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Thursday, June 23, 2016


The Scholastic Summer Reading Road Trip is fabulous! 

See me? I'm right under the giraffe's head!

I’m having a wonderful time joining in the fun and meeting fans. 

The Vero Beach Book Center in Vero Beach, Florida was such a special store--more like a journey to a magical country.

The store manager estimated the turnout was between 200 and 300 people. I know I signed books non-stop for the whole two hours. 

What's your favorite animal teeth?

If you could have any animal's feet, which would you choose?

At the Vero Beach stop, I also had a special treat--I was asked to sign the table in the Summer Reading Road Trip RV. Now maybe that doesn't sound like a big deal to you. But I remember reading how J.K. Rowling signed the desk in her hotel room when she finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. So I've always wanted to do that. However, I've never had the nerve to whip out my pen and scrawl my name on any of my furniture. 

This fulfilled my dream. And, if you ever get a chance to see that table, I added a little face to make my autograph stand out. SMILE!

I also loved visiting the Scholastic Book Fairs Headquarters in Lake Mary, Florida. The atmosphere there is amazing. Everyone clearly loves the books that go out to the Book Fairs. I mean just take a look at the rug at the building's entrance.

I had to remind them that writing for Scholastic took me all the way to the South Pole. In 1996, I did some of the very first reporting to schools from a remote location for Scholastic. And the South Pole is about as far as any book can take you here on Earth. 

And what a great crowd turned out for that event. 

Though the temperature was pushing 90F, people lined up to meet me. Such a treat to say talk to everyone and sign a copy of my newest WHAT IF YOU HAD!? book.

And I whispered the title of the book coming out next--
but don't tell!!!

And the fun went on.  I never stopped autographing WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL EARS!? for over two hours. In fact, I ran one brand new pen dry and had to pull out another. 


Before the day was over I also had a chance to chat with one of my favorite book characters. 

And I joined in celebrating kids all over the country logging in a record-breaking number of minutes reading for the Scholastic On-Line Reading Challenge
That number is the total number of minutes kids have logged in as reading so far--and the summer isn't over!

So, of course, I had to take that reading challenge too by reading my cat, Beau, his favorite book WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL TEETH!?.

And the Scholastic Summer Reading Road Trip isn't over. Friday, July 22nd it will be at the Marietta Public Library in Marietta, Georgia. Saturday, July 23rd it will be at the Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Georgia. I'm still on board so, if you live close, come visit. Don't miss it. 

Can you guess which animal ears are my favorite in my newest book WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL EARS!? Come meet me and ask me. I can't wait to meet you--and show you the page with my favorite animal ears!!

Friday, June 17, 2016


A young child is smaller than a lot of the people and even other animals and things in their world. So books that focus on what it means to be among the smallest animal in a big wild place can be special discovery experiences for them. Can even give them tools for living in their own BIG world.

Jump into investigating two of the smallest monkeys in the world: golden lion tamarins and pygmy marmosets. Both live in forests in South America.

Author Sandra Markle (Millbrook/Lerner 2015)

Author Sarah L. Thomson (Boyds Mills Press 2016)


First, discover just how small these monkeys are. An adult golden lion tamarin's body is squirrel-sized--about 8 inches long. 

An adult pygmy marmoset's body is about house mouse-sized--about 6 inches long.  

Have children make two paper strips: one 8 inches long (tamarin-sized) and one 9 inches long (pygmy marmoset-sized).  Next have them measure their handspan. To do that, they need to spread their fingers wide and trace around their hand on a sheet of paper. Their handspan is the distance between their thumb and stretched out little finger. Now have them lay each of the paper strips across the outline of their handspan.

Which would fit best in your hand: 
a golden lion tamarin or a pygmy marmoset?

This is a pygmy marmoset.

This is a golden lion tamarin.

Now, have children think about the monkey they're holding. Its long tail would hang down their arm. Use a piece of string or yarn tacked onto the child's palm with masking tape so they can feel what that would be like. 

If they chose to hold a pygmy marmoset, they'll need a  9 inch long piece of string. An adult pygmy marmoset's tail is about 9 inches long. If they decided they would try to hold a golden lion tamarin, they'll need a 10 inch long pice of string. An adult golden lion tamarins's tail is about 10 inches long.

By the way, in case you're wondering just how small a baby is. A baby pygmy marmoset is smaller than a baby golden lion tamarin. In fact a newborn baby pygmy marmoset is the size of an average adult human's thumb. 

To Talk About: 
Twin baby golden lion tamarins.

Both pygmy marmosets and golden lion tamarins usually give birth to twins. Then the father and  older brothers and sisters take turn carrying the babies. 

Twin baby pygmy marmosets.

The mother usually saves her energy to produce milk and only takes the babies while they nurse. But while the family travels in search of food, water, or shelter, the babies have to hang on to the adult's back. What could be two reasons it's good these monkeys have thick, furry coats?

Clue: At night, the family huddles together to stay warm.


Golden lion tamarin leaping.

Being so little means there are lots of big dangers in their forest home. Something both kinds of monkey have in common is they react fast to danger.  As quick as they spot a bird hunting over head or a climbing hunter prowling the branches, they drop, flying between branches or even trees with their very long tail to help them balance. So challenge children to test their reaction time with this game.

1    Have a partner hold a ruler with the zero end down.

Now grab that ruler. Hold it so your thumb is close to the zero.

Open your grip so your fingers no longer touch the ruler.
Pygmy marmoset hanging on tight.

Get ready!

Have your partner decide when to let go.

Grab the falling ruler fast.

Next, see which number is under your thumb. The lower the number, the faster you were able to react.

Repeat two more times.

Do you get faster with practice? From the time it's a baby, a pygmy marmoset and a golden lion tamarin practice reacting fast to escape danger.

Talk About It: 
Both of pygmy marmosets and tamarins have sharp claws instead of flat fingernails like some other monkeys. How could that help them when they make a fast flying escape in the treetops?


Golden Lion Tamarin Family 

Pygmy Marmoset Family 

Both pygmy marmosets and golden lion tamarins live in family groups. 

They have special calls to communicate. Both use high-pitched trills to say "I'm here? Is anybody there?" These can be heard over a mile away. Such calls can be extra important if a youngster gets separated from the family group. Try it. 

Assign children to groups of four to form family groups.  Have each group choose a sound to be their family's call, such as TWEET-Peep-Peep or CHEEEEEP-Click-Click .  Next, have the group members mix together and form one big circle. Then tell everyone to  look down at the floor.

Upon a start signal, have each person start making their family sound and, without looking up, move slowly toward other family members.  

Can every family group reunite?

Talk About It:  How hard was it for family members to find each other?  How would living in the treetops in a forest make this even harder?

Now take one last look at these two little monkeys together. What are four words you would use to tell about Golden Lion Tamarins and Pygmy Marmosets?

Golden lion tamarin on left. Pygmy Marmoset on right. This pygmy marmoset clearly isn't pleased about sharing a meal.

Imagine being as small as one of these monkeys. Make up a story about a day you spent being as small as the monkey you chose.

Saturday, June 11, 2016



I’m on the Scholastic Summer Reading Road Trip with my WHAT IF YOU HAD!? Series. And I won’t be rolling into town alone. There will be other authors and illustrators on board plus favorite book characters. We’ll be signing books. Joining you for photos. Giving away gifts. There will also be crafts to make and activities galore. This is going to be a summer reading-celebration to remember. So DON’T MISS IT!

Come join me at these Road Trip stops.  Can’t wait to see you there!

Monday, June 20, 2016 from 1pm-3pm
392 21st St, Vero Beach, FL 32960

Friday, July22, 2016 from 10am-12pm
Marietta Public Library
266 Roswell St, Marietta, GA 30060

Saturday, July 23, 2016 from 3pm-6pm
Little Shop of Stories

133 E Court Square # A, Decatur, GA 30030

Saturday, June 4, 2016

BRAND NEW--For Teachers!

I'm excited to share the brand new workshop I'm offering for elementary teachers--HANDS-ON/MINDS-ON STEM STARTERS. You'll discover ready-to-go STEM activities with book connections.

This workshop features activities that inspire children to think creatively and learn by doing. The activities also just naturally stretch learning across the curriculum.

Activities focus on developing:

Teachers each receive a workbook of original activities I've created especially for elementary school students. These are safe, easy-to-do activities using inexpensive materials usually found at home or  at the grocery store. 

Teachers will have an opportunity to perform these activities and be ready to put them into action with their students. Permission to reproduce the workbook activities is supplied to all those attending the workshop.

Some activities are for individuals. Some are just right for partners or teams. Others are whole class activities. 

There are also book tie-ins for several of my books, including

TOAD WEATHER (Peachtree Publishers)

BUILD, BEAVER, BUILD! (Lerner Publishing)


Plus a recommended list of books by other authors that are just right for reading aloud and sparking kids to think creatively.

There are also opportunities to share performing science magic that will spark a child's natural curiosity. And just because it's fun!