17 Feb

66 Year Old Bird Hatches New Chick

If you follow my writing, you know that toward the end of January or early February, I start to get anxious for Wisdom. She’s a Laysan Albatross who lives on Midway Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Here’s the great news: She’s back and she’s hatched a new chick!

IF you can’t see this video, click here. Also see USFWS Tumbler account
Wisdom and her new chick, February 2017.

She’s the oldest known wild bird in the world

Let me break that down:

Oldest – Wisdom has been continuously banded since December 10, 1956. At that time, she was presumed to be at least five years old because these birds start breeding at about five years old. She was sitting on a nest near the Charlie Barracks when banded. Hence, at least five.

Known – If Wisdom is five years old, it’s very likely that there are other Laysan albatrosses who are older. We just didn’t happen to band them. Sometimes, science is based on a bit of luck. We got lucky with Wisdom, but who knows how old her neighbors are?

Wild – There are older birds in captivity. Parrots are especially known for living a long life in captivity. But in the wild, she’s the oldest known wild bird.

She doesn’t hatch a new chick every year. Last year, for whatever reason, her egg didn’t hatch. Perhaps, it was cracked, or perhaps it was just a bad egg. No one knows. Also, Laysan albatrosses are known to take a sabbatical, or a year off now and then. Scientists started really paying attention to Wisdom in 2002, when she was recaptured, ironically by the same ornithologist who had originally captured her, Chandler Robbins. They realized then that she was 51 years old, among the oldest known wild birds. They put a red band on her leg, Z333, so she could be easily identified while in flight. They know that she has continuously nested since 2008. So, if she doesn’t come back next year, she could be lost to the wild, or she could be taking a sabbatical.

Each year, I wait in December to see if she’s returned. Then, I wait in February to see if she’s hatched a new chick.

Also see USFWS Tumbler account.


Wisdom, the Midway Albatross | Surviving plastic pollution and other disasters for over 65 years. | Mims House

Starred Review in Publisher’s Weekly.

Prices are 10% discounted.



All formats are also available on Mackin, Follett, Permabound, Overdrive, and Ingram.

See Teacher’s Materials here.

13 Feb

Opinion Essays: Teaching Kids to Form an Opinion

The CCSS asks students in third grade and up to write opinion essays. It’s a difficult task for nine-year olds because developmentally, they haven’t yet learned to reason. They are concrete thinkers. Let’s look at what can help students in writing opinion essays: topics, prewriting, and essay structure.
Students Dazed by Opinion Essays? HERE'S HELP! | MimsHouseBooks.com


Let’s take a typical topic: I think we need a longer recess.

It’s a difficult topic because it just seems logical to kids that recess should be longer! They find it hard to develop concrete reasons around this. It’s an emotional response, with no concrete reasons. They have no criteria that help them decide among alternatives. Research to expand this topic is difficult to find. Essays on this topic tend to be generalized:

  • Kids need more exercise.
  • A longer recess would be more fun.

Instead, good essay topics have logical, easily-identified alternatives. When employees are faced with a situation that demands persuasion, there are usually alternatives. For example, should we keep our store open until 10 pm. Alternatives might be opening earlier, staying open until midnight, or closing at 8 pm. Among those alternatives, you could develop criteria:

  • which would bring the greatest sales?
  • which would be better for employees?
  • which would be better for customers?

I Want a Dog: My Opinion Essay and I Want a Cat: My Opinion Essay might seem to take a tired subject of what kind of pet should a kid get. But if you look at the topic closer, you’ll see that it’s a gem. First, the American Kennel Club recognizes 167 breeds, and the information on them is readily available. The Cat Fancier’s Association lists cat breeds. Each breed is a distinct alternative; each would make a different kind of pet. This is a real topic that allows students to think through issues and develop an opinion. It’s not a canned opinion: Of course, you know you want a longer recess. Instead, it’s a rich topic for discussion.


The Read and Write Series: Dogs, cats, and writing--it's a natural combination in this series of fun books.

Students need a rich pre-writing environment with many activities. Most important is a discussion that leads to developing their own opinions.

Reading through the book, I WANT A DOG: My Opinion Essay, students are exposed to the 20 most favorite dog breeds in the U.S. This helps to narrow the choices, while still allowing students to choose an alternate dog, as Dennis does. Because there are many choices here, they need something to help them narrow the field. They use ten broad criteria: size, energy level, exercise needs, play needs, level of affection, getting along with other pets, easy to train, guard dog, and grooming needs.

These criteria mirror those used in Animal Planet’s Breed Selection Tool, (Also see the Cat Breed Selector Tool.) so it makes a great internet activity to add to the class discussion. But there are additional criteria such as allergies, weather related issues, family traditions, price, male or female, availability in your area, and specific needs such as a dog trained in duck hunting.

The book presents the discussion of cousins, Dennis and Mellie, as they decide on dogs. It presents two distinct opinions and demonstrates that opinions can differ. In discussion, students can easily apply the criteria to their own family. Here’s how a pre-writing class discussion might go:

Question: Do you think a big dog or little dog is better for your family?

  1. Response: I want a big dog because we already have two big dogs and it needs to get along with them.
    Discussion: This puts together the criteria of big and getting along with other pets. To extend the discussion, you might ask, “Do you think that any small dog would get along with the big ones?” The Breed Selection Tool might help answer that question, or perhaps someone has personal experience one way or another.
  2. Response: I want a big dog because my Dad has a bad back and can’t bend over to pet a small dog.
    Discussion: Considering the health needs of a family is often crucial in choosing a dog. What are some other health reasons for a certain dog? Allergies and blindness are two simple answers.
  3. Response: I want a big dog because they are better guard dogs.
    Discussion: This makes an interesting assumption that size equals aggression. You could use the Animal Planet tool to test this assumption by choosing a small, guard dogs as your criteria.

The most important thing here is the discussion because it gives students a rich prewriting environment in which to DEVELOP an opinion. We must give students the opportunity to learn about a topic before we ask them to give an opinion.

The topic of recess is dull because there are no viable alternatives. Of course, a child’s opinion is that they want more recess time. Why? Because it’s fun. It’s an automatic emotional response from a kid. If you ask them to manufacture reasons, the essays turn out dull and uninteresting.

Instead, engage them in a topic that has real alternatives. Give them criteria to use as they consider alternatives. Listen and discuss the alternatives and help them to find the real reasons for an opinions. Help form an opinion.

If you take time to read and discuss I WANT A CAT: My Opinion Essay, you’ll experience the process of forming an opinion in a different but related context.


The model essays in I Want a Dog: My Opinion Essay and I Want a Cat: My Opinion Essay follow a simple structure. It begins by stating the problem.

I want a dog. Here are some things I thought about.

Then, the essay develops reasons based on criteria. In the first paragraph, Dennis wants a big dog that likes some exercise and loves to play. These criteria (size, exercise, play) all fall into the category of how Dennis will interact with the dog. That paragraph topic is implied instead of stated outright, as is typical in professional writing. Notice however, that paragraphs two and three DO have topic sentences. It’s acceptable to include or imply the topic sentence; of course, your lesson plan might require it.

Learn to Write Multiple Paragraphs. If students are at the stage of writing multiple paragraphs, a great exercise is to pre-group criteria for use in essays. Students will need to look at the criteria and decide on some sort of grouping. Discussions are the crucial element here, because there are no rights or wrongs.

For example, size, affection, exercise needs, play needs and training might be grouped into How I Interact With My Dog. Other criteria groups could be How My Dog Acts at Home, How My Dog Acts with Other People or Pets, How My Dog Stays Healthy. Some might argue that exercise needs are in the group How My Dog Stays Healthy, while others will emphasize that exercise is how you interact with a dog. Either grouping is fine. The point is to have some reason for where you put the criteria and ideas. Allowing students to create their own groupings means you’ll have a wide variety of essays!

Dennis’s essay has this structure:

State the problem.
Criteria 1: How I interact with my dog.
Criteria 2: I want a dog that’s easily trained.
Criteria 3: How my dog acts at home.
Give my opinion and summarize reasons.

Some opinion essay lesson plans suggest an OREO approach:
O – State your opinion
R – give a reason
E – expand or elaborate on the reason
O – Restate your opinion

While that approach works, it doesn’t show the reasoning process behind the opinion. I think a stronger approach is to start by stating the problem or issue. Then develop criteria that help narrow the choices. Next, elaborate on the choices. This builds the tension in the essay until the opinion is revealed in the last paragraph. The reasoning process is clear because it’s based on criteria that narrow the choices. The big reveal at the end is exciting and makes a better conclusion.

The topic of choosing a dog or cat is a rich environment for kids to write in. Out of 167 dog breeds or 43 cat breeds, there’s a dog or cat for each child. Clear, definite criteria help narrow the fields. Students immediately have an opinion about multiple criteria, often combining a couple (as we saw when big equals aggressive). To help teach multiple paragraphs, you can pre-sort the criteria into topics. The student writes a paragraph about each broader topic, thus breaking the task into manageable parts.

Opinion essays require students to have an opinion. Often, children haven’t had enough life experience to develop opinions based on anything other than emotion. Giving them a rich topic with real choices provides a time for them to develop an opinion.

It’s not just learning to WRITE an opinion that students need. They also need to learn to think through the ideas, to experience the process of FORMING an opinion. This book provides all of that, and it’s wrapped in a fun story.

FREE: I Want a Dog and I Want a Cat Printable Worksheets, CLICK HERE.

To buy the Powerpoint version of the books, click here for DOG and click here for CAT.

The worksheets are included in the powerpoint package.
Now available as a Powerpoint, I WANT A DOG and I WANT A CAT. | MimsHouse.com

06 Feb

Science Notebook: Write and Draw About Science

With the implementation of the Next Gen Science Standards, more attention has turned to what tasks students are asked to do in elementary and middle school science classes. Increasingly, teachers ask students to write about projects in a notebook. The science notebook has been talked about but few have laid out a strategy for teaching kids to write in a science notebook.

Our February release, MY STEAM NOTEBOOK, takes the actual notebooks from American scientists and looks at how they used the notebook to record, explain, question and work with their material.

Observing historical science notebooks

Argentinian scientist, Donna Maria and American scientist, Agnes Chase at the top of the highest mountain in Brazil. | MimsHouse.com. Smithsonian. Acc 000229, Box 20, Folder 1; Photographs documenting Mary Agnes Chase's field work in Brazil, 1924-1925.

Argentinian scientist, Donna Maria and American scientist, Agnes Chase at the top of the highest mountain in Brazil. | MimsHouse.com. Smithsonian. Acc 000229, Box 20, Folder 1; Photographs documenting Mary Agnes Chase’s field work in Brazil, 1924-1925.

To write this book, I looked at hundreds of different notebooks from a variety of American scientists. Most came from the Smithsonian Field Book project and the National library of Medicine. Notebooks from biologists and doctors are different. Throw in the notebooks from the Silicon Valley engineers housed at the Computer History Museum, and scientists’notebooks expressed many different goals and approaches. Some emphasized one step of the scientific process more than another. Each notebook looks different because scientists were trying to accomplish different goals. Even the shapes of the physical books varied. Engineers tended to emphasize idea generation, the design phase, or drawings of how to build something. Biologists tended to tell a narrative of observing or collecting specimens in the wild. In the laboratory, notebooks tended to be more procedural, or “this is what I did and how I did it.” Medical research included be exact chemical procedures in a laboratory. Notebooks for those researchers held pages of mathematical figures, dense tables of data, and little narrative. Doctors involved in public health, however, traveled to sites with disease outbreaks,worked with community organizers to make changes, or worked on public education campaigns. Their notebooks are often travelogues with notes on disease scattered throughout.Some scientists were compulsive about writing down everything, while others merely jotted things now and then. Overseas travel often inspired a detailed diary, and then the scientist wrote nothing for a decade. But through the varied experiences of American scientists, the notebooks are there. Why?

Scientists felt compelled to keep a notebook for many reasons. For engineers, a notebook could be a legal document, the basis of a patent filing. Other scientists seemed to have a sense of destiny and wanted to record something for later generations to read. Others were just bugged by an idea and wanted to work it out on paper. Essentially, they all had to address the basic question of all writing: who is your audience? Yourself or others?

Process v. Product based Notebooks

Most notebooks I looked at took a process-based approach, which means the notebook was a record of the process of exploring science. These notebooks were written by the scientists for themselves. Even when there was a sense that this record might be historically important, scientists often skipped days in recording data.

By contrast, most recommendations about student science notebooks take a product-based approach. Students must complete a project with certain required elements, and the teacher grades the notebook. Scientists are focused inward on their own goals, experiences, and projects.

Students, because they produce a product-based notebook, must look outward. Scientists write for themselves; students write for their teacher. Like any writing project, audience is a key consideration of what and how something is written.

One element almost universally required in student notebooks is a question. Often called a focusing question, it serves to guide the rest of the inquiry. After examining historical examples of notebooks from scientists, I rarely found a focusing question. That’s not to say that the question wasn’t in the scientist’s mind, but it wasn’t expressed on the pages of notebooks.

Scientists were usually clear in their inquiry goals and didn’t need to state the question so others could evaluate it. Again, it’s the difference between inward or outward facing purposes for a notebook.

Another way to say this is that process-based notebooks are best used for formative assessment, those which monitor student understanding and then modify the course work to aid understanding. Product-based science notebooks are best for summative assessment such as when the teacher evaluates and assigns a grade.

150 Years of American Scientists

Bird Scientist Alexander Wetmore, age 15, with a stuffed bird and the magazine with his first published article. | MimsHouse.com

Bird Scientist Alexander Wetmore, age 15, with a stuffed bird and the magazine with his first published article. | MimsHouse.com

The scientists whose notebooks are included here span about 150 years of American scientific study, from the mid-1800s to the end of the 1900s. In the process of researching available historical notebooks, I concentrated on seeking examples that would help students learn to use their own notebooks to record questions, observations, and conclusions. The historical notebooks are arranged here in a progression that will help students understand the potential for what a notebook can do for their scientific understanding.

If you pare it down to essentials, the only things recorded in a notebook are words and drawings. Of course, photographs, worksheets, or other memorabilia can be fastened inside the notebook, but what students will actually write are words and drawings. Students need to explore a variety of ways to use text and art. The scientists are presented in a logical order that develops a student’s skills with text, art, or a combination of text and art.

  1. Student Task: WRITE A LIST. Alexander Wetmore, nicknamed Alick (pp. 16-17), is presented first because his first recording of a bird occurred at age eight while in Florida on a vacation. He described the pelican as a “great big bird that eats fish.”5 Throughout his teen years, he kept a monthly record of all the birds he saw. By age 15, he had published his first article in 1900 in Bird Lore magazine, “My Experience with a Red-headed Woodpecker.” (See pp. 148-149 for a reproduction of that article.) Wetmore’s notebooks show that observations can be done at any age. Lifelong passions can begin in an elementary school science notebook.
  2. Student Task: Draw and Label the Drawing. Martin H. Moynihan (pp. 28-29) presents a variety of options: text only, drawings only and a combination of text and drawing. Sometimes, text dominates, and other times drawings
  3. Native Alaskan woman drawn by William Dall on an exploration expedition. From Dall's field book. Example of original source documents in MY STEAM NOTEBOOK. | MimsHouse.com

    Native Alaskan woman drawn by William Dall on an exploration expedition. From Dall’s field book. Example of original source documents in MY STEAM NOTEBOOK. | MimsHouse.com

    Student Task: Draw, then write an explanation that can’t be understood from the drawing alone. Likewise, William Healey Dall (pp. 40-41) gives students a look at additional options possible in a notebook. He drew maps, native people, and interesting objects while he kept a careful record of his travels to Alaska. Look especially at his drawing of native pottery. While it’s interesting, the drawing alone doesn’t tell enough because we don’t know the scale. Only the text explains the size of each pot. Students need to learn to use text and drawings together to give a more complete understanding of what is observed.
  4. Student Task: Describe with words. A basic skill that students need is the ability to make a careful observation. Joseph Nelson Rose’s cactus example (pp. 52-53) is excellent because he includes descriptions of color, size,shape, and number. Notice too that he uses scientific vocabulary. As students write in notebooks,observations will be more exact as they learn the scientific names for objects, anatomy,and so on. For that, use My Glossary in the back of this book. However, remember that studentsmay also choose to define words in context.
  5. Student Task: Describe with a narrative (time-order) essay. Lucile Mann (pp. 64-65) was the wordsmith in the family, leaving the public speaking to her husband, William “Bill” Mann, Director of the National Zoo. Because she worked first as an editor, her diaries are carefully typed and edited. One type of writing found over and over in science notebooks is a narrative, or a description of something that happened to them.
    Mann’s narrative writing skills are shown by her use of sensory details in her travel descriptions.
  6. Student Task: Write with voice. Fred Soper (pp. 76-77) also recorded narratives in his diaries kept during public health work in Brazil. He not only records scientific observations, but does it with humor. His writing voice was warm, sarcastic and funny.
  7. Shifting focus to the drawings, several scientists were especially adept at sketching.

  8. Student Task: Draw something that you couldn’t capture with a photograph. Mary Agnes Chase (pp. 88-89) originally worked as a botanical illustrator. Early in her career, she learned to use a microscope which helped her make observations that brought her work to life. She also used photography extensively later in her career, and it’s interesting to discuss with students the role of a botanical illustrator as compared with a photographer. Illustrators are free to combine elements from different seasons: for example a flower and a fruit. Photographers are restricted to only what their cameras can record. Also look at how carefully her type-written pages are edited.
  9. Student Task: Draw and use color to add information. While many of the scientists included drawings, Donald S. Erdman (pp. 100-101) took them to a new level with color (although shown in b/w here). But he didn’t use color just to use color. Instead, he describes the reason for color: that preserved fish quickly lose any color.For proper identification and understanding of the fish, color was required. Students should learn to use whatever tools are necessary to record observations.
  10. Student Task: Draw a map. Robert E. Silberglied (pp. 112-113) had an amazing eye for visual details. Notice the elaborate key and compass indicating north that he used on his map of Gomez Farias in Mexico. Silberglied also specialized in photography. He used ultraviolet light in his studies and photographed flowers in ultraviolet light. Optical microscopy allowed him to zoom in close on a butterfly’s wing. Though he didn’t use it, we introduce the idea of aerial or satellite photography and electron microscopy in the discussion questions.
  11. Student Task: Describe physical location and conditions. Almost all these American scientists collected specimens. Throughout, you’ll see discussions of objects that are sent back home for further study. From Chase’s grasses to Wetmore’s bird skins, collecting items for further study is an important part of observation. Scientists were careful to record exactly when and where the items were collected. Often the descriptions involve a physical location (e.g. Silberglied’s “. . .2 miles off Mexican Highway 85”6)Temperature, weather, elevation and other conditions are often reported. Students need to learn to record these type of variables.
  12. Example of original source documents in MY STEAM NOTEBOOK. Watson Perrygo prepares a snake for display in the Smithsonian Museum. | MimsHouse.com

    Example of original source documents in MY STEAM NOTEBOOK. Watson Perrygo prepares a snake for display in the Smithsonian Museum. | MimsHouse.com

    Student Task: Write an informative essay about objects or results of an investigation. Watson M. Perrygo (pp. 124-125), as a taxidermist and museum curator, shows one of the final stages of observations and collection of specimens. The objects are available for various scientific studies, and they are also made available for the general public to view in a museum setting. The specimens are important historical snapshots of an ecosystem and can be compared to contemporary conditions. But they are also an entertaining way to learn more science. Museums write informational materials to help the public understand what they are seeing.

This amazing interactive notebook for kids has fascinating info. Diaries, drawings, and much more to help kids learn how to use a scientist's notebook. Useful and interesting. | MmsHouse.com

This amazing interactive notebook for kids has fascinating info. Diaries, drawings, and much more to help kids learn how to use a scientist’s notebook. Useful and interesting. | MmsHouse.com

MY STEAM NOTEBOOK: 150 Years of Primary Source Documents from American Scientists shows original drawings, writings, maps, photographs and more. From that students should learn to write in their notebooks in ways that help them record and understand scientific observations. Available on February 21, 2017.

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19 Dec

Multicultural Children’s Book Day January 27, 2017

Multicultural Children's Book Day | MimsHouse.com

In honor of Multicultural Children’s Book Day (MCCBD) on January 27, 2017, the Children’s Book Council is teaming up with MCCBD on a very special blog series: the #ReadYourWorld Book Jam. Running from January to February, the series will shine the light on 24 children’s book authors and illustrators and their favorite diverse books. Mims House’s Darcy Pattison will be featured on January 3 discussing books about adopted and foster children. Her list concludes with her book, Longing for Normal.

Booklist says, “Pattison’s characters provide a reason to keep reading. In voices old before their time, due to years in the system, they describe their desperate attempts to stay relevant to the adults in their lives. A rare book featuring foster kids in realistic scenarios.”

Can Eliot save his family with a simple bread recipe? Longing for Normal is "a rare book" says Booklist.

Below is the lineup of participating children’s book creators:

  • January 2: Jo Meserve Mach and Vera Lynne Stroup-Rentier
  • January 3: Darcy Pattison
  • January 4: Sandra L. Richards
  • January 5: Linda Williams Jackson
  • January 9: Francisco Vallejo
  • January 10: Michael Smith
  • January 11: Curtis C. Chen
  • January 12: Shannon Jones
  • January 16: SF Said
  • January 17: Stephanie Campisi
  • January 18: The Editors at Science, Naturally
  • January 19: Luis Amavisca
  • January 23: Erin Dealey and Luciana Navarro Powell
  • January 24: Louise Gornall
  • January 25: Carl Angel
  • January 26: J. Torres
  • January 30: Farhana Zia
  • January 31: Cynthia Levinson
  • February 1: Aram Kim
  • February 2: Julius Lester
  • February 6: Stacy McAnulty
  • February 7: Alice Pung
  • February 8: Soman Chainani

Stay tuned for the Multicultural Children’s Book Day celebration in January!

13 Dec


National Science Teacher's Association names NEFERTITI, THE SPIDERNAUT a 2017 Outstanding Science Trade Book. | MimsHouse.comLITTLE ROCK, AR – December 13, 2016 — For 100 days in 2012, a Johnson jumping spider (Phiddipus johnsonii) circled Earth while aboard the International Space Station. She circled the Earth 1584 times, traveling about 41,580,000 miles. When author Darcy Pattison heard the story, she researched and wrote a children’s picture book, Nefertiti, the Spidernaut: How a Jumping Spider Learned to Hunt in Space, which had just been named a 2017 National Science Teacher’s Association Outstanding Science Trade Book.
Brochure here. (pdf)

Click Here to READ the Book NOW

NEFERTITI, THE SPIDERNAUT has been named a 2017 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book | MimsHouse.comThe spider was included in the space mission because of an international YouTube competition, which asked youths worldwide to create a video suggesting an experiment for the International Space Station. Amr Mohammed of Alexandria, Egypt won the competition by proposing to send a jumping spider to space. Most spiders spin webs and passively wait for prey to be caught. Jumping spiders, however, actively hunt. When they see prey, they pounce! But what happens when a spider jumps in space? It will float. Amr hypothesized that the spider wouldn’t be able to hunt in the microgravity of the space station and would starve to death. In honor of his country, he named the spider Nefertiti.

The book tells the story of Nefertiti, the Johnson jumping spider, from her hatching through the exciting days of the experiment, and her final days at the Smithsonian Museum. Scientists tested her ability to survive the rigors of space, including extended periods of dark and cold. After passing those tests, she was loaded onto an unmanned rocket and sent to the International Space Station. Scientists stocked her habitat with fruit flies, and then videotaped her for two hours a day for two weeks. Astronaut Sunita Williams, Captain U.S. Navy said, “It was a suspense story for me as it happened.”

This is an astonishing story of change: through the dark and cold, in spite of being weightless and isolated, this incredible spider adapted and learned to hunt. Against all odds, she survived to return to Earth, where she had to re-adapt to Earth’s gravity. Nefertiti’s story of survival brings hope that we, too, can adapt to a changing world.

Pattison has won this prestigious recognition for her work before in 2015 for Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma (Mims House), and 2013 for Desert Baths (Arbordale). For more, see MimsHouse.com

Children’s book author Darcy Pattison finds inspiration in writing about science and nature; three times her books have been honored as NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Books. Her nature picture books include Nefertiti, the Spidernaut: How a Jumping Spider Learned to Hunt in Space (Mims House), a 2017 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book; Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma: The True Story of an Orphaned Cub (Mims House), an NSTA 2015 Outstanding Science Trade Book; Wisdom, the Midway Albatross: Surviving the Japanese Tsunami and Other Disasters for Over 60 Years (Mims House), a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly; Desert Baths (Arbordale), an NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book 2013; and, Prairie Storms (Arbordale). Burn: Michael Faraday’s Candle (Mims House, Spring 2016) is a physical science book about how a candle burns, based on Michael Faraday’s famous 1848 juvenile Christmas lecture.

Other picture books include The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman (Harcourt), which received an Irma Simonton Black and James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature Honor Book award, starred reviews in BCCB and Kirkus, and has been published in a Houghton Mifflin textbook; Searching for Oliver K. Woodman (Harcourt); 19 Girls and Me (Philomel); and 11 Ways to Ruin a Photograph: A Military Family Story (Mims House). Her series, The ALIEN, INC. CHAPTER BOOK SERIES includes Kell, the Alien; Kell and the Horse Apple Parade; Kell and the Giants; and Kell and the Detectives. She is also the author of middle grade novels and teaches nationally a Novel Revision Retreat. For more, see darcypattison.com/about

In her debut picture book, Columbian illustrator Valeria Tisnés, charms with her anatomically correct, yet exciting work. Her passion for accurate scientific illustrations is fueled by the textures and details she observes in nature and in animals.

Established in 2008, Mims House publishes children’s picture books and novels, teacher resource books, or how-to-write books. Located in the historic Quapaw Quarter of Little Rock, AR, the publisher takes its name from the Victorian House where it resides; the homes in the historic district are named after families who lived there in 1890. Mims House is a member of the Independent Book Publisher’s Association and the Children’s Book Council. Our books are widely available through online, educational, and library distributors.

12 Dec

Oldest Bird in World – Lays Egg at Age 66

Wisdom, the Midway Albatross is Back!

PW Starred Review.

PW Starred Review.

In 2012, I wrote the story of the oldest bird in the world and how she survived the 2011 Japanese tsunami. At that time, she was almost 60 years old and had lived far beyond the 25 years expected of Laysan albatrosses. Each November/December, when the albatrosses return to Midway, I hold my breath. Did she survive another year or not?

These birds are known to take a sabbatical every four or five years, to lay out a year from having chicks. Wisdom has been continuously laying eggs since at least 2006, so she’s overdue for a year off. If she doesn’t return, it may simply be that she’s vacationing instead of being lost to the wild.

So, it’s exciting to hear that she’s back! On December 4, the staff at Midway Island spotted her with a new egg. Here’s a short video of Wisdom incubating the egg. When they sit on the nest, they will not budge for anything. I’ve been told that if you drove a truck toward them, a nesting bird would be run over rather than move out of the way.

Home sweet home!
If you can’t see this video, click here
Oldest bird in world lays new egg at age 66. Read her story. | DarcyPattison.com
Photo by Kristina McOmber/Kupu Conservation Leadership Program & USFWS

The eggs usually hatch somewhere in late January to early February. We’ll be watching to see if Wisdom and her mate, Akeakamai (a Hawaiian word that means a love of wisdom, seeker after knowledge, philosopher, scientist, scholar), can raise a new chick.

There’s something inspiring about this brave old lady. She’s a seabird, soaring over the north Pacific for much of her life. And she’s survived another year to lay an egg and raise a new chick. The survival is almost against all odds–which gives me a shaky sort of awe for her.

For more:

21 Nov

Jumping Spiders: How They Hear

What do we mean by a sense of hearing? Humans hear by translating sound waves, through the mechanical systems in the ear, into signals sent to the brain. The human brain learns to interpret a variety of sounds, including human speech, into something meaningful.

This amazing spider traveled on the International Space Station for over 100 days! Read her inspiring story. | MimsHouse.comJumping spiders, including Nefertiti, the Spidernaut (Phiddipus johnsoni), do not have ears. Until recently, scientists thought that jumping spiders do not hear. New research shows that the hairs on a spider’s legs translate sound into brain signals. Further, spiders can recognize the menacing sound of a wasp approaching.

If you can’t see this video, click here.

Read the whole article about research into how jumping spider hear.

While Nefertiti was on the International Space Station, Astronaut Suni Williams said that the spider often seemed to follow her with her eyes. Perhaps part of the attention was also based on noises that Nefertiti heard.

16 Nov

Animal Biography Series – Lesson Plans

The Animal Biography Series

With the publication of Nefertiti, the Spidernaut, the animal biographies we publish has become a series. We are working on a set of Lesson Plans geared toward the NGSS.

Click here to download the lesson plans.

This is an early draft and we’d love input on how you use the books in your classes (Email: darcy@mimshouse.com)

Wisdom, the Midway Albatross

This is the story of the oldest known wild bird in the world and how she has survived for over 65 years. | MimsHouse.comWisdom, the Midway Albatross is the story of the oldest known wild bird in the world. She has been continuously banded since December 10,1956. This is the story of her remarkable survival for over 65 years. And amazingly, the story is ongoing: on February 4, 2016, she hatched a new chick!

Multimedia resources for Wisdom

Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma

2015 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book

How does an orphaned cub survive on his own? | MimsHouse.comWhen a mother cub tries to catch a chicken for her cubs, she’s caught in a trap. She dies in the ensuing struggle, leaving at least one cub on his own. This is the story of how Abayomi survived.

Nefertiti, the Spidernaut

Nefertiti, the Spidernaut | MimsHouse.comThis is the amazing true story of a Johnson jumping spider who survived 100 days on the International Space Station. The experiment centered around her ability to learn to hunt in space. Most spiders are passive hunters, just spinning a web and waiting for prey to come to them. But jumping spiders actively hunt their prey.

Click here to download the lesson plans.

14 Nov

Christmas Gifts List

Here’s our Recommended Christmas Gifts for your favorite kid, librarian, writer, or book lover on your list.

  1. GIFTS FOR KIDS: Get the App That Encourages Kids to Read Great Books

    EPIC! is an amazing book app for kids and one my grandkids actually read. How do I know?
    EPIC! emails me a weekly report on what they’ve read that week.

    It’s the exact books that you want kids to be reading. How do I know?
    All Mims House books are on this app.

    It’s the right price! How do I know?
    Because it’s only $5 month. But don’t take my word for it. EPIC! offers a free trial month!

    Take advantage of it now!
    Gifts Subscription on Epic!
    Give the Gift of Reading
    FOR TEACHER OR LIBRARIAN: EPIC! offers a free educational version of the app. Check it out now.
    When you sign up for the app, be sure to search for and READ Mims House books!

  2. GIFTS FOR GIRLS: Baby, Toddler and Young Girls T-Shirts – I’M ROWDY!

    T-Shirts to accompany ROWDY: THE PIRATE WHO COULD NOT SLEEP. Perfect bedtime book for fathers and daughters. Watch videos of fathers reading to their daughters here. T-shirts available in baby and children’s sizes; different colors available. Only available until December 31.

    I'm Rowdy - Baby T-shirt in White to accompany the ROWDY book. | MIms House.com

    Kid's T-Shirt to Accompany the ROWDY book. | MimsHouse.com

    Gift the Gift of Empowerment
    I'm Rowdy - Baby T-Shirt in Pink to accompany the ROWDY book. Great gifts for kids.| MimsHouse.com

    Give the shirt and the book!
    Rowdy: The Pirate Who Could Not Sleep. Gifts for kids.| MimsHouse.com

  3. GIFTS FOR FANS OF CANDLES: Faraday Explains Your Favorite Candle

    Who’s Candle Crazy in Your House? There’s bound to be an aunt, grandmother or teenage kids. They love those candles, but sadly, they don’t understand them. The perfect gift for the candle-lover is Burn: Michael Faradays Candle, along with a special candle. To accompany BURN: MICHAEL FARADAYS CANDLE, buy this cinnamon-cider Aromatique candle. | MimsHouse.com
    I live in Arkansas, the home of the Aromatique candles. My favorite scent for the holiday season is Cinnamon Cider. I use it for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I know. They make other scents for Christmas, but this one just says holidays.

    To accompany our science book, BURN: MICHAEL FARADAY’S CANDLE, we suggest the Cinnamon Cider Pillar candle. You can’t do Faraday’s candle experiment with candles in a jar; it’s got to be the old-fashioned candles that go into a candlestick holder, or a pillar candle like this.
    Gift the Gift of Light and Enlightenment
    Burn: Michael Faraday's Candle book cover | MimsHouse.com

  4. GIFTS FOR KIDS WHO GET TABLETS: Let Reading Rule on Tablets

    Will someone you know give a tablet to a child? All that screen time competes with reading! But you can fight it by paying fora year of the EPIC! app. Also, load up your favorite ereader app with some great books. Whether you choose the iBook app, the Kobo app, or the Kindle app, you’ll find Mims House books waiting to be loaded up. Get the kids started on the path to reading on their tablets.

    A great place to start is a simple series of book. The short chapter series, The Aliens, Inc. is a funny, family-oriented look at how aliens make a living on Earth. Kell Smith, with the help of his BFF, Bree, make cakes for birthday parties and help plan the parties. When Bree wants an alien-themed party, Kell is stumped. How can this lovable alien family pull a great alien party without exposing who they are?

    Give the Gift of Reading!
    The Aliens, Inc. Box Set by Darcy Pattison | MimsHouse.com

  5. GIFTS FOR WRITERS: Scrivener

    When they first start writing, most people choose to use a word-processor, such as Microsoft Word or WordPerfect. A more professional software, though, is Scrivener because it allows you to focus on the organization of your writing. For nonfiction, it’s amazing to see the chapters divided out. Research is a breeze because you can pull in websites and not have to go looking for obscure sites later. I’ve written about its uses several times.

    Give the gift of Writing!
    Buy Scrivener 2 for Mac OS X (Education Licence)

  6. Give the gift of writing

    For those writers in your family, we have several books.
    This workbook is a gem! It helps you write the book of your dreams. Info on writing ABCs, rhyming picture books and much more. | MimsHouse.com

    30 Days to a Stronger Novel | MimsHouse.com

    Start Your Novel the right way with 6 easy steps. | MimsHouse.com

    The popular workbook for Darcy Pattison's Novel Revision Retreat is Novel Metarmorphosis: Uncommon Ways to Revise. Hurrah! It's now available as an ebook. | MimsHouse.com

Book related gifts for kids, librarians, and that picky aunt. | MimsHouse.com

Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. I recommend these gifts because they are fun and interesting, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you they are perfect for your Christmas list.
11 Oct

Spot the Space Station

Nefertiti, the Spidernaut

This amazing spider traveled on the International Space Station for over 100 days! Read her inspiring story. | MimsHouse.comDo you ever think about what goes on overhead? Every day, airplanes, satellites, and the International Space Station circle the Earth.

Launching today is our latest nonfiction picture book for kids. Nefertiti, the Spidernaut is the story of a Johnson jumping spider who went to the International Space Station for 100 days. It’s a story of change: through the dark and cold, in spite of being weightless and isolated, this amazing spider adapted and learned to hunt. She survived to return to Earth, where she had to re-adapt to Earth’s gravity. Nefertiti’s story of survival inspires hope that we, too, can adapt to a changing world.

When Will the Space Station be Over Your Location?

When you read this story with kids, they are sure to ask more about the International Space Station (ISS). Here’s a great, free resource to use with your class. NASA provides this widget to help you keep track of the ISS. Get the widget here for your classroom’s website. Or you can sign up to be texted when the ISS is overhead.

If you can’t see this widget in your email, click here to try it out.


This amazing spider traveled on the International Space Station for over 100 days! Read her inspiring story. | MimsHouse.com


Ask about volume discounts.

All formats also available on Follett, Mackin, Permabound, and Ingram.
03 Oct

Deliciously Creepy: Not One, but Two Miracles

Just in Time for Halloween


Do your readers want something creepy, not horrifying?

Creepy Halloween Book: The Girl, the Gypsy, and the Gargoyle cover“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” –Michelangelo
But what if an unscrupulous sculptor could trap someone inside a block of stone, just so he could carve them? And can miracles come from tragedy?

Threatened with the loss of the only home she’s known, Laurel listens to a proposal from Master Gimpel, a deformed stone carver. He intrigues Laurel when he offers a path to untold riches. Master Gimpel explains that his Troll’s Eye, a red jewel, is a doorway into the stone world where a treasure cave awaits. From the moment Laurel looks through the Troll’s Eye, she and her gypsy companion enter a dangerous race for their lives.

This is a rich, surprising, and sometimes disturbing tale of gargoyles, and those who carve the creatures from solid stone. There’s darkness in this cautionary tale, that nevertheless pulls off not one, but two miracles, and brings Laurel home to stay.

Follow Laurel’s harrowing journey toward miracles.

Read Sample Chapters

Read files in your choice of formats: epub, Kindle, or pdf.

Wow, a perfect middle grade novel. NOT horrifying, but just the right touch of creepy.  DOWNLOAD SAMPLE CHAPTERS. | MimsHouse.com

28 Sep

Nefertiti, the Spidernaut: The True Story of a Jumping Spider

One of the most exciting parts of writing nonfiction is the research. For my forthcoming book (October 11, 2016), NEFERTITI, THE SPIDERNAUT, I actually talked with an astronaut.

Nefertiti, the Spidernaut | MimsHouse.comNefertiti, the Spidernaut: The Jumping Spider Who Learned to Hunt in Space is on the 2016-17 Alabama Camellia Children’s Choice reading list for 4-6th grade nonfiction.

Research: Interviews with Scientists

I first heard Suni Williams on a radio program talking about a spider that went to the international space station. Because I’ve already written two animal biographies, Wisdom, the Midway Albatross and Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma, I was looking for another animal to feature. Spiders on the space stations sounded interesting, so I went looking for more information.

Writing a nonfiction picture book means lots of research. Many times, people are too busy to help, or are just not interested in a book about their topic. What you need is the one person who can connect you with everyone else and who is generous with time and information. I found that person in Stefanie Countryman, who works for Bioserve Space Technologies in Boulder, CO. Stefanie is in charge of all the live animal research projects on the International Space Station. It happened that we were going to visit my daughter in Denver, so we drove up to Boulder for the day to interview Stefanie.

Stefanie Countryman showing author Darcy Pattison the protype habitat for spiders on the International Space Station. | MimsHouse.com

Stefanie showed me the prototype for the insect habitat, which is only 6″ x 5″ x 3″. Everything on the International Space Station must justify its size and weight. Two habitats are packaged along with a camera in an experiment environment.

Insects on the International Space Station must live in this 5" x 6" x 3" habitat. Everything sent to the ISS must be efficient in the use of space and weight. | DarcyPattison.com

Insects on the International Space Station must live in this 6″ x 5″ x 3″ habitat. Everything sent to the ISS must be efficient in the use of space and weight. | MimsHouse.com

Stefanie talked me through the intricacies of the habitat, showed me the labs, and provided reference photos of the spider and the project. Without the cooperation of a scientist such as Stefanie, a book like this is impossible.

After the story is written, though, other experts come along side and vet portions of the project. Paula E. Cushing, Ph.D, Curator of Invertebrate Zoology, Denver Museum of Nature and Science read through and corrected information about the spider’s anatomy and natural history.

Most thrilling for me, Astronaut Sunita (Suni) Williams, Captain U.S. Navy, took time from a busy schedule to call and chat. After the two week experiment, Suni had a choice of packing Nefertiti back up or keeping her beside her work station. She chose to place Nefertiti where she could watch her often. Suni said that the spider was visually oriented. When she came close, Nefertiti’s eyes followed her around. It’s a small detail, but I added it to the story to lend it more emotion.

Research is the fun part of writing a children’s picture book. While I read everything ever published about a topic, nothing can replace an interview for adding in the right details to make a story come alive.

Read a review by Raif at KidsBookBuzz.
Midwest Book Review

The book includes an approximately full size illustration of the spider's habitat on the International Space Station. Art by Valeria Tisnes. | MimsHouse.com

Approximately full size illustration of the spider’s habitat on the International Space Station. Art by Valeria Tisnes. | MimsHouse.com

How to Order

If you can’t see the ordering information, click here.
Nefertiti, the Spidernaut | MimsHouse.com

Available on October 11, 2016



All formats also available on Follett, Mackin, Permabound, and Ingram.
18 Sep

Reading a Digital Picture eBook with Kids

Reading a digital picture ebook with kids is simple when you follow some basic guidelines. The most important thing to remember is that reading a picture book is an interaction between an adult and child. That interaction, more than the simple story itself, is how and why children learn language. It’s not enough to merely read the story. Instead, you need to interact with the story as a model for children. And when they join in the interaction, you should rejoice.

Encourage interaction. Here are some things you want kids to do when they read a digital picture book.

  • Point to a picture and make a comment or ask a question.
  • Question the story.
  • Ask for an explanation.
  • Make up a slightly different story or ending.
  • Show emotion: laugh, cry, pout, outrage, glee.
  • Give you a hug.

Some great suggestions for reading ebooks with kids: remember the main focus is interaction with kids. | MimsHouse.com
Choose a simple format. Give yourself and the child room to interact. You don’t need an animated version, or one that you have to hunt for things that move. The story itself is enough. Well, it’s enough if you show up!

Turn off narration. Some parents and adults are uncertain about how they read the text and want a narrator to do it “right.” Wrong. Narration forces you to go one speed, it takes away from the adult-child interaction, and it’s just one person’s interpretation of the story. Read it aloud! It’ll help you interact with the child, as you respond to his/her reactions to the story.

Use manual page turns. Likewise, turn off any automatic page turns. The timing will invariably be off. Read at a speed that makes sense for you and the child.

Don’t fight over who turns the page. There’s something fun about turning pages on an ereader or tablet. Often younger children just want to page through the screens for the sheer joy of watching the images change. Hold the ereader with a thumb on the image to prevent unwanted page turns. Teach the child to wait until you tell them to turn the page.

Keep interaction your main focus. As other minor issues come up, remember that the goal is for you and the child to interact. All decisions about reading the ebook together must pass this criterion. Will it foster the interaction or not?

Digital picture books are so easy! Go and read a book with a kid!

Suggested Picture Books

Read more about these picture books.

14 Sep

The Aliens, Inc. Box Set

Those crazy ALIENS are back

The Aliens, Inc. Box Set by Darcy Pattison | MimsHouse.comThe Aliens, Inc. series is a 3-book set of easy chapter books. Third grade, science fiction fun, humorous aliens, and a great BFF – what more could you want in a book that helps kids transform into great readers.

Book 1, Kell, the Alien introduces the crazy aliens from the planet Bix. Dad’s kovitch (a kind of space coffee) spilled on their spaceship’s control panel, they shipwrecked on Earth. How can Kell survive third grade? Only with the help of his BFF, Bree. How can the Smiths make a living? By starting Aliens, Inc., a party planning service. And how can they avoid the principal, Mrs. Lynx, and the Alien Chaser’s society? It’s a fun start to the series.

Book 2, Kell and the Horse Apple Parade. Aliens, Inc. is asked to coordinate the Friends of Police Parade. but it’s Kell’s first parade ever. How can they fill in the slots, plan the route, and keep everyone happy? Oh, and by the way, Mrs. Lynx has an Alien Chaser’s app for her smart phone.

Book 3, Kell and the Giants finds Kell and Bree planning a party for the tallest boy in town. Son of a pro basketball player, he wants giants at his party: BigFoot, Cyclops, and Paul Bunyan. It’s all complicated when Mom finds out she’s allergic to bee stings and by Mrs. Lynx’s bloodhound, who is trained to sniff out aliens.

If you can’t see this video, click here.

Now available in an easy 3-Book Box Set:
Over 90 b/w whimsical drawings in each book.

“The Aliens, Inc. Box Set” by Darcy Pattison on Ganxy

09 Sep

Liberty: Free on Kindle

From the fascinating world of tall ships comes this unlikely tale of humble pigs who follow their dreams. Come and join the Talberts on their journey.

Free on Kindle – Friday through Sunday, September 9-11

When Santiago is thrust into the farm’s pigsty, Penelope is captivated by Santiago Talbert’s boast, “I plan to sail the Seven Seas.” Together, these extraordinary pigs escape the farm and cross into the land of Liberty, a parallel world where an intelligent human or animal can get ahead. They follow their dream to Boston Harbor, where they try to convince sea captains that pigs can sail. First, though, Santiago learns mapmaking, while Penelope works on the docks loading ships. Eventually Penelope signs onto the Ice King’s crew as he cuts and packs ice to ship to the far-flung corners of the world.

When the fleet of ice ships sails, Penelope and Santiago join the crew of the flagship, captained by Captain Kingsley, the Ice King himself. A massive polar bear, he harbors dark secrets, and the pigs face the shocking truth: they alone can save the friendly sea serpents from the Ice King’s clutches.

From the fascinating world of tall ships comes this unlikely tale of humble pigs who follow their dream. Come and join the Talberts on their journey.

Full price returns on Sunday. Take advantage of this opportunity to read this uplifting book. READ MORE ON THE KINDLE STORE.

05 Sep

15 Septembers Later: 11 Ways to Ruin a Photograph

With Patriot’s Day coming next week, 15 Septembers later, here’s a story that will touch your heart. I live near the Little Rock Air Force Base. For years, I’ve watched the heartache of telling a loved one good-bye as they go overseas on assignment. Military deployment is just one of the many sacrifices that families make to protect our nation. But how do the children handle the separation from their parent for months at a time? Read how one girl copes with humor!

Wow, this is a poignant military family story. Perfect for Patriot's Day, Veteran's Day and other patriotic holidays. | MimsHouse.com

11 WAYS TO RUIN A PHOTOGRAPH: A Military Family Story

When her father goes soldiering for a year, a girl decides that without Dad at home, it’s not a family photo album. Though her beloved Nanny is in charge of the album that year, the girl makes sure that photographs of her never turn out well. Photos are blurred, wind blows hair in her face. April rains bring umbrellas to hide behind. Halloween means a mask. This poignant, yet funny family story, expresses a child’s anger and grief for a Dad whose work takes him away for long periods of time. It’s a tribute to the sacrifices made by military families and to those who care for children when a family needs support.

Read with your classroom for military and patriotic holidays

  • Veteran’s Day
  • Armed Forced Day
  • Patriot’s Day
  • 4th of July

Understand Military Families Who Serve the United States

  • Gratitude for their sacrifices
  • Understand the family challenges
  • Support for deployment

10% Discount When you Purchase on the Mims House site

Online Children’s Books

All formats are also available on Mackin, Follett, Permabound, Overdrive, and Ingram.
22 Aug

From “A Chemical History of a Candle” to Burn

Author Darcy Pattison answers questions about writing Burn: Michael Faraday’s Candle.

Why Did You Adapt “A Chemical History of a Candle”?

Question: Burn is based on an 1848 lecture by Michael Faraday, “A Chemical History of a Candle.” Why did you choose to rewrite this famous lecture?

Since it was published in 1848, Faraday’s lecture has never been out of print. When I learned this startling fact, I was intrigued. What was it about this lecture that has kept it alive for so long? In fact, the lecture is a fascinating look at a common, everyday object of 1848, a candle. The topic is deceptively simple. Yet, Faraday managed to discuss the candle burning for six hour-long lectures. In the world of science and science education, his lecture stands as a shining example of how to make a simple subject both complex and interesting. The lecture was given as part of the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures and especially designed to teach children about a scientific topic. And yet, it has never been published as a children’s picture book. It was time.
Love this book! A fascinating look at what makes a candle burn! This book is great science and STEM reading for K-3. |MimsHouse.com

What Writing Challenges Did you Face in Writing Burn?

Question: What were the challenges in writing this picture book?

The challenge of adapting Faraday’s famous essay, “The Chemical History of a Candle,” for a picture book format was immense. The first lecture is about 6000 words, and the language used in 1848 doesn’t always translate well for 21st century students. The reading level is 1240L, which is a 9th-12th grade reading level. (See the original text on Gutenberg.org here.)

In other words, Faraday’s lecture contained complex information, complex and archaic language, and informal presentation style suitable to an oral presentation. To adapt it for a children’s book, I had to first set the scene. Peter Willis’s whimsical illustrations captured Faraday’s enthusiasm and helped to expand on the simple text on page 4.

Next, it was important to select only the most important scientific details, and to explain the concepts with simple, direct language. The constraints of a picture book meant topics had to be presented succinctly, with clarity, and be factually correct. In addition, the text had to be short, and we managed to edit it to a mere 626 words, a tenth of the original text, with a Lexile of 660L or 2nd-3rd grade reading level.

Finally, we strove to imbue the text with Faraday’s passion for the topic. As a scientist, Faraday was known for his ability to design experiments. Even in such a short book, we managed to keep the bright light experiment that shows the hot air currents around a candle. Faraday went to the heart of the scientific method with his comment, “What is the cause? Why does it occur?” We made it a prominent part of the story.

In the end, Burn: Michael Faraday’s Candle is a simple text about a simple object. And yet, I hope that in the writing I was faithful to Faraday’s passions and intelligence. Faraday was a self-taught man, and learned much by attending popular science lectures. In his early days, Faraday often attended such science lectures, made careful notes, and then published a book that recreated the lecture. It was a way for him to make money, and also spread the information to others. In a way, I’ve walked in his footsteps by taking his candle lecture and making it accessible to children. I believe Faraday would be very pleased.

Paperback or Hardcover – Now 10% Discount

Burn: Michael Faraday's Candle book cover | MimsHouse.com

15 Aug

Zika: History of Mosquito-Borne Diseases

Here at Mims House, one project we’re working on this summer is MY STEAM JOURNAL: With Original Source Documents from American Scientists 1845-1996. This will be a workbook for elementary science students to record observations and laboratory notes. It features reproductions of notebooks from ten American scientists. Using those documents, MY STEAM JOURNAL lays out a simple progression of skills for recording in notebooks.

Fred Soper: The Mosquito Killer

Dr. Fred Soper, 1928.

US Library of Medicine. 1928 https://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/ps/access/VVBBCB_.jpg

African-American physician, Dr. Fred Soper (1893-1977) was known for his public health work, especially in fighting malaria and yellow fever in Brazil. He was known as the Mosquito Killer.

Soper graduated from the Rush Medical College at the University of Chicago in 1918. In 1920-21, he worked in Brazil to try to eradicate hookworms form the general population. Much of the work was public health education campaigns. Essentially rural Brazil had few clean bathrooms, so hookworms were rampant in the soil and easily transmitted to others. He worked with cities and villages to build and maintain clean latrines. This photo shows a young Brazilian boy holding a board displaying all the hookworms removed from his intestines by the doctors of the Rockefeller Institute.

A Brazilian boy holds a board displaying hookworms removed from him.

National Library of Medicine. https://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/ps/access/VVBBJC_.jpg

Soper then set to work on the “jungle yellow fever” and malaria, both borne by mosquitoes. He earned a reputation as the Mosquito Killer for this work. One of his strongest skills was as an administrator in charge of officials who went out to fight the mosquitos. They searched for standing water where mosquitoes might breed, and searching rivers and streams for the mosquitoes. While they were concentrating on the Yellow Fever problem, mosquitoes arrived from Africa:

Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes, the most efficient malaria vectors, were indigenous to Africa. But in 1930, Raymond Shannon, a Rockefeller Foundation entomologist, discovered that gambiae (apparently recently arrived from Africa) were breeding in Natal, Brazil. Three weeks later, a severe outbreak of malaria was underway there. Read more.

The threat was under-estimated and it took another 14 years to eradicate the mosquito from Brazil and prevent any more malaria outbreaks.

One interesting controversy was Soper’s view on DDT. The 1962 book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson reported on the unexpected results of DDT on the environment, and eventually it was banned. Soper agreed that DDT shouldn’t be used in agricultural setting. However, he thought it had a limited but important part to play in mosquito eradication. Malcom Gladwell wrote about the controversy in a July 2, 2001 article in The New Yorker.

One single mosquito is capable of passing malaria to over 100 people.

Gladwell wrote: The idea was not to kill every Anopheles mosquito in a given area, as Soper had done with gambiae in Brazil. That was unnecessary. The idea was to use DDT to kill only those mosquitoes which were directly connected to the spread of malaria–only those which had just picked up the malaria parasite from an infected person and were about to fly off and infect someone else. When DDTis used for this purpose, Spielman writes in “Mosquito,” “it is applied close to where people sleep, on the inside walls of houses. After biting, the mosquitoes generally fly to the nearest vertical surface and remain standing there for about an hour, anus down, while they drain the water from their gut contents and excrete it in a copious, pink-tinged stream. If the surfaces the mosquitoes repair to are coated by a poison that is soluble in the wax that covers all insects’ bodies, the mosquitoes will acquire a lethal dose.” Soper pointed out that people who get malaria, and survive, generally clear their bodies of the parasite after three years. If you could use spraying to create a hiatus during which minimal transmission occurred–and during which anyone carrying the parasite had a chance to defeat it–you could potentially eradicate malaria. You could stop spraying and welcome the mosquitoes back, because there would be no more malaria around for them to transmit. Soper was under no illusions about how difficult this task would be. But, according to his calculations, it was technically possible, if he and his team achieved eighty-per-cent coverage–if they sprayed eight out of every ten houses in infected areas.

He hoped to eradicate the mosquitos by spraying only in bedrooms of infected people. That limited use of DDT, he felt was justified.

Here’s an excerpt from Soper’s diary which described a different “silence.”
. . .description of a town in Egypt during that country’s gambiae invasion of 1943–a village in the grip of its own, very different, unnatural silence:

Most houses are without roofs. They are just a square of dirty earth. In those courtyards and behind the doors of these hovels were found whole families lying on the floor; some were just too weakened by illness to get up and others were lying doubled up shaking from head to foot with their teeth chattering and their violently trembling hands trying in vain to draw some dirty rags around them for warmth. They were in the middle of the malaria crisis. There was illness in every house. There was hardly a house which had not had its dead and those who were left were living skeletons, their old clothing in rags, their limbs swollen from undernourishment and too weak to go into the fields to work or even to get food.

In the end, DDT was banned for any use, even for killing malaria-infected mosquitoes. Fifty years later, the battle against mosquito-borne illnesses still rages. Zika is just the latest in a long line of deadly diseases courtesy of the mosquito.

Egypt, 1943. Mosquito inspector checks a puddle for mosquito larvae.

National Library of Medicine. https://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/ps/access/VVBBFN_.jpg

MY STEAM NOTEBOOK will briefly set up the stories of ten American scientists, using primary source documents. Their field notebooks will be reproduced and used to describe skills that students need to write in their science notebooks. Look for more on MY STEAM NOTEBOOK in the coming months.

FALL 2016: MY STEAM NOTEBOOK. This workbook for science classes has amazing stories of 10 American scientists. Using their notebooks, students will learn how to use a science notebook for observation and reflection. | MimsHouse.com

31 Jul

LIBERTY: August 9


August 9, 2016

Pigs are unlikely sailors. But they follow their dreams, through all the difficulties. Follow them on the journey of a lifetime! | MimsHouse.com

Liberty launches into the world next week! Well, it’s already available as an ebook a week early.

When Santiago is thrust into the farm’s pigsty, Penelope is captivated by Santiago Talbert’s boast, “I plan to sail the Seven Seas.” Together, these extraordinary pigs escape the farm and cross into the land of Liberty, a parallel world where an intelligent human or animal can get ahead. They follow their dream to Boston harbor, where they try to convince sea captains that pigs can sail. First, though, Santiago learns mapmaking, while Penelope works on the docks loading ships. Eventually Penelope signs onto the Ice King’s crew as he cuts and packs ice to ship to the far-flung corners of the world.

When the fleet of ice ships sails, Penelope and Santiago join the crew of the flagship, captained by Captain Kingsley, the Ice King himself. A massive polar bear, he harbors dark secrets, and the pigs face the shocking truth: they alone can save the friendly sea serpents from the Ice King’s clutches. From the fascinating world of tall ships comes this unlikely tale of humble pigs who follow their dream.

GoodReads Giveaway

Enter TODAY for a chance to win a copy. The giveaway entries end next week.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Liberty by Darcy Pattison


by Darcy Pattison

Giveaway ends August 09, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Hope you win!

26 Jul

Back to School Sale

Print Books Now Available

Print books – hardcover and paperback – are now available on the Mims House website. To celebrate the Back-to-School season, all children’s books are 10% off through August.

Resources for Back-to-School

Did you know that many of our books have teacher’s guides or worksheets to accompany them?

The Aliens, Inc. Series

The Aliens, Inc. Series has a teacher’s guide with simple lesson plans and audiobook samples.When I was looking for a great summer read for kids, I found this series. The Aliens, Inc. Series is great summer reading for kids going into 3rd-5th grades. I love series because it makes the choice of what to read next so easy. | MimsHouse.com

The Read and Write Series

The Read and Write Series: Dogs, cats, and writing--it's a natural combination in this series of fun books.The Read and Write Series has worksheets available. Watch this video about teaching narrative essays or opinion essays, and find out how to get the free worksheets.

Read Sample Chapters

Vagabonds by Darcy Pattison | NEW Cover for this middle-grade animal fantasy. Read more at MimsHouse.com/books/vagabonds Vagabonds:Galen, the nine-banded armadillo, must accept the Tex, the ambitious outsider, as leader of the search for the fabled Faralone Falls, a place they can finally call home. But on the frontier, survival is the only thing that matters. Follow the armadillos on this epic quest for a home.

Deliciously Creepy - Give your summer reading a chill. | MiimsHouse.comEvery block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”—Michelangelo
But what if an unscrupulous sculptor could trap someone inside a block of stone, just so he could carve them?
There’s darkness in this book, that nevertheless, manages to pull off not one, but two miracles–and brings Laurel home to stay.

Give a child a book of HOPE - a contemporary Hansel and Gretel. | MimsHouse.com This contemporary Hansel and Gretel novel is a heartbreakingly simple story that weaves through the tangled threads of a family and builds to an ending full of hope. Middle grade fiction at its finest.

Can Eliot save his family with a simple bread recipe? Longing for Normal is "a rare book" says Booklist. A boy unites an immigrant community and rebuilds his family–using a simple sourdough bread recipe.

Great resources for back-to-school. I love these sample chapters, audiobook samples, and lesson plans. #bestresourcesever | MimsHouse.com

24 Jul

Brilliant, says Midwest Book Review

We were thrilled this week to get a new review on Burn: Michael Faraday’s Candle.
Burn: Michael Faraday's Candle book cover | MimsHouse.com

Brilliant, says Midwest Book Review

“Burn: Michael Faraday’s Candle” is an exciting adaptation of Michael Faraday’s (1791-1867) original special Christmas lecture, “The Chemical History of a Candle.” Condensed from 6000 words to about 650 words for modern elementary education students, “Burn: Michael Faraday’s Candle” is enhanced by dashing, colorful, quirky illustrations bring to life the original author’s scientific lecture for juveniles, first delivered on December 28, 1848, at the Royal Institution in London, England. Mr. Faraday demonstrated several kinds of candles, including stearin, made of ox fat, a sperm candle made from the purified oil of the sperm whale, a bees-wax candle, and a paraffin candle, made from Irish peat bogs. Mr. Faraday taught everyone to observe experiments and ask, “What is the cause, why does it occur?” Mr. Faraday explains that capillary action explains who the flame in a candle gets hold of the fuel. Faraday continues to explain the oblong shape of the flame of the candle and the current of hot air draws out the flame, supplies it with air, and cools the sides of the cup of melted fuel. “Burn” is a brilliant reduction of a very famous British science lecturer that presents the information in a format appealing to children today. – Midwest Book Review, July, 2016

How to Order



All formats also available on Follett, Mackin, Permabound, and Ingram.


Interview with Darcy Pattison on LitPick.

17 Jul

Writing Narrative Essays: Explaining Classroom Use Video

Since The Read and Write Series has been published, folks have asked for more information on how to use the books in the classroom. On this video, children’s book author Darcy Pattison explains My Crazy Dog: My Narrative Essay and how to use the book in the classroom.

If you can’t see this video, click here.
To get My Crazy Dog Printable Worksheets | Mims House, click here. (pdf)
To buy the powerpoint version of this book, click here.

a video on teaching OPINION Essays, click here.

Please share with a classroom teacher!
Amazing video! 15 minutes to the easiest and best narrative writing lesson ever! #BestResourceEver | MimsHouse.com

17 Jul

Writing Opinion Essays: Video Explaining Classroom Use

Since the publication of I Want a Dog: My Opinion Essay and I Want a Cat: My Opinion Essay, folks have asked for more information on how to use these books in the classroom. Today, we’re excited to share with you a 20-minute video with specifics on how to use the books in the classroom. One teacher wrote us to say that using the books was “the best day of teaching” in her career. Suddenly, opinion essays were fun!

If you can’t see this video, click here.
To get the I Want a Dog and I Want a Cat worksheets, click here.
To buy the Powerpoint version of the books, click here for DOG and here for CAT.

For a video explaining NARRATIVE essays, click here.

Please share the video with a classroom teacher!

20 minutes is all it takes to get a super-amazing lesson plan for writing opinion essays. #BestResourceEver Fun, simple - what's not to love? | MimsHouse.com