The beautifully illustrated nonfiction follows the real Lizard Lady, herpetologist Nicole Angeli, as she chops through rough Caribbean terrain to find and save a critically endangered ground lizard on the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Croix. The slithery little St. Croix ground lizards nearly became extinct after a cute but invasive mammal was brought in to eat the rats that were eating farmers’ crops. (Spoiler alert: The Lizard Lady and her team find a way to save these reptiles from extinction!)
The Lizard Lady, now officially Dr. Angeli, was finishing her doctorate (Ph.D.) as she and author Jennifer Keats Curtis (JKC) worked on the book. Today, Dr. Angeli is the Director of Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources. And (drumroll please), she has BIG news to share about the St. Croix ground lizards. Hear more about it as Dr. Angeli and JKC (who clearly have become fast friends) discuss the Lizard Lady’s latest on their last Zoom call video.
To learn more about The Lizard Lady, click here. The book is available in English and Spanish (La Dama de las Siguanas) wherever you normally buy your books or through Arbordale, Amazon, or an independent bookstore near you.
School may be out for the summer but working dogs are still, well working. This week, I had a chance to learn what was occupying the time of one of my favorite human-dog duos, Julianne Ubigau and her dog Jasper. Julianne, the education and outreach coordinator of Conservation Canines, University of Washington Center for Environmental and Forensic Science, and I are the authors of Pooper Snooper. This gloriously illustrated (by Phyllis Saroff) nonfiction details how Julianne and her dog detective work together to help scientists investigate and track endangered animals. (Yes, the title gives it away: The snoopers’ clue? Poop.)
In addition to teaching her dogs to sniff for the scat of endangered animals, Julianne and her canine helpers are also working with scientists and environmentalists to seek out invasive plants and animals, such as garlic mustard plants and bullfrogs. In her spare time (which she could not possibly have), Julianne is talking with students, interested groups and podcasters to explain how the incredibly useful snufflers of rescued dogs can be. This month, Phil Hatterman, host and producer of Dog Words Presented by Rosie Fund, interviewed Julie to get at the heart (or at least the nose) of the matter. We hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen, https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/dog-words/id1496693461?i=1000568974499.
Photos courtesy of Julianne Ubigau: Sampson, Julianne’s current pooper snooper, readies himself to sniff out bullfrogs.
Sharks… just the word may evoke fear in some. The reality is that one is more likely to be hit by lightning than be attacked by a shark.
There are over 500 species of sharks that play important roles in the balance needed for healthy oceans. Some sharks are at the top of the ocean food web keeping marine populations healthy. Other sharks keep the ocean clean by eating animal remains (detritus).
You may find shark teeth at the beach. Sharks loose up to 30,000 teeth over their lifetime and replace them very quickly.
You’ll never find shark bones. Shark and ray skeletons are not made of bones like we have. Their skeletons are made with cartilage, like we have in our ears and noses!
Learn more about sharks and rays by reading some great books today. Look for these and other shark books at your library or online at www.arbordalepublishing.com.
And when you are finished reading, here are some great activities from members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to help young children learn more.
Children love going to zoos and aquariums (Z/As) as great places to see animals they would not see in their daily lives. As children (and their parents/caregivers) explore, they are learning about the animals and their habitats, especially when they read the signage and listen to educator talks.
Learning about animals, their habitats and conservation issues is a first step in caring about the environment. Z/As donate millions of dollars a year to support conservation issues around the world. When you purchase a ticket and buy products in their gift shops, you are contributing to those causes too.
Many Z/As even participate in breeding programs. The American Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) even has programs (Species Survival Plans) to help zoos find endangered-animal breeding partners and locations for the resulting babies. In some cases, these babies may even be released back into the wild! The National and Phoenix Zoos raised and released black-footed ferrets. San Diego and Oregon Zoos participate in raising and releasing California Condors. Hogle Zoo breads and releases Boreal Toads. Potter Park Zoo releases Puerto Rican Crested Toads back into the wild. The Phoenix Zoo participated in “Operation Oryx” to release Arabian Oryx into the wild. The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is one of several zoos and aquariums participating in raising Orinoco crocodile hatchings to be released into the wilds. Other animals that have been successfully raised and introduced into the wild include red wolves, pygmy rabbits, butterflies, Western pond turtles, fishers, and wolverines.
Support your local zoo and aquarium this month! And, make sure to read lots of books featuring animals you might find there.
At 8:32 (Pacific) on May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens volcano erupted killing 57 people and destroying the area around it. The entire northside of the mountain slid down the mountain. After the eruption, scientist spent years studying how life returned to the area and, interestingly, they give the lowly gopher much of the credit. Read Gopher to the Rescue to your children to learn how Mother Earth in all her wisdom replenishes herself following this kind of natural disaster. https://www.arbordalepublishing.com/bookpage.php?id=GopherRescue
Do you love training your dog new tricks? Co-author Julianne Ubigau has trained her shelter dogs amazing tricks that help scientists save important animals.
Pooper Snooper is the story of Julianne’s work tracking the Pacific Pocket Mouse with Sampson. The story details training, and tracking, and a little time for playing ball. As part of the wildlife detective team, the duo searches the terrain, and Sampson uses his powerful nose to pick up on the scent of tiny mouse poop. The scientists learn so much about the population of mice that would take much more effort with only humans searching for them.
Although the story centers around Julianne’s work, author Jennifer Keats Curtis and illustrator Phyllis Saroff also bring the story to life. Jennifer has told the story of many scientists working in various fields. She can take complicated jobs or subjects and use language that young readers relate to and understand. Phyllis is a certified dog trainer, and she drew inspiration from some of her favorite pups for Pooper Snooper. The digital illustrations are realistic and fun!
We had an amazing time chatting about creating Pooper Snooper with Jennifer, Julianne, and Phyllis. Watch it here!
Get your copy of Pooper Snooper or download the “For Creative Minds” section and other educational activities at arbordalepublishing.com.
Do you have a little brother or sister? Do you look up to an older sibling?
We just released a perfect read for any family awaiting a new sibling, Yay for Big Brothers! by Janet Halfmann, illustrated by Shennen Bersani.
On each page of Yay for Big Brothers! We meet a different animal family and get a glimpse of how siblings help the youngest members. Crows help to feed new babies, beavers give young siblings a ride after a tiring swim practice, and dolphins share their favorite toys during playtime. These are just a few examples of how siblings welcome little brothers and sisters. After we learn how big brothers help, the author asks us to consider the similarities to human relationships.
Janet was inspired by watching her own family as it expanded. We sat down with Janet and Shennen to learn more about their creative process. Watch to learn more!
Create your own animal family puppets with these templates from Shennen! Maybe you can even play with your big brother!
It’s that time of year again when leaves begin to fall, and darkness overtakes the amount of daylight. There is a spookiness in the air. In the spirit of learning about terrifying creatures this month, we are seeking the ghosts of dinosaurs.
Can you imagine a 40-foot-long, 12-foot-high lizard with thousands of pointing teeth? What about a flying, swooping lizard the size of a plane with a MASSIVE beak? These animals all lived millions of years ago and have disappeared, but they did leave a trace of their existence.
We are headed on a hunt to find dinosaurs and other extinct creatures around the country, and here are some of the best places to see them.
Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry – Elmo, Utah
More than 12,000 bones have been found at the site, mostly from carnivores and primarily the Allosaurus. Get a glimpse of bones and rock formations in a landscape that was once a very active spot for many meat-eaters especially flying giants.
Dinosaur Valley State Park – Glen Rose, Texas
Walk, or paddle the riverbed to see the mark dinosaurs left on their former home. Here you will find tracks from sauropods and theropods intertwined in various locations. These tracks gave scientists valuable information in piecing together some mysteries of the past.
Dinosaur State Park – Rocky Hill Connecticut
Go below the dome to find one of the largest collections of dinosaur tracks in North America. The tracks are attributed to the Dilophosaurus and were made about 200 million years ago. After viewing the tracks, explore trails surrounded by some of the foliage related to the plants dinosaurs once walked through.
Dinosaur Ridge – Morrison, Colorado
Denver as a tropical oasis? Hundreds of tracks are set in stone just outside the city with evidence of Brontosauruses, Iguanodons, Triceratops, alligator ancestors, and fossilized palms. The trail has all sorts of surprises buried in the rocks.
La Brea Tar Pits – Los Angeles, California
The Ice Age comes alive in the heart of Los Angeles. The tar pits have been there for thousands of years and captured various animals for thousands of years. Watch paleontologists actively uncovering mammoths, saber-toothed cats, and dire wolves and explore the museum filled with fossils of unlucky animals.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.”
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.