Monday, January 21, 2019


February brings us Valentine's Day but so much more!
It's a month for discovering, exploring, inventing...playing!
And a monthful of amazing moments in history. Check it out for a day-by-day month that's FABULOUS!

February 1: NATIONAL FREEDOM DAY celebrates President Abraham Lincoln signing the 13th Ammendment of the United States Constitution outlawing slavery in 1865. *Here's a special story to share.

February 2: GROUNDHOG DAY. It's said that if the groundhog peeks out of its burrow and sees its shadow, there will be six more week of winter weather. No shadow sighting and winter is over right then. 
Click to link to fun activities for the day from Scholastic. 

OR try this Alaskan native peoples way for forecasting what weather's coming. They hold a tug of war. On one side are the Ducks, anyone born during a summer month. On the other side are the Ptarmigans, anyone born during a winter month. If the Ducks win, winter will soon be over. If the Ptarmigans win, more winter weather is ahead.

February 3: FLOAT FREE In 1984, two American astronauts floated free of the space shuttle Challenger. It was made possible by a nitrogen jet-propelled backpack called the MMU (Manned Maneuvering Unit). *I have to share that while working on my book PIONEERING SPACE I had a chance to test drive the trainer for the MMU. I was on Earth not in space but it was still fantastic.

February 4: CHARLES LINDBERGH was born. In 1927, he made the first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic in a plane called The Spirit of St. Louis. 

February 5: RUBBER BOOTS were first introduced in 1824 by J. W. Goodrich. Put on your boots and go outside on a scavenger hunt. See how many of these you can find.

  • Something older than you are.
  • Something younger than you are.
  • Something that will not rot. Something that will rot.
  • Something rough.
  • Something Smooth.
  • Something that will change over time.

February 6: BABE (George) RUTH was born in 1895. He was noted for hitting home runs and dubbed The King of Swing. Get to know him. Read about him. Then link to fun facts.

February 7: QUAKE In 1812 a series of earthquakes shook New Madrid, MO and caused the Misissippi River to flow backwards for several hours..

February 8: NATIONAL KITE FLYING DAY Check out this link to kite flying activities and history from Scholastic.

And for a little older readers...

February 9: WEATHER In 1870, Congress created the first public weather service. In 1970, it was officially named the National Weather Service. *I love walking in the rain and seeing the world all rain-changed. That's why I wrote this rainy day story. And it's about something real that happens when the weather is just---TOADY. :-)

February 10: SURRENDER France signed the Treaty of Paris in 1763, giving Canada to Great Britain. French is still spoken, especially in Quebec.
Here's a few fun French words and phrases to learn.

Oui (say whee)  Yes
Merci (say mair-see) Thank you
De Rien (say du-rhee-en) Your welcome

February 11: INVENTOR'S DAY This is celebrated in honor of Thomas Edison's birthday because of all his many inventions, including an improved telephone, the phonograph, and a long-glowing electric light bulb. National Inventors Hall of Fame was founded in 1973, in Akron, OH. Moved to Alexandria, VA, in 2008.

February 12: ABRAHAM LINCOLN was born in 1809. *Two of my favorite books. :-)

February 13: HOORAY FOR SCHOOL The oldest public secondary school in America opened in 1635. John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Robert Paine and William Hooper, all signers of the Declaration of Independence, went to school there. 

February 14: VALENTINE'S DAY
Check my blog archives for VALENTINE'S DAY IS FUN WITH HEART! to discover lots of ways for kids to make their own Valentine cards.

February 15: SUSAN B. ANTHONY was born in 1820. Her work was key in gaining women the Right to Vote.

February 16: OPERATION SANDBLAST The submarine USS Triton left New London, CT beginning what became the world's first underwater circumnavigation of the earth. It took 84 days and covered 41,500 miles. It also followed, generally, the route of the first ever circumnavigation of the globe by Ferdinand Magellan from 1519-1522.

February 17: NATIONAL RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS DAY. Think of some way to be nice to someone else.

February 18: ALESSANDRO VOLTA was born in Italy in 1745. He invented the electric battery. It's become NATIONAL BATTERY DAY. List at least 10 things you use that's battery-powered.

February 19: PHONOGRAPH In 1878, Thomas Edison received a patent for inventing the phonograph, which could play recorded sounds. 

February 20: ANSEL ADAMS was born in 1902. His amazing photographs of nature encouraged people to want to conserve and protect nature. It's also LOVE YOUR PET DAY. *I have to share one of my favorite love your pet books.

February 21: WASHINGTON MONUMENT was completed in 1885. Work had begun 37 years earlier on July 4, 1848.

February 22: POPCORN While this may not be the exact date, it's believe February, 1630 was when Native American Quadequina introduced early colonists to popped corn. You may be shocked to learn popcorn was the original puffed breakfast cereal. Popcorn was also worn by the early Native Americans. Have kids pop up some jewelry too. After threading dental floss through a needle have them poke the needle through the thickest part of the popped kernel. String necklaces or bracelets. After wearing, hang outdoors for bird snacks. 

February 23: TOOTSIE ROLL This chocolate-flavored candy treat was first introduced to the world in New York City. It was the first individually wrapped penny candy in the US.

February 24: STEAM SHOVEL This machine was invented in 1838 by William Otis and patented on this day in 1839.

February 25: READ ACROSS AMERICA begins today! It ends on March 2nd, Dr. Seuss's birthday. So be sure and read a Dr. Seuss book out loud today. *Here's my favorite.

February 26: NATIONAL TELL A FAIRY TALE DAY. It really is! *Here's one of my favorites.

February 27: POLAR BEAR DAY It's the day to celebrate this amazing animal. *I have to share one of my own stories about a polar bear because it's about a real bear--a very special polar bear cub.

February 28: NATIONAL TOOTH FAIRY DAY *And what could be a better way to end the fun. I hope all the young readers enjoy my very first WHAT IF YOU HAD!? book. Ask children what kind of animal teeth they would like to have and let them imagine having them!


Sunday, January 13, 2019


I grew up in northern Ohio and I've been to Antarctica so I KNOW  SNOW!

If you live where winter is snowy, here are some ways to explore and have fun.

Collect Snowflakes

While no two snowflakes are ever exactly alike (as far as anyone knows), they are all hexagone--six-sided crystals. Snowflakes take several main shapes.

If you want to catch some snowflakes, chill a clean glass slide or a small mirror in the refrigerator. Take the cold glass outside and allow a few flakes to collect on it. You may need a magnifying glass to see the snowflakes if they are very small.

To preserve snowflakes so you can even take them inside with you you'll need a can of plastic spray--the kind artists use on chalk drawings.

Chill the spray along with the clean glass slide. Carry the glass slide outside on a piece of cardboard. This keeps your body heat from warming the glass. Spray the glass lightly with the plastic coating. Let snowflakes collect on the glass. Take the preserved snowflakes inside and let the plastic coating completely dry (about fifteen minutes).

Check out this book about Wilson Bentley.
His photos of snowflakes became world famous.

Now you can examine the snowflakes with a magnifying glass or a microscope if you have one. No need to rush. These snowflakes will stay crystal-clear forever.

What is it?!

Look at the bottom of the blog to find out....

Treat The Birds

You can get a good look at birds that spend the winter in your neighborhood, if you invite them to dinner. An easy treat to make is a peanut butter pinecone. Loop a string around the top of a pine cone and tie a knot. Next, smear peanut butter on the cone and roll the cone in birdseed. Then have an adult partner hang the pinecone where birds will be able to perch and eat. 

Now, keep watch. Use bird books and search on-line to help you identify the birds visiting your bird diner. Also, answer these questions:
1. What time of day do the birds come to eat? 
2. Do the birds come more on stormy or sunny days?
3. Do the birds take turns and feed one at a time? Or do they compete to eat?
4. Which birds usually chase other birds away?

Create a colorful bar graph to share the data you collect about your dinner guests.

Remember, to replace your pinecone with a fresh treat from time-to-time to keep the dinners coming back for more.

And when you're ready to warm up inside, curl up with one of my newest books.

Do you know what this is?

It's a photo taken in the Arctic of a cup of hot tea tossed into the air. The liquid was boiling hot but instantly froze into tiny crystals.

Monday, December 17, 2018


Okay, here it is--the 2018 edition of 


Be sure and check out this video!

FIRST, did you know that spiders are the reason it's traditional to put tinsel on trees?

According to the legend, a long time ago in Germany a mother was cleaning the house for Christmas. All the spiders ran away to the attic to stay safe. But that night they came back downstairs. There, they discovered the Christmas tree all decorated with gleaming balls. 

The spiders were so excited, they scurried up and down the tree, checking out everything. Unfortunately, while doing that the spiders covered the beautiful tree with gray webs.

When Santa arrived with gifts, he saw how happy the spinning spiders were. But he knew how sad the children would be to see their web-covered tree. So he touched the tree and the gray webs changed into silver strands. Now the tree was  more beautiful than before.

That's how tinsel came to be...and why every Christmas tree should have a spider in its branches (at least an ornamental spider).

And, sometimes, spiders really do decorate trees for Christmas!

NOW, it's time for the discovery fun and smiles

inspired by my twelve book series: Arachnid World published by Lerner Publishing. 


On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave me to a black widow in a fir tree.

As I watched, that black widow spider dangled upside down from a silk thread. Next, its exoskeleton (armor-like covering) split open along the back. Then the spider pushed and pulled and crawled out of its exoskeleton.

Give one big holiday cheer! 

That spider has a new bigger body for Christmas.

By the way, are you wondering: "What is an ARACHNID?"
It's an animal that always has an exoskeleton and usually has two main body parts: a cephalothoras (like a head/chest) and an abdomen. It also usually has 8 legs.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me two striped bark scorpions.

As I watched, the smaller one--the male--grabbed the female's pedipalps (body parts near the mouth). They did a kind of dance, moving forward and backward. Then they went and around and around in circle. They did this over and over for hours.

Did you guess the wind scorpions are doing a mating dance? 
Drink a toast to the happy couple! There will be baby scorpions in the new year. 

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me three wolf spiders.

As I watched, a round ball stuck to one spider's spinnerets (the part that gives out silk) split open. Hundreds of tiny spiders crawled out and onto the big spider.

She's a new mother for Christmas!

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me four wind scorpions.

Almost at once, one of the wind scorpions ran straight up a nearly vertical rock. How did it keep from falling off? This arachnid has sticky tips on its pedipalps, those long parts you can see at the front of this arachnid.

WHAT A RELIEF!!! The wind scorpion is safe for Christmas!

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me five tarantulas.

One goliath bird-eater tarantula was holding a gecko. As I watched it sank in its fangs and brought up digestive juices.

Why in the world did it do that? This tarantula was preparing its meal by breaking it down first. Even big spiders, like tarantulas have very small mouths. Next, the spider will suck the juice in. 

This spider is having its Christmas dinner. 

Find some goodies to nibble and spit on them before you pop them in your  mouth. That way you can eat like a spider this season. But only try this when you're alone so you don't spoil anyone's Christmas cheer. SMILE!

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me six female cross spiders spinning.

Why were they spinning?  As I watched, a fly landed on one spider's web. That female ran to the fly and shots strands of silk over it.

Now, I understood! She was storing food.

So, in a way, she was wrapping up presents 
for herself. 

Doesn't that just put you in the holiday spirit?!

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me seven fishing spiders.

At just that moment, a bat flew past and all the fishing spiders dived down underwater. 

They stayed down for nearly thirty minutes. How were they able to stay underwater for so long? When a fishing spider dives a layer of air coats its body. The spider is able to draw oxygen from the air-filled coat into its book lungs. Those are thin, flat folds of tissue with slits that open through its armor-like exoskeleton.

And, while they were waiting to safely surface, I'm sure they were making their Christmas wish list.

One little fishy for dinner. 
Two little fishies for dinner.
Three little fishies for dinner.

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me eight crab spiders lurking 
inside flowers.

Some goldenrod crab spiders were inside yellow flowers and they were yellow. But one moved to a white flower. Now how would it blend in and hide to catch insects for dinner?

Luckily, when the spider's eyes detect it's on white, its body sheds the yellow coloring matter with its waste. Then it looks white. 

It takes about a week for the spider to change color. But then it's beautifully white as snow for Christmas.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me nine bobbing  harvestmen.

Why were these spiders bobbing? To keep from being eaten by a bigger predator.

Harvestmen bob in a group when a predator, like a bird, is nearby. That way they look like a bigger animal--hopefully too big to eat.

Of course, I like to think they're bobbing in time to a Christmas carol they're humming.

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ten ticks-a-sucking blood 
from their host.

As I watched these female dog ticks over several days, their bodies swelled up until they were nearly six hundred times bigger.

How in the world can they swell so big? It's because the hard part covering their body is made up of layers. They spread, fanning apart, as the tick sucks in blood.

And once so big, the ticks were ready to jiggle just like Santa's big belly when he laughs, 

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me eleven jumping spiders jumping.

As I watched, one leapt from one leaf to another to catch an insect.

How could it possibly jump so far? To leap muscles inside the spider's body contract, instantly forcing blood into its four hind legs. This makes them suddenly stretch. And that launches the spider forward.  As it jumps, the spider continually produces silk. It attached that to the surface just before it leapt. So if the spider falls, it dangles instead of crashing.

What's the record for how far a jumping spider can leap? Some have been recorded leaping 40 times their own body length. 

Oh, those spiders could be perfect for pulling Spider Santa's sleigh!

BTW, How far can you jump? Can you jump farther than your body length (meaning your height)?

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a plant with twelve mites-a-multiplying.

On the first day, I didn't even notice the twelve, tiny two-spotted mites on one of my plant's leaves. After all, each was only 0.02 inch long. However, twelve days later, the plant was nearly covered with web strands dotted with tiny mites. 

Each of the twelve mites was a female and they laid about 10 eggs a day. Soon the young hatched, became adults, mated and the new females started laying eggs too. 

That was a Christmas gift that kept on giving and giving and giving!

One thing for sure, I'll definitely never forget that Christmas, when I received:

12 mites a-multiplying
11 jumping spiders jumping
10 ticks sucking
9 harvestmen bobbing
8 crab spiders lurking
7 fishing spiders fishing
6 orb weavers spinning
4 wind scorpions
3 wolf spiders
2 scorpions
And a black widow in a fir tree

As he drove out of sight, Spider Claus spun a silk web with a message of cheer...

 "Merry Christmas to all and may all the days ahead spin for you a very Happy New Year!"


February brings us Valentine's Day but so much more! It's a month for discovering, exploring, inventing...playing! And a monthful ...