Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Arriving at Thomas Jefferson on a Snowy Morning
On Friday, November 14th, I had a wonderful author visit at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Eastlake, Ohio (near Cleveland).  I spoke to three groups of very enthusiastic students and teachers in the auditorium and then had a lively young author question and answer session with representatives from all the classrooms.

In the school auditorium
Before my visit the students had been introduced to my books Wiggle and Waggle, Too Hot? Too Cold?, A Warmer World and The Terrible Hodag and the Animal Catchers, purchased by the PTO for the school library, as well as numerous other of my books checked out from the public library, so they were well prepared. Questions ranged from “How do you get a book published?” to “Have you ever written a book about snakes?” (Yes.)

With Tim Hammon, Principal of Thomas Jefferson Elementary
I thank the principal, Tim Hammon, for coordinating the schedule, for introducing me at each presentation and making sure that everything during the day ran smoothly. I was also pleased to meet the school superintendent and assistant superintendent, who came to observe the young author session. And I thank Laurie in the office for ordering a very delicious lunch! And most of all, I thank Julie Pattie, PTO President, and her husband Chris for working so hard to raise the funds to make my visit possible, for arranging my stay at the Radisson Hotel (graciously donated), and for driving me to and from school and the airport in below freezing weather.
With Julie Pattie, PTO President, in the school library
I arrived in Cleveland in the midst of a snowstorm and, miraculously, the school district was the only one in the county not closed for the weather.  After a year of planning, it was a great pleasure to spend the day at Thomas Jefferson and meet all the people who make it such a great school. Thank you PTO for making it possible!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

ANCIENT CLIFF DWELLERS OF MESA VERDE: One of 13 Great Books at StarWalk Kids Media Celebrating Native American Month

I was delighted to learn that my book ANCIENT CLIFF DWELLERS OF MESA VERDE is featured in this month's newsletter from StarWalk KidsMedia. From Maine to Hawaii, North Carolina to Alaska, StarWalk Kids Media has more than a dozen books that feature Native American history, culture and folklore. There are picture books with legends, myths and folktales illustrated by Indian artists, nonfiction for middle school with primary source documents, and exciting historical fiction. 
THE ANCIENT CLIFF DWELLERS OF MESA VERDE, is about the Anasazi, Native Americans who inhabited the cliffs and mesa tops of Mesa Verde, Colorado, a thousand years ago.  It is illustrated with beautiful photographs by Richard Hewett.  This book was originally published in 1992 as a hardback and paperback book by Clarion Books. It is now available again as an e-book at StarWalk Kids. You can also find it at Amazon as a Kindle book.
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL: The Ancient Cliff Dwellers of Mesa Verde
Grade 4-6-- Sharply focused and dramatic full-page, full-color photographs are an outstanding feature in this book on the Anasazi people of the American Southwest. Mesa Verde serves as the backdrop and focal point. Photos of the spectacular cliff dwellings can be found throughout, but there are also pictures of archaeologists at work and many of the artifacts that have been found there. Chapters include a description of the discovery of the area by ranchers in the late 19th century and the development of the area into a national park. Readers will also see how painstaking archeology has re-created the probable scenario of how people lived when the area was at its height of development and various theories concerning the fate of the Anasazi. An engrossing introduction to the culture, the place, and the time, and how we have learned about them. --David N. Pauli, Missoula Pub . Lib . , MT

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Sign up NOW for the December 6 FOCAL Award Luncheon

You may now register now for the December 6 FOCAL Award Luncheon!!!   And tell your friends.

FOCAL (Friends of Children and Literature, the support group of the Children’s programs of the Los Angeles Public Library) has chosen  The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins as the award winner for 2014. This beautifully written book chronicles the life of Kate Sessions, who led a campaign to plant trees in San Diego, California, thus turning the city from a seaside desert to a urban garden. Colorful illustrations by Jill McElmurry convey Kate Session’s passion for plants. 
Don't delay.  The luncheon is just four weeks away!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

BOOK QUILT: Treasured Souvenir of Author Visit to Taft Primary School Many Years Ago

Detail of Quilt made by students at Taft Primary School, Taft, California
One of the most treasured souvenirs of my many author visits to schools through the years is the book quilt made for me by the students and parents of Taft Primary School in Taft, California. Well in advance of my visit, students had read a variety of my books.  They then chose a topic or scene from one of the books and made their own drawings which were then transferred to fabric by some very hardworking parents and sewn into a quilt.
Scenes from the Winter Olympics
The visit was made almost thirty years ago, around 1985. I can tell because many of the drawings feature events from The Summer Olympics and The Winter Olympics, books that were published at the time of the 1984 Summer Olympics which were held in Los Angeles.

Scene from My Friend From Outer Space
Some of the other quilt squares feature scenes from my book about giant sequoia trees, The Biggest Living Thing, which was illustrated with my own drawings and printed using preseparated colors. Other squares feature one of my favorite and most popular fiction books, My Friend From Outer Space, a story inspired by the imaginative games of my own children. All of the books pictured on the quilt are long out of print.  But every time I get out the quilt, I am not only reminded of the books, but of my wonderful visit to Taft Primary and the tremendous love of books and reading promoted throughout the community.
Scene depicting a page in The Biggest Living Thing

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Project: THE SALTY SEA, Making Salt Crystals

Salt Crystals
Ocean and sea water is salty.  Some lakes are also made of salt water, but most have fresh water.  Great Salt Lake in Utah, the Salton Sea in California, and Lake Nakuru in Kenya are all salt lakes.
You may have swum in the ocean or a salt-water lake.  Even though the water was clear, you would have been able to taste the salt on your tongue.  When salt dissolves in water, it disappears.  Here is an experiment you can do to make it reappear.

Making Salt Crystals
You will need:
  • 1 cup sea water (If you do not live near the ocean or a salt lake, you can make your own sea water by mixing 2 teaspoons table salt with 2 cups [.5 liter] water.)
  • pie pan
  • magnifying glass

1. Pour the sea water into the pan.  Put the pan in a warm, dry place and let the water evaporate.  This will take a few days.  What do you see when the water is gone?
2. Look at the salt crystals with the magnifying glass.  What shape are they?  Each kind of mineral forms its own crystal shapes.  Can you see the X-shaped indentation on the top of each crystal.

About two-thirds of the salt that is dissolved in sea water is sodium chloride, or ordinary table salt. When water evaporates from the sea, the salt is left behind, just as it was in your salt crystal project.  This means that the water vapor in the atmosphere, which falls back to Earth as rain, is fresh water.

You can find this project and many others in my book The Geography Book: Activities for Exploring, Mapping, and Enjoying Your World. It is available both in paperback and as a Kindle book.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

CLCSC Fall Gala Featuring Author/Illustrator Bryan Collier

Martin's Big Words by Bryan Collier
A week ago on Saturday it was a pleasure once again to participate in the annual Fall Gala of the Children’s Literature Council of Southern California honoring outstanding authors and illustrators and the winner of the Dorothy C. McKenzie Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Field of Children’s Literature, this year given to much loved Dr. Claudette S. McLinn, Director, Center for the Study of Multicultural Literature. The featured speaker was author/illustrator Bryan Collier, recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration for several of his books and the 2002 Caldecott Honor Award for Martin’s Big Words.  In an entertaining and passionate speech he spoke about his childhood and the strong influence of books like Harold’s Purple Crayon and Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats on his own work.

This year the Gala was held at the Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge in a large hall near the entrance to the gardens. The morning began with a delicious breakfast and introductions. I was one of many authors attending the event. I enjoyed the opportunity see old friends and to chat with the librarians sitting at my table. After the event was over, my fellow author Joan Graham and I took a lovely walk through the gardens and visited the small art museum, which had a water themed exhibit. Although the weather was warm, the shady paths were pleasant as we walked through the various habitats on our way to the museum.  All in all, it was a lovely day!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Have you ever hosted an author visit at a school or been part of a planning committee to bring an author to your community? I know from my own experience that author visits are one of the best ways to promote reading and writing and provide the opportunity for students and teachers to interact with a “real live” author/illustrator such as myself.
My friend Alexis O’Neill, author of The Recess Queen and many other well loved books, has been working on a study to provide statistics and stories to assist teachers and librarians in making a case for bringing authors and illustrators to their schools. But first, she needs to “take the temperature” of anyone who has hosted an author visit at their school or library.
If your answer is yes to the above question, it would be much appreciated if you would take the 2-minute survey at the following link. You responses may help bring more authors into schools and classrooms.
This study is being sponsored by the Ventura County Reading Association (California) and is the first of its kind. We’re hoping that this can offer helpful insights to schools as well as to published authors and illustrators.
As you may know, since the start of the recession and the No Child Left Behind initiative, teachers and librarians have had to fight harder to convince their administrators to host an author visit. Now that it’s the era of Common Core, will it be the same, worse or better climate for author visits?
Thanks a million for helping to get the word out!