Sharing that Springtime Spirit

Project Overview:  This project is appropriate for any child that can hold a crayon and only requires paper and a little artistic flair!

As an author one of my favorite things to do is share my story, Perfect You, with children.  This morning I had the pleasure of reading to a group of energetic and excited preschoolers ages 3 – 5.  In Perfect You, part of the message is that we are all given talents that we should use to serve others.  This message of service, particularly with kids and families, is one that I am really passionate about!  These school story times have proven to be an awesome opportunity to combine both reading and an introduction to the idea of serving others.

At the conclusion of my presentation, the preschoolers and I talked about how they could use their talent of coloring to bring a little happiness to someone else.  Using spring-themed pictures, the kids had a great time pouring their hearts into creating mini-masterpieces.  Once completed, I was able to deliver all these pictures to a local assisted living facility where they displayed them and delivered them to their residents.  What joy would it bring to an elderly person to have cheerful picture from a child hanging in your room!  So next time you are feeling like your refrigerator can’t hold one more of your child’s special art pieces, consider delivering them to someone who would love a youthful reminder of spring!







The Joys of Remodeling

I’m in the throes of a kitchen remodel as I write this. Sheets of plastic drape my cabinets, and countertops. While white dust coats every surface, my tabletop is covered with things I’ve moved out of the kitchen to safety. My refrigerator is in the dining room, the stove and microwave in the back yard. This remodel has been a long time coming and is totally inconvenient. But it will be so worth it. 

I figure in order to survive this, I need to look at the positives. And truly, my kitchen remodel isn’t all bad. One of the first and best perks amid the dust is that I don’t have to cook! We eat out almost every night, at least until I don’t have to dodge plastic to get into my cabinets, stove and and refrigerator. Never mind what the scale is telling me these days!

Another plus is seeing my family pull together to get through the inconvenience of a non-working kitchen. It puts things in perspective to recognize how spoiled we are when you figure that more than half the world lives like this every day. How blessed we are to have the resources to remodel! And we still have running water, even if we have to go into the bathroom to find it.

My husband and I are having fun working on a project together. Our teenage daughter enjoys helping us pick out the floor tile, paint colors, and countertop. Even our little chihuahua is in the thick of it, nosing around in all the dust, watching my husband’s every move as if he’s interested in learning to remodel his dog house! It’s nice to have a big project we can all work on together, enabling us to bond in ways we couldn’t in the status quo.

We know it’s only by God’s provision that we’re able to do this remodel. I pray for His grace each day so we don’t get impatient with each other or the inconvenience. I thank Him for his goodness to us, while praising Him for the gift of family and the good health to do this work ourselves.

How about you? Have you survived a remodel? Are you working on a project that brings with it inconvenience? What lessons are you learning along the way? How have you included your children in your project? Any survival tips you can share?

The Little Pot by Dawn Stephens

■Title: The Little Pot
■Author and Illustrator: Dawn Stephens
■Publisher: Bumblebee Productions (2009)
■ISBN-10: 1-933982-11-X
■ISBN-13: 978-1-933982-11-3
■SRP: $17.95
■Reviewed by: Janice D. Green

Rating:  :) :) :) :) :)

The Little Pot by Dawn Stephens is a children’s storybook that teaches a lesson in patience as Little Pot wonders and worries about what he will become.

The story has several ups and downs to keep a child as well as the adult reader interested and wanting to know what will happen next. The relationship between the potter and Little Pot is unmistakably parallel to the relationship between God and his children, yet the story does not preach. The message can speak to both child and adults alike as we struggle to understand what our purpose in life must be.

Children and adults will enjoy the colorful illustrations. The pictures make me feel like I’m in the room with the potter and can feel the texture of the unglazed pots. Little Pot’s playful expressions add a whimsical touch.

I exchanged books with this author with the hope for book reviews as appropriate. This book is easy to love and did not disappoint me in any way. The review is freely given.

This book was reviewed by Janice D. Green, author of The Creation and The First Christmas.

An Imagination Is a Terrible Thing to Waste!

I was one of those children who had a very active imagination. I think part of it stemmed from the fact that I was an only child who moved around a lot. This translated into lots of lonely days on my own — days in which I had to come up with ways to entertain myself. I loved reading and devoured books. I also had a Nintendo and played that occasionally. But more often than not, I would create imaginary scenes for myself to become part of, and I would act them out.

Some days I was a veterinarian, operating on my stuffed animals. Other days I was a famous singer, giving interviews to the press after a concert. During third grade, I had a long blue coat with spy comic strips for the lining, and this turned me into a secret agent.  As I got older and gained more responsibility around the house, I allowed my chores of unloading the dishwasher and wiping down the counters to transform me into a waitress at diner. I met a lot of interesting characters at that diner, all courtesy of my imagination.

Sometimes during my younger years, my mom would see me out on the front porch talking to myself and think that I had an imaginary friend. I’m afraid she was kind of concerned about it! But I would always reassure her with these words: “No, Mom, I’m acting.”

As I reflect on my childhood years, I can remember feeling almost cursed that I had so few playmates. I think I cried myself to sleep over it on more than a few occasions. But now as I look back, I can do so with fondness and gratitude for all of my imagination-filled hours and what they taught me. In fact, today I work as a full-time storyteller. In my work, I use a lot of audience-participation because I want to show children that they too can create unique and fun worlds to explore through their imagination. I also have the privilege of teaching workshops to educators and showing them the value of creative dramatic play and how it allows children to try on many different roles and express themselves and their interests.

I like to leave children with the idea that each book that they read is an adventure waiting to happen! Any story  can be acted out at home, and they don’t need fancy props to do it. A blanket can become a river. A green bath robe can turn you into a crocodile. An old scarf can become a monkey’s tail.

The next time you read a story to your child, encourage them to act it out. Allow them to explore the emotions of the characters. Get them physically involved by finding a walk or movement for the characters. Have them use their voice in different ways until they find a voice for the character. This can be done with any kind of story, but it works particularly well with folktales which often have a lot of fun and interesting animal characters with strong personalities. It’s also great to try with Bible stories because it allows children to inhabit the story, making it relevant to them and their own experience.

Even if you don’t consider yourself an actor or actress, get involved and play alongside your child. Don’t be afraid to be a real goofball!  These will be unforgettable moments that will show your child that no matter how old you are, you’re never too old to use your imagination, to try new things and to have fun.

As much as you can, look for opportunities to engage your child’s imagination whether you’re at home, at the park, in the grocery store or traveling in the car. For as Albert Einstein once said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”  Everyone has an imagination — so don’t let yours, or your child’s, go to waste!

Fun to Read, Fun to Create

Creating children’s books, especially illustrated books, requires many hands and many skills.

One of my favorite projects as a freelance editor has been Zack, You’re Acting Zany: Playful Poems and Riveting Rhymes (Standard Publishing, 2010). The author is Marty Nystrom, who wrote the worship song “As the Deer” and a hundred others. Steve Bjorkman, a talented artist with a long list of successful children’s book projects, created the illustrations.

Both gentlemen are mature Christian believers, and I enjoyed helping them team up on this wonderful book. Inside are 120 poems about New Testament people, events, and teaching–all combining wacky fun with faith and awe.

Locusts for Lunch

It’s gross enough
that John the Baptist
gobbled up grasshoppers.
But here’s what makes it even worse–
the kind he chomped were whoppers!

Steve’s kid-appealing art pairs perfectly with Marty’s laugh-out-loud poems. Everything’s planned to entice readers to dig into the Bible themselves to learn more. Like this tag line after “Locusts for Lunch”: “Read Mark1:6 to find out what else John ate.”

You can get a look inside Zack, You’re Acting Zany and read some of the poems here.

Here’s a snapshot of the process of creating this book:

After helping Marty decide on poems to add or delete and then working with him to polish the text, I sent the poems to Steve. Some illustrators want specific instructions, but Steve had great ideas of his own! I reviewed his sketches and approved his final art.

Then everything went to a designer who combined the art and text according to a basic design template they had developed earlier. I also worked with a proofreader, created the back cover and jacket text, and gave all the design files a final check. Then, off to the printer!

Marty and Steve first collaborated on Don’t Mess with Moses: Peculiar Poems and Rib-Tickling Rhymes in 2006. That one introduces kids to the Old Testament. My friend Laura Derico edited that project.

For read-aloud fun that will entice children 6 and up to investigate the Bible on their own, these books are a perfect pair!


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