Books, Nature, Science/Math

Perfect Picture Book Friday: What to Expect When You’re Expecting Hatchlings

It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday, my favorite day of the week! This week, I picked a book I have been studying closely for voice and structure. I’m revising a tongue-in-cheek nonfiction manuscript, and Heos’s work provides inspiration, especially when I’m trying to get into the voice.


AUTHOR: Bridge Heos

ILLUSTRATOR: Stephane Jorisch

PUBLICATION INFO: Lerner’s Millbrook Press, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7613-5860-2

SOURCE: Library


GENRE: faction (nonfiction/fiction blend)


“Congratulations, crocodilian parents-to-be! You have little ones on the way. You must be thrilled! You’re probably a little nervous too.”

From the publisher’s Website:

“Read this book to find out where to lay your eggs, how you’ll know when the babies are ready to hatch, and what you and your babies will do all day long. Whether you’re an alligator, caiman, crocodile, or even a funny-looking gharial, you’ll find answers to all your parenting questions here. But there’s one condition: don’t eat the book!”

THEMES/TOPICS: crocodilians, reptiles, animals, nature, science

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Heos makes informational books fun for kids AND parents. As a parent who devoured What to Expect When You’re Expecting, this animal spoof is irresistible.


The book features many resources in the backmatter. Here are a few others:

Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.

Books, Nature, Uncategorized

Review: Can You Find These Butterflies?

Author: Carmen Bredeson
Illustrator: Lindsey Cousins
Publication Info: Enslow Elementary, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7660-3980-3
Source: publisher-provided complimentary copy
Intended audience: PreK through first grade
Genre: nonfiction, picture book (24 pages)
Themes/topics: butterflies, nature
Opening and synopsis: “A butterfly starts out as an egg. A tiny caterpillar hatches from the egg. It eats and grows.” Using simple language, Bredeson describes how a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly. Then she challenges young readers to learn about nine different types of butterflies and spot them in nature.
Why I like this book: This book invites children to become butterfly experts. Rather than just feeding them facts about butterflies, it encourages them to explore their own backyards, parks and open spaces and see if they can tell a Monarch from a Viceroy. Stunning time-lapse photography shows a caterpillar forming a chrysalis and emerging as a butterfly. Additional, close up photographs show primary features of each butterfly. Simple language geared towards first-grade readers make this a wonderful book for progressing readers.
Resources/activities: Raising butterflies is always a favorite for small children. You can order caterpillars through Insect Lore. Also, if you are on the migration path for monarch butterflies, you can record your sightings online.
Nature, Science/Math

Presenting…the penguins

Photo by Finley

When most people think of penguins, they think of Antarctica: ice, cold and frigid snow. But, more than half of all penguin species live in more temperate climates, including the Megellanic penguins, which are the focus of a recently opened exhibit at the Aquarium of the Pacific.

Our family is no stranger to these South American penguins. Last fall, Nils spent some time in Chile where he visited a penguin rookery, and emailed us some pictures of the penguins and their nesting grounds. Megellanic penguins are far smaller than the Emperor penguins most of us are familiar with. The South-American birds are about the size of a baby when full grown, measuring at most 2 1/2 feet tall and weighing up to 15 pounds. They feast on anchovies, krill, hake, cod, squid, but have reached “near threatened” status in recent years as fisheries compete for the same foods.

The penguins nest in the southern parts of Chile, Argentina and the Falkland Islands. They often are faithful to the same mate and may use the same nest each year, as long as the nest is still intact. The World Conservation Society noted one penguin pair that stayed together for 16 years, more than half their lifespan!

Each October the female lays two eggs four days apart, and both parents take turns incubating the eggs, a process that takes a little over a month. Megallanic penguins lay on top of their eggs, warming them with their tummies. The penguins spend two to four months rearing the chicks near the nesting grounds before molting. While they are molting — a process that takes almost three weeks — the penguins have to stay on land and can’t fish. Once the molt is complete the colony migrates north to Brazil, Uruguay and northern Argentina for the winter, which is May-August in South America. Then they return again to their nesting grounds in the south, arriving in early September.

Are you ready for a dose of uber-cuteness? Check out the Aquarium of the Pacific’s Penguin cam….here.

Nature, Outside, Science/Math

Ladybug, ladybug fly away home

Our lovely ladybugs are free at last. With morning temperatures above 55 degrees F, we released them near our aphid-infested rose bushes where they can find many critters to munch. We hope they’ll stay awhile so we can visit our “pets” from time to time. Cooper named one “Tickle” after it tickled his arms as it crawled towards his shoulder. My critique partner Julie provided this fabulous illustration of “Tickle.”

Tickle by Julie Rowan-Zoch

Today we’ll read Eric Carle’s “The Very Grouchy Ladybug” in honor of our ladybug friends. While perusing Eric Carle’s site, I found a wealth of activities related to the book, including phonemic awareness activities, time-telling projects, discussions about feelings and much more. Also, check out this pre-k class’s egg-carton ladybugs. If we really start to miss our friends, we might try this.

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Field Trip Ideas, Nature, Science/Math

Welcome to my LAIR

Geckoes and vipers and toads. Oh my! For children fascinated by frogs or stunned by snakes, the LA Zoo’s new LAIR (Living Amphibians Invertebrates and Reptiles) exhibit is a delight. The LAIR features more than 60 species, many endangered, in two buildings.

The LAIR is home to a gray’s monitor, a rare, fruit-loving lizard who lives in the Philippine forests. Also, the brightly colored Fiji Island Iguana makes its home in the LAIR. Zoologists aren’t sure how they evolved, but believe they may have originated with green iguanas who hitched a ride on debris and floated across the Pacific from South America.

Visitors also get a behind-the-scenes view of daily reptile care. Keepers prepare food, store eggs and care for young reptiles in a glassed-in room. And in the crocodile swamp, you can watch keepers feed the false gharials, a southeast Asian crocodile. (Sadly, they are feeding him our state bird — quail!)

If you love reptiles and amphibians, check out these wallpaper images from the LA Zoo’s site.

Books, Nature, Science/Math

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Under the Snow

Illustrator: Constance R. Bergum
Publication Info: Peachtree Publishers, 2009
Intended audience: Ages 4 through 8
Genre: nonfiction, picture book
Themes/topics: science, nature, animals, hibernation
Opening and synopsis: ”In the heart of winter, a deep layer of snow blankets fields and forests, ponds and wetlands. You spend your days sledding and skating and having snowball fights. But under the snow lies a hidden world.”
Children spend the winter playing on the snow and ice, but do they know the world lying underneath? A wood frog sleeps in scattered leaves, frozen until the warm spring thaws him. A chipmunk naps and wakes to snack, then sleeps again. Newts swim below the ice, zipping through the frigid water.
Why I like this book: Two years before Kate Messner’s much-lauded, Over and Under the Snow, award-winning nonfiction author Melissa Stewart produced this lyrical look at the winter wonderland under the snow. This book provides a strong example of how simple language and beautiful images can make nonfiction accessible to all ages.
Resources: Melissa Stewart includes a complete Teacher’s Guide on her site. You can access it… She also has three activities for the book: comparing animal sizes, create a picture story and snow math, which you can find … here. Finally, she includes a “readers theater” guide for students who want to stage a dramatic reading of the book. New York State’s Conservationist for Kids has a wonderful guide to hibernation. BrainPop has an interactive overview of hibernation. You’ll need to enroll in the free trial.
Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.
Nature, Science/Math, Writing

Loving Ladybug Larvae

We need a dog. Without a pet, our house has become home to a rotating assortment of bugs. First, we raised butterflies. Now, we live with ladybug larvae. I think our family is single-handedly keeping Insect Lore — the store for all things buggy — in business.

Because April is National Poetry Month, I drafted “found poem” about ladybug larvae straight from the Insect Lore directions that accompanied the kit. (For a found poem, take a text, any text. You can subtract words, but not add any. Never rearrange the order. Changing tense, plurals, capitalization and punctuation is ok….see this “how to”  post at 6 Teaching Authors.)

The Life of Ladybug Larvae

Eggs hatch.

Larvae search for food.

Shedding skin — molting,

Must store energy for change.

Don’t worry, in Ladybug Land, they have plenty of food.

So that’s it the life of larvae. Like the caterpillars before them, the larvae will eat and molt for a couple of weeks until they become pupae. And from those pupae shall emerge our caterpillars, we hope.


Perfect Picture Book Friday: Swirl by Swirl

Author: Joyce Sidman
Illustrator: Beth Krommes
Publication Info: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Children, 2011
Intended audience: Ages 4 and 8
Genre: nonfiction, picture book
Themes/topics: science, nature
Opening and synopsis: “A spiral is a snuggling shape. It fits neatly in small places. Coiled tight, warm and safe, it waits…”
Spirals snuggle, grow, protect, grasp, move, stretch and reach out to explore the world. In her lyrical book, Sidman shows how this shape appears repeatedly in nature, from calla lilies to shells and galaxies. Her notes in the back explain the strengths of the shapely spiral. Krommes’s bright wood engravings are a perfect complement to the text.
Why I like this book: Melissa Stewart recommended this book on her blog as an example of creative nonfiction that doesn’t necessarily have a narrative. This much-lauded book is a must-read for anyone aspiring to write children’s nonfiction. Sidman is a master of free verse, which makes this book appealing for young readers. And there’s much to learn about this mysterious and fascinating shape. Older readers will enjoy learning about Fibonacci spirals, DNA helix and spiderwebs in the back matter.
Resources: The fantastic blog, The Classroom Bookshelf, has a comprehensive list of activities and further resources for Swirl by Swirl. One of my favorite suggestions is to arm your child with a digital camera and seek out spirals in nature. Sidman’s Teachers page includes a Teacher’s Guide for the book, as well as a poetry kit for use in the classroom.
Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.
Books, Nature, Science/Math

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Vulture View

Author: April Pulley Sayre
Illustrator: Steve Jenkins
Publication Info: Henry Holt and Company, 2007
Intended audience: Preschool and up
Genre: nonfiction, picture book (32 pages)
Themes/topics: nature, animals, science, natural history
Opening and synopsis:
“The sun is rising.
Up, up.
It heats the air.
Up, up.
Wings stretch wide
to catch a ride
on warming air.
Going where?
Up, up!”
With her signature lyrical style, April Pulley Sayre tackles the seemingly ungraceful topic of turkey vultures. These animals eat what we wouldn’t dare — stinky, rotting meat. In “Get to Know Vultures” Sayre explains the turkey vulture’s important role in breaking down large, dead animals so mice, beetles, maggots and worms can do their jobs and return nutrients to the soil. She also notes areas that budding scientists might want to study when they grow up. For example, scientists know little about how the vultures communicate and what they do in the winter.
Resources/activities: Sayre includes many resources in “Get to Know Vultures,” however her rich Web site provides even more resources. For teachers, she provides appropriate curriculum standards….here. She also recommends the Turkey Vulture Society. You’ll find a turkey vulture dot-to-dot and crossword puzzle on the State of Ohio’s parks page….here.
Why I like this book: One of my favorite nonfiction PB authors, Melissa Stewart, originally recommended this book as an outstanding example of picture book nonfiction. Sayre’s strength is her lyricism, which makes turkey vultures interesting and attractive. And, of course, Sayre’s stellar writing is paired with illustrations by the legendary Steve Jenkins. The duo have created a not-to-be-missed reading experience.
Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.
Homeschool, Nature, Outside, Science/Math

Monarch Migration

First I send a big thank you to fellow blogger Mamadestroy for prompting this post and providing the source materials. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

Some of you have been following our adventures as we attempt to grow painted lady butterflies from caterpillars. Our little guys should be making a chrysalis any day now.

Now here’s your chance to get into the butterfly act and become scientists from the comfort of your armchairs without committing to raising caterpillars.

Scientist need your help tracking monarch migration. Each fall, monarchs migrate to Mexico (and some to Southern California) where they spend the winter. Come spring, the females return to the U.S. and lay their eggs on milkweed in the southern U.S. Once the caterpillars hatch into butterflies this new generation continues north for the summer.

Monarch migration is mysterious. The butterflies overwinter in the same forests year after year. Amazingly, these butterflies know where to fly even though no monarch makes the trip to Mexico more than one. Still, logging in Mexico has made monarch migration a “threatened phenomenon” since many of the trees where monarchs spend the winter have been destroyed.

You can help the monarchs. Record sightings of monarch butterflies, eggs and caterpillars, as well as milkweed (their food source)….here. This data helps scientists learn how climate change and other factors affect this butterfly beauty.

The site also has integrated maps of reported sightings…here. The Kids section provides a host of resources, including videos of caterpillars hatching from their eggs and butterflies bursting from their chrysalis. National Geographic Kids also has a wonderful overview of creature including video…here. If you are a teacher or homeschooling parent, these resources would be an excellent accompaniment to a spring unit or caterpillar study.

Have you seen a monarch in your neighborhood? Report it and help scientists learn more about this fascinating creature.