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Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Twelve Arachnids of Christmas!

Grab copies of the twelve books in my exciting ARACHNID WORLD series published by Lerner (2010-2011) to join in the fun. You see my true love is an arachnologist, someone who studies all kinds of arachnids. So this year my Christmas gifts were very different, but definitely ones I'll always remember.

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.

What in the world just happened? To find out, read Black Widows: Deadly Biters pages 22 through 23.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me two striped bark scorpions--one big female 3 inches (7.5 cm) long and a smaller male.

As I watched, the male grabbed the female's pedipalps (body parts near the mouth). He tugged her forward and then they turned around in a circle. They did this over and over for hours.

What was happening to my scorpions? To find out, read Scorpions: Armored Stingers pages 28 and 29.

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

As I watched, a round ball about one-third as big as the spider and stuck to its spinnerets split open. Hundreds of tiny spiders crawled out and climbed onto the big spider.

What's likely to happen next? To find out, read Wolf Spiders: Mothers On Guard pages 26 through 29.

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? To find out, read Wind Scorpions: Killer Jaws pages 24 and 25.

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? To find out read Tarantulas: Supersized Predators pages 32 and 33.

Then keep on reading quickly to let me know whether I should stay to watch or run away. Two of the other tarantulas have turned their hairy rear ends toward me and look ready to rub these with their hind legs.

Help me decide what action to take by reading pages 30 and 31.

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

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? To find out, read Orb Weavers: Hungry Spinners pages 24 and 25.

I kept on watching and saw a fly zip into another spider's web. I expected the web to break, but it didn't. Why not? To find out, read page 17 and page 22.

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

At just that moment, a bat flew past and all the fishing spiders dived beneath the surface. They stayed underwater for nearly thirty minutes.

How were they able to stay underwater for so long? To find out, read Fishing Spiders: Water Ninjas pages 22 through 23.

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 just the right flower color to hide and wait to ambush insects? To find out, read Crab Spiders: Phantom Hunters pages 22 and 23.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me nine harvestmen packed close together and bobbing up and down.

Why were they doing that? To find out, read Harvestmen: Secret Operatives page 21.

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 could they swell so big? To find out read Ticks: Dangerous Hitchhikers pages 14 and 15.

Why can a tick's bite make people and animals sick? Read pages 28 through 36 to find out.

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 find out, read Jumping Spiders: Gold Medal Stalkers pages 22 and 23.

What's the record for how far a jumping spider can leap? Read pages 46 and 47 to find out.

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

At first, I couldn't see the tiny two-spotted mites sucking on one of the plant's leaves. In less than a month, the plant was nearly covered with web strands dotted with tiny mites. They were sucking the plant's juices and producing even more two-spotted mites.

How did there get to be so many so quickly. To find out, read Mites: Master Sneaks pages 36 and 37.

Yes, 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-a-sucking
9 harvestmen bobbing
8 crab spiders lurking
7 fishing spiders fishing
6 orb weavers spinning
5 tarantulas
4 wind scorpions
3 wolf spiders
2 scorpions
And a black widow in a fir tree

Monday, November 7, 2011

Get Wild For Wild Horses

Moving to a new place can mean adjusting to a very different way of life. That’s what happens to the horses in my book, Race the Wild Wind (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011). These activities will let children dig deeper into the story, think about what such a major life change is like, and get to know the real Sable Island Horses that inspired the book.

First of all, this story is set on a real place, Sable Island. Look just inside the book’s cover. You’ll find a map that shows you where this island is located off the coast of Nova Scotia on the east coast of Canada.

The heart of this story is about adjusting to a new place and way of living. Find this picture in the book. Then read the story to find out how life changed for one young stallion. Next, talk about and then write about a time you moved someplace new or that something about your life changed.

*What changed for you?

*What about that change was especially hard for you?

Find this picture in the book. As you read, you'll discover the horses didn't know each other when they first came to the island. What changed as they did get to know each other? Why do you think the stallion sometimes ran as fast as he could?

Read what happened to the young stallion when he broke through the ice to get a drink of water. Why was this an important change in his life?

The horses living on Sable Island did’t have any natural predators, such as wolves or mountain lions. However, living there was sometimes dangerous. Read the story to find at least three things that made life challenging—even deadly.

Verbs are powerful words. Action verbs—ones that make you feel the action you’re reading about—make a story much more exciting.

For example, check out some of the action verbs that bring Race the Wild Wind, to life.
“Barking and wriggling, the seals stampede into the surf.”
“Storms claw at beaches and dunes.”
“Stinging rain pelts down. Waves charge ashore.”

Find at least two more places action verbs ramp up the story.

You’ll find one where the horses are swimming ashore as the ship sails away.

You’ll find another where the young stallion goes after the colt in the blinding fog.

Of course, there are many more action verbs in this exciting story.

Now enjoy pictures of the real wild horses living on Sable Island today. Then make up your own story about the life of one special horse--one that’s just been born. Be sure and use action verbs to power up your story.