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New & Noteworthy News!


2nd graders that performed the Readers' Theater

Did you know that Children's Book Week began 98 years ago? Franklin Matthews, librarian of The Boy Scouts of America believed that children's books and literacy were life-changers. So he created a special week in November that would promote higher standards in children's books. In 1944 this special week was taken over by the Children's Book Council; they have been promoting it ever since.

I still remember up until 2004, when I retired as a children's librarian, we would celebrate this special event in November. Little did I know back then that I'd still be celebrating it every year as a published author. (In 2008 it was moved to May)

This year I had the great pleasure of reading my latest book, "Baby on Board, How Animals Carry Their Young." with 2nd graders at Orange City Elementary. I use the word "with" and not "to" because the principal, Charles Bynum, asked second grade teachers to chose 15 students to read the book "to" me and the ninety 2nd graders in the audience, performing a Readers' Theater. There was some great interaction as together we celebrated a love of reading.

P.S. For free downloadable activities that go with my new book see:
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Dr. Seuss wrote and illustrated books that make people think and imagine, and he did most of them in rhyme. Although his first book "And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street" was rejected by 27 different publishers before being accepted by Vangard Press in 1937, today, especially in March, schools all over America read one or more of his 44 published books, celebrating the amazing Theodor Geisel's birthday.

So many wonderful ideas and life lessons were written by Dr. Seuss in rhyme, which is not easy. You have to be careful not to make it forced. Also, the meter has to be right. I'll never be a "Dr. Seuss," but I too love to write in rhyme. Maybe because I enjoy music so much, I sometimes get a little too sing-songy. But having taught young children and reading lots of books aloud as a children's librarian, I know how much kids love to join in with rhythm and rhyme.

Books that rhyme help children hear and learn sounds; sometimes they even figure out what is coming next with predictable text. I'll never sell millions of books, like Dr. Seuss, but I hope that my rhymes help young children learn to READ! And because I love writing about nature and animals, I hope they, like me, feel a sense of wonder about the world we live in!

Hopefully parents, teachers and kids will enjoy my newest book, "Baby on Board, How Animals Carry Their Young" written in rhyme---and some prose-- beautifully illustrated by Cathy Morrison. Click onto the cover to link directly to Amazon.com, or look for it on the Dawn Publications website, www.dawnpub.com, along with many free downloadable activities.

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I have fond memories of winter snow days in upstate New York. And this time of year, no matter where you live, my picture book "Over in the Arctic, Where the Cold Winds Blow" so beautifully illustrated by Jill Dubin, always sells best. Click on the cover to check it out on Amazon.com.

After the first good snowfall, my students and I couldn't wait to be angels in the snow. We also made snowballs from freshly fallen snow and quickly brought them inside to put on sugar cones and top them with fruit juice.

As my students and I enjoyed our "snow cones" we talked about animals that live in icy habitats. (Little did I know back then that years later I'd be writing a book about these amazing creatures.)

We also did an experiment to find out how blubber keeps Arctic animals warm. Polar bears, for example, have a thick layer of fat under their skins which acts as insulation on their bodies to trap heat so they can swim in frigid waters and hunt for prey. Learn more about this fun experiment by downloading it at:


You will see a photo of my two young granddaughters eight years ago doing the "blubber experiment." So glad that this book, published in 2008, is still going strong. We need to do what we can to preserve the wonder of the Arctic and the animals that live there, especially the polar bears who are in serious danger of extinction due to global warming. Why not celebrate polar bears on International Polar Bear Day in February. To learn a bit more about them go to:


Happy Reading!
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I'm doing a happy dance as I begin this new year. I started work on a book that I wasn't planning on writing. Thought "Over in the Grasslands, on An African Savanna" would be my last published "Over" book." Released a few months ago, "Grasslands" recently got a wonderful review in School Library Journal that ends: "This versatile picture book is great for learning about the African grassland environment while practicing counting skills."

Speaking of counting skills, in all eight of my "Over" habitat books there is always something else besides the animals that kids can count. In "Grasslands"musical gourds that the African people make and use are beautifully illustrated by Jill Dubin. Much to my surprise, in the community where I now live is a very talented couple who have created all kinds of gourd art over the years. In November they displayed some of their amazing gourd creations as I introduced my latest book.

So what habitat haven't I written about yet? Look for "Over in a Desert, Somewhere in the World" in 2018. As for this new year, there will be a release in March, but not an "Over" book. It's called "Baby on Board, How Animals Carry Their Young." More about that next month!

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Going Around the Sun: Some Planetary Fun

Many years ago my Dad took me to the Hayden Planetarium in NYC. It was awe-inspiring aswe looked at the stars in the night sky in total darkness .
Little did I know back then, at age 8, I would write a book about planets that Neil de-Grasse Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium, would endorse.

"If the Sun were a poet, then "Going Around the Sun" captures just what it would say to its beloved family of planets."

Fast forward to 2006 when the International Astronmomical Union (IAU) downgraded the status of Pluto to "dwarf planet" and only the rocky world of the inner Solar System and the gas giants of the outer system were designated as planets. Shortly after this news, Glenn Hovemann, my editor at Dawn Publications, asked me to write a children's picture book about this change.

Being no scientist, how would I go about this? After a lot of research I decided on a rhymed tour of the solar system framed as a dialogue between Mother Sun and her satellites. Each verse introduced basic concepts about each planet. Illustrator Janeen Masson created big spattered swirling starscapes with melted crayons that added loads of visual appeal as we combined fact with fiction..

Almost 10 years later the book is still going strong and is being used in schools across the country. I love all the learning extensions educators, going beyond the book, have come up with.

Most recently I received an e-mail from one of my favorite media specialists who had asked her students to create something from pumpkins, using their favorite book. Can you imagine a pumpkin sprayed blue to look like our blue planet Earth? Well, take a look at the photo in the side bar. Isn't it "out of this world?"

Really made my day, as kids keep reaching for the stars!
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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to "Over in the Ocean, in a Coral Reef!"

My first "Over" book, about sea creatures in a coral reef, made its debut 16 years ago this month, and is still going strong--mainly because of Jeanette Canyon's eye popping illustrations in clay art. When I learned that the illustrations would be in clay art, it was difficult to imagine how this book would turn out, since my first three published books were illustrated in watercolor by Robert Noreika. (Thank goodness those books are still still going strong too!) But thanks to Jeanette, "Ocean" has been my best seller and was a springboard for eight more "Over" books about animals living in various habitats. The book has sold 180,000 copies to date.

Over the years I have visited many schools where students have molded their own incredible coral reef clay creations after reading "Over in the Ocean." It is amazing what kids can create when you give them a lump of clay or even play dough. And speaking of Play doh, that is something else to celebrate, making its debut in 1956!

I can still recall the smell of it when we opened the iconic yellow can at the preschool where I was the director for ten years. Of course back then, we also had our own recipe for making play dough, though not quite as distinctive in smell or as long-lasting as Play-Doh. But young children expressed themselves through creative hands-on play, experimenting and imagining. And 60 years later they are still poking, squeezing, pounding, shaping their magical creations.

So while we celebrate 60 years of Play-Doh, I'm also celebrating the birthday of my first "Over" book, so beautifully illustrated using clay. I hope that it will continue to be enjoyed by children, parents and teachers for many more years to come.

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There are over 400 national parks all across the U.S.A. that belong to rich and poor alike-- for all time! Every state has at least one, so there may be one just a few hours away from where you live. You can search for a park near you at findyourpark.com.

Back in 1872 our nation's first national park, Yellowstone, was established by President Ulysses S. Grant. Then in 1916, the National Park Service was created to protect all the national treasures that had followed. For one hundred years we have enjoyed recreation, relaxation and a closer connection to our land. How lucky we are! This is indeed something to celebrate!

A friend who recently visited Yellowstone e-mailed me a photo she took of my "Over in the Forest" book in the gift shop. What a thrill it was to know that! I also just learned on Facebook that my "Anybody Home?" is being sold at Mammoth Cave Nationl Park in Kentucky. And I had the great pleasure of personally seeing my "Going Home" and "Over in the Arctic" in Alaska when I visited Denali National Park three years ago. (See photo). Wonder in what other national parks my nature books might be. If you see them in your travels this summer, I sure would love to know.

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With so many kids, parents and environmental educators enjoying the outdoors this summer, I'd like to share an awesome idea that Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vermont created in 2007 to promote physical activity, early literacy and a fun family time in the soothing experience of nature. A STORY WALK!

I learned about "walks with stories" when Joan Robb in western Massachusetts advised that she and other volunteers in their area were planning to use my picture book Over in the Forest, Come and Take a Peak. She said my story and their woods were a great marriage between literature and nature. They mounted laminated pages of my book onto stakes around a walking trail that kids and parents could enjoy as they walked through the woods.

Last month Joan advised this is the third year they used Over in the Forest and their kick-off event was more popular than ever. The installation stays up throughout the summer so readers can explore the forest and discover the animals that live there.

A North Carolina school with a large garden area created a different kind of story walk, using my What's in the Garden?and Anne Ferguson added two of my other books to her StoryWalk collection in Vermont. They are Over in a River, Flowing Out to the Sea and Marsh Music. Anne wrote in 2014: "Your books are perfect because they are fun to read, are beautiful, have wonderful rhymes and teach in a playful way. They appeal to children as well as adults. They are books which parks, schools, and nature centers would like to post. I recommend them to everyone who would like to bring the StoryWalk Project to their community. " What a thrill for me to know that my books are being read "outside," celebrating a love of reading, fitness and nature.

Thank you, Anne, for coming up with such an incredible learning opportunity for kids and families to enjoy together. Her wonderful idea has spread to 50 states and 11 foreign countries. To learn more about how to bring it to your community, you can reach Anne at: StoryWalkvt@yahoo.com

And for a great lesson plan for a story walk developed by Carol L. Malnor that meets Common Core and NCSS, contact Carol@dawnpub.com.
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Did you know that all eight of my "Over" habitat counting books end with a father taking care of the babies? It hasn't always been easy to find dads that fit into the rhyme and reason for the"Over" book I am working on, since I write "creative non-fiction." It all started with "Over in the Ocean, in a Coral Reef," which was published by Dawn Publications in 2004. After the mother seahorse lays her eggs, the father carries them in his pouch until they hatch and swim out!

The animal dads (always number 10) are:
A howler monkey in "Over in the Jungle, a Rainforest Rhyme"
An Arctic wolf in "Over in the Arctic, Where the Cold Winds Blow"
An emu in "Over in the Australia, Amazing Animals Down Under"
A red fox in "Over in the Forest: Come and Take a Peek"
A river otter in "Over in a River, Flowing Out to Sea"
An emperor penguin in "Over on a Mountain, Somewhere in the World," and a jackal in "Over in the Grasslands, on an African Savanna," to be released Sept. 2016."

I think my favorite of all the "dads" in these books is the emperor penguin in "Over on a Mountain". This book has animals in the seven different continents and penguins do live on pack ice in colonies at the base of the Transantarctic Mountains that stretch across that continent.

The penguin dads should definitely be the animal "father of the year." The male takes care of the single egg the female lays. He incubates it on his feet for about 70 days during the coldest time of the year, while the Mom finds food in the ocean to bring back for her hatched chick. Penguins mate for life and take care of their babies together. What could be better than that!


P.S. I used the same "Over in the Meadow" theme for my latest book, "Over on the Farm," but that one stands on its own and is not considered one of the habitat books. However, I do have a male farm animal in that one too-- So look for the rooster on every page!!
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I love visiting schools where vegetables are growing in school gardens, and the kids are actually eating them! What better way for kids to try fresh food than what they have grown themselves.

In "What's in the Garden?" children learn that good food doesn't begin in a box on a store shelf. It comes from a garden bursting with life, color, sounds, smells, sunshine, birds and bees. Cris Arbo's glorious illustrations depict gardens buzzing with life as kids enjoy the "fruits" of their labors. Kid-friendly recipes can be downloaded for each fruit or veggie I have written about to help begin a lifetime of healthy eating.

Click on the cover to order your copy from Amazon.com in time for spring planting.

And be sure to check out Carol Malnor's blog this week as she asks "What's in Your Garden?" She even includes one of the riddles in my book which goes like this:

Delicious, nutritious, what could it be?
In spring there are blossoms all over the tree.
Red, green, or yellow, with fruit that is round.
If you don’t pick it, it plops to the ground.

Get the answer and download fun learning activities at:

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