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!

New Science Discoveries: Animal Instincts


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.

Huddle Up, How Penguins Stay Warm

10-emperorsWhen you live in Antarctica and wear a tuxedo it is a group activity to keep warm on a cold winter day. Scientists have documented that emperor penguins form huddles to stay warm in the frigid temperatures of this habitat.

The penguins have a sophisticated system of rotation to make sure that no one gets too cold, but by studying the Pointe Géologie Archipelago colony researchers have found that huddles are sometimes very short-lived activities for the birds.

When the cold sets in or the wind kicks up, the birds seek out a huddle. The temperatures in the huddle can become much higher than the birds comfort level and researchers first believed that the huddles would break up from the center, but after spending years observing these animals they found that one single bird leaving from the outside can break up a huddle.

While scientists may have originally thought huddles were a simple process in the penguin lifestyle, there is much more that can be learned from the way that these birds socially regulate their temperatures.

Read the article: A Single Penguin can break up a huddle!

To learn more about penguins here are some great stories to share with your little ones:

PenguinLady_187The Penguin Lady
by Carol A Cole, illus. by Sherry Rogers

Penelope Parker lives with penguins! Short ones, tall ones; young and old—the penguins are from all over the Southern Hemisphere including some that live near the equator! Do the penguin antics prove too much for her to handle? Children count and then compare and contrast the different penguin species as they learn geography.

PolarPenguins_187Polar Bears and Penguins: A Compare and Contrast Book
by Katharine Hall

Polar bears and penguins may like cold weather but they live at opposite ends of the Earth. What do these animals have in common and how are they different? You might see them near each other at a zoo but they would never be found in the same habitats in the wild. Compare and contrast these polar animals through stunning photographs.


A Giraffe’s Night Song


Did you know that giraffes, often a very quiet animal, hum in their sleep late at night? Zookeepers involved in the study were even surprised that researchers picked up a low humming noise from their giraffes.

Researchers spent hundreds of hours recording sounds in the giraffe’s enclosures and in each zoo at least one giraffe was separated from the herd.

Although the sound recordings tell us that giraffes do have more vocalization than the grunts and sneezes that keepers hear during the day, now scientists may go further to understand if this is a communication method or if it is involuntary like snoring or talking in your sleep.

Hear the giraffe’s hum and learn more about the study here.

Do you want to learn more about giraffes, or animal sounds? Here are two Arbordale books that would be a great start on the topic!

The Giraffe Who was Afraid of Heights

Giraffe_187Imagine if the one thing that keeps you safe is what you fear the most. This enchanting story tells of a giraffe who suffers from the fear of heights. His parents worry about his safety and send him to the village doctor for treatment. Along the way he befriends a monkey who is afraid of climbing trees and a hippo who is afraid of water. A life-threatening event causes the three friends to face and overcome each of their fears. The “For Creative Minds” section includes fun facts and animal adaptation information, a match-the-feet game and a mix-n-match activity.

Sounds of the Savanna

SoundsSavanna_187From the first light of dawn until the sun sets at night, the savanna is alive with noise. A lion roars in the early morning, a young baboon shrieks to warn others of danger at noon, and a young mouse squeals at dusk. What are the animals saying and why? Animals communicate in many ways; explore the thriving African savanna as its inhabitants “talk” to one another throughout the course of a day.

And…Look forward to next year when we see what really happens at night in the zoo! Midnight Madness at the Zoo coming February 2016!


The Amazing Octopus


One amazingly interesting creature is the octopus; this cephalopod can twist and turn its body into many shapes, suction to all types of surfaces, and use a cloud of ink to distract predators. This week, researchers uncovered the California two-spot octopus’s ability to sense light through its skin.

When the scientist shone a beam of light on the skin of an octopus the chromatophores (pigmented structures in the skin) expanded and the skin changed color. When the light was turned off, the chromatophores contracted again and the octopus was back to its original color. Why does this happen? Scientists determined that the octopus’ skin has proteins called opsins that work with the chromatophores for this reaction to occur.

(Read more about the experiments here)

Changing colors is nothing new in the octopus species; they can become red with anger, or transparent in sunlight. The more tools the creature has to camouflage itself the better chance for survival in the wild depths of the ocean where predators are abundant.

To learn more about the octopus or how other animals use light in the depths of the ocean here is a short underwater reading list!

Octavia and Her Purple Ink Cloud

Octavia and her Purple Ink Cloud
Octavia Octopus and her sea-animal friends love playing camouflage games to practice how they would hide from a “big, hungry creature.” Octavia, however, just cannot seem to get her colors right when she tries to shoot her purple ink cloud. What happens when the big, hungry shark shows up looking for his dinner? This creative book introduces basic colors along with the camouflage techniques of various sea animals; a great introduction to marine biology!

DayDeep_128A 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.

ocean hide and seek_PAPERBACKOcean Hide and Seek
The sea is a place of mystery, where animals big and small play hide and seek! Can you imagine a shark hiding in the light? What about a clownfish in plain sight? Don’t believe it? Then, sink into the deep blue sea with Jennifer Evans Kramer and Ocean Hide and Seek! Surround yourself with the vibrant ocean illustrations of Gary R. Phillips. The ocean is an old, old place, and the exotic animals in the depths have learned to adapt to their surroundings to survive. Can you find the creatures hidden on every page? Or will you, too, be fooled by an ancient, underwater disguise?

One Strong Bug: Monarch Butterflies

butterfliesIt is official fall is here! Time for pumpkins, changing leaves, apple cider and cozy sweaters, but one tiny insect is working hard to make it to their winter home in Mexico. The great migration of monarch butterflies is mysterious to many researchers, but this week a group of scientists have identified genes that may be the key to why certain monarchs are better suited to make this long journey.

A study published in the journal Nature found that the collagen gene which dictates structure, connective tissue and muscle is a distinguishing factor in migrating and non-migrating butterflies. They also found that migrating butterflies were able to efficiently use their oxygen, where the non-migrating butterflies rapidly used oxygen when tested in 20 minutes of flight.

In the past few years the migrating monarch population has declined, but this year reports or migrating butterflies seem to be moving in a positive direction. A St Louis weather team’s radar picked up a cloud of butterflies instead of rain in September.

Do you want to learn more about butterflies? Here is a sample of Arbordale Books that feature the strong, winged creatures.

Ten For Me
ten for me coverTwo friends take off on a butterfly hunt, only to find themselves tangled in a mathematics net! Written in rhyme, award-winning author Barbara Mariconda takes you along as the narrator Rose and her friend Ed race to see who can catch the most butterflies on this addition adventure. “How many in all? Let’s add them again!” shout the butterfly hunters. Who will win? Ten for Me makes math fun, easy, and entertaining, while adding a touch of the natural world into cross-curricular education.

On the Move
OnTheMove_187Imagine seeing hundreds of the same type of animal gathered at the same place and at the same time! Right here in North America many animals gather in huge numbers and can be seen at predictable times and locations. Not all migrations are tied to seasonal food changes—some are tied to life cycles and the need to gather in huge numbers. Certain birds, reptiles, mammals, amphibians, fish, and even insects migrate during spring, summer, fall, or winter. Travel along with them as you learn about what puts these animals On the Move.

A Butterfly Called Hope
ButterflyHope_187The colorful flowers in Mama’s garden reveal a strange-looking creature. “What is it? Does it sting, does it bite?” Join in this photographic journey as the young girl and her mother care for the caterpillar. Watch as it transforms into a chrysalis and then emerges as a beautiful monarch butterfly. How can the young girl “claim” the butterfly as her own but still let it go free?

Multiply on the Fly

Multiply on the FlyFrom pirate bugs to spittlebugs to lovely Luna moths, children will love learning about the world’s insects in Multiply on the Fly! Following in the footsteps of What’s New at the Zoo? and What’s the Difference, this rhythmic book teaches multiplication in a way that will make children “bug” you for more. Teeming with fun facts, readers will multiply a variety of insects, including daring dragonflies, hungry honeybees, and stealthy walking sticks. The “For Creative Minds” section in the back of the book keeps the fun rolling with facts about the insect life cycle, matching insect activities, and multiplication guides to make anyone a multiplication master.


Science News: Elephants Get the Point!

elephantNew research has shown that humans and (some) dogs are not the only animals that understand hand gestures. Researchers Richard Byrne and Anna Smet from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland have discovered that African Elephants can actually interpret human gestures without any training. Byrne pointed out that the elephants’ accurate response to human instructions could explain why elephants have used as work animals, such as circus performers, for centuries. New research has also shown that it is possible that elephants are actually capable of responding to pointing gestures with their own, using their trunks instead of fingers.

The study began with 11 African Elephants that had been held in captive to give tourists rides near Victoria Falls on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Smet would place two buckets at opposite ends, one containing food and the other empty, and would point towards the bucket with food. Smet recalls that the elephants seemed to understand and chose the bucket she pointed towards nearly every time. The elephants seemed to understand where Smet was pointing every time, and could even interpret where they were supposed to go by following the direction of her gaze. Byrne made sure to note that the elephants were only trained before at the tourist camp to follow vocal instructions, never by hand gestures.

Phyllis Lee, a professor from Scotland’s University of Stirling, has conducted past research on African elephants and their understanding of human instruction and is not surprised by Bryne and Amet’s findings. Lee told National Geographic that after many experiments and observations of elephants, it appears that they do in fact understand gestures like pointing, and might even be responding to certain motions with their large trunks! Lee believes that elephants are actually pointing or gesturing with their trunks sometimes and not just raising them for smelling. Byrne notes the importance of these findings because most while some animals can understand pointing, elephants might be the only ones who are capable of pointing back.

This research shows that animals are capable of so much more than we give them credit for! To see more of the experiment about elephants and pointing, check out these videos of Byrne and Amet’s study:

The Most Dangerous Animal of All

What do The Most Dangerous and news reports of West Nile virus have in common, the mosquito. When Terri Fields wrote the story of a ferocious animal contest, she had no idea how topical the book would become at the release date.

With more than 1,000 cases reported in 38 states this outbreak is the largest in U.S. history according to the Center for Disease Control.  Not all mosquitoes carry the West Nile virus and not everyone will show symptoms of the disease if bitten. However, it is important to protect yourself from mosquito bites, as they are proven to transmit several different diseases to humans and animals all over the world.

Even if a non West Nile mosquito bites you, they leave behind an itchy and uncomfortable bump. The best way to protect yourself from a bite is use bug spray with Deet, wear long sleeves and long pants when you are outside and eliminate any standing water in your yard.

In The Most Dangerous, children will be excited by the parade of scary animals, but they will be surprised when the tiny mosquito shows up to the contest. Although the disease is not mentioned in the book, it is a great way to kick off a conversation about West Nile and mosquitoes with kids.

Learn more about The Most Dangerous!

Dangerous 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!


Terri Fields (Burro’s Tortillas, The Most Dangerous) 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. 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

Award-winning illustrator Laura Jacques is passionate about illustrating children’s books that focus on natural history, wildlife, and environmental awareness for children. In addition to illustrating The Most Dangerous, Baby Owl’s Rescue and Whistling Wings for Sylvan Dell, she has also illustrated For the Birds: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson, Squirrel Assist, At Home in the Rain Forest, and Wildlife Refuge: A Classroom Adventure. Her books have won several honors and awards, including “NSTA-CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children” sponsored by the Children’s Book Council and the “KIND Children’s Book Award” sponsored by the Association for Humane and Environmental Education, a division of the Humane Society of the United States. For more information, visit Laura’s website:

September’s Book of the Month read The Most Dangerous here!

Techno Turtle Tracking

Did you know leatherback turtles can grow to be 7 feet long and weigh up to 2,000 pounds? They also live to be about 45 years old, but unfortunately the length of time it takes for them to mature means it can be devastating to the leatherback population if adult turtles die. In recent years, leatherback turtles have become critically endangered due to fatal encounters with fishing gear and limited feeding grounds on their normal migration routes.

But don’t worry! Conservationists from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science have found a high-tech solution to this problem. They strapped satellite tracking backpacks on a group of leatherbacks in order to study their migration routes and eventually help protect them from danger. They were able to identify the migration routes that provided the most food for the leatherbacks, and they also identified the routes that presented obstacles. With this knowledge, conservationists will be able to advocate for altered fishing practices and better conservation efforts in those key areas to help change the turtles’ “endangered” status.

Read the full article here:

For more information on turtles, pick up one of our four books about turtles! Turtle Summer features loggerhead turtles and Turtles In My Sandbox features diamondback terrapins. Both books focus on conservation and proper treatment of beaches and turtle nests. For a more fictional approach to this subject matter, Where Should Turtle Be? and Tudley Didn’t Know explore turtle habitats and behaviors in comparison with other animal species.  Check them out!