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Monday, December 7, 2015


Okay, here it is for all of you who've asked for it. The TWELVE ARACHNIDS OF CHRISTMAS! are back. And for any of you who are discovering this for the first time, ENJOY!

[Books mentioned below are from my ARACHNID WORLD Series by Lerner]

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. 
*Or check the answers from Spider Clause at the very end.

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.
*Or check the answers from Spider Clause at the very end.

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.
*Or check the answers from Spider Clause at the very end.

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.*Or check the answers from Spider Clause at the very end.

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. *Or check the answers from Spider Clause at the very end. 

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 orb web weaver 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. *Or check the answers from Spider Clause at the very end.

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. *Or check the answers from Spider Clause at the very end.

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. *Or check the answers from Spider Clause at the very end.

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. *Or check the answers from Spider Clause at the very end.

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. *Or check the answers from Spider Clause at the very end.

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. *Or check the answers from Spider Clause at the very end.

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. *Or check the answers from Spider Clause at the very end.

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
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 called, "Merry Christmas to all and Happy New Year!"

1 Black Widow--This spider was bigger. Because it's skeleton is an exoskeleton (on the outside), it had to shed this. The new exoskeleton quickly hardened.
2 Scorpions--The pair is courting and preparing to mate and produced baby scorpions.
3 Wolf Spider--The baby spiders climb onto their mother's back and ride along for a week or two. That way they stay safe from predators while they live off their stored yolk and keep growing bigger. 
4 Wind Scorpion--It has pedipalps--that look like long legs--with a sticky tip to grip and hang on.
5 Tarantula--To turn its prey into a liquid it can suck in. Get out of the way, those hairs can irritate your skin.
6 Orb Weavers--This keeps the prey from escaping. The strands don't break because they're tougher than Kevlar, the fabric used to make bulletproof vests.
7 Fishing Spiders--Air is trapped between its body hairs. The spider breathes by drawing oxygen into its book lungs from this air-filled coat.
8 Crab Spiders--These spiders can change color enough to match where they hide.
9 Harvestmen--Packed close together and bobbing makes them look like a much bigger animal so predators leave them alone.
10 Ticks--Like a fan opening, the lower part of its body can spread apart and expand as it sucks in a blood meal. That bite can pass on a disease, like Lyme disease.
11Jumping Spiders--It jumps when muscles inside its body contracts, forcing blood into its four hind legs. These stretch out and launch the spider. A jumping spider can jump two to three times its body length. That's amazing--if you don't think so, see how far you can jump.
12 Mites--A few become many quickly because mites go from egg to adult ready to lay eggs in less than a month.

Thursday, November 5, 2015


I'm a redhead 

And I'm proud of it. In fact, being a redhead is a big thing in my family. I have redheaded cousins and a redheaded son. We trace our family red hair roots proudly back to my great grandfather John Wesley Haldeman and we enjoy this shared bond. So I'm happy to announce that November 5, 2015 is National LOVE Your Red Hair Day. 

To my surprise, this isn't the only calendar day set aside to appreciate redheads. There is even a festival held each year in Breda, The Netherlands. That event started in 2005 when Dutch painter Bart Rouwenhorst decided he wanted to paint 15 redheads. He advertised for models and had 150 replies. Over time the festival has grown and now attracts around 5,000 redheads each year.

Of course, people aren't the only redheads. There are redheaded animals too. In fact, a few animals are red all over. So try these activities to have fun getting to know some of the redheads of the animal world.

2015 Redhead of the Year 

Invite kids to join in electing one of these three red haired animals to hold this title. Here's a snapshot of the candidates.

Red Panda: This animal is not a kind of panda. It's a unique kind of mammal (hairy, warm-blooded animal whose mothers nurse their young). Its red hair helps it blend in with the red mosses growing on the trees where it live.

Orangutan: In the swampy forests where this ape lives the muddy orange water casts an orange-red light into the trees. So it hides in plain sight thanks to its red hair.

Golden Lion Tamarin: This monkey's red hair makes it stand out. That may help it find other golden lion tamarins in its forest home. 

Scientists believe its hair is red at least partly because of the chemicals (carotenoids) in the fruit it eats. 

Now pick one candidate to support.  

Click on one of the names below to go to websites and find out more about your favorite candidate for REDHEAD OF THE YEAR.

Next, write a paragraph to share with others to convince them to vote for your candidate.

Also make a campaign poster. And think up a slogan--a catchy phrase--for why others should vote for your candidate.

Hold an election and count the votes to find out who is the winner.

Don't forget to celebrate the election of the 2015 REDHEAD OF THE YEAR!!!

How The Woodpecker Got Its Red head

Another of my favorite wild redheads is the red-headed woodpecker. 

There is a Cherokee legend about how the red-headed woodpecker came to be.  Here is my retelling of this legend.

Long ago, there was a cabin way off in the woods. A man who was a wood carver lived there with his beautiful red-haired wife. One day, while the man was away and the woman was home baking, an old Cherokee man came to the cabin. He had been travelling a long time and was very hungry. He asked the woman to give him something to eat. But she sent him away.

The old man was surprised because the Cherokee would never send anyone away hungry. He went back the next day. The woman in the cabin still would not give him any food to eat.

Now the old man was able to work magic. So he decided to teach the woman a lesson. The next day he went to the cabin yet again. When the woman still would not give him even a slice of the bread she was baking, he cast a spell on her. He said, “From this day on, you will spend every day searching for food and have to work very hard for what you eat.”

As he walked away, the woman began to change. The black dress she was wearing, her white apron and her bright red hair changed to feathers. She became a woodpecker. To this day, the woodpecker must fly from tree to tree and peck very hard to get food to eat.      

Another telling of the "Ta-la-la" story is found here. "Ta-la-la" is the Cherokee word for redheaded woodpecker.

Now, just for fun, make up a story of your own for how the woodpecker got its red head.

Save A Redhead

Finally, don't miss reading the true life story of how people worked very hard to save one of my favorite red-haired animals. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015


It's officially BAT WEEK!  In fact helping out bats is so important this celebration is continuing.  It's the perfect time to find out about bats. You could even build a bat house to help out your local bats. Check out these sites to learn more.
Organization for Bat Conservation
U.S. Department of Interior Bat Week
Care2 For Bats
Bat Conservation International 

Then share how science detectives tracked down what's been killing a great many bats. So many that little brown bats that were once among the most common kind of bat are in danger of becoming extinct (no more exist). You’ll also discover what's being done to try and save bats of all kinds--even how you can help save your local bats.

Then put what you discovered in this book to work and dig even deeper 
to tackle these activities.

What If You Could HIBERNATE?  

You know what it's like to be asleep. You do it every night. So what if you could hibernate for an entire season the way little brown bats do during the winter? Read about how a bat's body changes during hibernation (read over pages 10 and 11). Then look at this list. Which describes how your body would work if you were hibernating.

1. Your body stays its normal temperature--about 98.6F.
2. You become active sometimes to pass liquid wastes.
3. You become active sometimes to get a drink of water.
4. You eat at least three times a day.
5. Your heart rate drops to a much slower rate than the usual resting rate of 100 beats per minute. 
6. Your immune system isn't nearly as strong in fighting bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

If you could hibernate, which of the four seasons would you choose to skip: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter? Why would you like to miss that one?

What Should We Do?

Here are three ways scientists are trying to help bats survive. Choose the one you believe has the best chance of working. Prepare to tell others why you think this effort is the one to focus on.

*Winifred Frick and her team hope to find bacteria or fungi that could just naturally stop the growth of Pd, the fungus causing the problem. Then bats could be swabbed with this to help them resist infection. (Check it out on pages 38-39)

*David Blehert and his team are trying to find ways to change the temperature and humidity inside hibernation sites. Their goal is to make those sites less likely to encourage Pd to grow. (Check it out on pages 34-35)

*DeeAnn Reeder and her team is working on developing an implant that could be inserted into the bat's bat. It would slowly release a protective chemical into the bat's blood over the winter. (Check it out on pages 36-37)

Once Upon A Field Trip

Find out more about little brown bats. Go online. Use these keyword phrases as you search for information:

1. Little brown bat diet
2. Little brown bat echolocation
3. Little brown bat nursery colonies


Now use your research to write a one-page story.  Pretend you’re on a field trip (during the day or at night). Tell about watching this bat. Work something you learned about this bat’s life into your story. 

And don't miss checking out these sites for ways you and your family can help bats survive!

Organization for Bat Conservation

Bat Conservation International

Sunday, October 11, 2015


Wow! Who knew we could have an excuse to have fun exploring dinosaurs. But October is it!

Dig In
Here are some sites where you can find lots of fun things to do and ways for children to investigate.

Science Made Fun
This site is packed with info about dinosaur record holders. For example do you know which dinosaur is the smallest when fully-grown? Or which kind was the first ever to be discovered in North America? You will once you visit this site.

Can you make up a story about what's going on in this picture?

Child Care Lounge: Dinosaur Activities
Songs and crafts add fun and games to learning about dinosaurs.

Enchanted Learning: Dinosaur Quizes

Ten questions, word unscrambles, crosswords and name hunts. There's lots of dino-fun here. 

And don't miss the jokes! You'll find the answers to these and more.

Why did the Archaeopteryx catch the worm?

What do you get when dinosaurs crash their cars?

Breaking News: Dinosaur Egg Discovered

Check out this latest discovery of dinosaur eggs. Also, take a look inside my book to see how the latest technology let scientists study baby dinosaurs. And learn what they were like and how they developed.
See a real baby dinosaur on page 35

 Encourage children to imagine dinosaur eggs were discovered at their school or at home in their backyard. Have them become reporters to bring this breaking news to the world.

South Pole Dinosaurs
Dr. Christian Sidor with fossil

Hard as it is to believe, during the Age of Dinosaurs the world's climate was very different. In fact, it was a time of Greenhouse kind of warming. So there were forests in Antarctica where the land is now covered with thick ice sheets. Scientist Dr. Vanessa Bowman reported that the rainforests of New Zealand with their fern trees show what the Antarctic forests were once like. In fact, Robert Falcon Scott found fossilized plants there in 1912. Since, explorers have discovered fossilized, bush-sized beech trees and remains of ginkgos, another ancient kind of tree. And dinosaur bones have also been discovered.
What's fascinating about these dinosaur remains isn't that they lived in Antarctica. It's that they had to deal with the polar night. Though the climate was clearly warmer in that ancient time, there still would have been the long period of dark. Professor Thomas Rich has found several of the now eight known species (kinds) of Antarctic dinosaurs. And the only complete skeleton found was for Leaellynasaura. This provided a big clue as to how the dinosaurs managed. Its skull had extra big eye sockets so it probably had big eyes--what it would have needed to see in the long night. 

[Don't miss the sweet story of how this dinosaur got its name.]

So what kinds of dinosaurs once lived near the South Pole? Here's the names of three. Click on the name of each to link to a site where you can begin learning more about that dinosaur. If you're interested go online to discover more about one or more of these dinosaurs. And create a 12-page mini-picture book about the dinosaur.

 Antarctopelta, meaning “Antarctic shield.” Discovered in 1986. Believed to be an ankylosaurus type of armored plant eater.


Cryolophosaurus, means “coldcrested lizard.” Approximately 20–26 feet (6–8 m) long, this massive creature must have required a hefty diet, including other dinosaurs.

Glacialisaurus, meaning “frozen lizard.” The entire dinosaur must have been 20–25 feet (6–8 m) long and weighed an estimated 4–6 tons.

Now, imagine that you have travelled to Antarctica. And you're part of a team that has found the fossil remains of a brand new kind of dinosaur. Read this story about someone who lived that exciting adventure. Then make up a story about being along on this expedition.

Have Dino Dreams

Dinosaurs are also perfect for launching all sorts of creative thinking. Let children look at this picture and:
1. Imagine living in that city.
2. Draw another kind of dinosaur that's hosting a city.
3. Dream up a class pet dinosaur. 

And enjoy some of these fun reads:
How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?

Dinosaur Dig

Dinosaurs Love Underpants