Tuesday, October 15, 2019



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.

It's estimated each person in the U.S. eats about 50 apples each year. So take a bite to be on your way to eating your fair share!

RIDDLE: What kind of fruit do ghosts like?

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


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?

Thursday, October 3, 2019


Kids love to make music!
Making their own musical instruments is a great way to explore what creates sounds-- and what changes the pitch. 

Start by letting children explore how air vibrating produces sound. Then explore how varying the amount of vibrating air changes the pitch--how high or low the tone sounds.

What you need: plastic straw, scissors.

What to do:
1. Snip off one end of the straw to form a V-shape. Nip off the point. Flatten the cut end by pressing it against a table top with a thumbnail.

2. Blow on the V-shaped en of the straw. That acts like a reed in a wood wind instrument and make the air blowing through the straw vibrate. PRESTO! A sound. 

3. Snip off the straw to change its length. Blow again to hear the new sound this makes.

Now, get together with a group of friends. Have each make a Next, make each a little shorter than the one before. And tape all five together so they are side-by-side. 

Try making up a tune to play with your straw instrument that's a different length. Toot sounds together and one-after-the-other. Just for fun, make your own tunes.

Start by letting children explore how different amounts of air vibrating produces different sounds. 

What you need: 3 glass quart jars, a metal spoon, water--food coloring just for fun.

What to do:
1. Fill one jar half full of water. Tap it with the spoon. It should make a deep sound. If it does not, add a little more water. Keep testing and adding a little more water till you hear a deep sound. This is Bell 3.

2. Fill the second jar a little less than half full. Tap it. The sound should be higher than the first jar. If it is not, pour out a little water. Keep testing and pouring till you the sound is a little higher than the deep sound. This is Bell 2. 

3. Fill the last jar with just enough water to cover the bottom. Tap it. The sound should be higher than the other two jars. This is Bell 1.

You can play "Mary Had A Little Lamb" by tapping the jars in this pattern.

1, 2, 3, 2---1, 1, 1
2, 2, 2, ---1, 1, 1
1, 2, 3, 2---1, 1, 1
1, 2, 2, 1, 2, 3

Now, experiment. Make up your own music to play on your Water Bells.


This time, it's rubber bands that get air moving and make sounds.

Go as wild as you want to let kids make their own guitars. What counts is having different thickness--or differently stretched--rubber bands.

In fact, almost anything that will let you stretch the rubber bands will work!

What you need: cereal box, tape, scissors, BIG rubber bands--best to use different thicknesses. Or something, such as a pencil or crayon, to change stretch.

What to do:
1. Be sure cereal box is empty and tape top shut. 
2. Cut a hole as big around as a drinking glass on just one of the flat sides of the box.
3. Stretch rubber bands over the box, across the hole.

Pluck the rubber bands to make sounds. Push the pencil or crayon under one or more of the rubber bands to change how much it's stretched. Check how that changes the pitch.  

Here are some websites  to explore for more musical instrument HOW-TO
GET kids being movers, shakers, and music makers!!!


What great school visits!
check out the FUN!
Next week I'm heading to Michigan for more science and reading time together!!!

Thursday, September 5, 2019


I'm BATTY for BATS! Bet by the time you finish these activities you will be too!

Besides Halloween is coming so it's the perfect time to go totally batty! 

I've written 4 books about bats...so far. Check them out!
About the biggest and littlest bats...and bats with really big or little features that help them thrive.

The "true" story of how an orphaned baby bat is adopted by a new mother. Mexican free-tailed bats really do adopt orphaned babies. 
All about bats and how their bodies are amazingly built for flight.

Why some bats are in trouble--plus how scientists are working to help bats survive.

Of course, that wasn't enough bats for me. So I also put bats in two of my Scholastic WHAT IF YOU HAD!? series. Look inside these to find the bats! 

NOW have some batty fun!

Visit My Cave

What's it like to live like a bat? FIND OUT!  

Cover a table on three sides with a blanket or paper to create a cave.  Have your family or a group of friends crawl inside your pretend cave with you. While you're there with this group, think about these questions.

  1. Why is a cave a good home for small bats, like Mexican Free-tailed Bats? 
  2. Why do you think big bats, like Grey-Headed Flying Foxes, camp in the open in trees instead of in caves?
  3. What are some problems to sharing a cave with other bats?

What Good Are Bats?

Check out the hand-like structure of a bat's wings.

Try this to find out.  

Take a large bowl of popcorn kernels to the gym or outdoors to a paved area of the playground.  Scatter 50 popped kernels on the floor or ground.  Count to ten. Then have people dash around placing two more popcorn kernels next to each original kernel.  This is as if the insect pests have multiplied.  

Now pretend you are an insect-hunting bat. Have four others pretend they are too.  While someone counts to five, have each “bat” pick up all of the insects (popcorn) they can carry.  Then have other children place two popcorn kernels next to each remaining kernel.  

Repeat these steps two more times, having “bats” collect “insects”.   Then have the remaining “insects” multiply.  

  • How much of an effect did the “bats” have on the “insect” population?
  • What limited how much of an effect the bats could have on the insects? 
  • What do you think would happen to populations of insect pests if there weren’t any bats?

Bats for Good Measure

Again, here's a good chance to see the arm and hand-like structure of a bat's wing.

The wingspan of the largest flying foxes can be up to 6 feet. Now, measure each of these things.  Find out how much longer or shorter each is compared to a large flying fox’s wingspan. 

  • Your bed
  • Your height
  • Your armspan (from fingertip to fingertip with both arms stretched out)

The wingspan of the Bumblebee bat is 6 inches.  Take a piece of string that length.  Find out how much longer or shorter each is compared to a Bumblebee Bat’s wingspan.

  • Your pencil
  • Your foot
  • Your right hand span (from thumb to little finger with your hand spread wide).  Draw around your hand span on a piece of paper. Then compare to your bat wing measuring string.
And to wrap up the batty fun. Here are a few bat riddles.  

Q: Which circus performers can see in the dark?
A: The acro-bats.

Q: What is the first thing a bat learns at school?
A: The alphabat.

Q: Where to young bats go potty?
A: In the batroom.

Thursday, August 1, 2019


It's back to school time. 
Let's make this a colorful year!

How perfect that August has been declared NATIONAL CRAYON COLLECTION MONTH. 
The idea launched by Sheila Morovati, President and Founder of Crayon Collection is to help insure every child going back to school has a supply of crayons to fuel their creativity. The source of this valuable resource is all of those local restaurants who provide crayons for children to color while waiting for dinner. I think it's brilliant for three reasons:
1. Children get crayons to make their school life colorful.
2. Teachers who spend their own money adding supplies to what's provided in their classrooms save money, which they'll probably spend on other things for their classrooms. Teachers do that I know from personal experience. :-)
3. Ever wonder where all the old restaurant crayons go? To landfills! So this helps the environment.

So if you take this challenge, here are some restaurants to contact to collect crayons. Of course, you'll need to make the commitment to visit monthly for a few months and collect what they save for you.
For some great ideas (divided into grade level groups) for putting those crayons to use check out this site Crayon Collection Curriculum. You can share photos of your crayon collections and crayon art by using #GotCrayons on social media to encourage others to participate and to show how simply you can gain access to thousands of crayons. 
Kid Friendly Restaurants
IHOP                                          Denny’s
Applebees                                  BJ’s
Cracker Barrel                            Olive Garden
California Pizza Kitchen            Outback
Island’s Restaurants                   Buffalo Wild Wings
Bubba Gump
And, of course, being National Crayon Collection Month, August is the perfect time to share several of my favorite children's books that star crayons.
Of course, I have to include the story of Crayola Crayons' Invention. The Crayon Man (Natascha Biebow/HMH Books for young readers, 2019)

Red: A Crayon's Story (Michael Hall/Greenwillow Books, 2015)

Red has a bright red label, but he is, in fact, blue. His teacher tries to help him be red (let's draw strawberries!), his mother tries to help him be red by sending him out on a playdate with a yellow classmate (go draw a nice orange!), and the scissors try to help him be red by snipping his label so that he has room to breathe. But Red is miserable. He just can't be red, no matter how hard he tries! Finally, a brand-new friend offers a brand-new perspective, and Red discovers what readers have known all along. He's blue! This funny, heartwarming, colorful picture book about finding the courage to be true to your inner self can be read on multiple levels, and it offers something for everyone.

The Day The Crayons Quit (Drew Daywalt/Philomela Books, 2013)

Poor Duncan just wants to color. But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing: His crayons have had enough! They quit! Beige Crayon is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown Crayon. Black wants to be used for more than just outlining. Blue needs a break from coloring all those bodies of water. And Orange and Yellow are no longer speaking—each believes he is the true color of the sun.

What can Duncan possibly do to appease all of the crayons and get them back to doing what they do best?

Plus there's lots more ways kids can be creative with crayons. Check out these websites.

Whatever you do with all of those recycled crayons is bound to make this new school year super colorful!

Thursday, July 11, 2019


I always think summers are a time to do something different. So I want to share the story of one book's journey. Trust me, books--mine at least--take more than 9 months from inspiration to birth (aka publication).  

This is the story of Toad Weather

As I look back on my different versions of that story, it goes all the way back to 2002 when I first wrote a version of it. Truth-be-told the idea sparked in my brain a few years ahead of that. I remember being in New York City on a rainy day. I was impressed with how the rain changed the city sounds and smells--not in a bad, stinky way but a heightened-interestingly different way. I loved watching the raindrops plopping, rivers swirling along the curbs, people splashing through puddles. And I remember thinking that I hadn't read a children's picture book about exploring a rainy day. 

Along about 2002 after the images of NYC on that rainy day kept popping up in my mind, I wrote the first version of what I called Rain, Rain, Come Again! Not a very original title but OK for WIP. And the opening went like this:

I watched the raindrops wiggling down the window and thought of all the things I couldn’t do.

“What’s this long face?” Mom asked.
“Can’t you see it’s a perfectly, wonderful rainy day?”

When I said, “No,” 
she bundled us both up in slickers and boots.

Then we went down the elevator,
through the apartment building’s lobby,
out the revolving door,
and into the rainy city. 

I tried to sell my brand new book but it didn't sell. Still, the idea stuck with me. Kept niggling my imagination to try another version.

Who knows how many versions I did try after that but some time later by September 29, 2011 I was calling it Rain Come Again! By now, I was visualizing the illustrations in my head and dividing the text into left-right page spreads. And here was what the opening had become.

L-R pp. 2-3
down the window.
Outside, the whole world is sloppy wet.
“I hate rainy days,” I say. 

Mom says, “Come with me. I’ve something to show you.”

LR pp 4-5
She bundles us up in slickers and boots.
Then we go down the elevator, 
out the door,
and into the rainy city.

Still didn't sell.  SIGH!!!!  

But I wasn't giving up. Or this story wasn't giving up on me. Both would be true. 

I don't see any versions from 2012 so I must have left it to brew in my brain in between working on other projects. And life in general.

But brew it did. 

Here's the beginning again from where I was with the story on August 20, 2013 (In case you haven't picked it up by now, I date every version so I know what's current. Also lets me go back if I think I might have had a better bit a while back.) Title is still Rain Come Again!

L-R pp. 2-3
In the gloomy-gray of that March evening
while the spring rain that started yesterday keeps falling,

I sit on the window seat and watch the wet city.“I hate rainy days,” I say.

Behind me, Grandma sighs. “Me too.”

Then Mama bursts into our apartment.

L-R pp 4-5

She’s beaming. “I rushed home to get you,” Mama says. “Come on, Alli. You too, Grandma. We’re going outside. I’ve something to show you.”

“Is it safe to go out in the rain?” I ask. 

“It’s getting dark,” Grandma says.

“It’s still light enough and it’s not lightning,” Mama says. “Now get ready. This surprise is too good to miss.”

“I think I’ll stay home,” Grandma says. But Mama bundles us both into slickers and boots. Then we go down the stairs, 
out the door, and into the rainy-day city.

Hey! I'm liking the feel of this. There's that poetic prose beat that just sings to my soul starting to get in there. I've introduced a new character-Grandma. I like her. She has a bit of a grumpy attitude that's a nice foil for upbeat Mama. Okay--worth polishing this version a bit and then send it back out in the world for consideration. 

Shoot off the fireworks! 

Some time in mid-2013--and probably a solid 20-something versions later--Peachtree Publishers blessed me by deciding to publish my exploring a rainy day picture book. They felt it had potential. But--and I agreed--it still needed some work because it needed a hook--something to discover besides that a rainy day is cool.

I went digging for my hook. What in the world happens that is really special on a rainy day? Or maybe happens once a year on a rainy day? OK--maybe I'm onto something there. 

I did some digging into that second possibility because I remembered reading something about toads while working on another book Slippery, Slimy Baby Frogs. Of course, being about toads it hadn't made it into that book but HEY!  

I dug into my files. Found my amphibian expert. Gave him a call. Yep! I was onto something because once a year toads migrate in Roxborough, Pennsylvania. They do it every spring on a rainy night. And it's a big deal that even makes the news because people turn out to help the little toads cross a busy highway on their way to a nearby reservoir where they'll mate and leave their eggs to hatch. 

My story just moved to Roxborough, Pennsylvania and found its hook.  

It was still called Rain Come Again! but as of November 21, 2013 the story was settling in and the beginning had become this.

pages 4-5
In the gloomy-gray
of a March day 
the spring rain keeps falling.

I press my nose to the window.
But there’s nothing to see outside
except the rain-soaked city .

No chance to go to the park after school . Or ride my bike.
Rainy days are boring.

“I hate rainy days,” I say.
Grandma sighs. “Me too.”

pages 6-7
Then Mama bursts into the apartment.
“Come on, Alli,” she says. “You too, Grandma. We’re going outside.
I saw something on the way home. It’s not far. I want to show you.”

“Really?” I jump up.
“What is it?” Grandma asks. “What’s so special that we have to get wet?”
Besides, it’s getting late.”

“It’s still light enough.” Mama hands us our slickers and boots.
“Come on. Get ready. And we’ll go.”

“I think I’ll stay right here, thank you,” Grandma says.

pages 8-9
But Mama says, “Please. Come with us.”
So Grandma puts on her slicker too. We hurry down the stairs,
and out into the rainy nearly-nighttime.

My main character who will discover what's so special out there now has a name and I'm feeling her--starting to experience the story through her.

Grandma has a permanent place in the story and is, I must say, getting saucy. But she doesn't want to miss out on the action, which adds to the momentum that's picking up nicely now in the opening. 

There were maybe another 10 versions as I tweaked and whittled and polished the words. Then the line breaks to give just the right pacing to the language. Next, the verbs to power them up. And the dialog so each character's words were just right for her--my three generations of women sharing this special rainy night discovery.

I'm not sure when the title changed but I see on my August 20, 2014 version it's now--finally-- Toad Weather. And the beginning was this.

pages 4-5
In the gloomy-gray
of a March day
the spring rain keeps falling.

I press my nose to the window.
But there’s nothing to see outside
except the rainy-weather city.

No chance to go to the park,
ride my bike,
or play outside with my friends.
“Rainy weather makes me sad,” I say.

Grandma sighs. “Me too.”

pages 6-7
Then Mama bursts into the apartment.
“Come on, Ally,” she says.
“You too, Grandma. I saw something on the way home,
something I want to show you.”

“Really?” I jump up.

“What’s so special that we have to get wet?”Grandma asks. “Besides, it’s getting late.”

“It’s still light enough.”
Mama hands us our slickers and boots.
“Come on. Get ready. Let’s go.”

“I think I’ll stay right here, thank you,” Grandma says.

But Mama says, “Please.
Come with us.”
So she does.

pages 8-9
Out in the rainy nearly-nighttime,
streetlights are glowing.
So are shop windows.
But the world is soggy dreary.

All around us people are hurrying through the drizzling rain.
Cold drops slip down my neck,
so I pull my slicker hood over my head.
Then I start to hurry too,
and Grandma keeps up with me.

“Slow down, you two!” Mama says.
“There are lots of interesting things to see along the way.”

“Like what?” Grandma asks.

Is that what the final language is in the  published book that was born to the world in  2015? I'll let you look and see for yourself if it changed any more.

My point--made at great length, I admit--is that a book like any baby needs time to develop. If the idea sticks with you, if you keep coming back to it because you just have to get it right, if it's something that feels a little better every version you write...
Keep at it. 

For one thing, honestly, you, me, we writers grow our skills through writing, reading, listening, thinking words into the rhythm of our fiction, nonfiction and faction--that in between real and really imagined like Toad Weather.  

Let me repeat the all important message here. KEEP AT IT! 

With Very Best Wishes! Sandra Markle


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 tim...