You'll get a kick out of the newest WHAT IF YOU HAD book. Click on this photo for a free activity MARKLE'S BOOK SAFARI ADVENTURE on SANDRA MARKLE SPEAKS!

Sunday, March 1, 2015


TOAD WEATHER is one of those books you can have fun reading more than one time.  So after you read it the first time, read it again and again as you have fun with these activities.

Compare and Contrast

Can you find ways things change for Ally during her rainy day adventure in TOAD WEATHER?

1.  How does Ally feel about a rainy day at the beginning of the story?
     And when she's walking home with Mama and Grandma at the end of the story?

2.  When she first gets outside, Ally starts to hurry.  How is this different from the way Ally walks through the puddles?

How does Ally walk while carrying toads across the street.

How does Ally walk when she's on her way home?

3.  Looking out the window at the beginning of the story, Ally thinks the rainy day is just gloomy gray. But outside, she thinks it's like being inside something colorful.

What is that something? 

Why does she think that?

What Happened When?

Ally discovered a lot of things during her TOAD WEATHER adventure. 
She counts five of them as surprises. 

List those surprises in the order they happened. 
Which one did Grandma think wasn't a nice surprise.

Its On The News

Pretend you are a television news reporter. Based on what happens in the story, write a TOAD WEATHER news report about this event.

Include a quote from Ally about what it was like to help the toads.

Include a quote from Grandma too.

Another Story

Ally isn't the only child who discovered the migrating toads. Look at the little boy and his mother on pages 18 and 19.  Now, write a short story about his adventure. Be sure to tell why you think this boy and his mother are outside on a rainy night. Did they come especially to help or just happen onto the scene?

From the picture, how do you think the boy feels about the toads?

Tell why you believe he did or didn't help the toads.

Toads Eye View

Now tell about this TOAD WEATHER night from one toad's point of view.

Make this a story about an American toad. That's the kind of toad featured in TOAD WEATHER.

Tell how the toad goes from its home in a nearby park to a reservoir on the other side of a busy street. Be sure to include real facts about these toads.  Find out more about American toads online at these websites.
BioKids: Critter Page about American Toads
Fairfax County Schools American Toad Page

Make your story an adventure by giving the toad a couple of close calls. A bird or a dog might almost catch it. It might almost get hit by a car before someone carries it across the road.

Extra Fun

And don't miss this website--Doug Wechsler Author and Photographer--American Toad. You'll see photos and learn about the stages an American toad goes through during its life.

It's a special site to visit after reading TOAD WEATHER because Dr. Doug Wechsler was one of the expert's who shared information and checked the facts included in this story.

Now, just for fun, draw lines on a white paper plate, dividing it into four parts. Then draw and color a picture of one stage of the American toad's life cycle on each part of the plate.


Then poke a pin through the center of the plate into a sturdy plastic straw. Spin the plate to see the toad's life cycle repeat over and over again--just as it does in real life.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


I love when teachers post activities or share other ways they're making the most of my books in their classrooms. So I'm delighted to share teacher-developed activities built around one of my newest books, WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL HAIR!?  Plus I'll add my ways to build on these.

Learning to the Core shares a free download where kids are challenged to first choose one of the animals from the book. Next, children are asked to draw a picture of themselves with that animal's hair. Then students research to find out and share more facts about the animal they picked.

FROM ME: I loved when children made masks for WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL TEETH!? to share themselves with their favorite animal's teeth. How about having kids make masks or even costumes to imagine having their favorite animal's hair. It could even be fun to have a party kids attend as their hairy animals. Encourage each to tell one way their hair helps them survive--even thrive--as that animal.

Nancy Vandenberge's First Grade Windows On Wonder shares encouraging students to imagine how having hair like one of the animals in WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL HAIR!? would help them.

FROM ME: I'd love children to imagine their entire family having hair like their favorite animal from WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL HAIR!?

  • How would family grooming change?
  • How might this effect how the family is viewed by the neighbors?
  • How might having this hair even change what activities the family does together? offers an idea for WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL TEETH!? for third-graders that will work just as well for WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL HAIR!? It's which animal's hair would you least like to have? And why?  

First Grade Fairytales points out--It's a great way to get kids writing their opinions. Just push them to give more than one reason to really get them thinking. 

FROM ME: Third-graders could imagine giving the animal whose hair they'd least like to have a makeover. What would they do to improve that animal's hair color? Length? Special features?

How could a makeover change a three-toed sloth?

Then challenge kids to imagine how such a makeover is likely to change how that animal lives, including how it stays safe, what it eats, and how it hangs out with others of its own kind.

Could a tiger do as well with any other color or kind of hair?

Have your class decide to add on to WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL HAIR!? Then work as a class or in small groups to choose at least three more animals to include in the book. Use the book's format to first tell something key about that animal's hair and how it helps the animal. Next, have each child brainstorm how having that kind of animal hair might be helpful. Or just plain fun!

Imagine animals in the book being able to trade hair with another animal. Then think about how that would change that animal. And how it would change how they live.  For example, what if a star-nosed mole had porcupine hair?  Or a polar bear had zebra hair?

Or what if a polar bear had reindeer hair?

Now, start brainstorming activities for what's coming soon--


Thursday, January 8, 2015


Today is very special for me.  

My book PENGUINS: GROWING UP WILD was out of print. Today, thanks to Kindle Direct Publishing, it's back as an E-book and, IMHO, better than ever. 

My goal is always to make my books as interactive as possible. In fact, if I had my way every child that opens one of my books would feel like they're right there with me. I'm reading it to them and doing what I always do when I share my books with children.

I share little behind the book stories about things I discovered while I was researching and writing the book--things that influenced my storytelling but maybe didn't make it into the book.

I also like to point out things for kids to notice in photos. Or take time out for a little creative thinking, wondering, even a word game or a photo scavenger hunt.

The popup on this page shares:
Check out all that white stuff on the ground around the penguin nest. That's guano (GWAH-no)--penguin poo.

It's everywhere. I was glad it was cold in Antarctica so the guano stayed frozen. Imagine how stinky it would be if the weather warmed up!

Now, I've been able to do that by adding popups on every page of PENGUINS.  The reason I chose this book as the first book to share this way is that it was born in the first place following my two summers in Antarctica with the National Science Foundation's Artists and Writers Program. 

Each time I camped out with 60,000+ Adelie penguins while they hatched and raised their chicks. 

It was the experience of a lifetime to be in one of the last great frontiers on earth. And to spend time alone with wildlife that wasn't afraid of me--probably had no idea what I was other than one weird-looking bird. So I could, quietly, sit for hours among them as close as I'd sit to someone on a school bus seat. 
Then watch. 
Be amazed.

The popup on this page asks:
What are 3 ways this penguin chick is like an adult Adelie?
What are 3 ways it's different?

The pages of PENGUINS let me share what I discovered and fine-tuned working with penguin researchers. Now, the KDP E-book version with popups lets me share my personal experiences.

Because I taught school for many years, wrote the HANDS-ON, MINDS-ON column for Instructor Magazine for many more and continue to visit classrooms across the U.S. today, I can't help also adding activities for children. I want young readers to compare and contrast, look for POV, dig deeper into the content. But most of all I want what kids learn to just happen while they are having FUN and enjoying this book.

I hope lots and lots of young readers are able to invite me to join them in reading PENGUINS. I promise every time they double tap a page I'll POPUP  a special bit of info or something fun to think about and do.

Monday, December 22, 2014


Okay, here it is--my new, up-dated take on the 12 Days of Christmas--THE TWELVE ARACHNIDS OF CHRISTMAS! It's just a little discovery fun inspired by my 12 book series: Arachnid World published by Lerner Publishing. ENJOY!

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.

Oh my, that spider has a new bigger body for Christmas.

By the way, are you wondering: "What's 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 it's a mating dance? There will be new 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.

Wind scorpions have special body parts to stay safe on Christmas and all year long.

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. It's having its Christmas dinner. Of course, it eats every meal this way.

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

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

Why did she do that? She was wrapping up presents--well, sort of. She was storing food for later.

I kept on watching and saw a fly zip into another spider's web. I expected the web to break. Spider silk isn't stronger than steal but it's super strong. That spider wrapped up its meal too.

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 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.

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. Other goldenrod crab spiders were inside white flowers and they were white.

How were these spiders able to be either yellow or white? When the spider's eyes detect it's on yellow, its body makes that coloring matter and it flows into the outer cell layer of its body. 

It takes about a week to become completely yellow. That's because to turn white, it doesn't make coloring matter. The yellow just flows down to lower layers and passes out with its wastes.

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

Why were these spiders bobbing? They do this in a group when a predator, like a bird, is nearby. That way they look like a bigger animal--hopefully. By the way, harvestmen don't eat like spiders. Their mouths are big enough to bite off chunks and swallow.

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.

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. 

How far can you jump? Can you jump farther than your body length (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 of Christmas 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, on the twelfth day of Christmas, the plant was nearly covered with web strands dotted with tiny mites. 

How did there get to be so many mites so quickly? It's because each female laid about 10 eggs a day. Soon the young hatched, became adults, and the new females started laying eggs. There were soon lots of mites. Worse, each and everyone was feeding by sucking the plant's juices. I couldn't get rid of them. I finally just threw away my plant. 

So my arachnid Christmas this year is one I'll always remember. After all, it's the year I received:

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

And as he drove out of sight, Spider Claus spun a silk web with a message, "Merry Christmas to all and have Even MORE fun exploriing Arachnids in the 

New Year!"

Sunday, December 14, 2014


I love receiving letters from young readers. Yesterday, I received a wonderful letter from a third grader in Mrs. Akason's class in Brookview Elementary School in West Des Moines, Iowa.  I was so impressed with her thoughtful questions I'd like to share her letter with you. And my answers.

NOTE: Child's name purposefully deleted


I liked receiving your letter and finding out that you too like exploring outdoors. In fact, I was impressed with how well you write for being 8 years old. SMILE!

And you’ve also asked me some of the most interesting questions I’ve ever been asked: Why did I want to be an author? How did I find all that out about animals? What did I do when I was little? These are such interesting questions because all of the answers go together.

I was an only child so I didn’t have any brothers and sisters. Plus there were few children to play with in my neighborhood. So I read lots of books and spent a lot of time at my grandparent’s house. That I loved because it was just outside the little town I grew up in, Fostoria, Ohio, in the middle of a farming area. There were fields and forests and streams around. Best of all, my grandfather loved the outdoors and was happy to share all the “treasures” I found on my journeys into this just wild enough world. One summer, I rescued a young fox squirrel with fur as red as my hair that liked to ride on my shoulder until it was ready to go off on its own. So was born my fascination with animals and my desire to really understand them and how they live in their world.
I wandered.
I wondered.
I watched and loved what I saw.

No surprise that when I went to college I majored in biology, which is the study of animal life. Summers, during college, I worked at a girl’s camp in Vermont, taking groups on trips to hike, canoe, and explore the forests, lakes, and rivers in that area. When I started teaching school fulltime, I mainly taught science from fifth through eighth grades and always did a lot of outdoor investigating. My classes made rock collections, leaf collections, insect collections, and bird feeders to draw the local birds close enough to study. We also set up nature trails and planted vegetable gardens on the school grounds.

In those years, it seemed to me there were never enough really interesting—fun—books for children about animals and nature. That’s why I began writing my own. These were first for my students and my own son and daughter. Then, once I was published, for lots of young readers, like you. SMILE. And one of the biggest things I worked to change was to have my nonfiction books be in full color. It may be hard to believe now but when I first starting publishing all of the photos and even the art in nonfiction books were always black and white. I was thrilled when my publishers finally agreed to have my books be in full color. Now, they always are.

I’ve now published well over 200 different books but I’m not done. There are so many interesting animals and parts of the world to investigate and share. I love finding out about all the animals. Sometimes, like my three trips to Antarctica to live with 60,000 Adelie penguins while they raised their chicks, I learn for myself. Just as exciting is that I’m able to connect with experts around the world who have spent their lives studying animals. And they kindly share their research adventures with me.

So I hope this answers your questions.  You make me wonder some of my own, like what do you like about the outdoors? What are your favorite animals to read about? And do you sometimes write stories of your own about animals? Writing books about animals for children is a wonderful career. I know I love it! As well as you write already, this could be something to think about for your future.

With Very Best Wishes!
Sandra Markle

Saturday, November 1, 2014


I've only ever written one book that's just about trees--OUTSIDE AND INSIDE TREES.  However, as I looked back through the books I've written, I discovered something very interesting. Trees--sometimes whole forests--are an important part of many of my books.   

Check it out!

In THE CASE OF THE VANISHING HONEYBEES (Millbrook/Lerner) almond trees are possibly one reason entire colonies of honeybees are vanishing--and thought to probably be dead.

California's almond blossom season is the single biggest pollination event in the world.  

Over one million beehives full of worker bees are needed for about a months. So beekeepers truck in lots of hives, each full of its colony of honeybees.

Having lots of bees on hand is the only way orchard owners can make sure nearly every blossom on their almond trees is visited by a bee.

That's what has to happen. The blossom produces a little sweet nectar. 

A bee pushes into the blossom to collect that nectar and in the process picks up a little pollen, the male reproductive cells. A little pollen from another tree is also dropped off. That fertilizes the flower's ovules, the female reproductive parts.

What's good for the trees is hard on the bees. Beekeepers transport their hives from all over the U.S. to California but they arrive early, ahead of the trees blooming. So they have to feed their bees a sugary syrup to keep them going. It's not a healthy diet. And because of it the worker bees are weaker than normal. And the bees have just come from pollinating other crops.

Being overworked could be one reason honeybees are dying causing honeybee colonies to collapse. 
Do you think honeybees should be trucked to different places to pollinate crops? Why? Or why not?

Read the CASE OF THE VANISHING HONEYBEES to find out at least two other things that could be effecting honeybees.

A tree plays a dramatic role in my book LITTLE LOST BAT (Charlesbridge).

In this story, the mother bat leaves her baby in the bat colony's cave nursery and goes hunting for insects to eat. On night, she passes a tall oak tree.

Read this story to see what is in that tree.
Keep reading to find out what happens next.

And keep on reading to find out happens at the very end of this story.

Trees are a key part of my story FINDING HOME (Charlesbridge).

First, something happens to a forest to start this story. What happens?

Then there is a big search for one kind of tree. Why is that?

Finally, list five steps that tell what happens along the way to finding that special kind of tree.
FINDING HOME is an exciting story. And people lend a helping hand. 
So don't miss finding out what happens.

A tree stars in my book BUTTERFLY TREE (Peachtree Publishing).  This story is based on one of my very own childhood experiences. I grew up in Ohio near Lake Erie. And one autumn, I had the unique chance to see the migrating Monarch butterflies come across the lake and settle into a forest for the night.

Read this story to see where the butterflies spend the night. It will surprise you!

Next, write your own story. Make up a story where a tree plays a key part.

What tree's fruit is a pod the size of a football, hard as wood on the outside and full of beans surrounded by white pulp?  
Did you guess its a cacao tree?  

CHOCOLATE: A Sweet History (Grosset & Dunlap) is a whole book starring the cacao tree. Yes, it's true. Chocolate is made from cocoa powder. And cocoa powder is made from the seeds of the cacao tree.

Ready to dig for treasure? Then read this book to find facts you can treasure an share with your friends and family.
How did the ancient Mayans make chocolate spicy?
What king was the first to sweeten chocolate?
Why did Antarctic explorers take chocolate with them to the South Pole?
Why does chocolate sometimes turn gray?

There are even trees featured in WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL TEETH!?  and WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL HAIR!? (Scholastic). Can you find them?

For that matter, you couldn't read a printed copy of any of my books if it wasn't for trees. 
If it wasn't for trees, there wouldn't be wood pulp.
If it wasn't for wood pulp, there wouldn't be paper.
If it wasn't for paper, there wouldn't be printed books.

Clearly, trees are very important to me.