Deductive Detectives


“Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth,” Sherlock Holmes has said about his method of detective work. In Sylvan Dell’s new picture book, Deductive Detective, our hero Detective Duck shows that he’s learned from the best! He dons his best deerstalker hat, his much-too-big magnifying glass, and solves the case of the missing cake with the same methods the pros use!

That is, a style of logical thinking called “deductive reasoning.” In deductive reasoning, someone finds an answer they’re looking for by first finding out what the answer isn’t. When Detective Duck examines the clues and finds out which of his friends couldn’t have stolen the cake, it leads him closer to what really happened!

Of course, you don’t need a weird hat and a magnifying glass to use deductive reasoning. These methods come in handy every day! If you lose a toy, for example (or car keys), you may make your search easier by determining where the item isn’t.

“Oh yeah,” you may say, “I didn’t bring it to my friend’s house; I wasn’t holding it when I walked to the living room, or landed on the moon. I wouldn’t have brought it to my parents’ room or under the ocean or into Mordor.” By deciding where you shouldn’t look, you now have a better idea of where you should.

This kind of logic process happens throughout the day, sometimes without you even being aware of it; you might say your brain is always on the case as much as any detective!

Apply deductive reasoning the next time you’re in the bookstore: subtract the books that don’t meet the highest educational standards, offer pages of activities and facts, offer online supplements, are fun to look at and fun to read! You’ll be left with books by Sylvan Dell like The Deductive Detective!

Meet Animal Helper: Kim Johnson

As we continue to feature wildlife rehabilitators this month on the Sylvan Dell blog, this week we meet Kim Johnson from The Drift Inn Wildlife Sanctuary. She shares with us the trials and tribulations of rescuing wild animals.

Texan Kim Johnson often works with her veterinarian husband and a tiny volunteer group at her Drift Inn Wildlife Sanctuary in Driftwood to care for a wide variety of mammals, including raccoons, squirrels, deer, fox, skunks, even bobcats. “Every year is different and I never know exactly what to expect” says Kim, one of a small handful of licensed rehabilitators in her state, “During Hurricane Ike, 200 squirrels were delivered to my front door.”

Despite her hectic schedule caring for wild animals, many of them babies, for 14-18 hours a day, seven days a week, Kim never seems to lose her sense of humor. “If it’s native and it lives in Texas, it’s been in my house, and maybe even if it’s not native,” she quips.

In many of the pictures that Kim submitted for possible use in Animal Helpers, she is wearing a big smile and very heavy welder’s gloves. The grin is, of course, because Kim loves her job. The gloves are because she is smart and seasoned. After 33 years as a rehabilitator, Kim is keenly aware that those gloves are mandatory equipment for handling fuzzy babies that have big paws, sharp teeth, and claws.  

Name: Kim Johnson

Name of organization/clinic: The Drift Inn Wildlife Sanctuary

State: Texas

Specialty/special areas of experience: Mammals, raptors

Years as rehabilitator/volunteer: 33 years

Busiest time of year: May-July

Number of hours you work per week during your busy season: 18+ hours a day 7 days a week

Number of volunteers in clinic: 4

Why did you become a rehabilitator/volunteer: For the love of nature and animals

Most rewarding aspect of rehabilitation: Release days and seeing an animal we thought would not pull through survive and be released!

As a rehabilitator, what is the most common question you are asked? If I touched it, will the mother come back?

Having cared for wildlife for so long, Kim cheerfully tells wonderful stories about the creatures that have come through her clinic, such as: A 7-week-old bobcat came to us on Christmas Day.  He was cute as a button, cute in the “I have claws and teeth and know how to use them” kind of way. For some reason, people still think that all little wild animals drink cow’s milk. (Unless they arecows, they do not do well on cow’s milk.) After getting his weight up, this bobcat soon started to fit right in with the rest of the crew.  He ate mice in nanoseconds, soon was jumping up on everything and getting more mischievous by the day!  Seven weeks later, it was time to move him to a larger facility.  This bobcat had grown four times the size he was when we got him. He was ready to mingle with his own kind.  We transferred him to a much larger facility outside of San Antonio where there are 12 other bobcats. He will be released onto a 1,000 plus acre refuge.  We will miss him; but, as with all of our animals, we feel blessed to have them and to be able to give them the care they need for the time we do. 

Favorite animal story:  We got a call that an adult raccoon had his head stuck for the entire night and half of the day in a bird feeder in a tree.  As I got there sure enough, he had wedged himself to where he could rest on the edge of the feeder as he contemplated his problems.  I told the lady that I could save the coon but not the feeder.  She suggested that they have a warning for purchasers of said bird feeder that it could also capture raccoons.  I got on a ladder and proceeded to unscrew the feeder and remove it from the tree.  So far so good.  I quickly realized that the coon was not coming out of the feeder without a chisel or saw and some serious drugs (for the coon of course).  I decided to put said coon and feeder in the back of the SUV and take him the eight miles down the road to the house where Dr. Johnson (Ray) could tranquilize him and we could then figure out how to release the raccoon from his feeder.  Halfway home, I have visions of the coon releasing himself from the feeder and kicking my tail in the car all the way home.  Luckily, for both of us he was quite stuck and we made it home.  Ray was almost laughing too hard to sedate the bugger but we got it done and although he never completely passed out, he was docile enough to unscrew the rest of the feeder and chisel the wood from around his neck without so much as a scratch on him!  He looked at us and groggily ran off without so much as a thank you.

What advice would you offer to children considering a career in wildlife rehabilitation?

Become a veterinarian who specializes in wildlife.  There are few out there and more are needed!

Remember Animal Helpers: Wildlife Rehabilitators is FREE for the month of October at, or Read it on your iPad, by downloading the free app Fun eReader in iTunes and entering the code: 2WZ637 in the red box on the App Registration page.


To continue with the theme of how a book begins this week we consulted our experts and interviewed Sylvan Dell authors. What sparks your creativity?


“Everything!  I’m a naturally very curious person. In a single day, I can think of hundreds of ideas. For example, if I’m at a stoplight, I begin to wonder, “What if…. or Why?”  For example:

What if the car next to me suddenly disappeared?

Why are stoplights red/yellow/green?  Who first decided that?

What if it started to rain so hard that I couldn’t drive home?

I encourage parents to take advantage of time spent in a car with their children and try asking them “What if….” They might create a story before they even get home!” – Terri Fields

Terri Fields is the author of the August release The Most Dangerous as well as Burro’s Tortillas for Sylvan Dell.  A long-time teacher and award-winning author of books for all ages click here to learn more about Terri Fields.



“I am most creative in the morning – often very early – before my house wakes up.  Hot chocolate mixed with coffee in my favorite mug (given to me by my oldest daughter that reads, “Actually, I Am the Boss of You”) helps me be imaginative as does a cloudy day (versus a sunny day because then I want to be outside doing stuff!). I work through story lines and ideas when I’m in the woods or on the beach alone every day.  When I return to my computer, I’m ready to write.” – Carrie A. Pearson

A Warm Winter Tail due to hit shelves in August is Carrie’s first book for Sylvan Dell to. Carrie is an avid writer of nonfiction for Michigan Magazines, and winner of the SCBWI-Michigan Picture Book Mentorship Award. To learn more about Carrie A. Pearson click here.


“Listening to music that tells a story or delivers an emotion is what stirs my creativity. But when it’s time to write, I need to turn off the music so that I don’t hear anyone else’s words but my own!” – Kelly Kizer Whitt

Kelly Kizer Whitt’s first book for Sylvan Dell is Solar System Forecast due out in August. Read more of Kelly’s work in her online blogs about astronomy for Astronomy Today, Suite 101 and The Sierra Club. Click here to find more information about Kelly Kizer Whitt and Solar System Forecast.


Thanks to our authors for a look at what inspired their upcoming books!

The Great Divide! A Conversation With Suzanne Slade

Sylvan Dell is proud to introduce the final book in the Suzanne Slade math  series, The Great Divide! This book, like Multiply on the Fly features beautiful, detailed illustrations from Erin Hunter, as well as a great “For Creative Minds” educational section in the back and teaching activities at

Animals, like people, enjoy spending time with their friends and family. Many groups of animals have their own unique names. Did you know that a group of gorillas is called a band? And a bunch of billy goats is a tribe? Following in the footsteps of Multiply on the Fly (multiplication), What’s New at the Zoo? (addition) and What’s the Difference? (subtraction), this rhythmic, fun-to-read-aloud book introduces children to division as they conquer bands, tribes, mobs and more.

Below, Multiply on the Fly author Suzanne Slade discusses life as the author of over 90 picture books for kids, and gives advice based on her experiences.  Learn more about Suzanne on her website and figure out how to schedule an in-person or virtual author visit with Suzanne at   Suzanne has also just been selected to be a February Featured Author for the Girl Scouts Studio!

What is the most rewarding part of writing children’s books?
There are actually several things I love about writing chil-dren’s book. First, I enjoy discovering cool facts that fasci-nate me. I get a great feeling of satisfaction when I finally complete a book manuscript. And it is very rewarding when a child tells me that they like one of my books.

What is a typical writing day like for you?
My writing day begins when my children leave for school. I usually first catch up on emails, then get back to writing whatever book I’m working on. This almost always involves lots of reading and research. I might read my story out loud to see how it sounds, or send it to a writing friend to get their suggestions on how I could make my story better. Many of my writing days include a quick trip to the library and per-haps a virtual author visit via Skype. Oh, and I also do lots of snacking when I work. A tasty bowl of cereal can really help me keep going!
When starting a new project, how do you determine the style of writing you would like to use? (rhyming, prose, etc.)
When I begin a new book I carefully consider the age group I’m writing for and the topic of my story. These two factors help me decide how I want to write the story. For example, if I’m writing for a younger audience, I often choose rhyme. Prose is usually a better choice if my book is geared for older children, or it’s a topic that has lots of cool, detailed facts I’d like to share.

Is it true you used to work on rockets?
Strange, but true. I have a mechanical engineering degree and worked for McDonnell Douglas in California in the 1980’s. As a test engineer there, I worked on Delta IV rockets that NASA used to send weather and communications satellites into orbit.
How did you go from engineering to writing children’s stories?
When I was a teenager I was interested in writing children’s sto-ries, but my love of math and science determined my studies in college. Later after I became a mom and was reading picture books to my children every day, I began to think about writing again. My path to publication, like many authors, was a rather long journey. I had a great deal to learn about writing, editing, submitting, and children’s stories in general. I took several writing classes, joined critique groups, learned from the many resources available from SCBWI (Society of Children’s Writers and Illustra-tors), and just kept practicing writing.
What advice do you have for girls wanting to pursue a career in a math or science related field?
I tell girls who love math and science to study hard and pursue whatever career they are most excited about. I think there are as many opportunities for girls in the field of math and science, as there are for boys.
What do you hope readers get out of your books?
I hope young readers simply have fun and enjoy reading my books. Of course, if they learn something cool or interesting about animals or insects along the way, that’s great too!

What is the most frequently asked question you encounter as an
I’m often asked what I enjoy most about writing children’s books, and to be honest, it’s hard to think of anything I don’t like about writing children’s books! I love the ex-citement of getting a fresh, new idea. I love digging in and doing research for a new book. I am very curious and enjoy learning new things when I write a story. I really enjoy the challenge of putting my ideas for a fiction story together. To me it’s like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. I usually know all the parts of my “story-in-progress”, and it’s just a matter of figuring out how they fit together.
I also like to play with fun-sounding words. When I read, I often write down interest-ing or unusual words I find in case I want to use them later. It’s also exciting to dis-cover words that sound really cool together. Like hop poppin’, wicky wacky words! Another part of writing I enjoy is working with editors. They are always very helpful and smart. Editors have great ideas to make my writing better. And of course, one of my favorite parts of writing books is sharing them with children. Most children are very curious like me, and they have great imaginations. It’s great to see them enjoy one of my books.
The Great Divide is the latest clever title in your four-book math series. What inspired you to write (and keep writing) a math series like this?
I really enjoy writing books about math because math was my favorite subject in school. I also love learning about all the fascinating animals and insects in our world, so I have fun including cool facts about them in my books.
Many of your books feature animals. What’s your favorite animal and why?
Well, my most favorite animal of all is my little 7-pound dog, Corduroy. As far as wild animals, I a big fan of penguins. They are so adorable, yet all dressed up!