Make your own shape creations!

Here is a fun rainy day activity for The Shape Family Babies fans. Create shape animals, shape objects, and even shape people out of paper with a few simple steps.

It’s easy to do if you have a pair of scissors, some felt, a pencil, a ruler, and a sheet of cardstock or paper.



Take the ruler and measure a square on the paper, make sure that each of the sides is seven inches long. Next, draw a diagonal line from the bottom corner to the top, opposite corner. We’ll call this line, line one. This line turns the square into two large triangles.


The second line you’ll need to draw should be parallel to line one, but two inches away from where line one meets the top corner of the square.


Line three should start at the other bottom corner (the opposite of line one) and go through line one, like you’re going to make a big “X,” but stop at line two.


Next, draw a short, diagonal line from the point where lines three and two meet, down to line one. This should create a small triangle as well as a parallelogram.


The last line should start at the opposite side of line one, starting at line two and stopping at line three. This will create a square and one more triangle. Lastly, cut along the lines to separate the shapes.

Once you have cut out all of the different shapes, arrange them on the felt to make a person, or a house, or anything your imagination comes up with! Once you make one creation, you can easily rearrange and make new ones.


Can you fit the smaller shapes together to create one big shape?

How many different shapes are there? How many are the same shapes but different sizes?


Read more about shapes in our new book, The Shape Family Babies.

Happy Halloween!

What are you afraid of? Ghosts, goblins, monsters lurking in the shadows, or are you afraid of something a little more real? We have compiled a list of books with creepy crawly creatures that are sure to scare in celebration of Halloween!

Often misunderstood bats are portrayed as fanged bloodsucking creatures of the night. These two book may just change your mind about this nocturnal animal.

Little Red Bat
LittleBat_Pic5Red bats can hibernate or migrate to warmer regions during the winter. Should this solitary little bat stay or should she go? That’s the question the little red bat ponders as the leaves fall and the nights get colder! Some animals, such as the squirrel, tell her to stay. But what about the dangerous creatures that hunt red bats in winter? The sparrow and others urge her to go. But where? Carole Gerber takes young readers on an educational journey through one bat’s seasonal dilemma in Little Red Bat. Imaginative illustrations by Christina Wald give little red bat charm and personality, and children will be waiting and wondering what will happen next. Will the little red bat stay put or migrate south for safety and warmth?

Home in the Cave
homecave coverBaby Bat loves his cave home and never wants to leave it. While practicing flapping his wings one night, he falls, and Pluribus Packrat rescues him. They then explore the deepest, darkest corners of the cave where they meet amazing animals—animals that don’t need eyes to see or colors to hide from enemies. Baby Bat learns how important bats are to the cave habitat and how other cave-living critters rely on them for their food. Will Baby Bat finally venture out of the cave to help the other animals?

These relatives of the dog were fierce hunters in Medieval Europe, which is where the mystery of the werewolf originated. Now a prominent Halloween figure; learn more about this animal’s characteristics in:

One Wolf Howls
Wolf_128Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a wolf? What would you do in the cold winter months? Where would you sleep? What would you eat? Spend a year in the world of wolves in One Wolf Howls. This adventurous children’s book uses the months of the year and the numbers 1 through 12 to introduce children to the behavior of wolves in natural settings. The lively, realistic illustrations of Susan Detwiler complement the rhyming text and bring each month to life. From January to December, howl, frolic, and dance, while learning important lessons page-by-page!

Teeth, Claws & Scales
These creatures may not show up at your Halloween party, but they are lurking in the wild. The next two books feature a variety of animals with creepy features!!

The Most Dangerous
MostDangerous_128Dangerous animals from all over the world gather for the Most Dangerous Animal of All Contest. Snakes, spiders, sharks . . . who will the winner be? Deadly poison, huge teeth, razor -sharp horns, and fearsome feet are just a few of the ways that animals kill. Predators mean to kill. Prey simply defend themselves. And yet, the unexpected most deadly-animal doesn’t mean to harm at all!

A Day in the Deep
Travel deep into the ocean way below the surface and you’ll encounter some creatures you never knew existed! This book takes you on a journey through the dark depths of the sea towards the ocean floor. Most ecosystems need sunlight, but deep in the ocean where the sun doesn’t shine animals have adapted some very interesting ways to see, protect themselves, and eat. Discover the unique habitats, adaptations, and food chains of these deep -sea creatures.

Visit the book page to learn more about these featured titles, or maybe you would like to read about the less creepy animals in Sylvan Dell’s collection. Click here

Pop-up Shop for Tax Free Weekend



This week has had all of us at Sylvan Dell Publishing working on a special project for this weekend only, We have made tie-dyed shirts, packed up hundreds of books, and created some colorful posters and decorations for the occasion. What can we be preparing for? Well…

For tax free weekend, Sylvan Dell Publishing will be opening a “pop-up” shop in Citadel Mall in Charleston, SC. We will be selling all of our titles at great discount prices! Please stop by during regular mall hours on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to check out our books, and did we mention we are giving away free posters! This is an event you won’t want to miss. We even have something special just for kids. So remember, Sylvan Dell Publishing store in Citadel Mall this weekend only, all books additionally discounted and tax free! Hope to see you there!

Celebrate Moon Day

In July of 1969, human history changed forever when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon’s surface.  In honor of the upcoming anniversary of the moon landing, we’ve compiled a list of space-related museum exhibits. From space shuttles to simulated treks across Mars, these exhibits all immerse visitors in the story of the space race and educate them about what’s beyond this world.

Space Shuttle Enterprise
Located in New York City, the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum’s newest exhibit, which just opened on July 10, is the Space Shuttle Pavilion which now holds the Enterprise. The Enterprise was NASA’s original orbiter. It conducted tests within Earth’s atmosphere in the late 1970’s and was crucial in the success of America’s shuttle program. NASA retired the shuttle in 1985, and the Enterprise is now being showcased on the Intrepid in Manhattan. Visitors are greeted with 35-year-old audio recordings of astronauts exchanging radio calls with flight controllers.  The exhibit includes stories about the orbiters and the people involved with them, the early designs of the shuttles, technological innovations, and much more. 


Destination Station
At the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, WA, visitors can immerse themselves in the story of the International Space Station. From the international cooperation that makes the constant scientific research at the station possible, to the audio and visual technology that connects visitors to space, this exhibit will enthrall anyone who has ever wanted to go to space. The exhibit is open until Sept. 2.

For those of you in the Columbus, OH area, the COSI has a fantastic exhibit all about outer space. Visitors can explore the surface of Mars, ride in a space capsule, compare the effects of gravity from planet to planet, and watch live NASA TV. This exhibit gives visitors all kinds of information on rocket technology, the attempt to find life in the universe, and more.


Space Shuttle Endeavour
At the California Science Center in Los Angeles, CA, visitors can hear the space shuttle Endeavour’s story before actually viewing the Endeavour itself at the Samuel Oschin Pavilion. Endeavour: The California Story tells the story of how the Endeavour and other shuttles were produced in California and showcases the artifacts that helped make them functional. Then at the Samuel Oschin Pavilion, visitors will get up close and personal to the shuttle and learn about its missions and the people involved with them. Entrance requires a separate ticket with a $2 service fee, and the museum strongly suggests purchasing that ticket in advance.

The Air and Space Museum
The Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. is dedicated to flight both within and beyond the earth’s atmosphere and is a treat for anyone who is passionate about air and space. Exhibits include everything from the Mercury Capsule 15B, Freedom 7 II, to the Manned Maneuvering Unit, to the space shuttle Discovery and much more. Anyone in the D.C. area who likes flight cannot miss this museum. 

If you are not near one of these museums celebrate with us and read Meet the Planets or Solar System Forecast!

Book Giveaway!

We are celebrating the upcoming July 4th holiday early at Sylvan Dell Publishing. To celebrate, we have decided to offer a book giveaway of Ocean Hide and Seek by Jennifer Evans Kramer, illustrated by Gary R. Phillips. There are only five copies available. In order to enter for a chance to win a free book, participants must complete the following matching game and send their answers back to us in a Facebook message. Also, we will be posting fun ocean facts on are Facebook from time to time, so check it out!

(For example, did you know that 94% of life on Earth is aquatic?)

Ocean HideSeek Matching copy

Animal Helper: Rocky Mountain Raptor Program

Each book in the new photographic journal series, Animal Helpers, features different ways animals are being helped by experts, volunteers, students, interns, and even campers around our country. Through this unusual series, we hope to bring recognition and awareness to the extraordinary animal helpers and nonprofit centers, clinics, sanctuaries, and rescue zoos in which they work. In the meantime, we will be using this blog to cheer on the work of even more of these unsung heroes, who dedicate their time, patience, and funds to helping save wild animals, one life at a time.

Animal Helpers Out West – Swainson’s Alert with Judy Scherpelz, Executive Director, and Christine Thomas, Volunteer, Rocky Mountain Raptor Program, Fort Collins, CO

On any given day, Judy Scherpelz, Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program (RMPR) in Fort Collins, Colorado, might be worried about the owls, hawks, falcons, and other birds of prey who are in the clinic because of car strikes, drought, fire, twine entanglement, electrocution, and the dreaded West Nile Virus.

Fierce as they seem, even raptors are prone to forces of man and nature.

This year, with the worst drought in history alongside some mighty big fires, birds of prey have come into RMRP in record numbers.

“This has been a really hard summer,” remarks Judy, “Young birds are so hungry that they’ll go after road kill that they normally would not go after so these inexperienced youngsters are coming in starving and injured.”

Working long hours, seven days a week, Judy and her small but dedicated, staff rush out to rescue the birds and give them a second chance at freedom. The youngest birds are fed and their wounds are treated as needed. Eventually they attend “mouse school,” where they learn to eat live prey, and “flight school,” where they learn to use those big wings. Now that its fall, RMRP is graduating some of their raptors, including the Swainson’s Hawks, a western raptor related to Red-Taileds.

In fact, by late summer, RMRP staff is officially on “Swainson Alert.”

Like other hawks, Swainies migrate from the U.S. to their wintering grounds in Argentina, where they are known as “grasshopper hawks.” (Those hopping insects are their favorite food.)

What is unusual about these medium-sized hawks is the numbers in which they congregate and the incredibly long distance that they migrate. In Colorado, Swainies gather in huge groups—100 to 500 birds at a time—called kettles. “That term comes from the resemblance to the smoke coming out of a kettle,” explains Judy, “As the birds rise up into the thermals in the sky, they look like smoke coming out of a kettle.” The birds then migrate over 6,000 miles in eight weeks, flying almost 135 miles a day. And, by the time they arrive at the isthmus of Panama/Mexico, there may be thousands of Swainson’s Hawks in a kettle, notes Judy.

Out west, baby Swainies hatch in June. By migration time, they are only three months old. They might be adult size but “they’re young and dumb,” laughs Judy. “Young birds need adult supervision during migration,” she explains, “The older birds know where to feed and how to find food; and, they’ve been to Argentina, so they know the route.”
An important part of releasing young Swainson’s Hawks, then, is to find the kettles so that the young birds can join their elders. The youngsters cannot be released on their own; they will starve.

So, exactly how does one find a kettle in Colorado?

Ask longtime RMRP volunteer Christine Thomas.

Each August, she and her husband, Michael, spend their spare time driving a truck down backcountry roads in the grasslands to search for kettles. “There is no memo from the birds,” jokes Christine, “So, we get out of town on dirt roads and we look high. We look low. We might drive 120 miles a day looking for them for five days to a week.”

Because the Thomases are avid birders, they have traveled these unpaved roads and rural parts of their county a lot looking for raptors. Christine has learned what the birds like—including grasshopper-ladened alfalfa plantings and bathing in puddles from irrigated fields. She often locates plots with water, even those that have pivot sprinklers. Over the years, she and Michael have learned to find out when and what farmers are planting and cutting. They spend a lot of time talking with landowners so that they can learn more about the birds’ habits. They look up, at telephone poles and possible perching spots for the birds; but, they know they have to eventually look down. The hungry birds will be on the ground, eating grasshoppers.

Christine is in awe of these hawks, which she likens to long distance runners. “They spend one-third of their lives migrating all the way to Argentina and then back. They are built for distance and endurance.”

“The first time we saw a kettle of hawks, it took our breath away,” says Christine, “There were so many of them, maybe 500, and when they took off, it was so awesome, like Christmas Day!”

Once the Thomases find the flocks, they hurriedly call the center. Staff then quickly gathers and bands all releasable Swainson’s Hawks at the center, places them into carriers, and races them back to the location, a drive that often takes at least an hour. Prior to release, the Thomases do ensure that the location is a safe spot to release the hawks, preferably in a location without fences or traffic.

Fortunately, the Thomases have gotten quite good at deciphering the clues to find the kettles. If the hawks miss this “great escape” and have to overwinter with RMPR, the care is expensive. The hawks eat three to four mice per day at a cost of about $1 per mouse. Not including labor, the cage, or other raptor necessities, the expenses quickly add up.

This year, RMRP released 16 Swainson’s Hawks (which includes three overwintered from last year); and will overwinter nine.

For more information about RMRP, please visit their website,

Thank you to Jennifer Keats Curtis author of Animal Helpers: Wildlife Rehabilitators for introducing us to Judy, Christine and the entire staff at RMRP. They are doing wonderful work for these beautiful hawks.

Animal Helper: Victoria Campbell

Do you love animals, and want to help wildlife? Meet Victoria Campbell a rehabilitator from Wild Things Sanctuary featured in Animal Helpers: Wildlife Rehabilitators. Victoria shares her dedication and the rewards of working with natures amazing creatures.

Name: Victoria Campbell

Name of organization/clinic: Wild Things Sanctuary 

State: New York 

Specialty/special areas of experience: Mammals, baby animals 

Years as rehabilitator/volunteer: 6 

Busiest time of year: April-September (especially May-July)                             

Number of hours you work per week during your busy season: up to 140! 

Number of volunteers in clinic: Varies. At the moment, I have 3.

Why did you become a rehabilitator/volunteer: I became a wildlife rehabilitator because I feel a great empathy for the wild animals who do not have owners to look after them and who can get very badly sick and injured and orphaned: they need help too! Also, most patients are in trouble because of human related causes (e.g., cars, pets, construction), and I felt that it was part of my duty as a human to give back to these animals who need help.

Most rewarding aspect of rehabilitation: Having an animal learn to trust me and building an understanding between me and the patient. And it’s pretty fun nurturing the baby animals as well! 

As a rehabilitator, what is the most common question you are asked? How did you get those scratches? What’s the biggest animal/worst bite you’ve ever had? When do you sleep? How do you know all this stuff?

Favorite animal story: Too many to think of! Pretty amazing releasing an animal and seeing it run off smiling…or when a pregnant mama gives birth at Wild Things! 

What advice would you offer to children considering a career in wildlife rehabilitation: Learn as much about animals as you can and see whether there are any places where you can volunteer and learn more about wildlife rehabilitation. Wildlife rehabilitators need to know about animal behavior, veterinary care, animal husbandry, and even skills like cooking and carpentry: there is lots to learn! Also, make sure you have a support system of people who can help you: it is hard work! And reach out to others who are interested and/or who are wildlife rehabilitators as often you learn the most from other rehabilitators and their work. Finally, know that sometimes you need to love the animals enough to make difficult decisions; wildlife rehabilitation is great but it can be very sad too.  

Visit beginning October 1st Read Animal Helpers: Wildlife Rehabilitators for FREE all month.

Have you ever wondered how desert animals stay clean?


by Darcy Pattison
Illustrated by Kathleen Rietz

Watch the vulture bask in the morning sun, the roadrunner kick up a cloud of dust, the javelina wallow, and the bobcat give her cub a licking with a rough tongue in Desert Baths. As the sun travels across the sky, learn how twelve different desert animals face the difficulties of staying clean in a dry and parched land. Explore the desert habitat through its animals and their habits of hygiene. Told in lyrical prose, this story is a celebration of the desert lands of the American Southwest.

After reading Desert Baths, get into the spirit with a great coloring page below by Kathleen Rietz, or visit to take the quiz to see what you learned about desert animals.

Darcy Pattison is published in eght languages. In addition to Desert Baths and Prairie Storms with Sylvan Dell, other recent titles include Wisdom: The Midway Albatross and 11 Ways to Ruin a Photograph. She also authored the ebook, How to Write a Children’s Book and the teacher resource book, Paper Lightning: Prewriting Activities to Spark Creativity and Help Students Write Effectively. Darcy is the 2007 recipient of the Arkansas Governor’s Arts Award, Individual Artist Award for her work in children’s literature. As a writing teacher, Darcy is in demand nationwide to teach her Novel Revision Retreat. She is currently the Co-Chair of the Children’s Program for the Arkansas Literary Festival.

A lifelong artist and lover of nature, Kathleen Rietz was drawing and painting before she learned to write her name. Originally from Peoria, IL, Kathleen received her formal training from the American Academy of Art in Chicago, IL. In addition to illustrating Desert Baths, The Tree That Bear Climbed, Prairie Storms, and Champ’s Story: Dogs Get Cancer Too! for Sylvan Dell, Kathleen’s other books include Conce Tu Parque, Little Black Ant on Park Street, The ABC’s of Yoga for Kids, and Prayers for Children. She taught art to children and adults at the Community School of the Arts at historic Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL, and through a local home school program in her community.

Write a comment and you could win an eBook of Desert Baths!

* Winners in the past 6 months are not eligible for contests.

And Here They Are…

After many long weeks of waiting the Sylvan Dell fall releases are finally here! If you haven’t checked out our new releases online here is an overview. We are having an online launch party all next week, watch the blog for author posts, teaching activities and GIVEAWAYS!!

Desert Baths– All animals bathe to keep their bodies clean and healthy. Humans mi
ght use soap and water, but what do animals, especially those living in dry climates, do to keep clean? Darcy Pattison and Kathleen Rietz team up again to explore the desert to find out how snakes, spiders, and birds bathe. This surprising book teaches children about hygiene and how some exciting desert creatures manage to stay clean without the help of soap and water.


The Most DangerousDangerous animals from all over the world gather for the Most Dangerous Animal of All Contest. Snakes, spiders, sharks…who will the winner be? Deadly poison, huge teeth, razor -sharp horns, and fearsome feet are just a few of the ways that animals kill. Predators mean to kill. Prey simply defend themselves. And yet, the unexpected most deadly animal doesn’t mean to harm at all!


Solar System ForecastFreezing temperatures, scorching heat, and a storm bigger than planet Earth is just some of the wild weather you will encounter on your trip through our solar system! Get your fun facts along with your forecast for each major planet, as well as the weather on dwarf planet Pluto. Any child with an interest in space is sure to love Solar System Forecast, and parents will love the educational “For Creative Minds” section in the back of the book. Get ready for some out of this world fun with Solar System Forecast!


The Tree That Bear ClimbedEveryone knows about the house that Jack built, but this is The Tree That Bear Climbed. What makes this tree so fascinating to bear? Starting with the roots that anchor the tree, this chain of events story in cumulative verse explores many different things that help a tree stand tall. It also lends itself to further discussion with fun repetition and detailed picture clues, stimulating a child’s curiosity. Why does the bear climb the tree and what happens when he arrives at his goal?


A Warm Winter Tail Do you ever wonder how animals stay warm in the winter? Well, they wonder how humans do too! In a twist of perspective, wild creatures question if humans use the same winter adaptation strategies that they do. Do they cuddle together in a tree or fly south to Mexico? Take a look through an animal’s eyes and discover the interesting ways animals cope with the cold in this rhythmic story.

A Fun Classroom Activity for Common Core Standards

By Darcy Pattison

How do you get kids interested in a book about vultures and desert tortoises at a summer program where they are interested mostly in having some fun? And how do you do it while fulfilling the Common Core State Standards?

One of the tenets of the Common Core State Standards is the use of technology with kids. This summer, I volunteered at the Arkansas Audubon ( summer camp. Camp Director Mary Smith agreed when I asked if we could do some videotaping with kids to create a book trailer for my new book, DESERT BATHS.

First, I studied the Common Core requirements. The Common Core ELA Speaking & Listening anchor standard #5 requires students to “Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding.” An appropriate task for this standard is for students to create a video. In this case, we also emphasized close reading of the text of Desert Baths (CC ELA Reading anchor standards #1, 2, 4) to understand how each desert animals stays clean.

Note: The camp had a wide range of ages, so I didn’t use any specific grade level standards. The Common Core provides Anchor Standards, which are in turn specifically interpreted for each grade level. By following the more general Anchor Standard, I was confident that we would accomplish something appropriate for each student.

After the close reading of the text, students were assigned an animal to act out and practiced a couple times.

Videotaping the Desert Baths Book Trailer

Videotaping with kids can be chaotic. In order to minimize this, I set up four stations.

  1. Camera man. The camera man was responsible for running the camera and taping the Actor. I use a Kodak Z-i8 hand-held camera because it is the only camera in its class with an external microphone jack. The camera was mounted on a tripod and the Camera Man had to make sure it was the right height for the Actor and was positioned for the setting to fill the screen.
  2. Actor. The actor was responsible for standing on the stage, saying his/her lines and acting out how a desert animal takes a bath.
  3. Sound Man. I plugged a lapel microphone into the Kodak Zi8 Camera. If you look closely, you can see the wire on the kids. The Sound Man was responsible for making sure the microphone was placed on the Actor correctly. Also, to conserve the batteries of the microphone, it was turned off except when in actual use. The Sound Man was responsible for making sure the microphone was turned on and off at the right times.
  4. Stage Director. This was a favorite task, because this person got to yell out, “Quiet on the Set.” In addition to starting and stopping the action, the Stage Director was responsible for making sure everything was set up correctly, the Actor was ready and then directing everyone to start.

The stations worked well because students came to the videotaping in groups of four and each student rotated through all the tasks. They knew their job was important and they took it seriously. Watch and see what fun they had.