Is it a bird, is it a plane, is it a dinosaur?

Yep, that’s right, scientists have been studying the connection of today’s modern birds to their long-lost relatives, the dinosaurs. For many years, paleontologists believed that all dinosaurs were just giant lizard-like creatures.

I Am Hatzegopteryx
from I Am Hatzegopteryx by Timothy J. Bradley – releasing September 2021

Relatively recent discoveries in China have changed the minds of many scientists. This area of Northeastern China has attracted paleontologists to explore the lake and volcanic ash deposits abundant with ancient fossils. These fossils are bird-like in structure and lead to the newly held belief that many dinosaurs were feathered.

A local farmer dug in the rock and knew he had something special when he found the first fossil of Confuciusornis (sacred bird of Confucius). The fossil, about the size of a modern-day crow, had a beak and feathers with a long plumage tail. Since this discovery, more digging into the rocks in the region has unearthed other ancient flying dinosaurs, protopteryx, Sapeornis, and Yanornis. 

But these are not the only flying dinosaurs. Long before Confuciusornis, Archaeopteryx was dated to have lived 150 million-years-ago, and part of the Avialae clade. These are the closest relatives to modern birds. They had larger braincases, feathers, and pneumatic bones like today’s birds; but also had teeth, three-fingered hands and claws, and a long, stiffened tail like dinosaurs.

from Dino Treasures by Rhonda Lucas Donald, illustrated by Cathy Morrison

But when you ask a child about ancient creatures of the sky, most will answer with the pterodactyl. The pterodactyl is one type of Pterosaur that ranges in size from a fighter jet to a sparrow. With HUGE heads, long necks, heavy bones, and stiff skin-like wings, these flying lizards were terrifying carnivores to the dinosaurs living below.  

The Pterosaurs evolved significantly over time. They lived from 251 million years ago to 66 million years ago, and in that time, some species got larger, while others showed different ways they took off for flight. But the most baffling to many scientists is how they were able to hold up their giant heads. Paleontologists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have recently had a breakthrough modeling how the vertebrae were arranged to create a strong structure.

We are excited to introduce a relatively new pterosaur to young readers this fall, the Hatzegopteryx. They were giants of the sky and believed to be a dominant predator in the area now known as Romania. The first fossil was found in 2002 in Transylvania. 

Timothy J. Bradley’s story, I am Hatzegopteryx follows a Hatzegopteryx from egg to extinction as he grows and learns to soar. Written in simple three-word sentences, even the smallest dinosaur enthusiast will be reading this book in no time. Learn more about the book and the author, even download the “For Creative Minds” section on the book’s homepage

You can also dive into paleontology techniques in Arbordale’s free ebook of the month Dino Treasures

An Update on Maggie: Alaska’s Last Elephant

Author Jennifer Keats Curtis caught up with Michelle Harvey, Maggie’s Keeper, for elephant day. We thank Jennifer for giving us a look at Maggie’s new life on the blog today. 

Toka-Maggie-Lulu What a trio photo by Michelle Harvey 2021

Special thanks to Maggie’s keeper, Michelle Harvey, for providing an update on this precious pachyderm, who turns 39 years young this year!

Michelle continues to be involved with her beloved elephant, now as a volunteer with the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in California. During a recent visit, Maggie rumbled hello, and Michelle confessed, “Maggie will always be my favorite, although I love all of the elephants very much!”

Maggie(L) and Lulu (R) by a mudhole. They love mudding! photo by Michelle Harvey 2021

According to Michelle, every day, Maggie and the other elephants still lumber about PAWS’ natural, grassy, rolling hills. “Lulu and Toka are her best friends, and it makes me so happy to see them together. Mara and Thika are part of the group too, but these two go off and explore a different habitat.” At night, all five females return to the heated barn for meals, warm water, Boomer® balls, and togetherness. They “interact, touching each other with their trunks, trading hay and branches and trumpeting and rumbling. Each day, after time apart, they greet each other with excitement. This teaches me that there is always a time to celebrate!”

During her last visit, Michelle offered Maggie, Lulu, and Toka hay and alfalfa for a midday feeding along with something special—a little candy treat—and was treated to one of her favorite sounds, the elephants rumbling. Maggie carried her hay in her trunk and then stood right next to Lulu to eat. Even after working with elephants for many years, Michelle remains awed by the dexterity of their trunks. “They can pick up such tiny objects!”

As always, Michelle is grateful that Maggie resides at PAWS, “a peaceful place and the sun shines even in winter,” so Maggie will never be cold again. And, she reminds us all, “It’s never too late to do the right thing.”

Lulu (L) and Maggie (R) eating hay and alfalfa. Photo by Michelle Harvey 2021

Jennifer and illustrator Phyllis Saroff will host a virtual paint party for families at East Salisbury Elementary on March 30th. If you would like to book Jennifer or Phyllis for an event with your school or community group, email us for contact information at heather @ arbordalepublishing.com.  

To learn more about Maggie and the other elephants at PAWS, visit https://www.pawsweb.org/meet_elephants.html.

For more information about the nonfiction story of Maggie, visit https://www.arbordalepublishing.com/bookpage.php?id=Maggie.

WRITE: A Valentine’s Writing Activity for All Ages

Writing is not always as easy as it seems. Children’s book authors will attest to the difficulties in selecting just the right words to create a perfect rhyme or describe a type of habitat. Authors write, edit, re-write, and edit some more until they have just the right words to make a book.

For Valentine’s Day, we have a writing/editing activity perfect for the classroom. Create a Valentine using some of Arbordale’s coloring pages and a writing worksheet to edit your perfect sayings.

Mosquitoes, Bees, and Butterflies

Butterflies

We are nearing the end of summer’s long days, and you may notice buzzing bugs in your yard soaking in the summer sun. August is a buggy month with World Honeybee Day and World Mosquito Day falling in the middle of the month insects are on our mind.

Researchers have been documenting the size of insect eggs, thinking that perhaps the egg shape is significant in shaping the bug. After collecting and documenting 10,000 samples, they found that habitat and not egg shape give the bugs their characteristics.

Biologists are thrilled to have this extensive database and research at their fingertips. Which got us thinking about the bugs in our books, and all the research illustrators do to make Arbordale books accurate.

Multiply on the Fly by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Erin E. Hunter

 While learning multiplication, readers also get some fascinating bug facts. Illustrator Erin E. Hunter did extensive research into the characteristics and habitat of the 11 different bugs featured in Suzanne Slade’s math series book. The clean landscapes showcase the diverse bodies of each insect.

 When two kids hunt butterflies, they find all different varieties in the garden. Here, illustrator Sherry Rogers incorporates her whimsical style with accurate depictions of butterflies and moths to bring to life the competitive butterfly hunt written by Barbara Mariconda. With each page adding up to ten, readers get an important math lesson in this book too!

They Just Know: Animal Instincts by Robin Yardi, illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein

 While this book has more animals than just insects who know how to survive on their own, Laurie Allen Klein’s ladybugs and swallowtails are some of our favorites. Her personal touches are sure to be found by family members that completed flight school or sending baby ladybugs off on their own. Robin Yardi expertly mixed humorous everyday situations with a realistic view of the amazing animal instincts.

The Most Dangerous by Terri Fields, illustrated by Laura Jacques

There is only one bug in this book, but it is found all over the world and is the most dangerous animal of all. The competition is fierce in Terri Fields’ contest for the most dangerous animal crown, and the illustrations by Laura Jacques show each animal at their most fierce.

We hope you are buzzing with excitement to explore the diverse insects in your backyard. Just avoid the mosquitoes – they bite! If you want to read more about the study of insect eggs, see the full article here, and you can find each of these titles at arbordalepublishing.com.

Smart Mammals of the Sea

Dolphins are beloved mammals of the sea. They are also some of the smartest animals that live in the ocean, and researchers have just released a study on dolphins using interesting techniques to capture their prey.

Recently, biologists observed dolphins in the Shark Bay area of Western Australia. These animals used a technique called shelling to catch prey. The dolphin chases a fish or other small animal into a large shell, then they put in their beak and shake it until the fish drops into their open mouth. They observed the behavior in several dolphins, and through social evaluation, determined shelling was learned from other dolphins in the same generation and not mothers.

Being in the South Carolina Low Country, we frequently see dolphins swimming near the beaches and in the marshes. They have a unique way to capture prey, strand feeding. This technique is where a group of dolphins coordinate to rush the bank of a creek, pushing fish onshore then feeding on the flopping fish.

You can learn more about the amazing abilities of dolphins in many of the titles in our Summer Reading collection. Here is a short reading list:

Join Delfina the dolphin as she imagines that she becomes other sea animals: a fish, a sea turtle, a pelican, an octopus, a shark, even a manatee! The incredible morphing illustrations will have children laughing as they learn about the real differences between these ocean animals and their respective classes.

Sharks and dolphins both have torpedo-shaped bodies with fins on their backs. They slice through the water to grab their prey with sharp teeth. But despite their similarities, sharks and dolphins belong to different animal classes: one is a fish and gets oxygen from the water and the other is a mammal and gets oxygen from the air. Marine educator Kevin Kurtz guides early readers to compare and contrast these ocean predators through stunning photographs and simple, nonfiction text.

Enjoy a day in one of the most dynamic habitats on earth: the salt marsh. Fun-to-read, rhyming verse introduces readers to hourly changes in the marsh as the tide comes and goes. Watch the animals that have adapted to this ever-changing environment as they hunt for food or play in the sun, and learn how the marsh grass survives even when it is covered by saltwater twice a day. An activity on adaptations is included in the “For Creative Minds” section.

Where else could you stay dry while visiting aquatic animals from around the world? Only in an aquarium can you visit and learn about all these different local and exotic animals. Aquarium staff care for and teach about these animals, as well as work to conserve and protect threatened and endangered species. Follow this behind-the-scenes photographic journal as it leads you into the wondrous world of aquariums and the animal helpers who work there.

Start reading today! Check out Arbordale’s free ebooks for Summer Reading and learn more about dolphins!

Spring has sprung and animals are On the Move

While we are all social distancing and getting back to nature, we have noticed an increase of winged friends in the backyard. The bluebirds are beginning to build their nest – they come back to the same spot every spring. The mallards and Canadian Geese are congregating by the pond. And even a few butterflies have landed on the flowers.

It is amazing to see things spring to life as warmer, longer days return.

So, why does this happen?

Not all animals are built for colder climates. And unlike people, who can put our favorite foods on trucks to our local grocery stores, animals must rely on nature to grow their favorite foods. When the weather turns cold, they must go to where the food is still thriving, and now that the sun has returned, they go back to their favorite summer feeding ground.

Even scientists are amazed by the instincts and ability to travel great distances. A butterfly and a whale both cover thousands of miles to get to their favorite feeding grounds.


If you are also noticing an abundance of songbirds in your backyard, here is an easy craft to give the weary travelers a bit of food.

Cookie Cutter Birdfeeder


You will need:
Supplies: Mixing bowl, cookie cutters, baking sheet, nonstick cooking spray, straw, and twine
1 ½ cups birdseed
½ cup flour
¼ cup water
2 Tbsp Corn syrup


We put wax paper down just to control the mess. Then, mix birdseed, flour, water, and corn syrup until everything is incorporated.

Spray the cookie sheet and the inside of the cookie cutters with the nonstick cooking spray. Spoon in the mixture pressing it into the shape of the cookie cutter. Then take your straw and poke a hole in the center for the twine to be tied to later


Gently lift the cookie cutter from the tray and start again with another shape!

Bake for 1 ½ hours at your oven’s lowest setting (170°).


Once cooled, tie the twine and place on the tree for birds to enjoy.

If you want to learn more about migration or how animals adapt to seasons, read:

Read these titles and many more FREE until May 15th. Sign in using this site licences code UGEI16 with the password May15 and start reading: bit.ly/2Uoja4I

It’s almost time for Pencils and Books

August is here, and the first day of school is approaching fast! Some kids get very anxious about heading back to school others are excited to go to class for the first time; so, we asked authors and illustrators for tips to make the transition easy. Here’s what they had to say…

“The best way to get ready for school is to play school! Someone can be Teacher, and friends, family (or pets) can be Students (with pretend names!). Make a “classroom” and decorate it with pictures about What You Did During Your Summer Vacation. Read books out loud together. Do a science experiment. Go to lunch in the “lunchroom” and recess on the “playground.” Have fun playing school!” – Carrie A Pearson

Carrie A. Pearson is a former early elementary teacher and the winner of a SCBWI-Michigan Picture Book Mentorship Award and a Work of Outstanding Promise grant. A Cool Summer Tail, and the companion, A Warm Winter Tail (2013-2014 Great Lakes Great Books Literature Program and a Gelett Burgess Award) follow many of the same animals to describe how they manage the hot summer and cold winter weather. Carrie and her family live in the upper peninsula of Michigan. Visit her website at www.carriepearsonbooks.com.

“The start of a new school year can be a real stresser for kids. One way to help cope is for parents to share some of the things they enjoyed about going back to school when they were young. For instance, I shared with my daughter that I loved the smell of brand-new magic markers, and the feel of my new school shoes, and the cartoon designs on my metal lunch box (yes, I’m old enough to have had a metal lunch box – and a Hong Kong Fuey one at that!) Then I asked my daughter to share some things she is looking forward to for the new school year. Once we had a list of things to look forward to, it helped offset the list of things to be nervous about.” – Brian Rock

Brian Rock (The Deductive Detective), received a master’s degree in Children’s Literature/Creative Writing from Hollins University. Brian’s short stories for children appear regularly in the regional magazine “Kid’s world” and his poems for children have appeared in Highlights for Children, Poetry Train, and various regional publications. His short story, The Frog Dad, was selected as one of the inaugural titles for iPulpFiction’s “Don’t Read This in the Dark” series. For six years Brian worked in the Chesterfield County public school system teaching at-risk students. Visit Brian’s website for more information. 

“For kids going to new schools, if the child (and parent!) touring the school and finding the child’s classroom before the first day eases anxiety.”

“Start a new journal the day before school begins!”

“For my girls, we also have our favorite first day tradition – With backpack on, they wave from the same spot. We love looking at these pictures and are always amazed at how much difference a year makes.” – Jennifer Keats Curtis

Award-winning author Jennifer Keats Curtis has penned numerous stories about animals, including Kali’s Story: An Orphaned Polar Bear Rescue(Children’s Choice Book Award Winner); After A While Crocodile: Alexa’s Diary (NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children) with co-author Dr. Brady Barr of Nat Geo Wild’s Dangerous Encounter; Baby Bear’s Adoption with wildlife biologists at Michigan’s DNR; and Moonlight Crab Count with co-author Dr. Neeti Bathala. The long-time writer’s other recent books include The Lizard Lady, with co-author Dr. Nicole Angeli, Maggie: Alaska’s Last Elephant and the Animal Helpers Series. When not writing, Jennifer can be found among students and teachers, talking about literacy and conservation. Visit her website at www.jenniferkeatscurtis.com.

When your back to school shopping is finished, take a moment to relax and admire the starry sky or watch the International Space Station soaring overhead. To find out when the ISS passes over your town, visit NASA’s Spot the Station website. – Suzanne Slade

Suzanne Slade is the award-winning author of over 80 books for children including The Great Divide, Multiply on the FlyWhat’s the Difference?, What’s New at the Zoo?, and Animals are Sleeping for Arbordale. Her works include picture books, biographies, and many non-fiction titles about animals, sports, and nature. One of her favorite parts of the writing process is researching and learning new things. Suzanne lives near Chicago with her husband Mike, two children, and their tiny dog Corduroy. She enjoys visiting schools in-person or during her live virtual author visits. Visit Suzanne’s Website

Designate a homework spot where your child will always study. Keep work there so it doesn’t get lost. If the spot is by a computer, make sure you (the parent) check in frequently to see the computer is being used ONLY for homework.  – Terri Fields

Terri Fields has written nineteen books which have garnered a number of awards including the Maud Hart Lovelace Award for Middle Grades Fiction, the Georgia Children’s Choice Award, being named to the Recommended Reading List for Chicago Public Schools, the TAYSHAS (Texas) Reading List, the Southwest Books of the Year List, and as one of the 100 Top Kid Picks in Children’s Books in Arizona. In addition to Tornado Tamer, she has written Burro’s Tortillas and The Most Dangerous for Arbordale. A long time desert-dweller, Ms Fields has enjoyed sharing her books with children all over the world. In addition to writing, Ms. Fields is also a educator who has been named Arizona Teacher of the Year, ING Education Innovator for Arizona, and been selected as one of the twenty teachers on the All-USA Teacher Team of the nation’s top educators. Terri Fields has worked with students in first through twelfth grades. Ms. Fields sees the world around her in terms of the wonderful stories it reveals. Visit Terri’s website.

We hope your transition back to school is easy and fun! And, learn more about these author’s books on arbordalepublishing.com!

Reading Tips and Tricks for a New School Year

shutterstock_1041074821

Are you sprinting to finish summer reading? Did you have fun with Arbordale’s summer activities? And the big question, are you ready for school to start again?

If summer reading didn’t go as planned, here are a few tips and tricks to make reading fun in the new school year.

  • Always have books available. Make trips to the library a regular part of your weekly routine. Discover new books and classic favorites.
  • Continue reading daily and listen to your child read. For shy children, have them read to a sibling, the dog, the cat, the goldfish, or their favorite toy.
  • Literacy is not just reading but writing too! Have crayons, pencils, markers and paper available. Write letters and help them to mimic your writing. Have your child draw and tell you a story as they illustrate it.
  • Ask your child questions about the stories. Get them to think about what they are reading in fun and different ways.
  • Be a reader! Let your child see you reading or have quiet family reading time.
  • Let children read for enjoyment.
  • Talk to kids about what they are reading.
  • Read the book before watching the movie

Zoo_187Test out these tips with Arbordale’s free Summer Reading ebooks that will be available through September 15th. And don’t forget we always have one free ebook of the month. In August we are going to the zoo with ‘Twas the Day Before Zoo Day!

Taking Flight

BabiesNestFor a baby bird, the leap from the nest is a scary first flight. In a new study, biomechanists researched the timing of that first flight and the survival rates of baby birds. Some momma birds may want to clear the nest early, keeping predators away. The survival rate for these early flyers can be as low as 30 percent.

Late bloomers have a much higher chance for survival, but a noisy nest can also attract lookingdownpredators that take out the entire family. So, bird parents have a very tricky choice when it comes to pushing their young to set off on their own.

As human parents think about the upcoming back-to-school season and sending kids out into the world for their first days of school. Here are a few books about learning the ropes as a young bird. And, if you want to read more about the Missoula, Montana bird study, here is a link!

Henry the Impatient Heron 

Henry Impatient Heron_COVER 2Henry the Heron couldn’t stand still! He was always moving, and it drove everyone crazy! His brother and sister yelled at him for stepping on their heads, and Mom and Dad could barely get food into his little baby mouth. But herons have to stand still to catch their food, so how would Henry ever be able to eat on his own? In Henry the Impatient Heron, Donna Love takes readers along with Henry as he learns a valuable lesson from the King of Camouflage! Hilarious and lighthearted illustrations by Christina Wald complement the important lesson in the text. It is a meaningful lesson for both herons and kids alike, which teaches the importance of just being still!

Otis the Owl

otisowl_187In beautifully detailed photographs, Mary Holland captures the first few months of a baby barred owl’s life. The huge eyes and fluffy feathers will steal the hearts of readers as they learn how barred owl parents ready their young owlets for the big world outside the nest. Follow along as Otis learns to eat, fights with his sister, and prepares for flight.

Whistling Wings

wings_187Can a swan survive without winter migration? Marcel, a young tundra swan, is tired from the first half of a winter migration. One thousand miles is a long way to fly—too long for Marcel, so he hides in the rushes to stay behind while his parents and the flock continue south. But with the lake nearly frozen over, he soon realizes that he is not cut out for life on ice. Other animals offer advice about how to survive the winter, but their ways of living aren’t right for the swan. Hungry and scared, he falls asleep – only to be awakened by a big surprise! The “For Creative Minds” educational section includes “Tundra Swan Fun Facts” and a “Tundra Swan Life Cycle Sequencing Activity.”

The Best Nest

Nest_187Long ago, when the world was young, the magpies’ nests were the envy of all other birds. To help the other birds, Maggie Magpie patiently explained how to build a nest. But some birds were impatient and flew off without listening to all the directions, which is why, to this day, birds’ nests come in all different shapes and sizes. This clever retelling of an old English folktale teaches the importance of careful listening.

Baby Owl’s Rescue

Baby Owl's RescueWhat if you found a baby owl in your backyard? Would you know what to do? Where would you go to find help? Join young Maddie and Max as they learn a valuable lesson from a little lost owl in Baby Owl’s Rescue by Jennifer Keats Curtis. The brother and sister pair just wanted to play baseball one day. They never expected to come face-to-face with a wild animal! Lush illustrations by Laura Jacques accompany this story and demonstrate the proper treatment of wildlife. This story reminds all of us that we live in a world surrounded by wild animals, and those wild animals deserve our caution and our respect!

Learn more about these titles and download the free educational extras at arbordalepublishing.com!

 

 

 

Summer on the Shore: What’s the difference between sharks and dolphins?

bottlenose-dolphinThousands of people flock to the beaches for summer vacation, and it is a thrill to spot a shark or a dolphin from the sand. It can be tricky to determine which is which but here are a few similarities, differences, and fun facts about these sea creatures.

When a fin rises above the waves, note the angle.

A dolphin has a curved dorsal fin and a horizontal tail. They propel themselves up and down through the water taking in oxygen as they crest waves before disappearing below the water’s surface.

Sharks have a more triangular dorsal fin. Their tails are vertical, and it moves from side to side smoothly propelling the shark through the water.

thresher-sharkSince a shark is a fish they breathe under the water, but beware if a shark launches itself into the air, dinner is likely in its sights. Great White sharks have been caught on video chasing seals and other fast movers high into the air, although this is not a common sight to see from the beach.

A small number of bottlenose dolphins chase their food above water in a coordinated event called strand feeding. At low tide, a group of dolphins circles a school of fish until they propel themselves onto the beach and feed on the delicious fish and shrimp. Visitors to the South Carolina or Georgia coast may be lucky enough to see this event, but dolphins are very smart creatures and don’t often strand feed while people are around.

Here are a few books where you can learn more about sharks and dolphins!

Sharks and Dolphins:  A Compare and Contrast Book
SharksDolphinsSharks and dolphins both have torpedo-shaped bodies with fins on their backs. They slice through the water to grab their prey with sharp teeth. But despite their similarities, sharks and dolphins belong to different animal classes: one is a fish and gets oxygen from the water and the other is a mammal and gets oxygen from the air. Marine educator Kevin Kurtz guides early readers to compare and contrast these ocean predators through stunning photographs and simple, nonfiction text.

If a Dolphin Were a Fish
Dolphin_187Join Delfina the dolphin as she imagines that she becomes other sea animals: a fish, a sea turtle, a pelican, an octopus, a shark, even a manatee! The incredible morphing illustrations will have children laughing as they learn about the real differences between these ocean animals and their respective classes.

Shark Baby
SharkBaby_128“Who am I?” wonders Shark Baby. When his “mermaid’s purse” egg case is torn loose in a storm, he finds himself on a journey through different ocean habitats: kelp forests, coral reefs, and seagrass meadows. He learns what kind of shark he isn’t, but not what kind he is. He needs to find the “mermaid” to learn where he belongs, but the ocean is big and full of dangers. Will he find out who he is—and what he can do—in time?