommy Nelson!

– Diane

Why Reading Aloud to Children Matters

RAHJim Trelease was for 20 years an award-winning artist and journalist before turning his career toward education in 1979.

He had been reading aloud to his two children each night, as his own father had once read to him. And he had been visiting classrooms as a volunteer, to talk about careers in art and journalism.

He began to notice that not many of the children he met read very much for pleasure, but the ones who did nearly always came from classrooms where the teachers read aloud daily and incorporated silent reading time into the daily routine.

He began to investigate the connection and discovered plenty of research written up in academic language in educational journals, but nothing for parents.

So he wrote and self-published The Read-Aloud Handbook. Then in 1982, Penguin USA picked up and published the book, and Dear Abby helped make it known to parents everywhere. It’s now in its seventh edition.

From 1983 to 2008, Jim lectured and wrote full-time, focused primarily focus on the impact of reading aloud to children at home and in school on the child’s educational development.

At Jim’s information-packed website, Trelease-on-Reading.com, you can read excerpts from the current edition of The Read Aloud Handbook, find downloadable parent brochures, and learn hundreds of fascinating facts about the power of reading aloud.

“Every time you read to a child, you’re sending a ‘pleasure’ message to the child’s brain.”–Jim Trelease

So why am I writing about this subject here?

Because I wonder if children who are read to regularly and who learn to enjoy reading are more apt to view the Bible as a readable book as they grow up.

And oh, how I want them to read it!

SmallWTDOHere’s a book to add to your bedtime reading collection, my new Bible storybook Words to Dream On: Bedtime Bible Stories and Prayers.

 

 

– Diane

The Books I Bought for March: Easter Recommendations

TellMeEasterStoryBesides fun and festivity, holidays offer families opportunities for teaching children more about faith and for giving children gifts. And books help families do both.

A book in an Easter basket makes a gift that will last much longer than another chocolate bunny, and a book about Easter can expand the child’s experience of the holiday. But choosing the right book for Easter can be a dilemma.

Because, let’s face it, the Easter story falls largely outside the reach of what children can understand.

So this month I didn’t buy just one book, I bought a bunch. Each one has something to recommend it, and one of them might be right for your family.

For younger children

What Is Easter? (Ideals, 2006) and The Story of Easter (Ideals, 2010). Both of these toddler-size board books present the basic Easter story and touch on sin, Jesus’ death, and the resurrection.

An Easter Gift for Me (Zonderkidz, 2007). Also a board book, but larger. This one presents a brief version of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and emphasizes seeing Jesus in heaven someday.

What Is Easter? (www.whatsinthebible.com, 2015). This hardcover picture book emphasizes the resurrection and Easter as a celebration of new life.

For older children

The Sparkle Egg (Ideals, 2014). This was The Book I Bought for April 2014. You can find my recommendation here.

The Berenstain Bears and The Easter Story (Zonderkidz, 2012). The Bear siblings watch a Sunday school class presentation and learn that Easter is about the death and resurrection of Jesus. Paperback.

The Easter Story (Sandy Creek, 2013). Starting out in the garden of Gethsemane, this one does a beautiful job with text and art–until the next-to-last spread, which greatly misrepresents the meaning of the events. If you can rephrase a few lines, this book could be a good choice. Paperback.

The Very First Easter (Concordia, 1999). The text is a conversation, long and involved, but the Easter story is complete, and if you are looking for illustrations done in a realistic style, you might like this book, which won a Gold Medallion. Paperback.

My books of the month

My book-of-the-month picks, sadly, are both out of print. But I bought them both previously, so I guess that counts. (And you can still find them online from third-party sellers.)

MyEasterBasketMy Easter Basket and the True Story of Easter (Standard Publishing, 2002). Disclaimer: I helped create this book. The colors in a child’s Easter basket relate to the biblical story in this die-cut, sparkly, large-sized board book.

Tell Me the Easter Story (Concordia, 2004). There’s much more in this little board book than you might think at first, as each spread relates something in a child’s everyday world to something in the biblical Easter story.

Each month I buy a book to support retailers and other authors. Read about my books for January and February 2015. Find a roundup of the books I bought for 2014 here.

 

– Diane

Three Simple Ways to Bless Your Grandchildren

10359384_10153086418649161_659668480264878230_nThis post first ran more than two years ago on the Christian Children’s Authors blog. I’ve updated it here … we have more grandchildren now!

I love being a grandma to four little boys, ages 7, 2 1/2, 28 months, and two months. My own two children both were girls, so having grandsons required learning new things. Like, little boys are often loud, messy, and ACTIVE (as well as tenderhearted and sweet).

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the feeling of a grandchild in my arms for the first time. Such a beautiful blessing from the Lord! Even before our first grandson was born, I knew I wanted to be an involved grandparent. It would take some thought and planning, since he and his parents would be living on another continent, but I would be connected to this child and be an influence in his life.

Grandchildren give us tremendous joy. We get to experience the world again as a new and fascinating place, full of surprises. We receive unconditional love (especially if we’re willing to bestow it first). In a mysterious way, some pieces of who we are will live on in our grandchildren after we are gone. But the most important part of being a grandparent isn’t about us–it’s about how we influence and bless them.

Here are three simple ways to do that.

1. Love and serve God. Know him through his Word. Seek his wisdom. Experience his power. Become someone your grandchildren will immediately think of when they think about what it means to know and love the Lord.

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Tim. 1:5)

2. Love your grandchildren’s parents–your own children and their spouses. Pray for them, often and specifically. Encourage them with affirmation. And if these relationships are not what you desire, do everything you can do to repair and renew them. Be parents your children can be proud of.

“As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18).

“Grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged; parents are the pride of their children” (Prov. 17:6)

3. Love your grandchildren. Children spell love T-I-M-E. Find ways to be there for them, even if you’re miles apart. Discover what’s important to them and make those things important to you. Enjoy them when you are together. Children who feel loved, respected, and accepted (while also knowing that the adults in their lives are in control) will be sure to listen when you have something important to say.

 “O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come.” (Psalm 71:17-18)

 

– Diane

Five Takeaways from a Book Launch

Reading 3

Yesterday I celebrated the launch of my new book, Words to Dream On, with a party and book signing. Despite my years in the publishing world and my other published books, this is the first time I’ve been very involved in helping a new book get out there and fly.

As I’ve been reflecting on yesterday’s event and the book launch overall, here are five things I’ve learned.

1. Encouragement matters! Receive it gratefully.

I loved seeing so many familiar faces at yesterday’s event! From our church’s senior minister and his wife, to my sister-in-law, to my friend who’s fatigued from chemotherapy but still came (and bought five books!) to another author friend and everyone in between, too many to mention–their support of what I’m doing encouraged me so much!

2. Meeting new readers matters! Don’t be afraid.

As we drove to the event, I told my husband and a friend, “I wish I were a really outgoing person who can’t wait to interact with lots of people!” But I learned in two short hours that even less-than-outgoing personalities can enjoy meeting readers and introducing new ones to my books!

I held the event in the children’s department of the Barnes and Noble store at The Streets of West Chester, just a few miles from my home. Turns out Sunday afternoons find quite a few families in the store … who heard the music and wandered in to see what was going on.

Which leads to …

3. Family and friends matter! Ask them to help.

I asked a friend from Bible study, a former teacher, to manage the craft table, and she did a superb job!

Linda2I asked my daughter Bethany and her singing partner, Jake, to come and entertain with children’s songs, and they were fabulous!

Song time2And writing friend Jillian Kent, who has signed at this bookstore before, knew the person I needed to contact there to ask about holding the event.

Planning matters. Start early.

Gail Allinsmith, community business development manager, and Lisa Oravec, children’s department manager, contributed so much to making the event successful. Gail was gracious and helpful from the very first phone call. I met with her and Lisa a few weeks ago to check over plans, and I could have done it even earlier to get more specifics about the event into the store’s own publicity.

The marketing team at Tommy Nelson helped from the start of my marketing efforts, with coloring pages, bookmarks, and postcards–and the advice to hold the launch at a bookstore with a good children’s space and a solid sales record.

Promoting an event was new to me, and I tried to find a balance between the “multiple impressions” needed to get attention and not wearing people out. I think I did OK on that.

I also wanted to balance inviting people to help me celebrate with the reason we could celebrate at all–a beautiful book intended to introduce children and families to God’s Word and deepen their relationship with Him. Finding this balance is more difficult, but I think I learned the importance of crafting the message purposefully and carefully … and next time I won’t be so shy about it.

Next time I’ll also let someone with better design skills than mine create a poster to help get the word out!

And last, but maybe most important …

5. God’s leading matters. Thank Him, and follow.

From doing live radio interviews to speaking at a women’s event at church to holding the party and signing yesterday, this launch has been an all-new experience. But all the aspects of my in-house and freelance publishing work have led me here, even when the path seemed murky. It’s oh-so important to pray and trust.

WordsMy new book, Words to Dream On: Bedtime Stories and Prayers, released last month. I’ll be signing and meeting readers again on Saturday, April 4, at the LifeWay Christian Store in Savannah, Georgia.

– Diane

New Life for Happy Day Books–Faith That Sticks!

I’m always happy when good books get a new life! Tyndale House acquired the Happy Day Books line from Standard Publishing and has done a wonderful job creating fun and entertaining sticker + activity books from 8 of the titles!

Daniel EasterSurprises Puppies

Now 24 pages, not 16, these paperbacks also offer a page of large, colorful stickers for children to add to pages throughout the book to complete the illustrations.

At the back, you’ll find a page of Let’s Talk About It questions, two pages of puzzles (such as matching and word search) and a page with instructions for a craft activity (all related to the story). Plus, children can color two coloring pages based on art in the book.

The 8 books in the new series retail for $3.99. The series includes Bible stories, modern-day stories, and holiday stories. Three reading levels (pre-readers, beginning readers, and independent readers) are offered too. The reading levels are explained on the last page of the books, and each book’s level appears on the back cover.

Tyndale has kept the Happy Day “look” intact while adding in a fresh Faith That Sticks identity too.

You can see all eight new titles here. (My only complaint is that the website doesn’t specify the reading levels.)

DIANE

SmallWTDOVisit me at www.dianestortz.com. Learn about my new release, Words to Dream On. Download free resources, find helpful links, sign up for my newsletter, and follow me on your favorite social media networks.

 

 

– Diane

Create Childhood Memories That Speak Jesus’ Words

Each week last month, I celebrated the release of my new book Words to Dream On with a giveaway. The winner of last week’s prize is Rita Chevarella. Congratulations!

Over on Christian Children’s Authors, author Carol McAdams Moore wrote about her memories of listening to her mom read a Bible story each night at bedtime:

I clearly remember my mother’s words. She wanted our last thoughts before sleep to be focused on the promises of God’s Word. Our bedtime stories were Bible stories. In fact, I still have one of the books my mom read to us.

Beautiful-Bible-Stories-for-Children-249x300I remember crawling into bed and hearing my mom read. I remember talking about what happened in the Bible story and how those promises and challenges applied to our own lives, not just to the lives of people in the Bible. I remember asking to see the picture that went along with the story.

I remember. There is a lot of repetition in that last paragraph – right? I think one challenge to parents is to create memories with their children that speak the words of Jesus. Reading a Bible story at bedtime is a wonderful way to do that.

I think so too.

– Diane

Five Fun Ways to Memorize Scripture with Kids

SolsBox2

Each week in February, I’m celebrating the release of my new book Words to Dream On with a giveaway! The winner of last week’s prize is Joyce Maynard. Congratulations!

THIS WEEK’S GIVEAWAY: An autographed copy of Words to Dream On plus Hidden in My Heart: a Lullaby Journey through Scripture CD.

The giveaway begins now and ends Saturday, February 28, at 11:59 PM Eastern Standard Time. Winner must live within the continental United States.

To enter the giveaway, just leave “I’d love to win” as a comment below OR join my quarterly newsletter list (use the box at the left).

Winner will be announced in my post on Monday, March 2.

Children have an amazing capacity for memorizing. Just ask one to sing you a song from Frozen or the latest TV jingle! Those words “hidden in their hearts” will lodge there for a lifetime.

Why shouldn’t we make sure, then, that God’s Word gets placement in those little hearts and minds too?

Here are five ways to make memorizing Scripture effective and fun (at any age–you might want to try these out yourself!). Repetition is key, but it doesn’t have to be boring!

1. Put the words to a beat and chant them together. Add claps, taps, and foot-stomping if you’d like.

Hidden2. Sing the words. Make up your own tunes, or try some of the excellent Scripture songs available from children’s artists. Try music from Yancy, Steve Green, the Seed Company, Twin Sisters, and others. The Scripture Lullabies series from Hidden in My Heart is great to play as children drift off to sleep, and I’m including Vol. 1 as part of this week’s giveaway!

3. Make reading and repeating the verses aloud together a family activity. This is one strength of the Charlotte Mason Scripture memory system.

560141_487444801312547_717800870_n4. Make verses visible. Post them around the house where children will see them often. Write a different verse each week on a chalkboard in the kitchen. Let children copy a verse themselves and choose where to post it.

5. Make verses tactile. My grandson has enjoyed verses I made magnetic for him to assemble and stick on the dishwasher, fridge, or a cookie sheet.

Just print out the words in large type on colored paper with extra spaces between each word. Then back the verse with magnetic strips and cut the words apart.

Printing different verses on different colors helps children sort and assemble the verses too.

FridgeVerses2

Which memory method will you try soon?

Don’t forget to enter this week’s giveaway! Just leave “I’d love to win” as a comment below, or join my newsletter list.

– Diane

The Book I Bought for February: The Story of Martin Luther King, Jr.

StoryMLKI wanted to honor Black History Month with this month’s book and found this 2001 board book by Johnny Ray Moore, published by Candy Cane Press (Ideals) and illustrated by Amy Wummer.

In simple words and using experiences young children understand, the book introduces King’s story and his work to end segregation.

Readers learn that Martin, a good student, attended a school in an old building that needed fixing, although the school for white students was new. His family enjoyed eating out, but some restaurants wouldn’t serve them. On the playground, he could drink only out of drinking fountains marked “Colored.”

These things made Martin angry, and when he grew up and became a preacher, he once talked to 200,000 people and told them about his dream:

Martin said,

“I have a

dream

that my four little

children . . . will

not be judged

by the color of

their skin. . . .”

Now children can eat in any restaurant, drink from any water fountain, go to any school, and dream their dreams “just like Martin Luther King, Jr.”

It’s simplistic, but appropriate for little ones.

Moore and Wummer also teamed up on Meet Martin Luther King, Jr., a 2004 picture book for ages 4 -8.

– Diane

Freebie

You CAN Read the Bible in a Year … Here’s How!