Molly and I are thrilled to welcome children’s author, Laura Sassi back to our blog. We’ve loved Laura’s previous books and are excited to help tell you about her newest—My Tender Heart Bible.
Kathy: For those who may be new to this blog, would you tell us a little about yourself and My Tender Heart Bible.
Laura: Thank you for having me on your blog, Kathy.
I am a former teacher who is now blessed to be able to spend my days writing books, poems and other pieces that offer messages of hope and joy for little ones and the grown ups who love them. Over the years, I’ve discovered that I have a special passion for telling stories in rhyme, so eight of my nine books for children are rhyming.
My very first book, Goodnight, Ark, came out in 2014. It was followed by Goodnight, Manger, Love is Kind (the only one that doesn’t rhyme), Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse, Little Ewe, Bunny Finds Easter, Happy Birthday Christmas Child, and, just out, My Tender Heart Bible. The ninth, My Tender Heart Prayer Book will release in Fall 2023.
Kathy: Congratulations on all these sweet books! Little Ewe was the first book of yours I read, and I fell in love with the little lamb who went off on her own and became lost and afraid. I knew children would identify with Little Ewe and cheer when the Good Shepherd rescued her. I’ve since shared the hope and joy of many of your books with little ones in my family and at school!
Would you tell us how My Tender Heart Bible is different from your other books?
Laura: My Tender Heart Bible is very different from my first seven books because it’s not a picture book story or even a board book story. Yes, the format is board book, but the content is 12 of my favorite Bible stories rendered in poetic rhyme. Each retelling is accompanied by a Bible citation, a beautiful illustration by Sandra Eide, and a Heart Moment of prayer. The book is inspired by memories of sitting with my own children when they were little to read or re-tell Bible stories so they could grasp just how much God loved them.
Kathy: You chose 12 wonderful Bible stories to retell in rhyme, and I especially like the Heart Moment of prayer. Did you have certain themes in mind as you chose these 12?
Laura: I prayed over which stories to include because I really wanted them to fit together as a collection so that individually, and as a whole, they would show God’s redemptive love. Other themes threaded throughout include that God is good and that He keeps His promises. I also wanted stories about God’s beloved who were both girls and boys, men and women. That’s how I decided upon Esther’s story, for example.
And I wanted six from the Old Testament and six from the New Testament so that the book would be balanced in that way and could be used as an introduction for littlest ones to the whole Bible. And, of course, I had to finish with the story of Jesus’ glorious resurrection!
Kathy: I’m so glad you finished with Jesus’ resurrection! Little ones will love listening to the rhyme and rhythm of each story. And we know that rhyme helps children remember and hold these words about God in their hearts.
I love your rhyme that creates such beautiful pictures! Some of our readers may have older children, too. Do you have any hints for those who might want to write poetry?
Laura: Poetry, especially rhyming poetry, is harder than it might first appear because it’s not just about good rhyme. It’s also about meter and keeping a consistent beat throughout a piece. But if you love playing with words and have a passion for rhyme, I suggest beginning by writing something just for the pleasure of it and seeing where it takes you.
Once you have a rough draft, go back and test it for meter. See if the established beat is consistent. If it isn’t fix it. Check also to see that the rhyme pairs you are choosing are fresh and fun. Using a rhyming dictionary helps immensely with this.
To grow as a poet, it’s also important to immerse yourself in poetry so I suggest going to the library and checking out and reading as many children’s poetry books and rhyming picture books as you can. If your readers are interested in learning more, here’s a post with tips I wrote several years ago: https://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/2016/07/18/finding-your-inner-poet/
Kathy: Great ideas, Laura! I know these and your post will be very helpful to children and adults who may be interested in writing poetry.
The illustrations by Sandra Eide are colorful and have lots of children for readers to identify with. Molly and I also enjoyed finding different animals from creation in each illustration. We think children will enjoy that, too. Do you have any favorite illustrations?
Laura: Warmth, love, and charming detail emanate from each of Sandra’s illustrations. Pictured below is one I especially like because it really captures Jesus’s love for the little children. I actually had this spread enlarged to poster size so that little ones at events can come up and point to various elements.
I love the diverse depiction of the children as well as their joyous expressions. I also love the soft, warm color palette Sandra has chosen for this spread and throughout. And little ones, I have noticed, love Sandra’s inclusion of a dog! That’s just one example of the wonderful extra details she has included throughout the book.
Kathy: Molly really loves that dog and is sure Sophie does, too!
Every page of My Tender Heart Bible, presents children with so much to hear and see and think about. How can caregivers help children slow down to appreciate each of its delightful layers of thoughtfully-chosen Bible stories and prayers, lyrical rhyme and rhythm, and colorful illustrations with so much to see?
Laura: Here are few ideas to help caregivers and their little ones get the most out of each spread.
- Before reading each story, take a moment to ponder the title and the illustrations. Using just those clues, can they guess what the story might be about? Do they recognize anyone or anything?
- Next, take a moment to note the Bible citation. Maybe even open your own Bible to that part and have it there alongside you as you read the story so that little readers make the connection that the story comes from God’s word.
- As you read, pause to think about each part of the story. Maybe see if your children can spot the action that is being described in words somewhere in the illustrations. Don’t rush. Instead, encourage your children to explore the illustrations, listen to the words, and ask questions.
- After reading, reflect together on the retelling as a whole. What was their favorite part? Did they learn something new about God? What?
- Finally, see if your little ones can locate the “Heart Moment” at the bottom right corner of each spread. Explain that this is their chance to respond to God’s loving word with a prayer. Then read and pray it together.
Kathy: Thank you for these thoughtful ideas to help children and their caregivers enjoy and see God’s love for them in each story of My Tender Heart Bible.
Molly and I have enjoyed learning all about your newest book, Laura! Where can our readers get their very own copy of My Tender Heart Bible?
Laura: My Tender Heart Bible is available wherever books are sold. The publisher has also created a website for the book called MyTenderHeartBooks.com https://mytenderheartbooks.com/ That website includes all sorts of fun things like the book trailer and an inspirational video. There’s also a free activity kit you can download.
The website also includes quick and easy links to many of your favorite vendors. And in the super neat department, it’s called My Tender Heart Books because there are more My Tender Heart books in the pipeline! Next up? My Tender Heart Prayer Book which releases this coming Fall.
Kathy: How exciting that My Tender Heart Bible is part of a series! And it sounds like there are many fun things on that website! Molly and I love videos and activity kits, so we plan to visit it real soon. Thank you again, Laura, for visiting our blog to tell our readers about My Tender Heart Bible.
Molly sends puppy hugs to Sophie!