Mostly found in western US, reports from confirm sightings across central and eastern states. As the territory expands for cougars, environmental experts evaluate what this means.

Where Are Cougars Sighted? maintains an interactive map showing the locations of confirmed sightings of cougars. Look up YOUR area to see how many cougars have been seen. Since its founding in 2002, there have been over 700 confirmed sightings from Florida to New England to Arkansas.

Cougars (Puma concolor), also known as puma, mountain lion or catamount, once spread across much of the North and South American continents. They covered a larger territory than any other land mammal on Earth. They are about 24-26 inches tall at the shoulder, are about 6-8 feet in length, and can weigh 200 pounds.

Corridor Science is Cutting Edge Environmental Science

To deal with cougars and other wild animals, scientists have concentrated on corridors. says, “The main goal of corridors is to facilitate movement of individuals, through both dispersal and migration, so that gene flow and diversity are maintained between local populations. By linking populations throughout the landscape, there is a lower chance for extinction and greater support for species richness.”

Many species run into problems when their habitat is partially destroyed leaving it fragmented. Populations may survive for a time in a smaller habitat, but inbreeding will soon kill it off. For species to survive, they need to move from one population safe zone to another. Like a hallway connecting rooms in a building, wildlife corridors connect pockets of populations. It’s crucial for genetic viability.

Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma talks about the importance of corridors as Brazil attempts to manage its cougar population. A cub was orphaned within sight of skyscrapers. That means the cougar family had been living alongside people for years. Nocturnal, the cougars had never been seen, even by long-time residents of the area. But when a mother cougar decided to raid a chicken coop to feed her cubs, she was caught and died, leaving the cub orphaned.

Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma is an example of corridor science |
2015 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book.
This is also available as an audiobook.
Click the cover for more information.

Free Lesson Plans on Corridor Science

Old environmental lessons stress the importance of saving habitat–and that’s still important. But as humans have continued to destroy habitats at an alarming rate, corridor science has stepped in to talk about how species can survive even with smaller, fragmented habitats. has a new database of lesson plans that are searchable by grade level and keywords such as habitat fragmentation, island biogeography, migration, connectivity, and wildlife corridors. Learn about Bear 148! Then read about Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma!

Corridor Science for Kids | Pumas need to move across the landscape for genetic viability |

Yo, ho, ho! Girls, are you ready for TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY on September 16 on Monday? Most children’s books feature a male pirate. But ROWDY: The Pirate Who Could Not Sleep is about Captain Whitney Black McKee, a brave FEMALE pirate captain who chases sea monsters all the way from Shanghai.

Rowdy: The Pirate Who Could Not Sleep | Mims House
The perfect book for girls on TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY! CLICK to buy the book! Use this code for 50% discount: PIRATE.

This special day celebrating pirate talk was Created in 1995 by a couple guys from Albany Oregon, John Baur (Ol’ Chumbucket) and Mark Summers (Cap’n Slappy. They were playing a racquetball game when one spontaneously exclaimed, “Aaarrr!”

The moment struck home and TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY was born. ), of Albany, Oregon, During a racquetball game between Summers and Baur, one of them reacted to the pain with an outburst of “Aaarrr!”, and the idea was born. They chose September 16 because it was Summer’s ex-wife’s birthday and easy for him to remember.

Talking Like a Pirate

Talk Like a Pirate Day with Miss Whitney Black McKee. From ROWDY: The Pirate Who Could Not Sleep. | Mims House
The pirate Captain Whitney Black McKee is feared upon the high seas. But when she comes to shore, she needs a lullaby to help her sleep. CLICK to buy the book! Use this code for 50% discount: PIRATE.

So, what do you DO on TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY? Well, you TALK like a Pirate! In this story, the Captain is SO tired that she can’t sleep. She sends her crew out to steal a lullaby. But how do thieves thieve a lullaby?

The pirate crew searches for a lullaby for their captain on TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY. From Rowdy: The Pirate Who Could Not Sleep | Mims
The pirate crew searches for a lullaby to help the Captain sleep. CLICK to buy the book! Use this code for 50% discount: PIRATE.
Only the Captain's father or Pappy can sing a song to help her sleep. From ROWDY: THE PIRATE WHO COULD NOT SLEEP |
There’s only ONE lullaby which can help her sleep – her Pappy’s song. CLICK to buy the book! Use this code for 50% discount: PIRATE.

Pirate Language

Have fun, me mateys! CLICK to buy the book! Use this code for 50% discount: PIRATE.

(We guarantee that you can read our ebooks on the device of your choice.)

What if you planned a scientific experiment and something went wrong with the equipment or the circumstances of the experiment? You’d be smart to design backup experiments.

TWO SPIDERNAUTS – Backup experiments

When Bioserve, the Colorado company in charge of live animal experiments on the International Space Station, decided to send a jumping spider into space, they had backups in place. The lead spider was supposed to be Cleopatra, a zebra jumping spider (Salticus scenicus).

Nefertiti (on left) started as the backup spider. Cleopatra (on right) was supposed to be the lead spider. But she hid when the camera was running, so they had no footage of her hunting in space.

But the experiment had strict parameters. They would video the spiders for an hour a day for several days. The video feeds to Earth were expensive and no more time could be allowed for recording how the spiders operated in the microgravity of space.

Most spiders spin webs to catch prey. Jumping spiders, however, actively hunt their food. They jump to catch a fly. But when a spider jumps in microgravity…it just floats away. Would the spiders be able to adapt and hunt?

Cleopatra, the lead spider, was camera shy. She may have done amazing jumps in space, but seldom did she appear on film.

Instead, Nefertiti, the backup spider (Phiddipus johnsonii), took the limelight. She was photographed jumping to catch fruit flies in her habitat. In fact, she leapt as no other jumping spider has ever jumped. She laid down an anchor thread, just as she might on Earth. Then, she leapt for the spider. The resolution on the video is too low for slow-motion that would allow scientists to measure the angle of her jump. But watching you can see that it’s a flat jump with little arc. After she catches the fruit fly, Nefertiti allowed the anchor thread to pull her back to the wall of the habitat, like a bungee cord.

Nefertiti the Spidernaut | Nefertiti was the backup experiment for this spiders on the International Space Station experiment. |
2017 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book

The video of Nefertiti jumping answered the scientific questions. Yes, jumping spiders can adapt to microgravity. Even more exciting was the video of Nefertiti’s first hunt back on Earth. She leapt toward the fruit fly—but her aim was off. She fell flat. It took three tries for Nefertiti to catch—and finally eat—her meal.

Without the backup spider—Nefertiti—the experiment would’ve failed. Cleopatra didn’t cooperate, but Nefertiti did.

THREE TELESCOPES – Backups for backups

Another example of a backup experiment occurred in 1919 when astronomers wanted to photograph the solar eclipse in May that year.

Einstein had recently put forth his theory of general relativity. It talked about the effect of gravity and acceleration on light. Light, the theory said, could bend or curve if pulled by a strong enough gravity.

OK. Now, HOW do you design an experiment to prove/disprove THAT theory?

Fortunately, astronomer Arthur Eddington thought he knew. During an eclipse, he suggested, they could measure the position of distant stars. As the light passed by our sun SOL, Einstein’s theory said the light would bend slightly. If the stars’ positions appeared to move, the light had bent.
The 1919 solar eclipse was the perfect time to measure the position of stars behind the sun. They sent a team to Principe Island (the Chocolate Islands, so named because of Cacao Plantations), just off the coast of Africa.

Example of backup experiments. The larger telescope blurred the image of the 1919 solar eclipse. The backup telescope produces the clearest photos. |
The telescopes in Sobral, Brazil were protected from weather by a small hut. They took one large telescope, but the heat warped it and the images blurred. The smaller 4″ telescope gave sharper images.

A BACKUP team went to Brazil. They expected that the images from Principe Island would be the best images to measure the phenomenon. But on Principe just at the time of the eclipse, a storm struck. It cleared enough for some photos to be made. The book, ECLIPSE: How the 1919 Solar Eclipse Proved Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity is for elementary readers and will release on October 8, 2019.

Eclipse cover |
ECLIPSE will be available on October 8, 2019.

The Brazil team had problems of their own. The heat warped the telescope enough to blur the images. However, they also had a second—BACKUP—telescope. It only had 4” lenses instead of the larger ones they hoped to use. But it was better than nothing, they reasoned.
Indeed, the 4” telescope in Brazil–the backup experiment–produced the best images of the eclipse and helped prove Einstein’s theory of general relativity. The BACKUP team with the BACKUP telescope!

Backup experiments: Read about two experiments that relied on the backups for success: Spidernauts on the International Space Station and photographing the 1919 solar eclipse. | MimsHouse

September 6 is Read a Book Day and to celebrate it, we’ve created a poll. How do your students/children read? We’d like to know where our readers fall on the question of reading!

TAKE THE Mims House Read a Book Day SURVEY

Our survey is a simple 2-minute look at the reading habits of your children/students. Join with us to see if this slice of readers compares to the national averages.

The Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report for 2019 is here. Between September 6, 2018 and October 4, 2018, they sample 2,758 parents and children about their reading habits. This is the seventh year for the report, so it’s fascinating to look at the changes from year to year.

For example, the number of Frequent Readers (reads daily) has declined from 37% to 31%, while those reading InFrequently (less than 1 day/week) has risen from 21% to 28%. It’s this type of change that the Scholastic report captures well. Still, 72% of kids are Frequent or Moderately Frequent readers! And that’s good news! And overall, about 58% of kids say that reading is FUN!

Of Characters and Diversity

In today’s #metoo world, the message is reaching parents and kids that diversity in books is important. 58% of parents report diversity is extremely or very important, and 38% of kids agree. This is especially important where there are multicultural pictures to illustrate the story.

In the midst of the multicultural discussion though, characters hold the trump card. As the report says, “The top three types of characters kids ages 6–17 want in books do not vary across gender, age or ethnicity and reflect the reader’s own aspirations: characters who they want to be like because they are smart, brave or strong, who face and overcome challenges, and who are “similar to me.”

Asian Grandmother showing diversity for Read a Book day.
The boy in I CAN MAKE WISE CHOICES wants to please his Asian grandmother with the perfect birthday gift.
Click cover for more information on this book.

Help Kids Choose Great Books

42% of kids report a hard time finding a great book. That’s where YOU come in! We’ve written about the importance of kids’ choices. 91% of kids say that their favorite book is one that they chose themselves! Classroom libraries are highlighted in this year’s report as an important source of reading material. Especially when a home doesn’t have many books, classroom libraries become more important and yet only 43% of kids have access to one.

The Scholastic report contains much more fascinating information on the reading habits of American kids. They also have international reports available.

We’re interested in YOUR children/students. Please take our 2-minute survey of your students’/children’s reading habits. Most of all, though, go read a book on this Read a Book Day!

READ MORE – About Kids Reading Habits

New book covers! We spent the summer looking through our catalog and refreshing book covers as needed. Here’s the first update on a poignant family story.

Book cover - Longing for normal

This UPLIT story is about a couple of brave, determined kids!

A boy unites an immigrant community and rebuilds his family–using a simple sourdough bread recipe.

Eliot Winston, a grieving son, must convince his new step-mother – now Griff Winston’s widow – to adopt him. But when she married Griff Winston, Marj hadn’t bargained on being the single mother of a twelve-year-old boy. Alli Flynn, a foster child new to the school, convinces Eliot that he must fight to keep his family intact and the best way to do that is to help Mrs. Winston with the Bread Project, a fund raising project for the school. With his whole future at stake, Eliot tries hard to please Marj; but as the deadlines near for the Bread Project and for Marj to sign his adoption papers, Eliot finds it harder and harder to hang on to hope.

In the tradition of Dicey’s Song by Cynthia Voigt, this poignant middle grade novel follows two kids who search for a family and a home. The story is told in alternating voices, which Booklist describes as  “. . .voices old before their time, due to years in the system. . . .” The Bread Project gives them a way to reach into a wide variety of homes and create community. It’s a tender story of two lonely hearts looking for a place to belong.

Come and cheer for Eliot and Alli as they fight for a community, a family, a home.

Review Copies of Longing for Normal

Would you like a review copy of Longing for Normal? Reviews on Amazon or Goodreads are important to updating a title, too. We’re happy to send you a complimentary copy. Email us!

The first day of school is exciting, nerve-wracking, and fun! Kids need encouragement to make friends and our book, WONKY: A ROBOTICS CLUB STORY is perfect multicultural book for the job.

Wonky: A Robotics Club Story |
Great multicultural read aloud for the first day of school!

Howie, a shy turtle, is scared that he won’t make friends. Typical of the first day of school, he doubts that anyone will share his passion for robots. During Robotics Club, everyone chooses up partners and Howie is left out. He puts on a brave front:

“No big deal,” he says. “Just what I wanted anyway. This way, no one will ruin my robot design.”

But inside, he’s dying.

And then–the classroom door bursts open and in bounds Lincoln, a boisterous ostrich. Of course, the teacher insists that this unlikely pair become a team.

Nathaniel Gold‘s charming illustrations take the reader through the design process as the pair tries to decide on what kind of robot they want to make.

Interior page of Wonky: A Robotics Club Story.
Interior page from WONKY: A ROBOTICS CLUB STORY.

Howie and Lincoln take animals as inspiration for their designs with 8-legged robots, 5-legged robots, and more. From a design standpoint, they are favoring form over function. They they finally decide what they want the robot to DO, Howie and Lincoln find common ground.

This encourages divergent thinking as Lincoln and Howie design a robot. For kids who are rigid and inflexible, they’ll see the value of considering different options, and accepting those who are different.

Because LIncoln the ostrich comes from Africa, there’s also a multicultural element to the story. It’s easy to see and discuss the differences between a box turtle and an ostrich. By framing multicultural acceptance with animals, it avoids specific mention of any one culture and adapts well to any ethnic mix. Of course, teachers and parents may bring in specific cultural references as desired or needed.

STEM + Back to School

The STEM ideas of designing for function combine with a friendship story. It sets the tone for a STEM-focused classroom.

.” . .offbeat and clever. . . With pages filled with animals and robots, this tale will certainly appeal to kids. . . .”

Kirkus Reviews

On this website, you can purchase the ebook. We guarantee that you can read it on the device of your choice, or your money back. Find the paperback and hardcovers at your favorite educational distributor or online store.

Girl holds book cover of WONKY: A ROBOTICS CLUB STORY

Thanks, space animals! You helped us get here!

Where were you 50 years ago? (Were you even alive?) On July 20, we’ll celebrate the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon. It was the culmination of years of research into space travel. We’re in another time period of pushing for space exploration, with the updated goal of landing a man on Mars. Because of that, children’s books about the first moon landing and space books in general are popular right now.

12 men walked on the Moon, but since the Apollo era, no one has been back since 1972. However, since 2000, humans have lived in the microgravity of the International Space Station (ISS). We needed to understand what happened to the human body during an extended stay in space. The most famous experiment was astronaut Scott Kelly, whose twin brother stayed on Earth, while Scott spent a year in space. Scientists studied how bones, muscle and other body parts differed between the twins after a year in space.

Animals Supported Space Travel

The past 50 years have been important ones for space travel as scientists answered many questions about supporting life in space. Part of that has been doing animal experiments to study responses of different animals to the environment of microgravity. This has included monkeys, dogs, tortoises, mice, and insects.

Animals in space date back to testing of hot air balloons by the French Montgolfier brothers. They sent a sheep, a duck and a rooster up in the balloons to see if ground dwelling animals could survive. Later, animals went up to 27 miles high; these included fruit flies, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, cats, dogs, frogs, goldfish and monkeys. Albert II, a rhesus monkey, launched into space on June 11, 1949, going up 83 miles. Unfortunately, he died on impact after a parachute failure. The death rate among monkeys at this stage was very high: some sources say that about two-thirds of all monkeys launched in the 1940s and 1950s died on missions or soon after landing. In 1951, the monkey Yorick was the first monkey to survive space flight and return to Earth alive.

During the early exploration years, the Soviets sent nine dogs into space, some more than once. France flew their first rat (Hector) into space on 22 February 1961. The United States launched Biosatellite I in 1966 and Biosatellite I/II in 1967 with fruit flies, parasitic wasps, flour beetles and frog eggs, along with bacteria, amoebae, plants and fungi. In September 1968, the Soviets sent the Horsfeld tortoises to circle the moon, the first animals to survive deep space. From the Wikipedia article, here’s a list of Animals in Space:

Over 500 animals have lived in space and taught us about surviving in that harsh environment.
  • 1947 Fruit flies, 68 miles high
  • 1949 Albert II, rhesus monkey, 83 miles high
  • 1950 Mouse, space
  • 1951 Dogs Tsygan (Gypsy) and Dezik, space but not orbit
  • 1951 Mice, sub-space
  • 1957 Dog Laika – orbited Earth, plus 10 other dogs
  • 1958 South American squirrel monkey Gordo
  • 1959 Monkeys Able (rhesus) and Baker (squirrel monkey). Baker lived till November 29, 1984
  • 1959 two space dogs and Marfusa, the first rabbit in space
  • 1959 2 frogs and 12 mice
  • 1960 Dogs Belka and Strelka, a gray rabbit, 40 mice, 2 rats, 15 flasks of fruit flies and plants
  • 1960 Three black mice: Sally, Amy and Moe
  • 1961 Ham the chimp
  • 1961 Enos the Chimp, orbited Earth
  • 1961 Dog Chernushka, some mice, frogs, and a guinea pig
  • 1961 French rat, Hector and two other rats
  • 1963 Cat Felicette and another cat
  • 1967 Two French monkeys
  • 1964-66 Chinese mice, rats, and two dogs
  • 1966 Dogs Veterok (Little Wind) and Ugolyok (Blackie), 22 days in orbit, the longest space flight for a dog
  • 1966-7 Fruit flies, parasitic wasps, flour beetles, frog eggs, bacteria, amoebae
  • 1967 Argentenian rat Belisario, and other rats
  • 1968 Horsfield tortoises, circumlunar voyage, along with wine flies, meal worms and other animals
  • 1969 Macaque monkey, Bonny
  • 1950-60 Soviets has passenger slots for 57 dogs, but some dogs went several times
  • 1969 Cai monkey, Juan
  • 1970 Two bullfrogs
  • 1972 Nematodes
  • 1972 Pocket mice: Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum and Phooey. Circled moon for six days with astronaut Ronald Evans
  • 1975 Pocket mice, first fish (mummichog, first spiders (garden spiders Arabella and Anita)
  • 1975 Tortoises, rats, mummichog fish and zebra danio fish
  • 1980s – eight monkeys, zebra danio fish, fruit flies, rats, stick insect eggs and newts
  • 1985 two squirrel monkeys, 24 male albino rats, and stick insect eggs
  • 1985 10 newts
  • 1989 chicken embryos (experiment designed for a student contest)
  • 1990 Four monkeys, frogs, fruit flies, brine shrimp, newts, fruit flies, sand desert beetles
  • 1990 Chinese guinea pigs
  • 1990 Japanese tree frogs, quail eggs
  • 1995 newt
  • 1990s – US sent crickets, mice, rats, frogs, newts, fruit flies, snails, carp, medaka (Japanese rice fish), oyster toadfish, sea urchins, swordtail fish, gypsy moth eggs, stick insect eggs, brine shrimp, quail eggs, and jellyfish
  • 2003 silkworms, garden orb spiders, carpenter bees, harvester ants, Medaka, Nematodes, and quail eggs
  • 2006 Madagascar hissing cockroaches, Mexican jumping beans, South African flat rock scorpions, seed-harvester ants
  • 2007 Tradigrades, also known as water-bears, cockroaches (one conceived while in space)
  • 2009 Painted lady and monarch butterfly larvae for a school experiment
  • 2010 Iranian mouse, two turtles, and some worms
  • 2011 Golden orb spiders named Gladys and Esmeralda, with fruit flies to eat. Tardigrades and extremophiles
  • 2012 Medaka fish for new Aquatic Habitat on ISS
  • 2013 Iranian monkey
  • 2014 Pavement ants
  • 2014 one male and four female geckos
  • 2014 Twenty mice
  • 2015 Twenty mice
  • 2016 Twenty mice
  • 2018 Twenty mice

Nefertiti the Spidernaut: The Jumping Spider Who Learned to Hunt in Space

It would be impossible to tell the story of each animal who has gone to space and taught us about how to survive in that harsh environment! But one story of a spider stands out. It’s tempting to give her human qualities, but she was just a spider. A hungry one! She learned to modify her hunting methods to adapt to the micrograviy of space. And she survived to come back to Earth alive and grow fat again.

Read her story!

Nefertiti the Spidernaut |
2017 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book

Read in Honor Military Families

Books that HONOR our military families and the sacrifices they make. It's hard for the kids when Daddy or Mom are posted overseas. Share these stories and encourage empathy for their sacrifices. #ThankYouForYourService #patriotic

This 4th of July is the right time to honor the sacrifices made by military families. When parents are assigned overseas or even just a remote place state-side, it’s hard for families. There are several children’s books that address the family dynamics of a military family.

While military children need these books, they are also important for all children to read and think about. The American way of life is supported by our military. Kids need to understand the sacrifices that make their own freedoms possible.

In honor of 4th of July and our military families, Mims House offers free an ebook of 11 Ways to Ruin a Photograph. (When you check out, use this coupon code: THANKS) In this poignant story, a child decides that while Daddy is gone for a year, it’s NOT a family photo album. She ruins every family photo until her father returns from his tour of duty.

11 Ways to Ruin a Photograph: A Military Family Story |

Download FREE, 11 Ways to Ruin a Photograph.

Use this coupon code when you check out: THANKS

Are you looking for science notebooks from American scientists? The Smithsonian Institution has an archive of the science notebooks from their staff for the last 150 years. They are available from the Field Book Project and we’ve included ten scientists in our book, MY STEAM NOTEBOOK.

Cover of MY STEAM NOTEBOOK by Darcy Pattison

Science Notebooks: Ornithologist or Bird Scientist

Martin Moynihan (1928-1996) spoke French, German and Spanish, and published his first scientific paper at the age of 18. For the Smithsonian, he worked in Panama from 1957-1974 helping to build the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute on Barro Colorado Island. To build the Panama Canal, some rivers were dammed to make Gatun Lake. That meant the existing tropical forest was covered with water. Only the tallest hills remained above water as islands. Barro Colorado has become one of the most studied tropical forests in the world.

Moynihan’s notebooks are fascinating because he used drawing and labeling extensively. This is a skill that kids can easily learn as they make observations.

Science Notebook example - Martin Moynihan used extensive drawings that he labeled.
Acc 01-096, Box 1, Folder 26; Page of field notes documents M. Moynihan’s behavioral observations of gulls (laridae) in South America.

Download a pdf excerpt from MY STEAM NOTEBOOK which includes all the information on Martin Moynihan. See his amazing field notes and learn other ways he used his science notebook!

Book clubs are a simple way to develops student literacy. Middle school students (grades 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades) understand that their success depends on their level of literacy, or their ability to read and write fluently. The discussion breaks down on the best way to achieve literacy.

As I’ve discussed before, giving students CHOICE is the most important way to encourage students to read. A simple way to do that is a book club. Book clubs are ways to share the reading experience with a small group within a controlled environment. Here’s the thing: book clubs also need CHOICE. For more on the importance of choice, read The Book Whisperer.

Middle School Students want to be independent readers and thinkers.

Students become far more excited about reading when they have choices in the book clubs. They want to choose the members of their group and the books they’ll read. But giving them ownership in other ways also helps. Often students want to decide on discussion questions. They want leadership roles in guiding the discussions. For sure they want to avoid record keeping (logs, reports, and group projects). In other words, middle school students want to be independent readers and thinkers.

Teachers have to think about their required teaching standards when setting up book clubs during class times. However, giving students ownership of book clubs and their independent reading is a choice toward literacy and encouraging students to become life-long readers.

Often teachers choose to present a curated list of titles but assure students that they can add to the list if wanted. The curated list can represent a wide range of genres, diverse topics and characters, and reading levels.

Finding Books for Book Clubs

  • Home/friends – sometimes students can borrow a book from a friend or perhaps they actually own a copy.
  • School & public library – often students can find copies of the chosen book at the school or public library.
  • eBooks – Often, ebooks are cheaper than the paperback books. Check the prices and decide if ebooks is a cheaper option.
  • Build a classroom library – over several years, teachers often build school libraries with collections of book sets. This is great as long as the sets don’t become the default book choices and students are no longer able to decide what to read.
  • Purchase books – schools need to allow budgets for students to choose the books they want to read. This may take working with administration to change policies. But it’s the strongest choice possible to build literacy. Without books that kids love, literacy is impossible to develop. Often teachers and school librarians work with local or regional educational distributors to find the best pricing.

Mims House Supports Book Clubs—And Literacy

Review Copies. Free paperback review copies to teachers or other book club facilitators of book clubs. Email with teacher’s name, grade level and number of students in book clubs.

Discounted ebooks. We’ll discount ebooks for titles your students choose for book clubs. This is the most cost-effective choice. We guarantee that you’ll be able to read our ebooks on the device of your choice. Email with teacher’s name, grade level and number of students in book clubs.

Paperback books. We’ll be glad to quote you book club pricing on our paperback books. We want students to read! So, we’ll give you the best pricing we can. Email with teacher’s name, grade level and number of students in book clubs.

Download our free discussion guides. These work as a starting point for discussion, but we hope that students will move beyond these questions.

Middle school book club - Consider ebooks as the most economical way to provide a set of books. |
eBooks are often the most economical way to provide book sets for a middle school book club.


The Heartland Tales - Great choice for middle school book clubs. |
Two novels and one short story in the Heartland world.

RESOURCES for Book Clubs

Middle School Book Clubs - The #1 Tip! |
Middle School Book Clubs - The #1 Tips |

What did scientists write in their notebooks? It’s easy to make wild assumptions, but why do that? Readily available online are scans of scientists who worked for the Smithsonian Institution over the last 150 years in the Field Book Project.

My STEAM Notebook: Helping Kids Write About Their Observations |

Our book, MY STEAM NOTEBOOK: 150 Years of Primary Source Documents from American Scientists, uses the field books to help kids learn to write about their own observations in a science notebook.

It begins with Alexander Wetmore, an ornithologist or bird scientist, who was also the Secretary (the person in charge) of the Smithsonian Institute from 1945-1952. He left many notebooks, photos, and specimen with the Smithsonian.

Wetmore started writing science notebooks when he was only eight years old! While on a Florida vacation, he saw a pelican and wrote about it.

From Alexander Wetmore's 8-year old journal. He's writing about seeing a pelican.
“There are a great many pelicans around here. A pelican is a great big bird that eats fish…” From the Smithsonian Institution archives.

At the age of 15, his first published article, “My Experience with a Red-headed Woodpecker” appeared in the 1900 Bird Lore magazine.

During his travels to Panama and other places, Wetmore brought back 26,058 bird and mammal skins. He write a book, The Birds of the Republic of Panama, writing bout 189 species and sub-species of birds that were new to science. Over his lifetime, over 56 new genera, species, and subspecies of birds (both recent and fossils) were named in his honor.

Wetmore kept lists of birds he saw in a single month, or in a year. Listing is a simple writing exercise for students working in their science notebooks. They can easily write lists about their observations.

Download the Wetmore section of My STEAM NOTEBOOK

We could continue telling you about Wetmore, but instead, we’re making available a special excerpt from My STEAM Notebook. The Wetmore excerpt includes the how to use this notebook explanation, Alexander Wetmore information, notebook pages for students to work, suggestions for related STEAM activities, a reproduction of his first published article and more. Add your email below and we’ll immediately send you the pdf.

Alexander Wetmore, ornithologist, and his scientific notebooks.
Page1 of Wetmore section of My Steam Notebook.
Alexander Wetmore as featured in My STEAM Notebook.
Page 2 of Wetmore section of My Steam Notebook

A solar eclipse on May 29, 1919 changed science forever.

The story starts earlier on November 15, 1915 when German scientist Albert Einstein presented a paper about his general theory of relativity. The theories were hard for most people to understand. However, a British astronomer, Stanley Eddington, was fascinated by the theory and worked to help explain it to his colleagues.

7EN-S1-C0010943 (929331) German-born physicist Albert Einstei n (1879-1955), at left, was famous for his theories of relativity. British astrophysicist Sir Arthur Eddington (1882-194 4), at right, pioneered the study of internal stellar structure. In 1919 Eddington led an expedition to observe stars near the sun during a solar eclipse. The results were hailed a s confirmation of Einstein’s 1915 theory of General Relativity, which predicted that light passing close to a large mass (like the Sun) bends twice as far as predicted by Newton’s theory of gravity. Photographed at the University of Cambridge Observatory, UK, in 1930.

The 1919 solar eclipse provided the perfect opportunity to prove Einstein’s theory. The sun’s gravity, Einstein said, would pull light rays making them bend or curve. A solar eclipse was the perfect time to measure this shift. Scientists needed to photograph some bright stars before the eclipse and then during the eclipse and compare the two. If the stars appeared to move, the light was bending.

This is a difficult concept for kids! But the NextGen Science Standards ask kindergarten kids to understand the concepts of PUSH and PULL. In space, gravity is the pull, while acceleration is the push. By using the simple concepts of PUSH and PULL, kids begin the process of conceptualizing Einstein’s theory. It will likely be a life-time journey, but we can start it very simply in elementary school.

ECLIPSE: How the 1919 Solar Eclipse Proved Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity

ECLIPSE: How the 1919 Solar Eclipse Proved Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity | book cover | Available October, 2019.

Available in October, 2019 is our story ECLIPSE: How the 1919 Solar Eclipse Proved Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. It tells the story of Eddington’s trip to a small African island of Principe, also known as the Chocolate Islands because cacao nuts were grown there. In 1919, it was a 47 day boat trip. Once there, Eddington and his associate Edwin Cottingham set up the telescopes and waited for May 25, 1919.

Just in case the weather was bad, astronomers also sent a team to Brazil to photograph the solar eclipse. Both locations were remote and difficult to reach with the huge telescopes required. Heat and humidity plagued both teams, causing photographic materials to warp, which threw off the focus.

Interior page of ECLIPSE by Darcy Pattison, illustrated by Peter Willis.

This is a dramatic story! On Principe, it rained that morning, only clearing up right as the eclipse started. The scientists only had 302 seconds of totality, the time when the sun was totally blocked. They exposed photographic plates with a metronome ticking off the seconds.

Measuring a Solar Eclipse

The analysis of data took months because they had to account for temperature, humidity, position of the telescope on Earth and more. Finally, on November 6, 1919, astronomers announced the results: light does bend around the sun. The photographs proved Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

An interactive element is built into the story. If you flip the top-right corner, the images will show a solar eclipse happening.

The story is illustrated by Peter Willis (see Peter’s interview on the Children’s Book Council website), a British artist. It joins the other books in the Moments in Science series:

If you’d like a review copy when they become available, leave your email below.

Summer reading is the perfect time to read a stretch book! Recently, we wrote about helping students choose the right book for them. The idea of choosing a “stretch book” caught the attention of teachers and we wanted to explore it further.

A stretch book is one that takes the reader out of their comfort zone in some way. It may be a different genre than normal, or have fewer illustrations and more text. Maybe it’s that uncomfortable zone when a reader moves from picture books to short chapter books or moves from short chapter books to longer chapter books. In some way, the book is a challenge. The question is how we can set up the situation in a way that students are most likely to succeed? How do we handle “failures”?

Why Students Make Safe Choices

Let’s review why students are likely to make safe choices. When a student chooses a book, it says something about him/her. It adds or subtracts to the overall public face that a student projects. Peer pressure means students must be able to answer the question, “What are you reading?” While justifying a certain book to themselves can be hard, justifying it to friends is even worse. Teasing, bullying, belittling – the negative results of a choice can be overwhelming. It you expect students to take chances in their reading, it’s wise to set up the decision in ways that will make it successful.

Model the Stretch Choices

That means we need to model the behavior or making stretch choices. Are you making stretch choices? It’s important for students to hear you talking about your choices and why you decide to read a certain book.

It’s OK to NOT Finish a Book

And yes – it’s ok to start a book and not finish it. As an adult, I do this all the time. It’s fine to tell a student, “Try this book. If you don’t like it, just bring it back! You don’t have to finish it.”

When they bring it back, don’t make a big deal of it. If the circumstances are right, you might ask why they didn’t finish. But the info is more for you to help them choose books later and to get feedback about the book that might help you with other students. It’s NOT to make them feel bad about their choice.

Booktalks, Book Displays – Label STRETCH Books

When you set up displays or do booktalks, include a Stretch Book. Give the category of stretch books a unique name that resonates for some reason in your community. For example, I’m from Arkansas, and the University of Arkansas mascot is the Razorback pig. Maybe the stretch books are the “Woo Pig Sooie” books that get a cheer when they are chosen. Yes! Take the time to celebrate the choice by breaking into a cheer! When you introduce the books, tell students that you think this one is a bit harder and only the brave kids will choose it. NOT the best readers – you don’t want to set up that kind of competition. Make it one that courageous or brave kids will choose.

What if we teach kids how to anticipate and deal with that question? Help students to find ways to make their choices look admirable:

“I’m taking a chance by reading something a bit different.”
“I’m reading outside my normal genre, just to stretch a bit.”
“It’s a new author for me. I’m not sure I’ll like it, but I’m the kind of person who likes to take risks sometimes.”

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