Saturday, November 26, 2016

PPBF: A Review of Drat That Fat Cat by Julia Patton

REVIEW BY: Lynne Marie

TITLE: Drat That Fat Cat
PUBLISHER: Albert Whitman

Cornelius Van Ploof lived alone. He collected very rare species of cacti. He disliked noises and mess.

One Sunday morning, there was a DING DONG meow at the front door.

REVIEW: From the onset the cover of this book hooks the reader with a not-your-run-of-the-mill-fat-cat via active and engaging art. As the story begins, we meet our somewhat funny-looking and quirky main character, with his fun-to-say name and unique characteristics that set him apart from generic main characters. His personality, by nature, hints at that the problem might be. And when that Ding Dong arrives, little ones will have fun knowing who is at the door and the chaos he will cause in Cornelius' life. They will definitely want to follow Cornelius' story as he strays from his usual, ordinary day to a life with that fat cat!

I loved this book. All of it. From the cover, to the end papers, to the last page which promises another adventure in the reader's mind, and perhaps another fabulous book! I love the subtle message that our blessings come in all shapes, sizes and weights, and that we don't always realize our blessings are blessings until we have time to reflect on them and see them in a proper light. But message aside, this is an adorable book that will appeal to many ages on many levels and truly a fun read aloud.

NOTE: The opinions reflected herein are my own.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

TODDLER TUESDAY REVIEW & GIVE-AWAY: Goodnight Manger, Written by Laura Sassi, Illustrated by Jane Chapman

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TITLE: Goodnight Manger
FORMAT: Board Book
AUTHOR: Laura Sassi
PUBLISHER: HarperCollins
IMPRINT: Zondervan / Zonderkidz
ISBN: 978-0-310-75571-8

Stars are twinkling.
Baby's fed. 
Mama says, "It's
Time for bed."

Hug him, squeeze him,
Hold him tight.
Dim the lantern.
Say, "Goodnight."

From the moment the cover opens and this delightful bedtime story begins, it's broad appeal becomes evident. It is neither just a nativity story, nor just a bedtime story, but a wonderfully intertwined combination. And while technically a bedtime story, it is spirited and not without clever tension and pacing as angels, shepherds and kings come to welcome the new baby and influence his inability to go to sleep. 

This board book version of Sassi's picture book of the same name is perfect for toddlers as it is strong, durable. Importantly, it introduces elements of the nativity story in a fun, sweet and subtle way, with crisp rhyme that bears reading over and over again. Jane Chapman's art is absolutely charming and delightful, and presents characters that will appeal to children of all backgrounds. 

Zonderkidz is offering one fresh-off-the-press copy of the new GOODNIGHT, MANGER board book to one lucky winner.  To be eligible, you must be a U.S. resident and have a physical address, not a P.O. Box.  

To enter, please leave a comment for Laura in the comment section of this post. A winner will be chosen on December 7th. 

PLEASE CHECK OUT: Laura Sassi's writing advice here:

Monday, November 7, 2016

SQUEAK! What the Mice in GOODNIGHT, MANGER Can Teach us about Picture Book Writing by Laura Sassi

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Aren’t picture books amazing?  I mean, in what other format, except maybe graphic novel, do text and illustration work together to tell a story in such a magical fashion.  To be successful, neither text nor illustration is complete without the other and each, in their own ways, must enhance the story.  When I first began writing picture books, I knew this intellectually, but I still needed work in letting my words leave room for an illustrator.  With my first book Goodnight, Ark and my second, Goodnight, Manger, I thought I had mastered that. But, as I learned from the wonderful Jane Chapman, there is always room to grow. Let me explain.  

In her delightful style, illustrator Jane Chapman has included an adorable pair of mice in almost every spread of my Christmas picture book, Goodnight, Manger.  The pair actually had their own verse in the almost final version. That verse, however,  got cut from the text in the interest of tightening and streamlining the plot.  In the almost final version, they played an active role in trying to soothe and comfort the crying Baby Jesus.  Here is the outtake:

Field mice come
On bitty toes.
Tickle Baby’s
Ears and nose.

This was actually one of four verses that both Jane and my editor suggested be cut in an effort to streamline the story.  A total of 43 words were cut, bringing the final word count to a slim 256. At first I thought I would miss this mouse-y verse as well as the others, but I don’t. In the process finalizing the these last edits, Jane said something to the effect that if an action is described in the text, it MUST be included within the pages.  But, if it’s not, the illustrator can still make a nod to it in the illustrations.  And that’s exactly what Jane has done with the humorous inclusion of the mice. 

For little readers, it’s engaging to look for the mice on each page spread. And for me as a writer, and perhaps now for you, too, they are serve as a cute visual reminder of the importance of leaving room for the illustrations to tell part of the story.  

Happy writing and reading all! 

BIO: Laura Sassi has a passion for writing picture books in rhyme and prose. She is the author of two picture books GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014), GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, 2015) and is excited to announce that there are more on the way! Laura grew up overseas and in the US, but has spent most of her adult life in New Jersey where she lives with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie. For her reflections on reading, writing and life,visit her blog at or on Twitter: @LauraSassiTales. She can also be found on Facebook at

For a Review of Goodnight Manger and a book giveaway!