Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Zonderkidz Book Review & Giveaway!

Hey, ladies and gentlemen!

The director of marketing at Zonderkidz was kind enough to send me these picture books by Julie Cantrell to review and was also kind enough to supply an extra set for a giveaway!! Woo-hoo!

REVIEW: I can't tell you how thrilled I am with these books. FINALLY a picture book set that really gets it right. I wish my little one was still little because I would have LOVED reading her these books.

The pictures of the animals are sweet and tender and sometimes funny. But the main message is so beautiful: that you are loved, you are protected by God and you are to trust in Him when you are afraid. Ms Cantrell's books are a heartwarming way to introduce God's character as well as Bible verses to your toddler. This set (God is with me through the Day and God is with me through the Night) would make a great gift for a new baby!


Julie Cantrell is a certified speech-language pathologist with years of experience helping children develop communication skills. As a freelance writer, she has written countless articles on the topics of parenting, family, faith, child development, education, and health. She also wrote for MOPS, Intl. (Mothers of Preschoolers) for nearly a decade, where she served as contributing editor for MOMSense magazine. She currently writes for Princeton HealthCare System and FNC, Inc.

Julie's first picture books, God is with Me through the Day and God is with Me through the Night were published this year by Zondervan to help young children overcome fears while building their faith in God.

Learn more about how to help your children overcome fears by visiting Julie's blog. There, you'll also find themed activities for parents and teachers of young children--plus lots of fun ideas for families!

Q&A with Julie Cantrell on God is with Me through the Night and God is with Me through the Day:

Why did you write these picture books?

When my daughter was young, she had a hard time sleeping in her own bed. She was afraid of the dark, and she suffered from terrible nightmares. She loved to read, and she loved animals – so when she was five years old, the two of us worked together to create a bedtime story just for her.

We found stock photos of animals, and we wrote simple text to reassure her that even when I tucked her into her bed at night, she was not alone. I wanted her to feel secure that I would never leave her in a place that wasn’t safe, and that God was always with her—even in the dark.

How did the books become published?

I never intended to publish the book. I wrote it to help my own daughter overcome her fears while building her faith in God. When her friends would sleep over, they all enjoyed the book and wanted me to print copies for them. Then the neighborhood kids asked for copies. I was working in a preschool as a speech-language pathologist at the time, so I read the story to my students. They all reacted positively to the story, so some of the other teachers and parents asked for copies. Their reactions made me think seriously about sharing the story to children on a bigger scale.

I had been working as a freelance writer for many years, so I decided to look for an agent. Several publishers expressed serious interest in the books, and we ended up signing a contract with Zonderkidz (the children’s division of Zondervan).

I was thrilled when they asked for a partner book to help children cope with fears such as separation anxiety and shyness through the day.
God is with Me through the Day and God is with Me through the Night were released simultaneously on March 1, 2009.

How did your professional background help you write these books?

Aside from writing articles on the topics of faith, family, and child development for nearly a decade, I am also a certified speech-language pathologist. I’ve spent years helping children of all abilities/disabilities develop their communication skills. This includes not only their speech, but their reading and language skills as well. I was certain that young children preferred books with big pictures, simple text, and repetitive prose. Plus, I knew that most kids love animals.

Still, I conducted extensive research on children’s picture books. I was surprised to read studies that indicated children prefer color photos to illustrations. With real-world reactions from children, data to support the design of the books, and a gut instinct that families would enjoy reading these aloud time and time again, I decided to move forward with publishing. I am excited to share this universal message with children around the world

How have children reacted to the books?

It’s been amazing to see children’s reactions as I read to school groups and story time groups. They laugh at the funny photos. They say “awww” when there’s a sweet photo. And they show sad expressions when the animals express fear or loneliness. I encourage them to talk to the animals on the pages. “Tell the goat, ‘Don’t be scared. Go play with your friends.’” Or “Silly kitty. That’s just a shadow!” They really interact with the book and always ask me to read it again.

Through the use of realistic, natural photos, the children can understand that all of God’s creatures feel afraid at times. It helps them cope with their emotions so they feel confident to explore their world or sleep through the night.

How have parents reacted to the books?

It’s been wonderful to hear feedback from parents after they’ve bought the books, especially to hear that this is sometimes the first book their child could read independently. As a mother, author, and speech-language pathologist, that’s an amazing compliment.

One of my favorite stories was from the parents of a three-year-old daughter. They emailed me to say they ran to her bedroom door because they had heard her screaming. When they got there, they realized she was yelling, “I am safe! I am loved!” which are phrases used repetitively in both books. Another huge compliment has been to hear that children carry these books around with them in the car or that parents have had to tape the pages back together because the books have been so “loved.”

I am thrilled, honored, and grateful that these stories are reaching so many families. If there’s one thing I want everyone to know, it’s that they’re loved and that they’re never alone. If I can share that message with even one child a day, then I am very blessed.

**Parents and teachers can find fun and developmentally appropriate activities to go along with the books at Julie's blog.

**Readers can also join the facebook group, God is with Me through the Day and Night.

****If you'd like to win a copy of these two children's books, please leave a comment on this post.

This contest will run until midnight Saturday, November 21. I will then draw a commenter's name out of a hat and post the winner on Monday, November 23. :)


Jessica said...

The books sound great! I'm sure my kids would love them. Thanks for the interview. What a fun story about how she got pubbed. :-)

T. Anne said...

I love this! My DD would get such a kick out of them, she is a huge anima lover. Please put me in! XOXO

Stephanie said...

My kids love animals and God, what a great combination! Hard to find books like these anymore!

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

I love this concept. I can see reading these to my little girls. I like how Julie conducted extensive research. Very cool.
~ Wendy

Angie Ledbetter said...

Nice review/interview. :)

PatriciaW said...

Cool! I added these books to my TBR list recently, although I can't remember exactly where I heard about them. Always on a hunt for good books for the kids.

Julie Dao said...

Great interview, it was so fun to read! I don't have kids yet but I'd love to win these books for myself :) Children's books are a guilty pleasure LOL.

Bella said...

I love this and will definitely visit her blog. I have a five and seven year old girls who'd love to read them.

Susan R. Mills said...

Now I wish my kids were still little. Since they aren't I'll refrain from entering the drawing. The books sound great, though.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

These sound like wonderful books to cuddle up and read to your child. A beautiful message they send too.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Wow! These books sound amazing!!!

I don't have children, so I'll step out of the running for the giveaway so that someone who needs it more will get it.

Still, I'll keep it mind for presents for friends with kids!

Cindy said...

These books sounds wonderful! I definitely agree that kids prefer photos to illustrations, at least my kids do. Great interview :D

Candice said...

These sound perfect for my four-year-old. I'm sure he would love them!

Stephanie L. McGee said...

These books sound fabulous. Thanks for the review.

Renee G said...

These books sound great. I'd love to give them a new home.

Brimful Curiosities said...

I think both my kids would benefit from reading these books. Thanks for the review.

Abby said...

I would adore a chance to win these books!

Thanks so much!

ajcmeyer at go dot com

zealandsmom said...

i am safe
i am loved
i wanna win these!

Danielle a.k.a Yellie said...

I would love to have these books for my little guys! Thank you for the chance to win!


Natalie said...

They sound wonderful! And congratulations to Julie!

cdziuba said... Hope to win.

Crystal said...

Lovely interview, Jennifer & Julie! I think both my daughters (ages 6 & 10) would love to read these titles. They sound wonderfully encouraging! :)

cstironkat said...

These would be great to read to my Sunday school class. Please enter me. Thank you so much.

Renee said...

These books would make wonderful Christmas gifts. Count me in.

Thanks for sharing the review

tmc480 said...

I would love to win these books for my son

Mama Hill said...

My oldest son is almost two and he is CRAZY over animals right now! He would love them! Thanks!

zachsgran said...

Both of my grandchildren would love these
zachsgran1 at yahoo dot com

soccermom1 said...

I'd like to win these for my nephews
rjs682 at yahoo dot com

Nicole D. said...

I would like to win these for my daughter. Thank you!