Welcome back to Laura Sassi in celebration of her second picture book, Goodnight, Manger. The book is available October 6th from ZonderKidz. You can read her first interview here about her debut picture book Goodnight, Ark.
BOOK SUMMARY: It’s bedtime for baby Jesus, but who knew a stable could be so loud? Mama, Papa, and all of the animals try to lull the baby to sleep, but between itchy hay, angels singing, and three kings bearing gifts, it’s too noisy. Cuddle up as everyone tries working together to shepherd Baby into peaceful dreams.
1. What was the inspiration behind Goodnight, Manger? When my kids were little they loved playing with the little plastic nativity that we set up in the living room each December. I encouraged their play because I felt it was a good way for them to stay connected to the real meaning of Christmas in a fun, tangible way. My daughter, especially, took a liking to the little Baby Jesus. She carried him tenderly around the house. As she played, I often overheard her saying things like, “Baby Jesus crying. It’s okay, Baby.” Then she’d gently feed him with her imaginary bottle or rock him and sing a lullaby. To be honest before listening to her tender play, I’d never thought of Baby Jesus as ever crying. He’s certainly never depicted that way in the carols and stories we sing and read about His birth. But, he was human (and God), and so he must have cried. With this fresh image in mind, I had the spark of inspiration I needed to write my story.
2. How long did it take you to write this story?
I am a percolator. That is, I like to reflect on new stories and poems, sometimes for weeks or months, before writing a first draft. And this was indeed the case with GOODNIGHT, MANGER. During the percolation phase I played around with rhythm and rhyme. I also made lists of the different characters who might impede Jesus’s peaceful slumber as well as fun sounds and concrete words I could use to bring the story alive. As I do with most stories, I even wrote a pre-draft of the story in prose even though I knew from the beginning that I wanted it to rhyme. Only after completing this pre-thinking was I finally ready to sit down and compose a first draft. Once I got going, it took two or so months of revisions to get the story polished and ready to submit. That was fast for me!
Watch the book trailer!
3. How long did it take this book to be published? The offer from Zonderkidz came a couple of months after my agent submitted it. And just like GOODNIGHT, ARK, the time from acceptance to publication was approximately two years, which is pretty standard, perhaps even quick, in the picture book industry.
4. Did you have to do any research for this story? In my percolation phase, I reread the gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus. I also reflected upon and journaled about my memories of putting my own babies to bed in the midst of commotion. I know, I know, the biblical events that occur in one night in my story, in actuality, took place over several months. For example, scholars think the wise men might not have visited until Jesus was a year old or more. But for the purposes of storytelling in this fictional bedtime story, I chose to condense events so that readers would get a very rich sense of how busy that stable must have been!
5. You like to write in rhyme. Did the rhymes for this story come quickly and naturally? What is your favorite rhyme in this book? This isn’t always the case for me, but in this instance, because I had percolated for so long, the rhymes did indeed come quickly and naturally. I think my favorite verse is:
In a tizzy.
Who knew stables
Were so busy?
In a tizzy.
Who knew stables
Were so busy?
I love it because I remember the moment when the wording came to me. I was walking home after dropping my kids off at school. I didn’t have any paper, so I kept repeating the verse aloud to myself all the way home.
6. What was your favorite Christmas book as a child? My favorite Christmas book as a child was The Sweet Smell of Christmas by Patricia M. Scarry. I loved the scratch and smell aspect of this book in which a little bear figures out that Christmas is almost here using his nose.
7. What is your favorite Christmas memory? My favorite Christmas memory is of staying with my grandparents for Christmas when I was in third grade. They hadn’t saved any of their ornaments (my grandmother never was very sentimental) and so my sister and I spent an entire afternoon drawing angels, kings, shepherds, sheep, stars, etc. on stiff drawing paper. We then cut them out, punched holes for ribbon and decorated the entire tree with our homemade ornaments! (Up until a few years ago when the last little high-heeled angel finally got too fragile to save, I enjoyed hanging them on our tree every year.)
8. Were you ever in a Christmas manger play? I was never in a church pageant as a child, but a few years ago my children and I participated in a special way at our church’s children’s Christmas Eve service. While I read excerpts from the story of the first Christmas, my children and a couple of other kids from church acted it out. It was a lovely and memorable way to make the real meaning of Christmas real, not just for my kids, put for the packed sanctuary of little ones as well! Here are a couple of pictures from the event. My son was the donkey and my daughter was the angel.
9. What tips have you learned from marketing your first book that you would recommend to our Grog audience? My first tip is that having a connection/reference works better than cold calls when setting up events at schools, libraries etc., so it’s well worth your time to brainstorm a list of friends, acquaintances, and colleagues who might be able to introduce you to preschool directors, librarians, and book store event coordinators. Second, I have found that giveaways are great tools getting a little extra attention for your book. After all, who doesn’t love a giveaway!
And speaking of giveaways, Zonderkidz is offering one hardcover copy - fresh off the press - to one lucky winner. And here’s the important part: To be eligible, you must be a U.S. resident and have a physical address, not a P.O. Box. Just leave a comment for Laura about a favorite holiday memory.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laura Sassi, author of GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014) and GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, 2015), has a passion for telling humorous stories in prose and rhyme. She writes daily from her century-old home in New Jersey where she lives with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo names Sophie. In addition to picture books, Laura writes poetry, stories, articles and crafts for kids. Her work has appeared in Highlights for Children, Cricket, Ladybug, Spider, and Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. Visit Laura Sassi at www.laurasassitales.wordpress.com.