Sunday, February 23, 2020


Children often ask, "What do you like best about writing nonfiction books?"

My answer RESEARCH!  That's how I either get to do hands-on investigating myself or talk to experts. 

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 or dead?

(When it's still the season for leaves to be healthy.)

3. Look closely, do you see any holes or tunnels through the bark? If so, insects may have attacked the tree.

If you answered "No" more 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 tree house? Or a tree swing?

GET READY! Once kids discover what fun RESEARCH can be, they'll be eager for new RESEARCH Adventures. I know I always am!


Having a wonderful time sharing science magic and my books with Hudson PEP Elementary in Longview, TX!

Saturday, February 8, 2020


Click this link to check out my latest on the road sharing science magic and all the FUN my books pack.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020


February brings us Valentine's Day but so much more!
It's a month for discovering, exploring, inventing...playing!
And a monthful of amazing moments in history. Check it out for a day-by-day month that's FABULOUS!

February 1: NATIONAL FREEDOM DAY celebrates President Abraham Lincoln signing the 13th Ammendment of the United States Constitution outlawing slavery in 1865. *Here's a special story to share.

February 2: GROUNDHOG DAY. It's said that if the groundhog peeks out of its burrow and sees its shadow, there will be six more week of winter weather. No shadow sighting and winter is over right then. 
Click to link to fun activities for the day from Scholastic. 

OR try this Alaskan native peoples way for forecasting what weather's coming. They hold a tug of war. On one side are the Ducks, anyone born during a summer month. On the other side are the Ptarmigans, anyone born during a winter month. If the Ducks win, winter will soon be over. If the Ptarmigans win, more winter weather is ahead.

February 3: FLOAT FREE In 1984, two American astronauts floated free of the space shuttle Challenger. It was made possible by a nitrogen jet-propelled backpack called the MMU (Manned Maneuvering Unit). *I have to share that while working on my book PIONEERING SPACE I had a chance to test drive the trainer for the MMU. I was on Earth not in space but it was still fantastic.

February 4: CHARLES LINDBERGH was born. In 1927, he made the first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic in a plane called The Spirit of St. Louis. 

February 5: RUBBER BOOTS were first introduced in 1824 by J. W. Goodrich. Put on your boots and go outside on a scavenger hunt. See how many of these you can find.

  • Something older than you are.
  • Something younger than you are.
  • Something that will not rot. Something that will rot.
  • Something rough.
  • Something Smooth.
  • Something that will change over time.

February 6: BABE (George) RUTH was born in 1895. He was noted for hitting home runs and dubbed The King of SwingGet to know him. Read about him. Then link to fun facts.

February 7: QUAKE In 1812 a series of earthquakes shook New Madrid, MO and caused the Misissippi River to flow backwards for several hours..

February 8: NATIONAL KITE FLYING DAY Check out this link to kite flying activities and history from Scholastic.

And for a little older readers...

February 9: WEATHER In 1870, Congress created the first public weather service. In 1970, it was officially named the National Weather Service. *I love walking in the rain and seeing the world all rain-changed. That's why I wrote this rainy day story. And it's about something real that happens when the weather is just---TOADY. :-)

February 10: SURRENDER France signed the Treaty of Paris in 1763, giving Canada to Great Britain. French is still spoken, especially in Quebec.
Here's a few fun French words and phrases to learn.

Oui (say whee)  Yes
Merci (say mair-see) Thank you
De Rien (say du-rhee-en) Your welcome

February 11: INVENTOR'S DAY This is celebrated in honor of Thomas Edison's birthday because of all his many inventions, including an improved telephone, the phonograph, and a long-glowing electric light bulb. National Inventors Hall of Fame was founded in 1973, in Akron, OH. Moved to Alexandria, VA, in 2008.

February 12: ABRAHAM LINCOLN was born in 1809. *Two of my favorite books. :-)

February 13: HOORAY FOR SCHOOL The oldest public secondary school in America opened in 1635. John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Robert Paine and William Hooper, all signers of the Declaration of Independence, went to school there. 

February 14: VALENTINE'S DAY
Check my blog archives for VALENTINE'S DAY IS FUN WITH HEART! to discover lots of ways for kids to make their own Valentine cards.

February 15: SUSAN B. ANTHONY was born in 1820. Her work was key in gaining women the Right to Vote.

February 16: OPERATION SANDBLAST The submarine USS Triton left New London, CT beginning what became the world's first underwater circumnavigation of the earth. It took 84 days and covered 41,500 miles. It also followed, generally, the route of the first ever circumnavigation of the globe by Ferdinand Magellan from 1519-1522.

February 17: NATIONAL RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS DAYThink of some way to be nice to someone else.

February 18: ALESSANDRO VOLTA was born in Italy in 1745. He invented the electric battery. It's become NATIONAL BATTERY DAY. List at least 10 things you use that's battery-powered.

February 19: PHONOGRAPH In 1878, Thomas Edison received a patent for inventing the phonograph, which could play recorded sounds. 

February 20: ANSEL ADAMS was born in 1902. His amazing photographs of nature encouraged people to want to conserve and protect nature. It's also LOVE YOUR PET DAY. *I have to share one of my favorite love your pet books.

February 21: WASHINGTON MONUMENT was completed in 1885. Work had begun 37 years earlier on July 4, 1848.

February 22: POPCORN While this may not be the exact date, it's believe February, 1630 was when Native American Quadequina introduced early colonists to popped corn. You may be shocked to learn popcorn was the original puffed breakfast cereal. Popcorn was also worn by the early Native Americans. Have kids pop up some jewelry too. After threading dental floss through a needle have them poke the needle through the thickest part of the popped kernel. String necklaces or bracelets. After wearing, hang outdoors for bird snacks. 

February 23: TOOTSIE ROLL This chocolate-flavored candy treat was first introduced to the world in New York City. It was the first individually wrapped penny candy in the US.

February 24: STEAM SHOVEL This machine was invented in 1838 by William Otis and patented on this day in 1839.

February 25: READ ACROSS AMERICA begins today! It ends on March 2nd, Dr. Seuss's birthday. So be sure and read a Dr. Seuss book out loud today. *Here's my favorite.

February 26: NATIONAL TELL A FAIRY TALE DAY. It really is! *Here's one of my favorites.

February 27: POLAR BEAR DAY It's the day to celebrate this amazing animal. *I have to share one of my own stories about a polar bear because it's about a real bear--a very special polar bear cub.

February 28: NATIONAL TOOTH FAIRY DAY *And what could be a better way to end the fun. I hope all the young readers enjoy my very first WHAT IF YOU HAD!? book. Ask children what kind of animal teeth they would like to have and let them imagine having them!


Wednesday, January 8, 2020


I'm packing! Getting all ready! 

It won't be long before I head out for lots of fun school visits.
Here's where you'll see me.

Charleston, SC. January 27, 28, 29
Cincinnati, OH February 3, 4, 5, 6
Raleigh, NC February 10, 11, 12
Longview, TX February 20, 21
Atlanta, GA February 24, 25, 26
Bensenville, IL March 26, 27
Rosenberg, TX April 2, 3
Union Spring, NY April 30, May 1, 2


Friday, January 3, 2020


It's the year 2020 so, at least for fun, it's the year of perfect vision.

Enjoy these activities created by educators, teachers, and ME to spy some fun.

Is it better to have 2 eyes?

Click this link to FIND OUT!
*prepared by the California Academy of Sciences

How Do Some Animals See in the Dark?

Click this link for an activity to SEE FOR YOURSELF!
*Skip over any sign-up boxes

How Do Animals See Colors?

 Bees have eye parts to see yellow, blue and ultraviolet light (UV)--wavelengths people can't see. To get what this looks like, draw 2 identical flowers. Color one the way people see it--so just as it looks to you. Color the other one the way a bee would see it with its ultraviolet light vision. Here is an example. 

Marsh Marigold people (Left) Marsh Marigold bees (Right)

Researchers now believe dogs do see color--blues and yellows but not reds. Try coloring a picture of your face the way a pet dog would probably see you.

Click this link for more animal color vision SNEAK PEEKS!

What animal has the weirdest eyes? 

Take a look at these and PICK YOUR #1!

Next, search to find out more about that animal's eyes and vision. Then imagine yourself with that animal's eyes. 
What totally cool thing could you do with 
those animal eyes?!
Here are 2 possibilities:
Tarsier Eyes

Four-Eyed Fish Eyes

Watch Scholastic Book Fairs for the brand new WHAT IF YOU COULD!? series launch.

Sunday, December 15, 2019


Okay, here it is--the 2019 edition of 


Don't miss this video!

FIRST, did you know that spiders are the reason it's traditional to put tinsel on trees?

According to the legend, a long time ago in Germany a mother was cleaning the house for Christmas. All the spiders ran away to the attic to stay safe. But that night they came back downstairs. There, they discovered the Christmas tree all decorated with gleaming balls. 

The spiders were so excited, they scurried up and down the tree, checking out everything. And the spiders covered the beautiful tree with gray webs.

When Santa arrived with gifts, he saw how happy the spinning spiders were. But he knew how sad the children would be to see their web-covered tree. So he touched the tree and the gray webs changed into silver strands. 

That's how tinsel came to be...and why every Christmas tree should have a spider in its branches (at least an ornamental spider).

NOW, it's time for the discovery fun and smiles

inspired by my twelve book series: Arachnid World published by Lerner Publishing. 


On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a black widow in a fir tree.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me two striped bark scorpions courting with a dance.

There are sure to be baby scorpions in the new year. 

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

One was already a new mother with babies riding on her back.

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? A wind scorpion has sticky tips on its pedipalps, those long parts you can see stretching beyond its head.

Santa could use those to climb up the chimney after delivering presents!

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me five hairy tarantulas.

One really would have been enough! 

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

They were catching insect snacks.

So, in a way, they were wrapping up presents for later

Doesn't that just put you in the holiday dinner mood!

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

At just that moment, a bat flew past and all the fishing spiders dived down underwater. 

 When a fishing spider dives a layer of air coats its body. The spider is able to draw oxygen from the air-filled coat into its book lungs. 
The spiders stayed down for nearly thirty minutes to be sure to stay safe.
And, while they were waiting to safely surface, I'm sure they were making their Christmas wish list.

One little fishy for dinner. 
Two little fishies for dinner.
Three little fishies for dinner.

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me eight crab spiders lurking 
inside flowers.

It takes about a week for the spider to change color. But inside white flower these turned beautifully snow white for Christmas.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me nine bobbing  harvestmen.

Why were these spiders bobbing? 

Harvestmen bob in a group when a predator, like a bird, is nearby. That way they look like a bigger animal--hopefully too big to eat.

Of course, I like to think they're really bobbing in time to a Christmas carol they're humming.

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ten ticks-a-sucking blood 
from their host.

Female dog ticks can swell up until they were nearly six hundred times bigger.

And once they were big, the ticks were ready to jiggle just like Santa's big belly when he laughs, 

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me eleven jumping spiders jumping.

One leapt to catch its dinner.

Some have been recorded leaping 40 times their own body length. 

Oh, those spiders would be perfect for pulling Spider Santa's sleigh!

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

Each of the twelve mites was a female and they laid about 10 eggs a day. Soon the young hatched, became adults, mated and the new females started laying eggs too. 

So the twelve became a zillion in no time at all.

One thing for sure, I'll definitely never forget that Christmas, when I received:

12 mites a-multiplying
11 jumping spiders jumping
10 ticks sucking
9 harvestmen bobbing
8 crab spiders lurking
7 fishing spiders fishing
6 orb weavers spinning
4 wind scorpions
3 wolf spiders
2 scorpions
And a black widow in a fir tree

As he drove out of sight, Spider Claus spun a silk web with a message of cheer...

 "Merry Christmas to all and may you have a very Happy New Year!"


Children often ask, "What do you like best about writing nonfiction books?" My answer RESEARCH!  That's how I either get t...