Science News: How Plates Shape the Earth

volcanoIf you have read the “For Creative Minds” section in A True Princess of Hawai‘i or Gopher to the Rescue, you have learned the basics of how volcanoes form. Scientists at The Australian National University have just concluded a study to find out when the Hawaiian hot spot was formed.

Although this group of researchers began with the knowledge of the twin tracks that sit underneath the young islands, they used computer simulation to date the occurrence of a change in the movement of the Pacific plate to 3 million years ago. A mantle plume, or columns of rock caused by heat from the Earth’s core, was out of alignment creating the volcanic activity and forming the beautiful islands we know today.

Learning about the past is important to predicting the future of the Earth’s landscape. Future scientists may be looking to this research just as this team used the knowledge from the scientists that discovered the twin tracks in 1849.

Dive into Earth science with these books:

TruePrincessA True Princess of Hawai‘i
Nani has always dreamed of being a princess. When a real Hawaiian princess comes to her hometown of Hilo, Nani dresses in her best clothes. But as she watches Princess Luka, who has come to save the town from a volcanic lava flow, Nani learns that there is more to being a princess than fine clothes. This incredible story of kindness and generosity is based on the historical events of the 1880-1881 eruption of Mauna Loa on the Island of Hawai‘i and the real-life Princess Luka.

GopherRescueGopher to the Rescue: A Volcano Recovery Story

The forest animals are surprised when a volcano suddenly explodes, covering the land in gritty, warm ash and rocks that make it unlivable for many plants and animals. Gopher survives in his underground burrow with food to eat. How does Gopher help bring life back to the mountain? Scientists spent years observing life returning to the mountain following the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980. This fictionalized story is based on their surprising observations of how life returns to an area that has been totally changed or destroyed.

ThisLandThis Land is Your Land
Take a trip around the world to discover a wide variety of Earth’s landforms and geological features through the rhythmic verse in This Land is Your Land. On the journey encounter plains, plateaus, and rolling hills. Find out how a stream can make a canyon or lava creates an archipelago. Read aloud and discover new terrain with the flip of each page.

Read more about the study here!

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Spring reading! A Booklist for your blooming backyard

The grass is greening, animals are popping out of their winter dens, it’s a great time to pick up a book and learn about what happens in the world when spring has sprung. Here are a few titles that feature animal babies, budding flowers, and pollen.

DaisylocksDaisylocks
by Marianne Berkes, illustrated by Cathy Morrison

Daisylocks needs a home that is just right. She asks Wind to help her find the perfect habitat to spread her roots, and he accepts the challenge. Wind blows Daisylocks to the plain, the mountain and the wetland. She objects to each place one by one—too cold, too hard, too wet. Daisylocks is not ready to give up! They try the humid rainforest and then the warm beach; those are not just right either. Will Wind find the perfect climate and soil for Daisylocks to place her roots and grow into a beautiful flower?

AchooAchoo!
by Shennen Bersani

Spring has arrived and pollen is in the air. Baby Bear does not like the pollen—it sticks to his fur and makes him itchy and sneezy. He’s allergic! Achoo! He just wishes the pollen were gone. When his friends gather to tell him why they need pollen, Baby Bear learns that pollen is good for the forest and provides food for many animals, including him! Pollen might be something we all love to hate, but can we really live without it? This story explains why we need it.

BackyardIn My Backyard
by Valarie Giogas, illustrated by Katherine Zecca

Baby dogs are puppies and they belong to a litter, but what is a baby skunk called and what is the name of its family group? This clever, rhythmic story tells us just that! Counting from one to 10, familiar backyard animals are introduced by baby and family group name. Each stanza also tells a bit more about each animal by providing clues as to what they eat, how they sound or where they live. The “For Creative Minds” section includes more animal fun facts, information on keeping a nature journal and how to watch for wildlife in your own backyard.

HeronHenry the Impatient Heron
by Donna Love, illustrated by Christina Wald

Henry 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!

OtisOwlOtis the Owl
by Mary Holland

In 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.

Get to know these books and more at arbordalepublishing.com. Happy spring reading!

New Science Discoveries: Animal Instincts

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One thing scientists just know is that many types of animals rely on their instincts to make their way in the big world. You might remember our picture book, They Just Know by Robin Yardi and illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein that comically compares how different animal moms are from our human moms.

Amphibians are one of these creatures that leave their young tadpoles giving them very little care, but two scientists from Boston University have discovered that one frog mom may be around for longer than once thought.

The duo observed glass frogs in several countries and found that these frog moms lingered over their eggs for a few hours pressing their bellies into them hydrating the eggs and creating a slime of protection. Then dad takes on the job of shooing away spiders and rehydrating the eggs.

This is the first time this type of behavior has been observed, and researcher Jessie Delia noted, “The pattern we found is completely bizarre.”

Glass frogs are small frogs, and mostly green but have transparent skin on their bellies. Giving them the appearance of glass skin. They lay their eggs on leaves near streams and as they hatch the tadpoles drop right into the stream.

If you want to learn more about the study, read more about it here.

Also, check out these great books about frogs and animal instincts.

Counting Crabs, One Author’s Citizen Science Project

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Spring has sprung, and for horseshoe crabs, that means making the journey to beaches along the Eastern U.S. for spawning season. Citizen Scientists like Leena in Moonlight Crab Count will be combing the beaches at night counting the ancient creatures hoping that it is a successful season for the crabs and shorebirds.

Author Jennifer Keats Curtis worked with ecology expert Dr. Neeti Bathala to write Moonlight Crab Count, and while doing research, she and her daughter Max became a Citizen Scientist for a day and here is her story!

JenniferCurtisAs a lifelong Marylander, I’d seen horseshoe crabs but didn’t really know enough about them so I jumped at the chance to work with environmental ecologist Dr. Neeti Bathala so I could learn more! As part of my research, my daughter, Max, and I went to Ocean City, Maryland, to be part of a citizen science project—counting horseshoe crabs. During spring and summer, horseshoe crabs, who have migrated from Mexico to our East Coast, somehow know it’s time to lay to lay their eggs. They come ashore at night during lunar tides, when the moon is full and new. Horseshoe crabs are an important part of the ecosystem and scientists want to know how many there are. People, like Max and me, get to be part of the projects to figure that out.

One warm July evening, we met biologist Steve Doctor and two other scientists at the DNR boathouse and hopped aboard an old workboat. We literally hopped—we used a bucket as a stepladder.

DSC_6246Aboard the boat, we put out to the north side of Assateague Island, which was just a couple hundred yards from the boathouse and just shy of the famed Ocean City boardwalk. Max helped us record some data: 23.2 degrees Celsius, winds at 6 mph. On this island, we saw just five horseshoe crabs, all males. We picked one up and one of the scientists showed Max the “boxers” that make the horseshoe crab a boy. He had slipper shells stuck all over his shell. The little snails were apparently just along for the ride.

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As the sun set, we powered over to Skimmer Island, a coastal island that is home to endangered black skimmers. I was a little distracted by all of the incredible birds here, as well as the full-fledged heron rookery.  We walked around the bend, and there they were—hundreds of living fossils, all coming onto the beach to mate and lay eggs. Max and I excitedly helped the scientists count as many horseshoe crabs as we could. We were thrilled to see so many until Steve told us that typically there are far more. In fact, the beach is usually totally full of horseshoe crabs and that just weeks before, he’d counted 36,000. Well, he didn’t count all of them; he did the math calculating footage and numbers.

When we returned home, once Max had eaten her weight in snacks from CandyDSC_6209 Kitchen, I excitedly talked to Neeti about what we’d seen and we discussed ways to use this research in our story. She also told me about her wonderful dog, a boxer named Bobie, and we decided we’d make her a big part of the story. Woof!

I am over-the-moon excited about the beautiful illustrations by Veronica Jones and the chance for Neeti, Veronica, and I to share Moonlight Crab Count with children everywhere.  Horseshoe crabs are fascinating, and they offer a chance for families to take part in a cool citizen science project.

The counting and tagging season is upon us, and there are opportunities for families to get involved and help researchers with their count. Visit horseshoecrabtagging.org and scistarter.com to learn more about counting projects in your area. If you are still not completely convinced to join the citizen science effort learn more on PBS The World’s newest documentary The Crowd & The Cloud. Each week they will highlight different projects and topics. In episode 4 watch for a mention of Moonlight Crab Count!

You can also learn about Jenifer’s book Moonlight Crab Count at arbordalepublishing.com or request a copy at your local bookseller.

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Ele – gami

OnceElephant

Earlier this month we announced that our book Once Upon and Elephant made the finalists list for the Children’s Choice Book Awards, well today we having fun with some elephant crafts and came across some folding fun!

In fact, in addition to all the teaching activities that are available on our website, we have gone elephant mad and made a Pinterest board with all sorts of fun activities. We tried a few out in the office including this elephant you can make with only a dollar.

Check out the activities, and an elephant would never forget to vote!!

Meet the Illustrator: Veronica V. Jones

Meet Veronica V. Jones, Moonlight Crab Count is her debut picture book and we think it is pretty great! We learned a lot about Veronica when we did this short interview get to know her too!

This is your debut children’s book, when did you decide to pursue a career in illustration?

I’ve been working as an illustrator for a long time. Soon after I graduated from university in 1995, I realized I wanted to work as an illustrator.   I started sending out mailers and emails to companies who might like my work. My first break was getting to work as a graphic designer, first for a company that made novelty photo sticker booths, then for a government contractor. This gave me a lot of valuable experience with new tools and software, as well as the business of commercial art. When my husband and I were about to welcome our first child in 2000, I decided to work as a freelance illustrator (and stay home mom) full time. I spent a long time creating artwork for the hobby tabletop game market, that is, collectible card games and roleplaying games, which use a lot of action, fantasy and science fiction art. In 2010, I decided I wanted to start doing artwork for children’s books and that’s where my heart has been ever since!

Can you discuss the difference between illustrating for children and adults? Is one more challenging the other? (If so, why?)

I think my work for children’s books is actually more challenging. My projects for adults these days are for the covers of novels. You have to tell a little bit of the story while also making a design that will be easy to figure out whether it’s on a bookshelf in a store or a tiny thumbnail on the Amazon website. However, for my children’s books, I have to do all of that and then the 13 or so interior spreads to accompany the story. I have to make sure the characters stay consistent so that Leena, for example, looks like Leena whether we’re at the start of her story, the middle, or the end. While I can usually wrap up an adult novel project in 2-3 months, a children’s picture book can take 6 months or more!

Have you always known you wanted to be an artist? What is your favorite media to work with (and why)?

Ever since I was little, I’ve always known I loved to create. I enjoyed making art for myself, and my friends but I didn’t really think about it as a job. Luckily, I met a medical illustrator who convinced me to start looking into illustration as an option.

I tried out a lot of different media to learn what would be the best fit for me. While I’ve enjoyed working with acrylics, pastels, pen and ink and colored pencil. For my work, I prefer my digital paintbrush. It gives me a lot of control, flexibility and speed, which is ideal when you’re working on a project. 

Did you draw when you were a kid? (Please provide details and/or a specific example.)

I drew ALL. THE. TIME!! So much so, I would get in trouble sometimes. The margins of my notebooks would be covered in doodles and I would practice poses from my favorite comic books like Spiderman. I remember in 7th grade drawing a ballerina I was particularly proud that it was shown off in the school art show. 

What books (or illustrators) have inspired you? 

There are so many books that have shaped me to be the person I am today. I was a voracious reader as far back as I remember, spending all the extra time I could both in my school library and the public library. Back in elementary school, I grew acquainted with Fudge and Ramona Quimby, went through the wardrobe to Narnia, and sleuthed with Encyclopedia Brown. As I grew older, I read all of the Anne of Green Gables books and all of the Nancy Drew mysteries. I read the Hardy Boys, but they weren’t as fun. I LOVED books by Robin McKinley (still do!) like “The Blue Sword” and “Hero and the Crown”. In high school I expanded to mystery and horror, reading Agatha Christie novels and Stephen King. I vividly remember reading “It” during final exams in the gym.

As for artists, I’ve been especially inspired by Norman Rockwell and Alphonse Mucha. I greatly admire the work of more recent illustrators Michael Whelan, Donato Giancola, Todd Lockwood and Tony DiTerlizzi. It was Tony’s work on the Spiderwick Chronicles that led me to think about jumping into art for the children’s book market.

Research is an important part of illustration. Can you explain how you learned about horseshoe crabs for “Moonlight Crab Count”? What is one fact that you didn’t know before you started?

Research is critically important to my process. I research not just the animals, but the objects, boats, houses and landscapes that a story is set in. For Moonlight Crab Count, I needed to do a lot of research on horseshoe crabs to make sure they came out right. I found out what kind of animal they are – not a crab at all but more closely related to spiders, as well as where they come up on land to reproduce (Mid-Atlantic seashore). One fact that completely blew my mind was that the horseshoe crab doesn’t have 2 eyes like we do but 10 eyes!

How do you begin Moonlight Crab Count, or tell us about your creative process? 

When I work on the artwork for a book like Moonlight Crab Count, my first step is to read the story over and over. I want to know whom the story is about and what happens. I try to start picturing the story in my head. Other artists use pencils, watercolor or acrylic paint for their art. While I may use some of those tools, my main tool is a computer. I use drawing and paint programs and a special pen and tablet to draw and paint on the computer.

Before I draw the pictures to go with the story, I need to come up with what the main characters will look like. For Leena, her mom, and Bobie the Boxer, I looked at a lot of pictures and sketched A LOT. Next, I start to do research to make sure that everything looks the way it’s supposed to. That means reading up on the places, things, and animals that show up in the story and keeping copies of pictures that I can return to later.

When I’m ready to start drawing, I make a version of the story on my computer. In this version, I split up the text into different pages with lots of blank space for drawing. Then I carefully go page-by-page and start to sketch out ideas for pictures that will accompany the text. These first sketches can be VERY simple. This is called a book dummy. I come up with simple sketches for each page then go back and make them into detailed drawings. As I’m drawing, I review the research I collected at the start to help me draw the people, animals, and places realistically. Once all these detailed drawings have been approved, I start painting! Like my drawings, I use my computer to paint.

As I paint, I make sure to look at all the pictures side by side to make sure the colors go together and look like they belong together. Once I finish, I submit these to the publisher. Generally, there is some back and forth as we change little things to make the text stand out better or to make sure the details are right. For Midnight Crab Count, we went back and forth on the lights on Leena’s boat. I don’t have a lot of experience with boats, so my editor was a big help on getting the details of the lights right! 

The colors in “Moonlight Crab Count” are beautiful and unusual. Can you talk about the coloration?

The colors of twilight and night are my favorite…the deep blues and indigos, the way the clouds catch the last bits of light to glow in the sky and how colors are muted by the dark. I wanted to really give the impression of the progression of night, so I used very little light just the moon and a few lights, until the final brilliant dawn. 

Do you have a favorite illustration in this book?

I have two favorites. I loved how the cover came out. I tried hard to instill a sense of wonder and magic in that moment when Leen sees the horseshoe crabs in the surf. My second favorite is Bobie running towards us with his tongue flapping. He just looks so goofy!

What challenges did you face in illustrating Moonlight Crab Count? 

While I’ve illustrated for middle-grade books, Moonlight Crab Count is my first picture book, which is quite different. It was a great learning opportunity. There’s a lot more art required, and illustrators have to keep the character consistent throughout the book, so it’s a bigger job. I loved doing it!

What’s next? 

The next book that I’m working on is The Lizard Lady. It’s about a scientist working with endangered land lizards in the US Virgin Islands. It’s a lot of fun because who doesn’t like tiny little lizards?

What advice can you offer to aspiring illustrators?

There are a lot of skills you need to learn to be a successful illustrator. Draw everything you see around you. Draw your favorite characters (like Spiderman!) but also the things you don’t like to draw, like feet, or cars or the trees. Try to learn different media like paints, pastels or markers so you know which are your favorites. Practice telling stories with your art.

Do you visit schools and/or teach illustration to children?

I’m very excited to start visiting schools to tell them about my work as an illustrator. Every summer I teach art classes to kids and teens at my local recreation centers. These classes aren’t long, but they’re FUN! I love to hang out with kids and see the world from their point of view, so I’m really looking forward to getting into classrooms and meeting more kids.

Learn more about Veronica on her website VVJones.com or contact her for a school visit at Veronica@VVJones.com!

Get Moonlight Crab Count at arbordalepublishing.com or request a copy from your local bookseller!

Once Upon an Elephant is a Children’s Choice Finalist

We are jumping with joy over the announcement that Once Upon an Elephant is a finalist in the Children’s Choice Book Awards.

The Friday celebration has rolled into the weekend, but now we begin the campaign for votes! This is the tenth year kids will cast their votes, and the Children’s Book Council has a great new voting booth that will be open until May 7th. Check it out!

Before you cast your vote, get to know Once Upon an Elephant.

OnceElephantFrom slowing wildfires to planting seeds, one animal is the true superhero that keeps the African savanna in balance. Elephants dig to find salt that other animal lick, their deep footprints collect water for small creatures to drink, and they eat young trees to keep the forest from overtaking the grasslands. In every season, the elephants are there to protect the savanna and its residents – but what would happen if the elephants were only “once upon a time”? Read along to discover the important role this keystone species plays in the savanna and explore what would happen if the elephants vanished.

 

Meet Linda Stanek
As an early and middle childhood educator, Linda Stanek wants to inspire young learners, lindastanekincluding children with written language disabilities, to write about things that excite them. Her own passion for saving endangered animals and teaching children about the importance of each link in the natural world provide the inspiration for Once Upon an Elephant. Linda has also written The Pig and Miss Prudence and Beco’s Big Year: A Baby Elephant Turns One. Linda has two grown sons and lives in Ohio with her husband and feline family members. Visit her website at www.lindastanek.com.

 

Meet Shennen Bersani
Shennen Bersani is an award-winning illustrator with 2 million copies of her books cherished and read by children, parents, and teachers throughout the world. Her art ShennenBersanidelivers heartfelt emotion, the wonders of nature and science, and creates a unique joy for learning. Some of Shennen’s other illustrated works include A Case of Sense; Once Upon an Elephant; Salamander Season; Sea Slime: It’s Eeuwy, Gooey and Under the Sea; The Shape Family Babies; Animal Partners; Shark Baby; Home in the Cave; The Glaciers are Melting!; and Astro: The Steller Sea Lion for Arbordale. In 2015, Shennen made her debut as an author with Achoo! Why Pollen Counts. Shennen lives with her family near Boston. For more information, visit her website at www.shennenbersani.com.

Tweet us your favorite elephant fact to win a signed copy of Once Upon an Elephant. Remember to tag @arbordalekids