I am so excited for today’s post! I had the honor to interview Laura Sassi, author of two of Jimmie’s favorite books, Goodnight, Ark and Goodnight, Manger. Not only does Jimmie enjoy listening to these books before bed, we really love reading them to him. The words and pictures are entertaining and full of fun. What a wonderful way to introduce bible stories to children of all ages.
Thank you so much for having me on your blog today, Rosie. It’s a real treat to connect with my reading family – the moms and dads and little ones who are enjoying Goodnight, Ark and Goodnight, Manger.
Growing up, did you always want to be a children’s author?
Actually, when I was little what I really wanted to be was Wonder Woman. I had her twirl perfected and everything. I loved imaginary play and spent hours with friends, or sometimes alone, creating fantastic make-believe scenarios – which, come to think of it, is sort of what I do now as an author. When I learned to read, I also fell in love with books and spent hours each week reading. One thing led to another and soon I was writing my own stories and poems. A few years ago my parents sent me a box full of journals and papers from my elementary school years. Included in the rather musty collection are limericks, riddles, and silly rhyming snippets – all proof that I not only liked to write, but that I also loved to rhyme, even as a child. So I even though never dreamed I’d grow up to be an author (I grew up to be a teacher first, instead), my love of imagination and playing with words has deep roots.
What inspired you to write Goodnight, Ark and Goodnight, Manger?
My kids and the weather were the spark that led me to write Goodnight, Ark. We get big storms in New Jersey and when they were little, my kids and the dog would get scared and come piling into our bed. However, I thought that a story about ordinary kids piling into an ordinary bed might be boring, so I kept flipping the idea until—Zip! Zing!—it hit me—I could set the tale afloat on Noah’s ark!
Goodnight, Manger was inspired by my daughter. As a preschooler, she loved playing with the little Baby Jesus that was part of our nativity set. She’d carry him around the house saying things like, “Baby Jesus crying. It’s okay, Baby.” Then she’d gently feed him or rock him and sing a lullaby. Before listening to her tender play, I’d never thought of Baby Jesus as ever crying. But, he was human (and God) and so he must have cried. With this sweet spark of inspiration, I was ready to write the story that was on my heart – which was to write a fun Christmas bedtime book that kids would want to read again and again and which would point them in the direction of Jesus – the real gift of Christmas.
Do you have any more “Goodnight” books in mind?
I have some ideas, but they still need to be developed. There are,however, a couple of other new books already in the pipeline for publication, so stay tuned for those official announcements. =)
What led you to write Christian children’s books?
For a long time I have had it on my heart to use my writing as a way to point kids towards good and towards God. To write stories that will appeal not just to believers, but to the broader culture as well. So when Zonderkidz said they wanted to publish first “Goodnight, Ark” and then“Goodnight, Manger” and said that the reason they especially appealed was because they were great “cross-over” books I was thrilled. In other words, they are books that anyone might like to pick up and read because the stories are fun. But because they are inspired by Bible stories they can also point little children and their parents towards God.
Have you ever thought about writing a novel?
I do have a middle-grade novel draft collecting dust in my files. But I don’t think that’s my gifting. At least for now, I’ve found my voice in telling stories for the very young. And I LOVE it!
Did you have a favorite teacher growing up that helped you develop you love for writing?
I do. Her name was Mrs. Rebholz and she was my ninth grade English teacher. Her favorite expression was “Keep percolating.” She used the phrase to prod us when discussing literature or to urge us to take our weekly writing assignments in new and unexpected directions. Her point was not to settle for the first idea that pops in your head. Instead, keep thinking. Keep pushing yourself to think beyond the ordinary. That refrain has been foundational to my writing. Indeed, I can see that my best written pieces are the ones I let percolate. Instead of settling for that first idea, I brainstorm, I revise, I revise again, often flipping the idea by trying a new setting, or new point of view, or new metaphor until I create something that really sparkles.
What is your favorite children’s book and why?
Oh, Rosie, this is such a hard question! I love so many books and for so many different reasons, but the one that comes to mind today is Virginia Kahl’s classic The Duchess Bakes a Cake. As a child what I loved most about it was that it was funny and it rhymed. It was a bedtime standard and, in my head, I can still hear my mother reading it to me as I now (or used to when they were younger) read with my children. As an adult, I now also appreciate that it features a mother who, like me, loves to write. In the case of the Duchess, leads to a gigantic baking mishap. Thankfully, so far, I’m a little better than the Duchess at doing both without wreaking too much havoc in the kitchen. =)
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 http://www.laurasassitales.wordpress.com or on Twitter: @LauraSassiTales. She can also be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LauraSassiTales.
Click here to see the Goodnight, Manger Book Trailer
Click here to see the Goodnight, Ark Book Trailer