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!

Monday, September 3, 2018

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!

Sunday, June 10, 2018


Okay, it's summer! So here are ten things to enjoy while it's hot, sunny and being outdoors is fun....

1.  Make something out of mud. Even better do it after it's rained. What is that mud like? How is different from dry dirt? Is there one way it's still the same? 

And then read Mud by Mary Lyn Ray with illustrations by Lauren Stringer.

2. Play flashlight tag in the dark. 

3. Go on a shadow hunt to find the following shadows. But take an adult along because grown-ups need to have fun too:
a. Find a shadow with a bright hole in it.
b. Find the biggest shadow you can. Figure out what made it.
c. Find the littlest shadow you can. Figure out what made it.  

And then Read Flashlight Night by Matt Forrest Esenwine and illustrations by Fred Koehler.

4. Fly a kite. But make one first. Here are sites with easy how-to instructions.

And read The Emperor's Kit by Jane Yolen with illustrations by Ed Young

5. Make a FOOT painting. Sure, you've probably done fingerprinting. But have you ever painted with your feet? It will really let you STEP UP as an artist. Try mixing your own paints first. Here's some how-to sites to help you. 


And read What If You Had Animal Feet?! by ME Sandra Markle with illustrations by Howard McWilliam.

6. Look at the world through a magnifying glass. Especially something you never thought to look at closely before. See anything that surprised you?  

7. Put on a puppet show with puppets you make yourself. Here's some sites with ideas to help you do just that.

8. Learn one constellation you didn't know in the night sky. Find out what story people used to tell about it. Then make up a new story yourself.

Mmy favorite constellation is ORION. And here's a couple of sites with star stories, including ones about Orion.

And read Zoo in the Sky: A Book of Animal Constellations by Jacqueline Mitton

Hope you have fun with these activities. And to share an adventure that happened one summer, Read Gasparilla's Gold by ME Sandra Markle :-)! Of course, any time you read one of my books it's like I'm right there sharing it with you.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018


Astronaut George "Pinky" Nelson shared with me what it was like to view earth from the Space Shuttle 350 miles above the earth's surface. And one thing really struck me. He said when we draw a circle to make a picture of the earth we should take a close look. He said people usually draw a second big circle around the first to show earth's atmosphere--the air we need to live. But from space it's clear that our earth's atmosphere is as thin as the line of the circle we drew to show the earth. Once we realize that, it's clear car fumes, factory smoke, forest fires--anything we add to air--can have a BIG impact on our home planet.

So what can you do to help? Here are some ideas for recycling that can stop pollution both from factories making new things and from trash being thrown away. Besides, you're about to discover RECYCLING IS FUN!

Turn Old Newspapers into A Birdhouse

Just follow these steps and birds will soon be moving in. First, blow up a balloon and tie the neck. In a plastic bowl (or a milk jug with the top half cut off) mix a half cup white glue with a half cup of water.

Use scissors to cut strips of newspaper about 2 inches wide. Start with about 50 strips.

Check with an adult to see where it's okay for you to work because the next step is going to be messy. And definitely wear old clothes. Then, one-by-one dip strips of newspaper into the glue, wipe off any excess by squeezing between your fingers, and press the strip smoothly onto the balloon. You'll need to cover all of the balloon, including the neck so you may need to take time out to wash up and cut more paper strips. Let the balloon dry completely. Then repeat. Do this until you've built up four layers covering the balloon.

Now, find out what small birds commonly live in birdhouses in your area. Check on-line or in bird books to find out what diameter hole you'll need to have in your birdhouse for your local guests to move in. Have your adult partner use a utility knife to cut a door that's just the right diameter about 3 to 4 inches above the bottom. That will pop the balloon. So remove the balloon pieces from the inside. Then have your adult partner do one more thing.

Working outdoors, have your adult partner spray a coating of water-based enamel inside the house. (This paint is available at home supply stores). This will help make the house waterproof. Dr. Mimi Shepherd, an avian veterinarian, reports water-based enamel is safe for birds once it's been allowed to dry for several days).

Also have your partner use pointed scissors to drill three drainage holes in the round bottom of the birdhouse. And they'll need to attach a toggle bolt to the pointed end and twist on a wire loop to hang the birdhouse.

Finally, back indoors you can use a paintbrush and acrylic paint to decorate the outside of the birdhouse. Top that with a coat of varnish to make the house waterproof.

This is my drawing from the very first published book EXPLORING WINTER 
Make A Bottle Diner For Birds

Invite the birds to your house for dinner. To make this bird feeder, you'll need a two liter soft drink bottle with a screw on cap, ball point pen, scissors, string, three wire garbage bag ties (or pipe cleaners), and an aluminum pie plate.

Cut off the bottom of the bottle. Set it on the middle of the pie pan and draw around it.

Cut four large scallops along the cut off edge of the bottle. This will allow a flow of bird seed.

Poke holes in the pan on two opposite sides of the circle you drew.

Poke holes in two opposite sides of the bottle.

Attach the bottle to the pan with the ties. Twist the third tie to each of the other two ties on the bottom of the pan. This will securely anchor the bottle to the pan.

Cut off a piece of string 18 to 36 inches long. Poke two holes in the neck of the bottle. Loop the string through the holes and tie the ends in a knot. That will form a loop you can use to hang the bird feeder.
Pour seed into the bottle through the bottle mouth until the feeder is about half full. Put the cap on the bottle.

Once your bottle bird feeder is ready, ask an adult to hang it in a tree or somewhere you can easily watch from a window. You'll also need your adult partner to help you add seed to the bottle feeder as needed. Once you begin to feed the birds, they will depend on you to keep the food coming. If the weather gets cold and snowy in the winter where you live, your bird feeder may be the best diner in the area.

As you watch your bird feeder, see if you can discover the answers to these questions:

  • What time of day do the birds most often come to eat?
  • Do the birds come more or less often if the weather is stormy?
  • Do the birds usually feed one at a time or in groups?
  • Which birds chase others away? (You may need to search on-line or in bird books to identify the birds that come to your feeder.)

Shoot Water Blasters
You can turn empty plastic bottles with screw-on caps, such as water or soft drink bottles, into a kind of squirt gun--a water blaster.

First, take the cap off the bottle. Have an adult partner help you put a hole in the center of this cap. Using an oven mitt, they'll need to hold the tip of a slim steel nail (a fourpenny nail) in a candle flame for about ten seconds. Then, working over a stack of old magazines, they'll need to immediately press the hot nail tip straight down on the center of the inside of the cap. That will make a small hole in the cap.

Then you can fill the bottle with water and screw on the cap to create your Water Blaster. Take your Water Blaster outdoors and squeeze to fire. Refill as needed. Build up your blasting skills by aiming at plastic cups set on something that is about waist high.

  • How far away can you be and still strike your target? 
  • Does the amount of water in the Water Blaster make a difference to its blast power? 

From The Kids' Earth Handbook by Sandra Markle (Atheneum, 1991)
Play A Game of Jug Ball

This game will turn empty milk jugs into a great game. Collect six milk jugs and rinse them out. Use scissors to cut the body of the jug, transforming it into a scoop (like the one in the picture). Next create a ball. Use an old dishwashing sponge. Dampen it so it's bendable. Bend it in half and anchor this shape with several recycled rubber bands.

Now, to play jug ball, stand in a circle. Stand close together. Then take three steps back. Toss the sponge ball from player to player. Start by going around the cirlce. Then have the player doing the tossing call the name of the player who must catch the ball. Any player who fails to catch the ball collects one letter of the word "Oops." When all four letters are collected by the same person, he or she must drop out of the game. The winner is the person remaining when everyone else has spelled "Oops."

Just remember, for the earth's sake, 
conserve, recycle, and use it up!