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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
PRAISE FOR THE SERIES
“. . .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
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.
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.”
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.
MEET THE PRESIDENT OF THE
SOCIETY OF ALIEN CHASERS (SAC)
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?
KELL AND THE HORSE APPLE PARADE (Book 2)
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.
KELL AND THE GIANTS (Book 3)
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
In the companion book, Book 2: I Want a Cat, the cousins discuss the best cat for each family. AnimalPlanet.com 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
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.
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.
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.
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. ConservationCorridors.org 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.
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. ConservationCorridor.org 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!
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.
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
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?
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.”
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!
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.
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.
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.
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. . . .”
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.
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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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