Saturday, June 3, 2023


Giant Sea Reptiles of the Dinosaur Age. At the Royal Tyrell Museum, Drumheller, Alberta

I love learning about dinosaurs and the world as it was when they were alive. My book, Giant Sea Reptiles of the Dinosaur Age (Clarion Books, 2007) looks at the diversity of large reptiles that once inhabited the world’s oceans. Like the dinosaurs, they all became extinct 65 million years ago. We know about them today from their fossil remains.

Opening pages of Giant Sea Reptiles of the Dinosaur Age

On my recent trip to the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada I was thrilled to see up close the remains of Shonisaurus sikanniensis, the huge ichthyosaur that I wrote about in the opening pages of the book. It is huge, filling an entire room at the museum. Here's what I wrote:

Fossil skeleton of Shonisaurus sikanniensis.

Two hundred and twenty million years ago, in waters that covered what is now western Canada, a huge marine reptile cruised the shallow seas. Propelling itself with flat, flipper-like limbs, the 70-foot long animal hunted for shellfish and other small ocean animals, which it sucked into its long, toothless snout and swallowed. This fearsome creature was Shonisaurus sikanniensis, a species of ichthyosaur, one of several types of large sea reptiles that inhabited the world’s oceans in the Dinosaur Age.

The fossil remains of Shonisaurus sikanniensis were first discovered in 1991 when a hiker in northern British Columbia spotted some big fossil bones eroding out of the banks of the Sikanni Chief River. He reported his find to the Royal Tyrell Museum of Paleontology, in Drumheller, Alberta, where one of the curators, Dr. Elizabeth Nicholls, was an expert on prehistoric sea reptiles. She visited the site and was amazed by what she saw. The bones were bigger than those of any known marine reptile, and, incredibly, most of the skeleton was intact. The only missing parts were the hind limbs. Over the course of three summers, the fossil skeleton was dug out of the ground and transported to the museum, where it was studied and prepared for exhibit. Every part of the animal proved to be huge. The massive skull weighed more than one and a half tons, and the largest vertebrae, which measured nearly 11 inches across, were the size of dinner plates. In 2006, the giant skull of Shonisaurus sikanniensis went on display at the museum. Along with the rest of the skeleton, it will help answer questions about the appearance and lifestyle of this giant prehistoric predator and why it grew so big.

As Elizabeth Nicholls is quoted in the museum display: "The world we live in right now is just a blink in the history of life on our planet. 220 million years ago there was a tremendous diversity of life that we know so little about."

Giant Sea Reptiles of the Dinosaur Age is illustrated with beautiful detailed watercolor paintings by Laurie Caple. The book is no longer available in print, but you can look for it in your local library.  It will introduce you to some of the most amazing creatures that ever swam in the oceans the world.


Saturday, May 27, 2023


With welcome poster at Sts. Simon and Jude School, Huntington Beach, CA.

After a hiatus during the Pandemic, it was wonderful to be back doing an author visit in Huntington Beach for the Authors and Schools Festival (sponsored by FOTCL--Friends of the Children's Library.) On Tuesday, May 23rd, I had an excellent visit with students at Saints Simon and Jude School in Huntington Beach. I gave two presentations, one to pre-K through Grade 3, and another to students in grades 4 and 5 and I was pleased with the excellent response by both students and teachers. And I loved the colorful welcome poster made by a group of artistic 5th grade students. Many thanks to librarian Petra Garcia for selecting me for her school, doing an excellent job of preparing the students, organizing the day, managing the book orders, and for a delicious lunch. Some of my older books were on the shelf in the library already, from a visit I made to the school in 2011. It was fun to return to Sts. Simon and Jude and share my new books. 

I have been participating in the Huntington Beach Authors Festival for many years. (In the past it was held in January and included a reception at the Public Library. This year there was no reception.)  Many thanks to Larry Hersh, a volunteer with FOTCL, for coordinating the Authors Festival. The festival would not be possible without devoted volunteers like Larry in the community. 

Book mark given to me by a student at Sts. Simon and Jude School

Saturday, May 20, 2023

BUG FAIR 2023 at the Natural History Museum Los Angeles

From carnivorous plants and tarantulas, to caterpillars, mounted butterflies, and much more, the annual Bug Fair at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, held this year on the weekend of May 20-21, is an insect lovers delight. I try to go every year. Art and I spent the morning at the museum browsing the vendor booths and oohing and aahing at the spectacular displays, along with families with children and eager buyers adding to their own insect collections. 

When we finished we exited through the dinosaur galleries where we could look through the windows at the butterfly house outside below and see gorgeous live blue morpho butterflies fluttering among the plants. Tickets for the butterfly house were sold out so we didn't visit today, but I have enjoyed visiting before. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2023



In the Children's Literature Room at the Los Angeles Public Library

On Saturday, May 13, I joined other authors and book lovers as we enjoyed a special event with FOCAL (Friends of Children and Literature) at the Los Angeles Public Library. First there was a tour of the Children’s Literature Department and a peek at some of the new books. Then came an insider’s tour of “LAPL150—Our Story is Yours: A Los Angeles Public Library Sesquicentennial Celebration” led by exhibit co-curator and Senior Librarian of the Photo Collection Department, Christina Rice. 

That was followed by a reception with the FOCAL Board at which each of us received a special book, Storybook Puppets, about the puppets designed by Carol Onofrio for each year’s FOCAL book award winner for the years 1980 to 2013. The puppets are on display in the children’s room.. Thank you FOCAL for a great day!


Sunday, May 14, 2023



Calgary Public Library, Alberta, Canada

Thirty-one years ago I came to Calgary for a library conference. Last week I returned to Calgary while my husband, Art, attended a conference there. As I almost always do when I travel, I visited the local library, in this case the new Central Library, just a few blocks from my hotel in downtown Calgary. The library, opened in 2018, is a soaring structure filled with light and wood.

The central skylight celebrates Calgary's famously sunny skies and brings natural light into the building.

I had arranged to meet children’s librarian Jennifer Mason, who gave me a tour of the children’s section—filled both with books and with inviting play areas where kids could do puzzles, build with blocks, Legos, or plastic pieces, climb into a structure, or just stretch out and read. In one area, families could choose a book to read together and then do activities in a take-home brochure. I thank Jennifer for taking time out of her day to meet with me and chat about books.

While many of the books in the Calgary library are by Canadian authors, there are also many by American writers. I was pleased to learn that the Calgary library system has nineteen of my books, including most of my new ones. All of their copies of Hatching Chicks in Room 6 were checked out—which made me wonder how many children were hatching chicks at home or at school.

Collaborative works by indigenous artists are seen throughout the library.

Much of the fourth floor of the library is devoted to indigenous cultures with books in indigenous languages and  a room for meetings and events. On the afternoon that I visited an elder was meeting with students in the room. 

View of downtown Calgary and rail line. The library was built over the rail line.

As I walked around the library I was impressed by both its use as a library and community center but also as an architectural wonder. From the fourth floor windows one gets an amazing view of the city, framed in the windows. As the free brochure explains: The modular hexagonal forms of the facade reflect the surrounding city and sky above. Familiar forms emerge from this varied geometry, where parts of the pattern might resemble an open book, beehives, or interlocking houses, anchoring the idea of collectives and community.