Saturday, November 3, 2018



I love this season! Whether you live where autumn brings lots of changes or only a few, it's still a great time for seasonal fun. So let's jump in and get started.


There are thousands of kinds of apples. However, only the most popular are grown and harvested. Even that changes as new varieties emerge. Today, the top ten are most often listed as the following:
Pink Lady 
Golden Delicious
Cox's Orange Pippin
Red Delicious

Collect samples of any three then compare. 
Do the apples look different? 
Check color. 

Now wash and slice. Then taste one sample. Rate it from 1 to 4 on crispness with 1 being the softest and 4 being the crispest.
Also rate it on sweetness with 1 being the least sweet and 4 being the sweetest.

Have a swig of water. Next, repeat these two tests with the second apple. Then with the third. 

Now create an advertisement for your favorite kind of apple. Tell why that's the best kind to buy, eat, and enjoy. Share something that will make people who've never tasted that kind of apple really want to try it.

If you can, share your findings on sweet taste with at least five friends and build a bar graph to compare the kinds of apples. 

It's estimated that each person in the United States eats about 50 apples a year. So while your investigating, you'll be on your way to eating your fair share of this year's crop.

RIDDLE: What kind of fruit do ghosts like?


In pioneering times, apples were carved and allowed to shrink and dry to make heads for dolls. You can carve an apple head to create a spooky shrunken head. Just follow the easy steps.

1.  First, peel the apple. Leave some peel on top for "hair". 

2.  Plan what you want the face to look like.

3.  Pour 4 cups of water into a bowl and stir in a teaspoon of salt.  Place the carved apple in this for about two hours.
That soften's the apple's flesh. 

4.  Next, use an unsharpened pencil or a popsicle stick to push in eye sockets. Also carve the shape for a nose and mouth.

5.  Push raisins into the eye sockets for eyes. You may also want to poke unpopped popcorn kernels into the mouth for teeth.

6.  Set your complete apple head on a plate. Check daily to see how the face changes as the apple dries.

The dried apple head usually won't mold. That's why people used to preserve food, like apples, for winter by drying it.  The lower water content helps prevent bacteria and mold growth.

Now, create a doll body for your apple head. It could be made out of poster board. It could be made out of paint stirring stick and have cloth clothes. Or something else. Whatever you make, make a list of the steps to follow. That way, others can make an apple head doll just the way you did.

RIDDLE: What's a vampire's favorite fruit?


In ancient times, Celts and Romans thought apples were magical fruit. So a popular tradition in Great Britain was apple-snapping. In those long ago times, a rope was tied to the center of a stick that was hung from the ceiling. Next, an apple was stuck on one end of the stick. A candle was attached to the other end. Once the candle was lit the stick was started twirling. Contestants then tried to snatch the apple without getting burned. This was a very dangerous game. Later, it was turned into bobbing for apples.

To bob for apples, fill a large plastic storage tub or child's plastic wading pool nearly full of water. Wash the apples--one for each contestant. Set these afloat. To play each person, in turn, bends over the tub with their hands behind their back. Have someone time each person working to snatch an apple in their teeth. The fastest snatcher wins. Only each person wins a tasty apple snack. 

Write a short story about a bobbing-for-apples contest.

RIDDLE: What kind of horses do ghosts ride?


You're not done yet.

Twist and Shout--Find an apple with a stem. Twist it around and around saying a letter of the alphabet with each complete turn. How many letter can you say before the stem separates?

Cut and Print--Apples make great print blocks. Cut a nice firm apple in half. Use a sturdy plastic knife or popsicle stick to cut away parts of flesh. Pour tempera or finger paint on a sturdy paper plate. Touch the cut apple to this to coat. Then press firmly on paper. Repeat to "stamp" your design all over the paper. If you want more than one color, wash off the apple and pat dry with a paper towel. Then keep on stamping with a new color of paint.

Johnny Did It--Look up Johnny Appleseed on-line. Then make up a short play about his real life (at least what people think may be real). Or let children work together to make up a short play about something that Johnny Appleseed could have done--maybe even in your home town. Then invite visitors to see them act out this play.

Sunday, September 30, 2018


October is International DINOSAUR Month!

How cool that my next new Scholastic WHAT IF YOU HAD!? book is about DINOSAURS!

And, while you're waiting to have fun with this book, here's a peek at one of the book's featured dinosaurs........ STEGOSAURUS!

This focuses on the Stegosaurus' tail. But scientists have discovered things about other parts of this dino's body. Check in books and on-line to find out something else interesting to share about it. Write 3 to 4 sentences to tell what's WILD about that Stegosaurus body part.

Now look at the imagination page for having a Stegosaurus tail.


But imagine one other way you could have a blast if you had a Stegosaurus tail?

Now, imagine you had that other Stegosaurus body part you wrote about. What could you do if you had that dino's other special feature?!

Here are some more ways to enjoy dinosaurs this month.

Breaking News: Dinosaur Egg Discovered

Check out this picture of the latest discovery of real fossil (remains in rock form) dinosaur eggs. 

NOW, IMAGINE dinosaur eggs were discovered in your backyard. 

What would you do?
Who would you tell first?
What if one of those eggs was so well preserved it hatched!? What kind of dinosaur would you want it to be? 

Could that baby dinosaur become your family's pet? What do you think might happen if it was your pet dinosaur?

Have Dino Dreams

Dinosaurs are perfect for all sorts of creative thinking. Look at this picture and.....

Imagine living in that city. 
Write an adventure you have living on a dinosaur.

And NEVER FEAR--there will be lots more DINOSAUR FUN in  WHAT IF YOU HAD T. rex Teeth and Other Dinosaur Parts!? 
...Coming this DECEMBER, 2019

Sunday, September 23, 2018


Children often ask, "What do you like best about writing nonfiction books?" 

My answer is "RESEARCH" That's how I either get to do hands-on investigating myself around the world. 

Me in Antarctica

Me and Baby Mike

Or I get to interview experts around the world who have explored and investigated what I'm researching.

Dr. Andrew Whitworth in 14-story tall tree in cloud forest in Peru studying woolly monkeys. Read about his research in WOOLLY MONKEY MYSTERIES (Millbrook, 2019)

Luckily, children can safely start now to develop both their investigative and interviewing skills. AND have fun in the process!

A great research topic for RESEARCHERS-IN-TRAINING is a local tree. 

Older students can tackle investigating a tree in their home yard--or during a visit to a local park with their adult partner. Younger students can share in a class investigation of a tree in the school yard--or bring in a potted tree as a classroom "visitor".

Below is the hands-on investigation. It's to give a tree it's annual checkup. 


Pick a tree whose lower branches are easy to reach. Then check it out by answering these questions "Yes" or "No".

1. Are some twigs or branches bare?
(When it's still the season for leaves. In other seasons, there should be buds where new leaves will grow.)

2. Do any of the leaves look curled up or dead?
(When it's still the season for leaves to be healthy.)

3. Do you see any scars or wounds on the tree's trunk?

4. Look closely, do you see any holes or tunnels through the bark? If so, insects may have attacked the tree.

5. Do you see any webs, galls (bumps) or dripping sap on twigs? If so, insects may have attacked the tree.

If you answered "No" more often than "Yes", the tree is probably in good health.

For the expert interview, the children could do this activity.


Have children interview an adult member of their family about a tree they remember from their childhood. They should work up 3 questions to ask their expert. Here are some samples they could use:

1. Where was the biggest tree you ever remember seeing as a child?

2. Can you tell me a story about any tree you remember from where you grew up? 

3.Please tell me about any time you got to play in a tree. Did you climb up? Did you fall down? Did you have a treehouse? Or a tree swing?

Little Extra: GET ARTY!

Georgia O'Keefe's The Lawrence Tree

Everyone can share imagining how looking up through a tree changes what you see. Show a picture of the famous artist Georgia O'Keefe's painting, called The Lawrence Tree. Thi shows a dramatic view of the night sky viewed looking up though a big tree's branches. If you have a large tree on your school gounds, children can investigate this unique world view. 

OR you can experience it and be the expert they interview about what your experience stretching out under a big tree and looking up. Remember, in many places that view can change seasonally. 

GET READY! Once kids discover what fun RESEARCH can be, they'll be eager for new RESEARCH Adventures. I know I always am!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


Here's another peek inside my new book.

And here's the illustrator Howard McWilliam at work in his studio.

Be sure and pop in a "Thank you" note I can share with him. 

 He's also the illustrator of my WHAT IF YOU HAD?! Series published by Scholastic. So look what's just out and what's coming SOON!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018


Here's a special chance to see how one of the illustrations for HUSH UP AND HIBERNATE! brought this story to life.

When you choose "play", you'll go right back to the beginning when the text inspired the idea for the illustration. You'll see the sketches that created the scene. Next, you'll see the colors begin to be added. The details follow. 

Notice what comes first, next, and so on.
When you compare the illustration to the finished spread in the book, look at one more thing. See how the artist Howard McWilliam planned, right from the start, for the text to become part of the scene. 

And here's the text to read as you enjoy the illustration come to life. 

Mama Bear grunts, "I guess we can eat 
a little longer before we sleep
away the winter." Side-by-side, they
munch chokecherries until a flock of geese flies past.

Mama Bear slowly lifts her big head and listens to their honking. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018


HUSH UP and HIBERNATE! is a fun read aloud--read alone bedtime story. But the fun doesn't have to stop there. 

These activities can stretch the fun and sneak in a little creative thinking and discovery-learning.


Please, Mama!  

What if Baby Bear wanted Mama Bear to tell a story about an adventure she had as a cub, while he fell asleep? Make up the story Mama Bear told. 

Sneaky Baby Bear

Imagine Baby Bear didn't hibernate? What if Baby Bear sneaked out of the den and stayed awake all winter long? Make a list of ten things that happened in order--from what happened first to last. 

Sweet Dreams!

What if Baby Bear dreamed while hibernating? Tell what his dream was about?


Baby Bear counted groups of animals to fall asleep.

What forest animals is Baby Bear counting when he sees these groups:
                [Answers below]
Gaggle of _____________
Pack of _______________
Romp of_______________
Prickle of _____________
Gang of ______________
Scurry of _____________
Leash of ______________
Murder of _____________
Parliament of __________
Knot of _______________

Answers: Geese, Wolves, Otters, Porcupines, Elk, Squirrels, Foxes, Crows, Owls, Toads


How To Guide

Since Baby Bear doesn't want to hibernate, Mama Bear could get HOW TO SURVIVE THE WINTER advice from other animals. What would each of these animals tell her? 

[Click the link to discover more.] 

Caribou: "For me, it's all about finding food to eat after it snows. So I always do this when winter is coming."

Arctic Fox: "I can't risk being spotted by prey I hunt during the winter. So when winter is coming I have to make this change."

Chipmunk: "You can do what I do, no problem. But you have to have been working on this all summer and fall."


To help Baby Bear go to sleep, Mama Bear reads these bedtime stories.

Bear Snores by Karma Wilson (Little Simon, 2005)

Bear's cave fills with animal friends while he sleeps.

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2015) Fun romp that tells what happens when Bear wakes up and smells a sandwich.

Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins (Disney-Hyperion, 2015)
When a bear's egg breakfast, turns into raising geese and teaching them how to migrate--even when it means traveling south with them for the winter.

And, of course, she reads...

Hush Up and Hibernate!


Mama Bear needs to prove to Baby Bear that, during the winter, food will be hard to eat--even if it's around. 

To do that, put a raisin into each section of an ice cube tray. Fill the tray with water and freeze.

Next, dump the raisin ice cubes onto a plastic plate. Add another batch of ice cubes with nothing inside.

Then it's Baby Bear's task to try and eat the raisins without eating any ice. CAN YOU FIGURE OUT how Baby Bear can get the raisins? 

Think of three different things Baby Bear could try to get the raisins. Decide which one has the best chance of working. 

Finally, work with an adult partner to test your idea. Or check with an adult partner to be sure what you want to try is safe for you to do. Then time how long it takes to get the raisins out of the ice cubes. And think whether what you did is likely to be possile for Baby Bear to do.  

So what happens to Baby Bear? How does the story end? 


What happens to real baby bears when winter is on its way and it's time to hibernate?

There's only one way to find out. Click here to order a copy and READ IT!


IT'S APPLE TIME! I love this season! Whether you live where autumn brings lots of changes or only a few, it's still a great time f...