Free Resource for National Poetry Month


In honor of National Poetry month and for all the teachers, parents and students learning from home because of the coronavirus pandemic, I am offering my newest book, If I Were a Whale: Ecology Poems for Children, free for the month of April.

If I Were a Whale is a book of ecology poems that includes science information as well as a glossary specific to each poem and formated as side bars (right-facing pages usually). Topics covered include life cycles, food chains, scientific classification, abiotic and biotic features of a community and habitats. Geared toward 3-6 grade science and language arts, it can be used to introduce ecology concepts and guide a writing project with each concept. It is designed to be projected from a white board or printed for individual use at home or school.

The book can be downloaded at my Teachers Pay Teachers site.  The description includes information on how to print so it is formated like a book.  Please forward this information to any teachers and parents who may find it useful. I hope you enjoy reading and I welcome any feedback. Thank you.


Trying to Help


I am sure many of us are feeling unnerved and uncertain of tomorrow – the news is changing as rapidly as the coronavirus is spreading. I wanted to do something, albeit small, to help teachers who need resources and parents at home with their children. I am having a sale of my lesson and unit plans on my Teachers Pay Teachers site. This sale starts TOMORROW March 21 and runs for four days. All products are 20% off. Please share my post with anyone you feel may be interested.

Please stay safe everyone.



Perfect Timing. . .Maybe?


I got a book from the library this week that may or may not be the perfect read for your young ones right now. Do not lick this book by Idan Ben-Barak and Julian Frost (A Neil Porter Book, 2017) was obviously not written because of Corvid-19, but it could have been. It is a wonderful way to introduce children to the prevalence of germs. It starts out by introducing a cute and benign microbe named Min and how there are microbes everywhere in our world. The authors then zoom way in until we see a microscopic photo of a piece of paper and there is Min, hanging out between the fibers. So far, a fun and informative read.

However, a young reader easily made anxious by uncertainty and the news right now may not find the rest of the book so easy to digest. The reader takes Min on an adventure by touching his or her finger to the page and then to their teeth! I find the image of bacteria on our teeth fun, a bit silly and definitely conducive to promoting good dental hygiene. But I don’t know if all kids will.  The adventure with Min continues as the reader places her on their shirt and then their belly button before putting her back in the book. The belly button page is kind of gross. If your young reader loves gross, they’ll love this book.

Do not lick this book is a brilliant way to show children that microbes are everywhere. The microbes are personal, not scary. The text is engaging, the microscopic photos are fascinating and the illustrations are delightful. However, I suggest you read it to yourself first to make sure it is the right book for your child right now. With all the news about Corvid-19, I know there are some children with anxieties about getting sick and how the virus is transmitted. This book shares important information in an attainable way, but while this is information that children do need to learn, please judge whether this format will bother your child or not. It would be helpful to stress to children that many microbes are helpful to us and ecological processes.

I hope you’ll give Do not lick this book a try. The authors did a great job with a difficult to illustrate topic. I definitely would have read this to my children.




Moth: An Evolution Story


I remember hearing about the peppered moth study when I was in college. I remember it because it is my first memory of feeling that I really understood something; that the pieces fit for me – the pieces being scattered thoughts on the incredible diversity of life and how it got here, and the answers being natural selection and evolution. I have embraced the study of evolution ever since and it still grounds me today.

I was delighted to read Moth: An Evolution Story by Isabel Thomas and illustrated by Daniel Egnéus (Bloomsbury 2018). It is a beautiful blend of nonfiction and narrative elements as well as being incredibly approachable for young readers. Thomas takes a difficult subject and distills it into a concept that one can grasp and apply to other situations. Egnéus’ illustrations succeed in taking us on a visual journey that is part of the peppered moth’s story. What did they look like to predators before and after pollution marred the trees they rested on?

Moth is a book I wish was around when I was reading to my children. I hope you will check it out and find a young reader to marvel with. Maybe they will have their own ‘aha’ moment.


Prepared to be Awed with A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars


Whether your young reader loves numbers, nature, cities or concepts that make us say WOW, there’s a book I read this week that has something for everyone, for anyone that can imagine. A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars by Seth Fishman and illustrated by Isabel Greenberg (Greenwillow Books, 2017) starts with our one star, the sun, and immediately wows us with the next page – that there are maybe a hundred billion trillion stars! And the number is written out to wow your number lovers:


But then Fishman takes us immediately back to earth (literally) and this is where the book can wow kids with all kinds of interests: how much water, how many trees, people in cities and much more. All the big numbers are written out and expressed numerically, which adds to the feeling of awe. There will be much to talk about as you and your young reader ponder these numbers and extrapolate to other similar comparisons in your own lives, like how many seconds old your reader is or if you really did walk 100,000 miles in your lifetime, where would you travel?

Towards the end of the book, Fishman tells us that in the time it took to read the book, most numbers will have changed, getting bigger or smaller. In case all these numbers get just a little too big to handle – at least in one setting – Fishman ends the story in the sweetest way by coming down to earth again (this time figuratively) with a special secret number that is sure to delight all readers. Yep, you guessed it, I’m not telling you. You’ll have to read and discover for yourself.



Toad or Frog, Swamp or Bog?


Does your child pepper you with questions about animals that sometimes leave you wishing you knew more? Well you can both learn together with Toad or Frog, Swamp or Bog? A Big Book of Nature’s Confusables by Lynda Graham-Barber and illustrated by Alec Gillman (Four Winds Press, 1994). In it we learn the difference between frogs and toads, caribou and moose, dolphins and porpoises, slugs and snails, what makes a bug and many more animals that often confuse us because they are similar.

Two sets of questions about similar animals (and some weather phenomenon and habitats) are presented in a rhyme fashion on a two-page spread with a full-page illustration. Then the next two pages serve as back matter with information and illustrations presented in more of an encyclopedia style. There is so much to learn and share as you go through this book. Many times, you can return to the question and ask your child, “Now that we’ve read about them, which is the rabbit and which is the hare?”

This book may be long to get through in one sitting depending on the age of your reader, but it is worth the time whether that be one sitting or multiple cozy sessions. I think we should know the differences between these sometimes-confusing animals and this book can help us share that knowledge with our young readers.


World Read Aloud Day


World Read Aloud Day was February 5, 2020. I am a little late getting around to posting about it, but February can be like that. I do not officially sign up with the organization, but I like to volunteer to read to children on this day. This year I visited a local preschool and they were quite enthusiastic about sea otters and my book.

I brought my trusty life-sized otter because kids love to see if they are taller than an adult otter or not. I brought pictures and a muskrat pelt. The muskrat pelt was gifted to me from my father-in-law’s estate. He used to trap them and apparently this pelt was in the freezer since before I was born.  It brought back memories of a seemingly different life long ago when I was studying how muskrat disturbance affected nitrification rates in a freshwater tidal wetland for my master’s thesis. I can’t afford an otter pelt as they are endangered and not easily obtainable, but I would not want one anyway (because they are endangered). I felt an otter pelt at a museum in Alaska and they are incredibly soft. At 170,000 to one million hairs per square inch (we have 100,000 hairs on our whole bodies) sea otters have the densest fur of any mammal in the world. So I pass around the muskrat pelt to give students a sense that while it is really soft, sea otter fur is even softer.

The best part about reading Oliver’s Otter Phase to students is when I say that “Oliver snuck a cookie into his armpit, slid off his chair, and wiggled up to the bath.” There are always shocked faces, giggles and why would he do that? comments that erupt.

The best part about participating in World Read Aloud Day is getting to read aloud to children, no matter the book. I have fond memories of the years I shared my lap – or the three of us lined up on the couch when they were older –  and words with children. I firmly believe this simple act creates a strong foundation for much more than promoting a reader.