GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, Boston, MA. 9 am – 3 pm, April 4, 2020.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 14 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 7 – April 2, 2020.

See the full author list and the date on which they’ll post at Linking Literacy 2020

When I committed to telling the story of Maria Sybilla Merian’s remarkable contribution to the understanding of insect metamorphosis (The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science), I realized two things were crucial: I had to use both text and art to convey my message (as she did), and I had to follow in her footsteps by raising caterpillars myself.

Girl who drew butterflies cover

As a writer/researcher working in the 21st century, I have access to the latest technology, including Google searches, digitized academic papers, and actual videos of butterflies sliding out of their pupae. Maria, who lived from 1647-1717, had none of this. She had no database to work from, aside from a few difficult-to-find volumes by other insect enthusiasts. She had no GoPro to film the continuous development of her caterpillars, which were hidden away in boxes in her kitchen. Insect study was a risky sideline for her at first. Her main source of income was her art, and—as a middle-class woman of her time—she was not supposed to be dabbling in any sort of science, much less that of “evil vermin.” She had to gather her caterpillars discreetly, she had to actually watch them to learn about them, and, in addition to all this, she had to quickly paint what she saw to document her research.

She had her own keen power of observation, and she had her paints. That was it.

caterpillars in a jar

I can’t paint, but I have a camera. And I have a pair of eyes. So, in the midst of all my research—museums visited, books read, endless facts chased down—I ordered a little cupful of Painted Lady caterpillars online, installed them in my porch, and began to watch them. Oh my gosh, how they consumed me! I brought them leaves. I posed them on sticks to photograph them. I talked to them. I asked them to please wait until I was in the room to perform their miraculous transformations (they rarely did).

Butterfly unfolding its proboscis

I missed a few crucial moments, but I did have an exciting moment of discovery one day. A newly emerged butterfly, expanding its rumpled wings, began to curl and uncurl its proboscis (straw-like tongue). But . . . the proboscis was forked, like a snake’s! What??? I rushed to the internet to make sense of what I was seeing, and learned that many butterflies need to “zip up” their probosces upon emerging, in order to use them to suck nectar. What a thrill to have made this discovery first-hand! Even more thrilling, I later found evidence in Maria’s art that she’d observed this behavior this as well.

moth with proboscis shown

What I learned was that in the end, some of the best science comes from two things: your own eyes, and a way to document what you see so you can share it with others. This was Maria’s method, and it became mine as well. I watched, and then I used photographs, prose, and even poetry to convey the wonder of what I’d seen. In the process, I developed a passion for insects that changed my understanding of the natural world.

It’s my hope that a book like The Girl Who Drew Butterflies will inspire other young naturalists to find interesting things to watch—and to record their discoveries in any way they choose. If we can instill a passion for first-hand observation (and subsequent story-telling) in our students and readers, we will have fostered a generation that both sees and treasures the natural world.

Joyce Sidman, children's book author of Newbery Honor books
Portraits of Joyce Sideman on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017, in Wayzata, Minn. (HMH/Andy Clayton-King)

Joyce Sidman’s books have won a Newbery Honor (Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night) and two Caldecott Honors, and in2013, she received the NCTE Award for Excellence in Children’s Poetry for her body of work. Her latest book, The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science, recently received the Robert F. Sibert Medal from the American Library Association. Joyce also teaches poetry in elementary schools through the COMPAS organization of St. Paul, MN.

Linking Literacy - a session on using children's literature in the science classroom at the 2020 NSTA Convention.

GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, Boston, MA. 9 am – 3 pm, April 4, 2020.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 14 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 7 – April 2, 2020.

See the full author list and the date on which they’ll post at Linking Literacy 2020

Unleash the Secret Power of Science Writing in Your Classroom

Note: Cheryl Bardoe and Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano will present a session at NSTA with the above title. Join us for strategies and classroom activities to help your students write about science in ways that engage them and their readers.  

Cheryl Bardoe: Finding the “Hook” in Science Writing

I love research. I love asking questions and ferreting out the answers. The challenge then is to sift through the myriad of factoids to craft compelling stories. As I wrap up the research phase, I take a step back and ask:

  • What is the most exciting thing I’ve learned?
  • What has been the biggest surprise to discover?
  • Why is this topic important?

Journaling helps me process and prioritize information—and by the time I’m done, I know where I’m going to start each story. In writing about 18th-century mathematician Sophie Germain, I was impressed how her determination led to a breakthrough on what was considered to be an impossible puzzle. Hence the title and text refrain, Nothing Stopped Sophie. With Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle, I was inspired by the pivotal role these insects play in ecosystems. Thus the text, “One animal’s waste is the dung beetle’s treasure.” The story line turns the tables so that readers can view things that are often considered ugly—beetles and dung—as beautiful.

Nothing Stopped Sophie cover

            Teachers can use this approach to help students write about animal life cycles, volcanoes, gravity, and any STEM topic. After students gather their information, invite them to free write around these questions. This process of synthesizing and prioritizing information helps students understand their research topics at a deeper level. It’s also an opportunity to express big ideas from their research in their own words, taking an important step away from the words of others that they may have transcribed when taking notes. Then when students start writing, they can look in their journals for an idea to hook readers at the beginning their reports/essays/nonfiction stories. The rest of their information can flow from there. Helping readers connect to the material is the key to making science writing compelling!

Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano: Focusing Images to Convey Ideas

Big Bang cover

Another secret to creating powerful nonfiction is found in the images that often accompany text. These include photographs, illustrations, and imagery found in metaphors, similes, and analogies. Work on my first national book, Big Bang: The Tongue-Tickling Tale of a Speck That Became Spectacular–expanded my own abilities.

Here’s a passage from the book. Michael Carroll’s illustration follows.

“Picture a balloon with dots all over it. The balloon is like empty space. The dots are like galaxies. The dots start out close together. However, as you blow up the balloon, the dots get farther away from each other, just like the galaxies in the expanding universe.”

Initially, this illustration concerned me. The image depicts the passage of time.  Here, the galaxies stay exactly the same. Yet in reality, they change. Would this image create a misconception? It might… but Mike, a talented, experienced artist illustrator, had a more immediate concern. I’ve kept his insight in mind in all of my projects since.

Generally, an effective (nonfiction) illustration focuses on one key idea aligned to the text. Given the context, did it make sense to introduce galactic evolution in this picture? (Nnnnooo.)

While sometimes it is appropriate to tweak details for accuracy, all writers—authors, teachers, and students—are wise to consider illustrations as simplifications aimed at increasing our audiences’ ability to grasp main ideas. Because of this, choosing images is a lot like selecting metaphors and analogies. Any one image or analogy can’t represent all aspects of the phenomenon it illustrates. Effective writers and readers are aware of these limits, and choose carefully within these limits. As we see with Cheryl’s storytelling thoughts above, we see that effective communication involves careful, yet subjective, selection of which details to emphasize.

In the Classroom

You can bring this lesson to life with this classroom activity, which involves any thoughtfully chosen images from nonfiction text, first shown out of context. In the activity, you use three simple questions adapted from Harvard University’s Project Zero resources to guide students to consider the details of an image, their initial interpretations of the image, and questions about it. Next, you lead students to examine the text that the image was intended to accompany. They can consider the content of both the image and the words and compare their initial responses to what the image’s intended meaning. As critical thinkers, they are empowered to consider whether they think their own interpretations are enhanced by this pairing of text and image, and the extent to which they think illustration and/or text might are effective.

By beginning with strong visuals and putting students’  meaning-making front and center of the literacy experience, this lesson promises to engage students who may be intimidated by or otherwise disengaged from the text; give them a new way of approaching and strengthening their own reading, writing, and, more generally, thinking. 

STEM authors and educators Cheryl Bardoe and Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano, M.Ed., first collaborated over a decade ago on a project funded by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Pixels and Panoramas, which helped teachers and students investigate how examining the relationship between parts and wholes could deepen student understanding of science and art.

Cheryl Bardoe, children's book author

Cheryl Bardoe writes literary nonfiction that synthesizes science, math, history, and culture for young readers. Her award-wining books include Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakeable Mathematician Sophie Germain; China: A History; Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age; Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle; and Gregor Mendel: The Friar Who Grew Peas. Her books have been recognized by the NSTA, NCTM, NCTE, ALA, and Bank Street College, among others. As a teacher of writing, Cheryl encourages writers of all ages to have fun and be confident in their own unique voices.

Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano, children's book author

Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano Known for clear metaphors and their lively voice, Carolyn’s books for curious kids include the IRA (now ILA) Notable Big Bang! The Tongue-Tickling Tale of a Speck That Became Spectacular, the widely acclaimed A Black Hole is NOT a HoleNational Geographic Kids’ Ultimate Space Atlas, and contributions to HarperCollinsChildrens’ popular Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out-Science series and the Engineering is Elementary curriculum storybooks. Her work has been recognized by many literacy organizations, and has been translated into several languages. Also a STEM education consultant, Carolyn works nationally with schools to bring dynamic, clear, and inspirational professional learning to K-8 teachers and to research and develop leading STEM curricula. She began her career as a museum educator, first with a small nature center in Connecticut and later with the Museum of Science, Boston, where she led exhibit-based educational programming, worked in exhibit development, and served as the Professional Development Director of Engineering is Elementary. She has served as a researcher and developer for Harvard University’s Project Zero, TERC, Citizen Schools, WGBH Boston, and numerous other institutions. She now offers author programs and curriculum and professional development services through two organizations that she co-founded and co-runs: Blue Heron STEM Education and STEM Education Insights. She is also in training to become a mindful awareness facilitator for children and the broader community. Her diverse interests are tied together by her passion for helping ignite curiosity and overall well-being in children and the adults who serve them by fostering learner-centered, empowering experiences and environments. Contact her for information about her author visits and educational consulting at

Linking Literacy at the NSTA Convention in Boston, MA, April 4, 2020.

GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, Boston, MA. 9 am – 3 pm, April 4, 2020.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 14 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 7 – April 2, 2020.

See the full author list and the date on which they’ll post at Linking Literacy 2020

Linking Literacy with boy holding book.

Kids I meet when I speak at schools love to ask me, “What is your favorite children’s book?”

Since the age of 9, my favorite children’s book has been Charlotte’s Web. You won’t find this beloved story of friendship and the power of words in the categories of science or engineering, but maybe it belongs there as well. E. B. White was meticulous about factual, scientific details of spiders in Charlotte’s Web, and used these details to help spin his fictional, emotional story. The webs Charlotte weaves in the book are marvels of science and engineering—today, real spider webs inspire and inform biologists, nanotechnologists, chemical engineers, biomedical researchers and STEM pioneers in many other fields.

I have to admit I didn’t notice the science in Charlotte’s Web as a child. I was an insatiable fiction reader, and no one I knew was a scientist. For me, the book was a journey of imagination to a place much bigger than my own small world. Now as an author of STEM books, I try to create journeys of imagination for children to places where they can explore big ideas in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Weaving STEM and literacy takes many forms; my favorite form for bringing STEM work to life is picture books, especially using photographs of and by scientists. Children reading or looking at my book Scientists Get Dressed get to “meet” real scientists at work in places children cannot actually go, like floating out in space, clambering over a live volcano, and more. And through the book’s unique lens of what scientists wear, children—who love to dress up—can even imagine themselves as scientists and engineers making discoveries, saving lives and saving the planet.

Jane Veltkamp, biologist/educator who cared for Beauty
Raptor biologist Janie Veltkamp protected by puncture-proof, kevlar-lined gloves while handling Beauty the bald eagle (Photo: Glen Hush, (c) Jane Veltkamp)

Scientists Get Dressed was inspired by real scientists and science educators I have known and worked with closely. After coauthoring the book Beauty and the Beak: How Science, Technology, and a 3D-Printed Beak Rescued a Bald Eagle with raptor biologist/educator Janie Veltkamp, I found myself thinking not just about the STEM content of Janie’s real life work, but about the clothing she must wear to do it. To protect herself from the powerful, ripping beaks and talons of wild birds of prey, Janie wears arm-length, puncture-proof gloves lined with Kevlar which is stronger and lighter than steel. Meanwhile my friend Dr. Marian Diamond, world renowned brain scientist and STEM education pioneer, wore a crisp, white coat for her life’s work in the laboratory, and tight lab gloves to handle human brains in the lab and classrooms.

The immediate spark for the book came when my 9-year-old grandniece showed me a photo of her water chemist mother, Dr. Lucy Rose, wearing chest waders in an icy stream. I knew her mother did research on freshwater pollution, but I suddenly realized I had NO idea how her mother did her work, or what she wore to do it. “That’s what Mommy does?” I asked in astonishment. Then began my own research to bring to life, in a book, how scientists do their work whether they’re collecting freezing snow samples on a glacier or burning lava samples on a volcano, being hoisted by a harness from a wheelchair to the high forest canopy, or snorkeling with massive, endangered whale sharks.

Cover of Scientists Get Dressed
Astronaut Mae Jemison getting dressed for spaceflight with help from spacesuit safety expert Sharon McDougle (Photo: NASA)

Christine Royce, author of the “Teaching Through Trade Books” column in NSTA’s Science and Children journal, has recognized that “While the scientists in the book include pioneers in their fields and environmental heroes, Scientists Get Dressed captures the important fact that scientists work everywhere, and are everyday people children might encounter.” One of those everyday people is Sharon McDougle, former spacesuit safety expert for NASA’s Space Shuttle, who appears on the book’s cover helping astronaut Mae Jemison prep for her historic space mission.

Author Deborah Lee Rose
Water chemist Dr. Lucy Rose wearing waterproof chest waders and gloves to test for pollution in an icy stream (Photo: Ethan Pawlowski, (c) Lucy Rose)

In an interview titled “Suiting Up for Space and STEM,” on the National Girls Collaborative Project blog for National Mentoring Month (January), McDougle looks back on her own experience and ahead at the future of STEM work. “Space exploration is not just about astronauts. There are all kinds of space-related jobs that kids can imagine themselves doing, and end up actually doing when they’re grown up,” she says. “As space exploration technology continues to develop, new STEM jobs are being created all the time. So a child today might someday work in a job that doesn’t exist yet!”

McDougle exemplifies how Scientists Get Dressed connects to the NGSS standard Science is a Human Endeavor. Read my full interview with her at You can also find more resources connected with the book, including the hands-on Scientists’ Glove Challenge STEM Activity in the free educational guide to Scientists Get Dressed at

Deborah Lee Rose, author
Deborah Lee Rose, author

Deborah Lee Rose is an internationally published children’s author and national STEM book award winner, including the AAAS/Subaru Prize and the Bank Street College Cook Prize for Beauty and the Beak, and the DeBary Award for Scientists Get Dressed. Her newest STEM/literacy book Astronauts Zoom! will be published in fall 2020, for the 20th anniversary of astronauts living on the International Space Station. Deborah was also senior science writer for UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science, where she worked with science educators, scientists and engineers to create groundbreaking STEM education projects like the national, NSF-funded STEM activity website Her website is  

GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, Boston, MA. 9 am – 3 pm, April 4, 2020.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 14 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 7 – April 2, 2020.

See the full author list and the date on which they’ll post at Linking Literacy 2020

Linking Literacy at 2020 NSTA Convention

Guest Posts by Science Authors

Here’s the schedule of guest posts by these amazing authors of award winning children’s books!

January 7Deborah Lee RoseScientists Get Dressed
January 14Cheryl Bardoe and Carolyn DeCristofanoNothing Stopped Sophie and A Black Hole is Not a Hole
January 21Joyce SIdmanThe GIrl Who Drew Butterflies
January28Jodi Wheeler-ToppenCat Science Unleashed
February 4Anita SanchezRotten
February 11Ruth SpiroMade by Maxine
February 18Tracy Nelson MaurerSamuel Morse, That’s Who!
February 25Laurie WallmarkNumbers in Motion
March 3Shana KellerFly, Firefly
March 10Jennifer SwansonSave the Crash-test Dummies
March 17Melissa Stewart
March 24Alexandra SiyTBD
March 31Mary Kay CarsonWildlife Ranger Action Guide
April 2Darcy PattisonPOLLEN: Darwin’s 130-Year Prediction
POLLEN: Darwin's 130-Year Prediction | Mims House. A scientific mystery about Darwin's orchid.
POLLEN: Darwin’s 130-Year Prediction: 2020 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book | Mims House

The National Science Teacher’s Association announced the list of 2020 Outstanding Science Trade Books on December 3, 2019. Among the books is our title, POLLEN: DARWIN’S 130-YEAR PREDICTION.

national science teachers assocation outstanding trade book seal
Four of Mims House books have been named Outstanding Science Trade Books.

We are thrilled!

This is the fourth NSTA – OSTB for Mims House

POLLEN – Searching for the Pollinator of Darwin’s Orchid

POLLEN: Darwin’s 130-Year Prediction tells the story of Darwin’s orchid, a Madagascar orchid and how it is pollinated.

Darwin received a box of orchids on January 25, 1862. Among them was a Madagascar star orchid with an 11 inch long (about 28 cm) nectary, the place where the nectar gathers. How, Darwin wondered, could this orchid be pollinated?

After experimenting, he predicted that a giant moth would be the orchid’s pollinator. Darwin died without ever seeing the moth. In fact, it took 130 years before anyone could travel to Madagascar and photograph the orchid in the wild.

In 1992, German entomologist, Lutz Thilo Wasserthal, Ph.D decided to try to photograph the elusive moth at the orchid. By 1992, however, the rain forest in Madagascar had been over-harvested and finding the orchid was difficult.

Read the book for the whole story!

Other Awards for POLLEN

  • Starred Kirkus review
  • Eureka! Nonfiction Honor book from California Reading Association
  • 2020 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book
  • Junior Library Guild selection

You can now buy paperback and hardcover books right from this site! Thanks for your support!

Buy Print Book

I read my first fantasy and science fiction books in sixth grade–and was hooked for life. Lord of the Rings and Frank Herbert’s Dune have been with me since I was eleven years old. I’ve read and re-read them. Perhaps that’s why I love writing scifi and fantasy for middle graders.

The Blue Planets World series

covers of THE BLUE PLANETS WORLD SERIES by Darcy Pattison |
The Blue Planets World series. Perfect gift for the 8-14 year olds in your life.

Kirkus Reviews says, “…an astute piece of characterization…junior high readers should approve.”

The planet Rison will implode soon. They desperately need a new blue planet, a water planet. But Earth is crowded. Will humans be able to open their hearts to an alien race?

Allegorical, it examines the conflicts that inevitable arise when refugees seeks a new home. But it brings it down to a specific family: Jake Rose is the test-tube child of a human Navy doctor and the Risonian ambassador to Earth. He is caught between cultures, between the conflicting needs of both races, and desperately searches for his own place on Earth.

His parents send him to stay with his human grandparents on Bainbridge Island, just off Seattle’s downtown. There, he discovers a Risonian installation. They’ve had sleeper cells on Earth for twenty years.

20% Off the Hardcover Series

covers of THE BLUE PLANETS WORLD SERIES by Darcy Pattison |
The bundle includes all three hardcover books.

Read an excerpt

Here’s the opening of SLEEPERS:

The Great White

The Great White shark moved silently through the surf, propelled by short sweeps of its crescent tail. It had no conscious thought for what it was doing so close to shore. It just hunted. The water shone brilliantly under the Milky Way, and its myriads of stars reflected on the face of the gentle ocean swells.

A lone figure emerged from a dark beach house, trotted down the weathered boards across the dunes to the beach, scuffed through the soft sand and slowed to walk straight to the water’s edge.

Wet sand under his feet now, Jake Rose threw a darting glare over his shoulders, and then turned to stare out to sea. He took a deep breath, letting the salty air fill his lungs, and suddenly the longing was overwhelming. I will go skinny dipping tonight.

Defiant, Jake removed his shirt, flip-flops, and swim trunks, tossing them beside a piece of driftwood. He splashed into the warm August surf until he was immersed chest-deep, and he scooped water to splash over his shoulders, his face, and his hair.

A hundred yards off shore, the shark heard the splash and stirred, moving toward the disturbance, an arrow spiraling towards a bull’s-eye. The shark closed in, his dorsal fin cutting through the water less than a dozen feet to the teen’s side.

At the sight, a shiver of fear ran down Jake’s spine, but he was committed. Without stopping to think further, he bent his knees and dove, arms outstretched, splitting the glittering breaker.

Underwater, Jake’s eyes adjusted to the dark. There it was, circling. The shark’s row of teeth flickered, stark white in the gloom. Its circle collapsed inward until the shark darted past, just a few feet away from Jake’s face.

Time to move, Jake realized.

Quickly, Jake inhaled, the gills under his arms undulating as they expanded and contracted with each breath. Water-breathing through his Risonian gills felt as natural and regular as breathing air through his human lungs. When he pressed his legs together, the villi wove together with what his father jokingly called a Velcro system that turned his legs into a long tail.

Jake swept his tail in a powerful thrust that sent him speeding away from the shark. But as he did, he felt a strange vibration in the water. Confused, he stopped and looked back at the Great White, who now held stationary just staring at Jake.

Perplexed, Jake waited for a repeat of the vibration. Nothing.

Had the vibration been an attempt at communication? he wondered. If he were home on Rison, there’d be no doubt. But here? On Earth? Clumsily, Jake flapped his hands, sending his own vibrations through the water.

With its short fins, the Great White beat out a series of vibrations in answer.

Jake attempted a rough translation: “Friend. We swim.”

He repeated the exact vibrations back to the shark, and immediately the shark repeated the phrase: “Friend. We swim.”

Crude, but effective, exulted Jake.  They understood each other—after a fashion.

“Cousin,” Jake called in a bubbly voice. “Before us is the open sea. Take me out to explore!”

The Great White didn’t understand the words, of course. Nevertheless, he swam toward deeper water, pausing now and then, as if to be sure that Jake followed.

Jake reveled in the too-long-forbidden feel of warm seawater buoying him upward and the joy of a strong tail that sent him coursing behind the Great White. With wild abandon, Jake followed his guide. They were just two wild creatures off to explore the Gulf of Mexico.

covers of THE BLUE PLANETS WORLD SERIES by Darcy Pattison |

On this Saturday, small businesses band together to make a splash! Mims House, as a publisher and online bookstore, is participating for the first time this year.

Read & Write Series – 20% off


  •  “. . .breezy and engaging introduction to genre writing.”
  • “The model essay can be used across multiple genres (informational and narrative nonfiction in addition to opinion).”
  • “. . .useful for teachers showing early elementary students the relevancy, power, and importance of effective writing.” –Booklist 6/17/15
  • VERDICT: A good choice to help the visual learners write narrative essays. School Library Journal, November, 2015
  • “. . .fill(s) a niche for teachers. . .”  – School Library Journal 5/1/15

When cousins Dennis and Mellie decide to get pets, they must make hard decisions about the best cat or dog for their families. They use nine criteria to help decide among the breeds. Books 1 and 2 of THE READ AND WRITE SERIES documents the struggle in opinion essays that act as mentor texts for students writing their own opinion essays.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. In Book 3, Dennis must take his dog to the vet—if he can catch him. The adventure of getting a pet, owning a pet and caring for a pet is the backdrop for a series of fun writing lessons focused on opinion, narrative and informative essays. While the series models the entire writing process, it fills an instructional gap by concentrating on prewriting or planning before writing. In the end, though, it’s the cousins and their pets that will keep readers turning the pages.

Book 4 picks up the story when Dennis and Mellie go to Grandma’s birthday party and have to write informative essays. There’s a how-to essay mentor text for first graders and a longer informative essay for the older grades.

20% Off Retail Price – Buy Today for 20% OFF

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Narrative, Informative & Opinion Essays Printables |
4-book hardcover series on writing essays with kids. Be sure to download the printables.

Download the Free Printables – It’s a Lesson!

Read And Write Series -Complete Handouts |
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When an alien family is shipwrecked on Earth, their son must figure out how to survive 3rd grade! It’s especially hard because the school principal is head of the Alien Chaser’s Society. She’s convinced that one of her 3rd graders is an alien–if she can just figure out which one.

This chapter book series is perfect for the 7-10 year old crowd who are learning to read longer books. With a reading level of 3.0, it’s a high interest story with lots of humor.

Get the 4-Book Hardcover Set at 20% Discount

Here’s the basic question: how will aliens manage to live on Earth? They need a way to earn a living so they can buy food, housing and make a home on this crazy planet. But what can aliens do that anyone would pay them for?

Publisher’s Weekly says book “amusing” and “engaging and accessible.”

School Library Journal Review says, “VERDICT This fun chapter book series is out of this world.”


Shipwrecked. Befriended. Hunted.


Kell discovers that his neighbor, Bree Hendricks, turns 9-years-old next month and she wants a party with an alien theme. That should be simple as flying from star to star. But things aren’t that easy: Earthling’s ideas about aliens are totally wrong.


Even worse, Principal Lynx is a UFO-Chaser and suspects aliens around every corner.

Will the Aliens totally blow the Aliens Party? Will Principal Lynx capture Kell and his family and them over to the government?


Fun and Humor: Super Heroes, Super Heroines, and a Parade!

For Kell, the Friends of Police Parade is a big deal, his first Earthling parade. With Bree’s help, he must figure out how to deal with City Hall, figure out fund-raising and find super heroes and super heroines to march in the parade. To make things worse, Principal Lynx believes someone in third grade in an alien, and she has a new Alien Catcher App on her smart phone. Survival on planet Earth just got harder for the Smiths, those friendly aliens from Bix. Will the Society of Alien Chasers catch Kell and his family? Or will they outsmart Mrs. Lynx again.

Secrets, Giants and Alien-Chasing Dogs.


If you’re an alien on Earth, you have one giant secret to keep. After a while, even friends want to tell your secret. Kell and Bree plan a birthday party with giants—Big Foot, Cyclops, Goliath and the Jolly Green Giant—while they struggle with keeping their own giant secret. But they have an even bigger problem: Principal Lynx and the Society of Alien Chasers is back with a dog trained to sniff out an alien in a crowd. When Mom is stung by a bee, Kell must find a doctor who can keep a giant secret, too. Will Aliens, Inc. be able to pull off the Giant Party and keep everyone happy?

Kell and the Detectives (Book 4)

Fingerprints, Detectives, and a Baby Brother

Kell makes a startling discovery: he has zigzag fingerprints. Worse, Mrs. Lynx and the Society of Alien Chasers know about the fingerprints, and they are on the hunt. But the stakes are higher than ever because Kell’s mom has just laid a beautiful green egg. With Mrs. Lynx on the prowl, can Kell and Bree keep the egg safe?

The 4-book hardcover set is priced at 20% discount! Give a gift of reading!

The popular Moments in Science series will add a new title next year. This is an exciting cover reveal for EROSION: How Hugh Bennett Saved America’s Soil and Ended the Dust Bowl.

Erosion cover reveal |
Coming in 2020, EROSION.
The latest book in the MOMENTS IN SCIENCE collection.

The Moments in Science collection is about a moment in time when something changed in science. It’s about a big discovery, a big event, or some moment when the history of science was impacted. Often, the story is a small biographical slice of a scientist’s life and times. The EROSION cover, like all the books in this collection, are illustrated by Peter Willis of the UK.

Available books in the Moments in Science collection

CLICK ON THE LINKS BELOW – Take 25% off any Moments in Science Collection ebook. Use this code at checkout: MOMENTS25

The Eureka Nonfiction Children’s Book Award has recognized POLLEN: Darwin’s 130-Year Prediction with a Silver Honor. Given by the California Reading Association, this award recognizes the best of children’s nonfiction for the past year.

Pollen: Darwin's 130 Year Prediction received a 2019 Eureka Silver Award |
2019 Eureka Nonfiction Children’s Book Award – Silver

POLLEN is a 2019 Junior Library Guild selection and received a starred Kirkus review. Darwin predicted that a Madagascar orchid would be pollinated by a huge moth. 130 years later, German scientist Lutz Thilo Wasserthal traveled to Madagascar and finally photographed the moth pollinating the orchid.

X.morganii pollinating the Madagascar orchid | Photo by Lutz Thilo Wasserthal
X.morganii pollinating the Madagascar orchid | Photo by Lutz Thilo Wasserthal

This incredible photograph shows the moth before the Madagascar orchid pollinating it. The moth’s 11′ long proboscis is clearly visible. It’s inserted into the flower and will push down to the bottom of the nectary to suck up the nectar.

This book is part of the Moments in Science series, which includes Burn: Michael Faraday’s Candle, Clang: Ernst Chladni’s Sound Experiments, and Eclipse: How the 1919 Solar Eclipse Proved Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.

Hope. As a novelist, I’ve written about two children looking for a forever home, and I’m aware that I’m in a time-honored tradition of giving kids hope.

Take for example, Katherine Paterson’s description of foster children as “Kleenex children.” You use them up and throw them away, she said. Her stories about these trouble children, including The Great Gilly Hopkins, which inspires me in several ways.

Give Kleenex Children a Voice

One thing Paterson did with her stories is illuminate a character who has charm, gumption, and the need to be seen and heard. When families are disrupted by any means, it’s the kids that suffer. Divorce, death, abandonment, drug use, alcoholism–these can put children into unpleasant or even dangerous situations. In those cases, finding themselves within the pages of a book can be therapeutic and escapism in a good way.

And yet, the novel shouldn’t look down on the kids and judge them. Paterson manages to present credible kids who are respected for their ability to force action from those around them.

When I created my own characters–Eliot Winston and Alli Flynn–I worked to give them personality, humor, and the willingness to work hard for their hopes of a family. The stories are poignant, but realistic.

End on a Note of Hope

Paterson has said that she doesn’t try to sugar-coat a situation. She faces it head-on. But literature should rise above the situation, which means she always ends with a note of hope. It’s not that the situations are easy to bear. But in the midst of difficulty, there appears to be a way forward.

I appreciated the example of realism in THE GREAT GILLY HOPKINS. But I also find it compelling to add in a note of hope. It’s not the fairy-tale, “and they lived happily ever after.” Problems aren’t ignored. But there’s HOPE, real hope that something will change. I reach for deep emotional moments where the reader connects with the characters and their hearts swell with hope that all will be well for Eliot and Alli.

Longing for Normal Cover | A Story of Hope.
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Essays printables are available to make your life easy! Every school child and teacher must deal with the written word. Fortunately, we’ve got some books to help you teach writing to elementary students.

Read and Write Series – Essays Made Easy

Covers of the Read and Write series by Darcy Pattison |
Printable worksheets are available to turn these books into a lesson.

Narrative, opinion and informative essays are covered in these simple, fun books about cousins Dennis and Mellie.

Book 1: I Want a Dog. Opinion essays are among the hardest writing assignments to teach. In this story, Dennis and Mellie discuss the best dog for each family. What’s important is the criteria each develops based on their individual family situations.

After deciding on criteria, it’s easy to sort through the dog breeds to find the right dog for them. The book refers to’s interactive Dog Breed Selector tool as a simple way to narrow down choices.

In the companion book, Book 2: I Want a Cat, the cousins discuss the best cat for each family. has a comparable Cat Breed Selector tool.

Together the I Want a Cat and I Want a Dog books satisfy the Common Core requirement of comparing similar texts.

Book 3: My Crazy Dog takes up the problem of narrative essays. Good essays include sensory details: what you see, hear, taste, touch (temperature & texture), and smell. In the mentor text essay, these details are color coded to help kids notice when they are used.

Book 4: My Dirty Dog provides two different informative essays as a mentor text. The first is a “how-to” give a dog a bath, to meet the early elementary requirement of writing a “how-to” essay. The second is a more traditional informative essay for the older elementary grades.

Essay Printables – Lesson Plans

Printables for Read and Write Series | Mims House
Printables for opinion, narrative, and informative essays.

To make it easy to use these books in the classroom, we provide essay printables. These are step-by-step lesson plans for kids to use as they write their own essays. The mentor texts are fun and engaging. The 22-page printables make it simple.

General relativity is Einstein’s famous theory about how gravity curves or bends light (with lots of other implications for physics and astrophysics!). He had presented ideas about special relativity (E = MC2) in 1905 , but wanted to extend that to include how gravity affected celestial bodies. In November 1915, he presented his general relativity to the Prussian Academy of Science.

The problem, of course, was World War I (1914-1918). The scientific community, though, worked around the war and Einstein’s papers eventually wound up in the hands of Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, head of the Cambridge Observatory in England. Eddington would be one of Einstein’s greatest supporters and explainers of his complex theory.

To tell the story of Einstein, Eddington and the 1919 solar eclipse, I wrote ECLIPSE: How the 1919 Solar Eclipse Proved Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. It launches on October 8 and is now available for preorder.

historical photo of Albert Einstein and Stanley Eddington.
7EN-S1-C0010943 (929331) E: (1879-1955), at left, was famous for his theories of relativity. British astrophysicist Sir Arthur Eddington (1882-1944), at right, pioneer Einstein and Eddington. German-born physicist Albert Einstein (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.

Push and Pull: Explaining General Relativity to Kids

How do you explain general relativity to kids? I studied the NextGen Science Standards for inspiration and was thrilled to discover that even kindergartners study PUSH and PULL.

K-PS2-1 Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions: Plan and conduct an investigation to compare the effects of different strengths or different directions of pushes and pulls on the motion of an object.

I realized that in Einstein’s theory PUSH would equal acceleration and PULL would equal gravity. By using the simple terms of PUSH and PULL, the theory became within reach for a children’s picture book.

Interior page of ECLIPSE by Darcy Pattison
British illustrator Peter Willis adds humor and appeal for kids.

The story follows Stanley Eddington to Africa into the path of totality for the 1919 solar eclipse. They carried a large telescope with them in hopes of photographing the eclipse. Before leaving England, they took NON-ECLIPSE photos of the Hyades star cluster. In Africa, they took DURING ECLIPSE photos to compare. If the Hyades star cluster appeared to move, it would be proof that the star light had bent around the sun.

It was a tricky and expensive expedition. The Principe Islands were known as the Chocolate Islands because they grew and exported cacao for major chocolate manufacturers such as Cadbury. Other than commercial exports, though, there was very little traffic to the island. Once there, the tropical climate made development of the film difficult. And there was the weather.

The eclipse would occur about 1:30 pm on May 29. The morning started with storms, so cloudy that no one could see the sky. About noon, it started to clear, but slowly. Finally, just as the eclipse started, the clouds parted.

Fortunately, a second team of astronomers had gone to Brazil, the other location that would experience a total eclipse. They, too, had problems. Their main telescope warped in the heat and moisture, making all images blurry. They used a back-up 4″ telescope to take the picture, the best pictures of either expedition.

Photos Proved General Relativity

Then, the hard work began. After the photographs were safely returned to the observatory in England, the measurements and calculations began. And it was complicated! The math had to account for Earth’s atmosphere, the gravity of Earth and the sun, temperature variations and more. But finally…

On November 6, 1919, Stanley and the other astronomers presented their results. The starlight had appeared to move. That meant the sun’s gravity had bent the starlight–which proved Einstein’s theory. The 1919 solar eclipse had changed the world forever.

See: First televised solar eclipse:

book cover of Eclipse: How the 1919 Solar Eclipse Proved Einstein's Theory of General Relativity
PreOrder now! Available October 8, 2019.

Watch the Eclipse in the FlipMe Feature

If you can’t see this video, CLICK HERE.

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

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