This week I’d like you to meet children’s book author, Laura Sassi. I know you’ll enjoy getting to know Laura and hearing all about her latest picture book, Little Ewe. After an adventurous day, Little Ewe is lost and afraid. You and your Little Ones will love the rhyming and counting text and finding out who rescues Little Ewe.
You’ll also meet Tommy Doyle, the illustrator of Little Ewe.
Welcome, Laura and Tommy! We’d love to get to know you and hear about your latest picture book, Little Ewe.
Laura, Please tell us a little about yourself and how you began writing. Did you write as a child?
Laura: I began my career as a fourth grade teacher. Not surprisingly, my favorite subjects were reading and writing. But when I wasn’t teaching, I was always writing in my journal and playing around with words.
Actually, I’d been writing in journals ever since I was a a kid. As soon as could hold a pencil and spell (sort of), I started writing poetry and stories on my own. How do I know this? I know because my parents sent me a box full of papers and notebooks from my childhood including limericks, riddles, and silly rhyming snippets – all proof that I’ve loved playing with language for a very long time.
But being a very practical young woman, I didn’t at first consider pursuing a career in writing. It wasn’t until my children came along and I took time off from teaching that it dawned on me that there was a place, and maybe even a need, for a writer like me. That’s when I took the plunge and began writing in earnest. And what did I like writing best? Humorous rhyming stories and poems. And, now with five books out and another set to release next spring, and oodles of poems and stories published in various children’s magazines, I’m still at it and loving every moment.
Laura, it’s wonderful that even as a child you were writing stories and poems! What’s your favorite childhood memory?
Laura: I grew up in a family of readers. Indeed, some of my favorite earliest memories include sitting in my mother’s lap while she read to me from A.A. Milne’s When We Were Very Young. I loved the rhythmic rhyming sound of Milne’s poems and memorized several, quite by accident, because I asked my mother to read them to me so often. I’ve carried the rhyming beat of those poems with me ever since. In fact, I think it’s one of the reasons I became a writer!
What was your favorite thing to do as a child?
Laura: I loved lots of things – most of which involved using my imagination. These included quiet things like writing, drawing, and reading. I also loved to build imaginary play worlds where, using my imagination, my friends and I went on many adventures! Many of these adventures were sparked by the books we read including the Little House on the Prairie series and countless others.
Using our imaginations is so important for all of us, and God has given each of us the gift of imagination! What sorts of things do you like to do for fun today?
Laura: I like to read and write and create things. (So you see, I am still using my imagination!) I also enjoy going on long walks with husband and laughing over the dinner table with my family. I also love, love, love, connecting with readers through school visits and other book events.
Indeed you are! As an author you must use your imagination as you create and write. What was the inspiration for Little Ewe?
Laura: Little Ewe is inspired by one of my favorite of Jesus’ parables. The parable is about a shepherd who realizes one sheep is missing and so he leaves the flock to find that one and bring it safely home. As a child I loved this beautiful reminder that, like the shepherd in the parable, Jesus came to find the lost and, oh my, how wonderful it feels to be found. My hope is that, like Little Ewe in my story, readers of all ages will sense the comfort and joy of knowing that our Shepherd, too, wants to find us and care for us when we are lost.
That is such a beautiful parable about God’s love and care for us. And what fun that you wrote it in rhyme! What do you enjoy most about writing in rhyme? Is it hard? What’s your process?
Laura: I’ve always enjoyed the sound of words and making meaningful patterns with those sounds using rhythm and rhyme, but I think what I love most about writing in rhyme is the challenge of being creative within a set structure. To flow smoothly and be pleasing to the ear, the piece must have a consistent form both for the rhythm and for the rhyme. My poems and stories in verse tend to follow an AABB or ABAB rhyme scheme and I’ve used a variety of meters. The important thing is not so much which pattern I choose for the rhythm and rhyme, but sticking with it.
The fun comes in finding creative ways to express myself within that structure. I do this by playing with plot, character development, and word choice until the piece shines. Done right, writing in verse enhances a story – making it extra pleasing to young ears. Achieving this, however, requires lots of revision. And by lots, I mean 30+ (for me) rounds! And that’s exactly what I do, until the story flows smoothly and is the best it can be.
All your extra work really does shine through. And Little Ewe is not only a rhyming book, but a counting book. What inspired you to do that?
Laura: One of my favorite aspects of Jesus’ parable was that the shepherd left the 99 to find that one lost sheep. That counting aspect really resonated with me, so I knew early on that I wanted my story to have a numeric climb. However, I didn’t want it to be the typical counting book where readers just look for objects on the page that don’t necessarily relate to the plot. Rather, I wanted the counting in Little Ewe to be an integral part of the story, helping to escalate the tension as Little Ewe wanders farther and farther from Shepherd and to conjure feelings of comfort when she is found. I hope readers will agree it adds a rich dimension to the story.
The counting aspect makes reading Little Ewe even more fun! What suggestions would you give parents or grandparents to help children enjoy your books?
Laura: Just reading and talking about the story is a wonderful way to enjoy my books. For Little Ewe, they might also enjoy the activities I created an activity kit, available for free download. Here’s the link: https://ms.beamingbooks.com/downloads/LittleEwe_ActivityKit_web.pdf
Your activity kit sounds like lots of fun. Thank you for sharing a link to it.
I know my readers would love to hear about your other books. Can you tell us a little about these?
Laura: I am the author of five picture books including the best-selling Goodnight, Ark, which was a 2015 Christian Book Award Finalist; Goodnight, Manger; Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse, which won First Honor Book for the 2019 Best in Rhyme Award; Love Is Kind, which was a 2020 Anna Dewdney Read Together Award Honor Book; and, of course, Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep. My next book, Bunny Finds Easter, will release in 2022. You can learn all about them in the Books section of my blog: https://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/books/
What wonderful books for little ones! What would you like children to take away from your books?
Laura: All my books share themes of love, kindness and comfort. Through the reading and enjoyment of each story, my hope is that children will know that, just like Little Ewe, in my newest book, or any of the characters in the other books, they are loved and cherished. It is also my hope that they will grow to love the wonderful sense of belonging, connecting and bonding that comes when parent (or grandparent) and child sit and read together.
I’m sure parents or grandparents and children will love connecting over your books and their important themes. What advice would you give young people who might like to become writers?
Laura: Read, read, read! Write, write, write! Revise, revise, revise!
That is sooo important! Where can readers learn more about you and your upcoming projects?
Laura: Readers can learn more about me on my blog and various social media outlets. Here are the links:
And where can readers find your books?
Laura: Amazon, Barnes & Noble and wherever books are sold!
And now, let’s talk with Tommy Doyle about his creative and colorful illustrations for Little Ewe. Children will love these illustrations and finding all the things and creatures to count.
Tommy, what part of illustrating do you enjoy the most?
Tommy: I get to be my own boss and manage my schedule as I wish. I find it helps having a better work life balance. I enjoy being home with my pooch, playing music, and create a space where I can be as creative as I want without any disruption.
That’s a super great recipe for creativity! What medium did you use for the illustrations of Little Ewe?
Tommy: My work is all digital. The sketching part is done on the iPad pro and the colouring is executed in Photoshop with all sorts of different brushes that each create a specific effect or texture.
That sounds like lots of fun. What advice to you have for young people who may be interested in art and illustrating?
Tommy: Keep illustrating. Everyone has bad days where it just doesn’t feel right. That’s ok, it helps you reflect on where you are versus where you want to be. It takes time to develop yourself. If you keep working hard, it will eventually pay off.
What great advice!
Thank you, Laura and Tommy, for taking the time to share about the creation of Little Ewe. I’ve have really enjoyed it! And I know parents and grandparents will love snuggling with their children and grandchildren over this delightful picture book!
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