Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Penguin Coloring Page

Pair of Adelie Penguins at their Nest
One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons depicts a penguin colony in which several penguins are posing while another is snapping a photo.  The caption reads: “You didn’t have to spring for colored film!"  Penguins in Antarctica are definitely mostly a black and white picture, and color film would seem to be a waste. (This cartoon appeared before the advent of digital cameras.)  My challenge, when I was illustrating my book A Penguin’s World was to find ways to insert some color into my illustrations.  When I could, I silhouetted the birds against a blue sky or the deep blue of the ocean. The main other color in the book is the pink of the penguins’ beaks and pink feet.  When you color the picture above, see if you can think of any other ways to add color to the scene.
Go to my webpage for A Penguin's World to download the coloring page for the penguins.  You'll also find directions for making a paper bag penguin puppet.
You can also learn about penguins and how they have been impacted by climate change in my new book A Warmer World.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Book is a Present You Can Open Again and Again

What could be a better gift than a book?  A book is a present you can open again and again.  I like to give books to everyone on my list, trying to find just the right one for each person.  I hope you will find books under YOUR tree and that they will engross you, entertain you, and, perhaps, even surprise you.
I send you best wishes for a Happy Holiday Season filled with good cheer and the prospect of good reading throughout the New Year!


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Settlement Houses and Holiday Popcorn Balls

My childhood, until the age of ten, was different from that of most children.  That was because my family lived in the settlement house, which my father directed, along with some of the other staff.  The settlement house was a community center, something like the YMCA.  You can read about settlement houses and their origin in the late 19th century in my book, Children of the Settlement Houses.  Settlement houses still exist, but it is no longer typical for staff to be in residence. 
      Holiday parties were always a high point of the year at settlement houses. They were a time when everyone from the neighborhood could enjoy being together. In the 1950's, when I was growing up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I always looked forward to the children's Christmas party at the Northeast Neighborhood House (now East Side Neighborhood Services) where we lived. The auditorium was filled with fragrant evergreens and colorful decorations. We played games, sang songs, and watched the drama club put on a play. One year I was an actor and played the part of the littlest angel! At the end of the party each child always received a small gift and a popcorn ball wrapped in colored paper. I still remember their sweet and crunchy taste. Here's how you can make your own popcorn balls.

      POPCORN BALLS: Put ½ stick of butter or margerine, 6 cups of miniature marshmallows, and one 3-ounce box flavored gelatin in a microwave safe bowl and melt in microwave oven. (About two minutes. Check and continue melting if necessary.) Stir to mix. Pour over 12 cups popcorn. ( Optional, add ½ to 1 cup salted peanuts) Stir gently until evenly coated; butter your hands and shape into balls. Wrap in plastic wrap to store. Makes 16-20 medium size popcorn balls.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sandpaper Camel Art Project

Knitted Creche from Chile
In scenes of the nativity at Christmas, the three wise men are typically shown riding on camels.  Here is a project that you can do making a picture of a camel on a piece of sandpaper.
Read about camels in my books African Animals or Camel and make a note sheet of what you have learned. Draw a picture of a camel on a piece of paper and cut it out. Trace the outline of the camel with a crayon onto a piece of very coarse sandpaper. Use crayons to fill in the outline and draw other desert plants and animals.  Place the sandpaper on a board or heavy piece of cardboard face up. Put a piece of wax paper on top of the sandpaper. Then put a piece of brown paper (shopping bag cut open) on top of the wax paper. Iron the sandpaper illustration with the heated iron so that some of the crayon beneath begins to melt into the sandpaper. The heat creates an unusual effect on the illustration. Cooled pictures may be hung for display. Students may post their note sheets beside the illustrations. (Adapted from Internet School Library Media Center) [You can look for African Animals (Morrow Junior Books, 1997) and Camel (Morrow Junior Books, 1992) in your library.]

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Animal Cards for the Holidays on Etsy

Animal Cards at
It’s time to think of Holiday cards, and what could be more perfect than scenes of animals in winter!  If you go to my Etsy shop, CarolineArnoldArt, you can find cards with polar bears, penguins, pandas, and other animals that love the snow. Send them to your friends for the holidays! Cards are blank on the inside so you can write your own message.  Sets of cards also make perfect gifts for the animal lovers in your life.  Making the art is the first step in creating my cards. Each piece of art is a cut paper collage which I then scan to make my cards.  Each card is then printed and packaged by hand in my studio.  I use a thick 100% cotton rag paper to make gallery quality prints. If you can’t bear to send the cards, they are beautiful framed.  Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Blog Anniversary and Illustrator's Day

Three years ago today, I launched my Art and Books blog, inspired by a talk by Mary Peterson at the SCBWI LA Illustrator’s Day, demonstrating how easy it was to set up your own blog and use it as a way to promote your work.  Despite my initial enthusiasm, it was more than a year before I put up my second post!  My original intention was to use my blog just for my art, but I have since broadened it to include my writing as well.  Now, I try to post once a week, usually on Wednesdays. Now that the blog is three years old, I'd love to hear what you think!

Last Saturday I attended Illustrator’s Day 2011, and was inspired anew to try new approaches in my art and update my portfolio.  Speakers on Saturday included art directors Scott Magoon (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Susan Sherman (Charlesbridge), editor Andrea Welch (Beach Lane Books) and illustrator Giselle Potter.  It was a pleasure to see Susan Sherman again, who I had worked with when illustrating my two folding board books Who Is Bigger? Who is Smaller? and Who Has More?  Who Has Fewer?, my first ventures back into the world of illustrating since 1983!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


What is my favorite book, animal, food, color, place to visit?  I often get asked these questions when I do school visits.
Of the books I have written, it is really difficult to pick just one, but among my favorites is The Terrible Hodag and the Animal Catchers. The Hodag is a creature with the head of an ox, feet of a bear, back of a dinosaur and tail of an alligator. It roams the north woods where lumberjacks cut down trees. I first learned about the Hodag when I was a child and went to camp in northern Wisconsin. My story is an original tall tale.
I love learning about animals because each one is different.  However, if I have to pick one as a favorite, it would be cats.  I have always had a pet cat. I especially liked writing about members of the cat family in my books about lions, cheetahs, and bobcats.
My favorite food is bread.  I like sweet breads, whole grain breads, quick breads like muffins and pancakes, bread sticks, flat breads, and just about any way that flour can be made into bread.  I like to eat bread and I like to make it too.
My favorite color is green.
Picking a favorite place to visit is really hard.  I have traveled all over the world and have been to every continent except Antarctica.  Every place is fascinating.  But, one of the places I have visited numerous times is Australia, so I think that would go on the top of my list.
What are your favorites?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

CLC Award: The Best Written and Illustrated Suite of Nonfiction for Children

Caroline and Marjorie Arnett at the CLC Gala
    Attending the annual author luncheon of the CLC (Council on Literature for Children in Southern California), is a fall ritual for me.  I think I have been to most of them over the years and I always look forward to it.  This year was the gala celebration of the organization’s 50th anniversary, held at the historic Romanesque Room in Pasadena.  I was so pleased to have my books A Polar Bear’s World, A Walrus’ World, A Moose’s World and A Bald Eagle’s World honored as The Best Written and Illustrated Suite of Nonfiction for Children and happy that so many of my friends were there to help celebrate at this special event.  Here are my remarks upon receiving the award: 

  I am truly honored.  It is especially nice to be here at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the organization that I still think of as SCCLCYP.  Remembering what all the letters stood for, ...Southern California Council on Literature for Children and Young People... was a little like learning to spell Mississippi when I was in first grade–once you start, you just go as fast as you can until you get to the end.  I was not there at the beginning of SCCLCYP, but I do remember my first Author Luncheon 31 years ago in 1980.  It was held at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles and I remember being awed both by the elegant surroundings (there was a string quartet playing in the lobby) and the fact that this was my first professional event as a new author. I had just published my very first book, an easy read story about birds, and I was feeling totally intimidated by the roomful of other much more established authors.  I never imagined that one day I would be standing in front receiving an award.
The books that are being honored today are the last four in a series of twelve books published by Picture Window Books.  The first four in the series were about black and white animals, the next four about Australian animals, and these focus on animals that live in Alaska or the Arctic. 

Many of you know me as a writer specializing in books about animals and the environment.  For many years, I worked with photographers, including my husband, Art, who is here today.  With all of those books, I needed stories that lent themselves to photography.  That meant, no nocturnal animals, no underwater animals, no remote locations.  So many times I said to myself, “It would be so much easier if I could just do the art myself!”  Then I wouldn’t have to worry about backgrounds, I could set my stories in any location, and I could make the animals behave as I wanted. With the Picture Window Books animal series I finally had the chance. 

The books in this series are intended for children in the primary grades.  (They are also perfect in preschool)  The main story of each book is short and told from the point of view of a baby animal growing up in the wild.  Factual information not essential to the flow of the story is put in sidebars and in front and back matter.
For the illustrations in these books, I chose a cut-paper collage technique.  I wanted a poster-like look with bold colors that would make the images easy to see, even by a child in the back of the room when a teacher or librarian is reading the book aloud.  The essential parts of each illustration are the outlines.  Basically, as I do the art, I am drawing with scissors. I do, in fact, draw each image in pencil first, but the final result comes from cutting it out with my best sewing scissors. I typically cut out the animals first and then position them on a background.  I use flat colors, overlapping the paper in layers.  When the art is scanned for the book, a slight shadow around the edges of the paper creates a subtle 3-D effect.

I rely on photographs and personal observations of the animals as references for my drawings.  When possible, I like to observe animals in their natural habitats. I have been to Alaska and have seen both moose and bald eagles in the wild.  To learn about polar bears and walruses, I went to Sea World and the San Diego Zoo.  The wonderful thing about zoos is that you can see huge animals like these just inches away on the other side of the glass.   Basically, I discovered, walruses are huge lumps.  They are a bit like your living room sofa with tusks.  And yet, they are surprisingly agile in the water.  I also find nature films and video helpful in my research.  While I was working on the eagle book, I kept my second computer screen open to a live webcam at an eagle nest on Catalina island.  It was amazing.  In real time, I could watch the young chicks toddling around the nest waiting for their parents to bring them food, and then suddenly the adult eagle would arrive, swooping in with a fish in its talons. 

I never get tired of watching animals and learning about them.  I know from my school and library visits that kids love to learn about animals too.  I want to thank all the teachers and librarians and parents who put books like mine into the hands of children.  And I want to express my gratitude to the CLC for choosing my books for this very special honor today.  Thank you, Marjorie Arnett, for your great introduction.  And thanks to Barbara Metzenbaum and all the people on the award committee for choosing me to receive this award.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bobcats: The Writing Process, Learning from Real Life

I love getting letters from readers.  They often tell me about their own experiences with animals.  They also want to know how I learn about animals for my books.
Recently I got a letter from a fifth grade student in Arizona.  She wrote:  I read your story Bobcats. I simply love it! I want to know how you got your ideas. Do you know all that information or did someone tell you? Did you ever see bobcat in real life? My dad is a mailman, he saw a bobcat in real life. He said it was amazing. That bobcat didn’t even move!

Here’s my reply:
I'm glad you enjoyed reading my book about bobcats. I learned about bobcats at the Living Desert Reserve in Palm Desert, California. The bobcats live in a large natural enclosure with good views where people can watch them. Even though the bobcats are in a zoo, they behave much as they would in the wild. I also got information for the book by doing research in my library and by talking to experts. I once saw a bobcat in the wild. It was sitting very quietly on a rock watching a deer. I was surprised to see how big it was.  One of the things I like best about writing books about animals is that part of my job is observing animals in real life.

Bobcats is an Earlybird Nature Book published by Lerner in 1998.  It is out of print but you can look for it in your library.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Author Visits in the Redwoods: The Humboldt County Author Festival

Everyone needs a sign like this in front of their house, or wherever they go!  This sign was waiting for me in the parking lot of Freshwater School, the first of three amazing schools that I visited last week in Humboldt County as part of the biannual Humboldt County Author Festival.  At every school, the children had read my books in preparation for my visit and, in many cases, had done art projects as well.

At Garfield, the second school I visited, the children had created their own bookmarks, using the cut-paper technique I use for my book illustrations.  I was impressed how inventive they were and how they adapted their designs to the shape of the paper.  (One of my favorites was a crocodile.)
At the third school I visited, Maple Creek, a small rural school nestled in a pristine valley, the children had collected fossils from the creek (knowing that I have a particular interest in fossils and prehistoric life) and then composed two songs about prehistoric animals that they performed for me. They had also done artwork in advance of my visit including a painted life-size killer whale and a mural of Ice Age life in the Maple Creek valley.

I am always amazed at the creativity of the teachers, librarians, and children at the schools I visit and how they are able to use books like mine to inspire reading and as springboards for other activities.  The pleasure I get from doing school visits is that I get to interact with my readers and see how my books are actually used in the classroom.  I also get to meet all the hardworking teachers and librarians who are putting those books into the hands of children. In addition to the school visits, the Humboldt County Author Festival also included an art exhibit at the Morris Graves Art Museum in Eureka, where I had two of my illustrations on display, and a book signing at the public library in Eureka.  The Humboldt County Author Festival is possible only because dozens of volunteers spend months organizing it.  I am grateful for all their hard work and pleased that I can be part of it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Photographing Animals: Patience is a Virtue

            Noisytime for Zoo Animals is one of six books in a series about how zoo animals eat, sleep, play, bathe, have babies, and make noise.  The photographer, Richard Hewett, and I spent many hours at zoos watching animals and waiting for just the right moment to take a picture.  It is important to have LOTS of patience when photographing animals.  You can’t ask an elephant to “just turn a little more this way, please”!  Even though the photos look as if we were close to the animals, we were always safely on the other side of a fence or inside a vehicle.  Richard used a telephoto lens to make the animals seem close-up.  While he took pictures, I watched and listened to the animals and took notes that later helped me to write the book.
      Other books in this series are Playtime for Zoo Animals, Mealtime for Zoo Animals, Sleepytime for Zoo Animals, Splashtime for Zoo Animals and Mother and Baby Zoo Animals. They were published by Lerner in 1999. Although these books are all out of print, you may be able to find them in your library, online, or as e-books.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Project: Peanut Butter and Jelly Geology

I love learning about fossils, and they are often the topics of my books.  When I was a child in Minneapolis, Minnesota, my family used to go on rock and fossil collecting expeditions. I still remember climbing cliffs along the Mississippi river to collect chunks of limestone and the thrill of cracking them open.  If we were lucky, we would find inside the perfectly preserved skeleton of a creature that had lived millions of years earlier. Later, on a camping trip to the Grand Canyon, I remember looking at the layered rock of the canyon walls and learning how each one represented a period of geologic time.

"Earth Sandwich" an edible demonstration of various layers of the Earth's crust
One of my all time favorite classroom projects is making  an “Earth Sandwich” as a model of the layers of the earth.  Each part of the sandwich represents a part of Earth’s crust.  When you cut the sandwich in half, it is a little like looking at the walls of the Grand Canyon.  As you enjoy your Earth Sandwich, you are eating your way through time!
To make your sandwich, you will need:
    pumpernickel bread for coal
    rye bread for sandstone
    white bread for limestone
    peanut butter for dirt
    jelly for oil or tar
    raisins for boulders
    pretzel sticks for fossil bones
My recent books about fossils include Global Warming and the Dinosaurs and Giant Sea Reptiles of the Dinosaur Age.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fall Into Literacy

Caroline Arnold's Author Booth at the Fall Into Literacy Festival, Wilmington, CA
I always love celebrating books and reading!  On October 1st, a beautiful sunny day in southern California, I joined authors Erica Silverman, Amada Irma Perez, illustrator Joe Cepeda, and many other book lovers at Wilmington’s Fall Into Literacy celebration in the new Waterfront Park near the Port of Los Angeles.  More then 300 families came to enjoy live entertainment, American Indian storytelling, book signings, and to meet the authors.  I gave a short talk featuring my books about birds ( Birds: Nature’s Magnificent Flying Machines, and  A Bald Eagle’s World) and invited children to come up on stage and measure their wingspans to find out what kind of bird they might be.  I also shared my book Wiggle and Waggle.  In my author’s tent I met children and parents and signed books.  All in all, it was a great day!
Fall Into Literacy was sponsored by the local Valero and Tesoro refineries and organized by Lupe Lopez, who leads the local United Way effort and is Wilmington's honorary mayor.  My visit was coordinated by Martha Sherod at the Los Angeles Public Library.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Make a Model of the Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal in Agra, India, is one of the wonders of the world. Built between 1632 and 1643, the Taj Mahal commemorates the love between Shah Jahan and his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. You can read about the love story that inspired its construction and about how it was built in my book Taj Mahal, co-authored with Madeleine Comora and illustrated by Rahul Bhushan.
Click here to go to my website and scroll down to Children's Projects to print a pattern and directions to make a model of the Taj Mahal. This project works best if you can print the pattern on heavy paper or cardstock.
I visited the Taj Mahal when I went to India in February 2000.  Go to my travel blog The Intrepid Tourist and read the post for September 26, 2011, to learn about my trip.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Taj Mahal: A Collaboration

     In the spring of 2000, I went to India to do an author visit at the American Embassy School in New Delhi and was taken to see the Taj Mahal. Despite all the pictures I had seen of the Taj Mahal, I wasn’t prepared for the impact of its beauty as I stepped through the gate and saw it for the first time.  When I returned home, I met with my friend, Madeleine Comora, and proposed that we could write a book together. I knew that she was also interested in the story of the Taj Mahal and that she had recently been there with her husband Rahul Bushan.
    Madeleine and I spent about two years working on the manuscript until it reached the form that you see in the book. Then, during the editing process, we continued to make changes to coordinate the text as closely as possible to the illustrations.    As with all my nonfiction books, my favorite part of the writing process was the research for the book. I have always been fascinated by India, and learning more about the Mughal era gave me a deeper understanding of many of the places I visited when I was there.
     It always takes longer to collaborate with another author than to work on a project alone, but in an ideal collaboration, the combination of two people working on a project provides a product richer than either could do alone. In this case, I brought my nonfiction skills and publishing experience to the project and Madeleine brought her wonderful sense of poetry and connection to Indian culture through her husband Rahul. Each of us wrote sections of the story and then we went through the whole book together line by line, making changes to unify the tone and character of the manuscript.

     In addition to our personal experiences visiting the Taj Mahal and other monuments of the Moghul era, our research material for this book included historical documents, academic writings, books and articles about India, and talking with experts. We also asked experts on the Mughal history of India and on the history of the Taj Mahal to read the manuscript to check it for cultural and historical accuracy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

CLC Fall Gala and Book Award

I was pleased to learn that my books, A Bald Eagle’s World, A Moose’s World, A Polar Bear’s World, and A Walrus’ World (from the Caroline Arnold’s Animals series published by PictureWindow Books) have been awarded The Best Written and Illustrated Suite of Nonfiction for Children by the Children’s Literature Council of Southern California.  I will receive the award at the CLC Gala, Saturday, November 5th.  The featured speaker at the luncheon was supposed to be Australian author, Mem Fox, author of Possum Magic and many other best-selling books but she has had to cancel.  Instead, the keynote speaker will be two-time Newbery winner, Lois Lowry.  I have heard her speak before and she is always outstanding.  The CLC (formerly known as SCCLCYP—Southern California Council on Literature for Children and Young People) is a non-profit organization that promotes greater interest in literature for children and young people and encourages excellence in the production and selection of books in that field. It will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this year! The annual fall Gala honors southern California children’s book authors and illustrators.  Hope to see you there! 
The Gala will be from 12:30 to 4:00 pm, on Saturday, November 5th at the Romanesque Room, 50 East Green Street, Pasadena, CA 91105.  Go to the CLC website for information and to make reservations.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Illustration Exhibit at Morris Graves Museum of Art

Two of my cut paper illustrations, one from A Moose’s World and one from A Bald Eagle’s World are currently on exhibit at the Morris Graves Museum of Art in Eureka, California, as part of the bi-annual Humboldt County Author Festival.  As part of the festival, select works from participating illustrators are on exhibit to demonstrate the processes of illustration in children’s literature.  The art exhibit will be on view from September 3 through October 30, Wednesday–Sunday, 12:00–5:00.  If you are going to be in Eureka during that time, please stop by and see the show! 
Along with 25 other authors and illustrators, I will be participating in the Author Festival, October 19-22, visiting schools, signing books at the library, and enjoying being with friends and book lovers in beautiful Humboldt County.  I always look forward to it.  For more information about the festival click here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Me, Frida, Winner of the FOCAL Award

This past spring I had the honor to serve on the committee to select a book for Friends of Children and Libraries (FOCAL) of LAPL (Los Angeles Public Library) annual award.   The committee chose the beautiful picture book,  Me, Frida (Abrams, 2011), written by Amy Novesky and illustrated by David Diaz.  Congratulations to Amy and David! 
     The FOCAL Award is presented to an author and/or illustrator for a creative work which enriches a child’s appreciation for and knowledge of California.  In Me, Frida, the reader joins the artist Frida Kahlo on a visit to San Francisco with her husband Diego Rivera, who has been invited to paint a mural there.  We see the city through Frida’s eyes, receiving a whole new perspective both on Frida Kahlo as a person and on the diverse qualities of the city itself.  As in all the best picture books, the words and pictures of this book work together to create a unified whole that is greater than the individual parts. 
     We will be honoring the author and illustrator of Me, Frida at the annual FOCAL Award Luncheon on Saturday, January 28, 2012.  Prizes will also be awarded to children who have read Me, Frida and written an essay about the book and how it has impacted their lives.  For more information about the luncheon or essay contest, contact the librarian at your school or local library or go to the FOCAL website.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I Love Maps

Sharing A Koala's World with a First Grade Class
I love maps.  As a child, on long car trips, I followed the road maps we got at gas stations, noting the distance between towns and calculating how long it would take us to get to the next one.  And I loved the maps in my geography books at school, locating far away places that I hoped to travel to someday.  In the books that I write, if there is the possibility of including a map, I always like to do so.  In the Caroline Arnold’s Animals series, published by Picture Window Books, a map showing where each animal lives is part of the back matter of each book.  A map of Australia in A Koala’s World can be seen above.  The challenge in A Polar Bear’s World and A Walrus’s World was that the maps had to be a polar view, which is unfamiliar to many children.
My book, The Geography Book: Activities for Exploring, Mapping, and Enjoying Your World, is filled with projects for children  including twelve activities that help them learn about maps.  You can have fun making a balloon globe, a contour potato and other projects.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Something About the Author

Volume 228 of SATA (Something About the Author) Gale Publications, a reference book of children’s book authors and illustrators, is scheduled to be published in July; the online version will be available a month or so later.  It includes an updated entry for me and my books, prepared by the SATA editors.  As I previewed the copy, I was impressed with the thoroughness of the research and completeness of the entry.  It is a long way from the first entry about me in SATA, Volume 28, published in 1984, which featured a photo of a very young looking me and an illustration from my second book, Electric Fish (Morrow, 1980).

In 1987, I was asked to contribute a biographical essay for the SATA Biography Series, Volume 23.  This was my first time to reflect on my career at length. (I had 10,000 words to play with, which seemed like a lot at first, but really only allowed me to cover the high points.)  The timing of the essay was ideal.  I had just published my 100th book (African Animals, Morrow 1997) and was feeling amazed at my good fortune of having made a career out of something I loved.  In my final paragraph I wrote:
This essay has provided me with the opportunity to look back over what I have accomplished, but it is also a time to look forward.  I hope to continue to write about subjects I love, including natural science and ancient cultures.  I would also like to do more writing for younger children.  Although I have not had much time to write fiction recently, I would like to do more of that and perhaps even get back to doing some illustration.  Perhaps in the future I will have the chance to do some writing for CD-ROMS and the new electronic media.  No one has a crystal ball to see in to the future.  Each project is a new adventure and often leads to opportunities not yet imagined.  The dilemma is not what to do next, but how to choose which of many paths to follow.

As I read that paragraph now, I marvel at how much has happened in the fourteen years since it was written.  I HAVE done more writing for younger children, published two fiction books, and reestablished myself as an illustrator.  But the real changes have been in the electronic world.  Again, we need a crystal ball to know where that is leading us.  Meanwhile, though, I continue writing with the confidence that there will always be a place in the world for good books for children.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Writer's Block Tip #34

Are you stuck on your story?  Do you have writer’s block?  My friend Joanne Rocklin’s Anti-Block Blog is the perfect answer to solving the problem of what to do when you are stuck.  Twice a week she posts helpful tips for writers.  Drawing from her own experience and with contributions from other writers, she is up to 36 tips. (Her goal is 180!) Here are a few of the topics covered in her recent posts:  Focusing on your audience; getting support from your friends; using index cards; making lists, and so on.  You can look for my tip, reading your story aloud, in tip #34 posted on August 1st.
Joanne Rocklin is the author of the wonderful middle grade novel One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street, inspired by the orange tree in her own backyard.  

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Curious Students

Recently, I received a letter from students in a third grade class who wanted to know more about my writing process.  Here are their questions and my answers:
1. When do you do your writing?
I usually write in the morning when I am fresh. When I am not writing, I am reading and doing research for my books. 
2. Do you write persuasive stories?
No. Almost all of my books are nonfiction books about animals.  
3. What do you do when you are stuck or don't feel like writing?
If I am stuck, I put my story away for the day. Usually, when I go back to it the next day I find ways to get unstuck. If I don't feel like writing, I sometimes take a walk, work in my garden, or read a book. 
4. Do you have stories for each season?
No, I write all the time.  
5.  Where do you keep all your writing ideas?
When I get an idea, I write it down on a piece of paper and put it in a box on my desk. Then, when I'm ready to start a new project I look at all my ideas and choose one. 
6. Which part of the writing process is the easiest/hardest for you (pre-writing, drafting, revising, or editing) and why?
The hardest part of the writing process is the first draft because I have so much to say and it is hard to get it all down in the right order. I usually forget things and then add them in the revising and editing process. That's my favorite part of writing. As I revise, I make small changes to make the story better. When I am finished, the story is exactly the way I want it!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Walrus Classroom Activities

Imagine your living room sofa with tusks.  That's about the size of a walrus!  These huge sea mammals are perfectly adapted to the icy waters of the Arctic. You can read about them in my book A Walrus' World.  As part of my research I watched walruses swimming in their huge tank at SeaWorld in San Diego. They are surprisingly graceful swimmers. Gliding past the window, the walruses resembled furry underwater spaceships.  SeaWorld's teacher guides include classroom activities that help children learn about the features of a walrus and demonstrate how its large size helps it stay warm.  Click here for an activity for grades 4-8 that uses peanut butter to test whether objects lose heat faster in water or in air. Click here for a singing activity about walruses for grades K-3.  You can find cards and prints of the art from my walrus book at my Etsy gallery CarolineArnoldArt.  Have fun!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sun Fun Activity Book on Kindle

SUN FUN: An Easy Read Activity Book by Caroline Arnold.  Here is the perfect book to inspire activities to do with your kids, grandkids, or students, on a hot summer day! 
     Did you know that you can tell time by the sun, cook with the sun, and make pictures with the sun? This book for children ages 5 to 9 has ten fun activities that use energy from the sun, including making a sun clock, shadow puppets, and sun reflectors. From an ice cube race to learning how to watch a solar eclipse, this book uses easily found materials and simple directions to learn about the sun and solar energy.
     I wrote and illustrated this book in 1981.  Many of the projects were ones that I did with my own children and their friends (who became models for my drawings for the book.)  The book has long been out of print but is now available in digital format as a Kindle book on Amazon.  Although images on Kindle are only black and white, if you download the book to your phone or computer, the pictures will be in color.  Have fun and stay cool!
You can preview the book in this video on YouTube about how to make a sun clock. 
     Illustration note:  This book was illustrated back in the days of preseparated art.  I had only three colors to work with--black, red, and yellow--and had to create a separate drawing for each color.  I worked on a light table to make sure that the images for each color would line up (or register) when the pages were printed. In the printing process, the colors combined to make the final image.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Getting Unstuck

Moon over Los Angeles
What do I do when I'm in the middle of a project and I get stuck? (It happens to everybody!)
    The first step is to go back through what I've written and look for gaps.  Filling holes often provides the connections that make ideas link together.  When this doesn't work, I often find it more productive to get away from the project temporarily. Basically, to get a good night's sleep. When I go back to the project the next day with a fresh, and sometimes, an empty mind, it is easier to see the big picture and not get hung up on the nitty gritty.
    As far as my illustrations go, one of my techniques for getting unstuck is to lay them all out in order, either on the floor, or on a big table. That way I can see sequences and whether the pages flow from one to the next.  I can also tell if I have a good mix of close-ups, medium shots, and panoramas.  I can also check to see if I've been consistent with my colors and backgrounds.
And, in either case, it is always useful to take my project to my writers' group.  It is amazing how an outside viewpoint can zero in on a problem section, that I, as the author or illustrator, am too close to see.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

School of the Air, Australia

School of the Air main classroom in 1999
   The School of the Air is one of Australia's solutions to teaching children who live in remote places.  To find out how it got started, go to my travel blog, The Intrepid Tourist for my entry on Alice Springs.  The School of the Air teaches about 200 children, some of them living as far as 1000 kilometers from Alice Springs.  In 1999, when I was in Australia, I visited the main facility in Alice Springs. I listened in as a teacher gave a lesson to a six year old student.  Kids get group lessons by grade level each morning for an hour and then once a week each child gets an individual lesson.  The kids get lesson packets every two weeks in the mail and the work is supervised either by a parent or a governess.  We saw samples of work on display at the school headquarters and it was well done.  In many ways these kids have all the advantages of individual attention in their home schooling and at the same time they are able to grow up on their cattle stations and be part of that life too. 
    School of the Air goes to grade 7 and after that the kids go to boarding school.  Our tour guide on the cattle ranch where we stayed (it was also a B and B) had grown up there and went to School of the Air with his brother and two sisters (in the 1970's and 1980's).  We saw the room that they had used for their lessons, which has been preserved as it was when they were growing up.  Although we had driven into the ranch on a dirt road that was in bumpy but reasonable condition, until recently there was no road at all.  Getting into town was an ordeal, especially if it rained and the creeks filled with water, so School of the Air was the best option. After our visit, I had an increased appreciation of the challenge of bringing up children and educating them in remote places like Australia's outback.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Judy Lopez Book Awards (WNBA)

On June 12th, I had the pleasure of attending the Judy Lopez Award dinner, celebrating Kate Klise, winner for her book Grounded, and honor book recipients Rita Williams-Garcia (One Crazy Summer), Matthew Kirby (The Clockwork Three), Lewis Buzbee (The Haunting of Charles Dickens), and Jewell Parker (Ninth Ward). Both Kate Klise and Rita Williams-Garcia were there in person to accept their awards. In her very entertaining acceptance speech, Kate Klise told how a middle-school reader had described her book saying that “it was about death, but funny too” and then used that as a tag line in her speech for her view of life in general.  She told how, as a child, she dearly wanted to look like Farrah Fawcett but ended up, when her father took her to the local barber, with a haircut more like that of one of the Beatles.  Now, with gorgeous long blonde hair, she definitely looks much more like Farrah Fawcett!  I was lucky to sit at the same table as Rita Williams-Garcia and learned that her daughters may have helped inspire the characters in her book.  For those of us who lived through the sixties, her book, One Crazy Summer, about the Black Panther breakfast program in Oakland, brought back memories of items seen on the news, but now viewed through the eyes of children.  It is no wonder that the book has received so many awards!
The Judy Lopez Awards are given by the Women’s National Book Association/Los Angeles Chapter.  They are granted annually to works of literary excellence for nine- to twelve-year-olds.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bald Eagle Cards for July 4th

Cards available at  (larger prints also available)
Illustrations from my book A Bald Eagle’s World are available as cards and prints at my Etsy gallery, CarolineArnoldArt.  These giclee prints make perfect gifts for anyone with a birthday or other celebration close to the Fourth of July.  While I was creating the art for the bald eagle book, I kept the second screen of my computer on the live video cam at one of the bald eagle nests on Catalina Island.  This year, there are THREE bald eagle nests in the Channel Islands that you can watch!  You can go to this website and see real, live eaglets perching on the edge of their nests waiting for their parents to bring back food (until they fledge in a month or so).  You may see the parents as well.  Wait through the annoying ad at the beginning of the video feed and then just enjoy watching the young eaglets!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Giant Books in Iowa City

A long time ago, I was a graduate student in art at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, and I trudged up and down the hill from my downtown apartment to the art building on the other side of the river.  I wish I were there today!  Now, the town is peppered with giant “books” celebrating Iowa City as a UNESCO City of Literature.  My walk today would take me past Treasure Island, Moby Dick, House by Tracy Kidder, Home by Marilynne Robinson, Clifford Goes to Dog Daycare, Alice in Wonderland, and many more!  What a terrific way to celebrate books of all kinds.  For photos of the amazing book statues, go to Book Marks, book art of Johnson County.
Additional note:  Here's a website where you can see MORE Bookmarks with photos of both the fronts and the backs of the giant books.  The back side has actual text that you can read.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Connect Online

On May 28th I went to a terrific program in Walnut Creek, CA, sponsored by the Northern California SCBWI, featuring Author Mike Jung talking about how he developed his online presence BEFORE selling his first book!  His talk, Don’t Be a Pinhead: Building on Online Presence Before Landing a Book Deal, showed how he uses the internet to connect with people and become part of the online community.  His first book, Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities, comes out next year from Arthur Levine Books.  For photos and highlights of his talk, read Edna Cabcabin Moran’s post on her blog Just Sketch.  It will inspire you (and me) to do a better job of building your own online presence!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wiggle and Waggle in My Big Backyard

I was thrilled to find out that my book Wiggle and Waggle was the May book of the month in My Big Backyard, one of the children’s magazines published by the National Wildlife Federation. My Big Backyard is for children in the primary grades. NWF also publishes Ranger Rick for older children and Wild Animal Baby for younger children.  My grandchildren love ALL the magazines, which are filled with photos, stories, games and projects, all about nature and animals. May is the perfect month to start learning about worms as it becomes time in most places to start planting summer gardens.  My idea for the book grew out of digging up dirt for my own garden and seeing the wiggly worms in the earth.  You can order a copy of the book from the NWF bookstore and a portion of your purchase helps support NWF.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Writers and Dinosaurs

Caroline with Skeleton of a Giant Sea Reptile (Los Angeles County Natural History Museum)
Fellow blogger and children’s book writer Greg Leitich Smith has launched a feature on his blog showing photographs of  children’s book authors with dinosaurs.  Well, obviously not with REAL dinosaurs, but with skeletons or other representations of the giant, extinct reptiles.  Last week he put up a post of me with skeletons of two of my favorite extinct reptiles, a mosasaur, a type of  giant sea reptile, and a pteranodon, a giant flying reptile. I am comparing my wingspan with that of the pteranodon, whose wings stretched nearly 20 feet from tip to tip!  While these creatures are not dinosaurs, they are both giant reptiles that lived in the Dinosaur Age.  You can read about them in my books Giant Sea Reptiles of the Dinosaur Age and Pterosaurs, Rulers of the Skies in the Dinosaur Age.  (And, just in case you are having trouble pronouncing the word “pterosaurs”,  remember that the “p” is silent so the word is pronounced as if it begins with “t”.  Pterosaurs were not birds and did not have feathers.  Their wings were made of thin skin.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Advice to an Aspiring Writer

Caroline's First 100 Books
I often get asked for advice from people who want to publish a children's book.  In many cases, writers worry that they will have to find an illustrator for their story before they submit it to a publisher. My first piece of advice is that you don't need to worry about an illustrator.  This is taken care of by the publisher.  If an editor wants to publish your story, then he or she will choose an illustrator whose style is appropriate to the story.  My second piece of advice is, go to a library or bookstore and look at other books in the same general category as your story.  Make a list of the books that seem closest to yours.  Those are the publishers most likely to be interested in your story.  When you are in the library or bookstore you can also look at books about writing for the children's market.  These books will give you guidelines about how to submit your manuscript.  You can also look online at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators site ( ).  It isn't easy to have a children's book published, but if you do your homework and you have a good story, it can happen!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

StoryFaire, Santa Barbara

Authors Jody Fickes, Caroline Arnold and Joan Graham at StoryFaire, Santa Barbara, April 30, 2011
On a sunny Saturday two weeks ago, along with about a dozen other authors, I participated in StoryFaire, a day long celebration of books and the arts for families and children in Santa Barbara.  Kids could do crafts, art projects, get free books, buy books and have them autographed, and watch performances on stage.  Authors each had 12 minutes to perform on stage.  The challenge was to attract and keep an audience in the free flowing outdoor venue!  The key was to offer kids the chance to participate, whether in helping to tell the story (as Alexis O’Neill did when reading her book The Recess Queen), holding props (as Ann Paul did while reading her book Tortuga in Trouble) or interacting with the audience (as Erica Silverman did while reading her book Big Pumpkin.)  I talked about my book Birds: Nature’s Magnificent Flying Machines and invited children to come up to the stage and have their “wingspans” measured.  (Most kids were red-tailed hawks.)  Then I read the first two chapters of Wiggle and Waggle while two children acted out the story with my Wiggle and Waggle sock puppets.  You can see a sample of my performance in this video.  Enjoy!

Monday, May 9, 2011

New Travel Blog

Caroline and Jennifer in Uganda, 1971
After years of thinking that I should share some of my travel articles, I have decided to launch a blog devoted exclusively to my travel writing. I call it The Intrepid Tourist. I have chosen to start with a piece about the reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg as we begin a four year retrospective on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Other current posts include a walking trip through Cornwall and a week in the Scilly Islands. Next week I will take a look back on a trip to Africa with my husband and one-year-old daughter Jennifer (pictured above with me on the equator in Uganda in 1971.) While some of my pieces will be about trips I took a few years ago, all links will be up-to-date. My plan is to post new blogs weekly. My goal is to share some of my travel experiences with the idea that there may be people out there who might want a more personal view of various travel destinations than you can get in a travel guidebook. I plan to post once a week. If you want to get an email announcing new posts, you can sign up as a follower.

As I go through my files collecting material for the blog, it is fun reliving our various trips. One reason that I started the blog is that I have a vast store of unused material that has never seen the light of day. I will also use the blog to report on current travel. The two trips we have coming up are a family reunion in Atlanta in August and a trip to Sardinia in September (where Art has a meeting.)
Hope you enjoy reading The Intrepid Tourist!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Wiggle and Waggle Stick Puppets

Recently, I visited my granddaughter’s kindergarten class and read my book Wiggle and Waggle. The children all loved singing the “Digging Song” and afterward we made Wiggle and Waggle stick puppets. I was impressed by the creativity of the children in coloring the worms. Although a few of them made the worms brown (as I did in my samples, and the artist, Mary Peterson, did in the book), the rest made them all colors of the rainbow and a number of children chose to do stripes and patterns! I did the same project last weekend at StoryFaire in Santa Barbara, a wonderful day out-of-doors for children and their families celebrating books and the arts. You can download the stick puppet project and other fun activities (including a song, word search, coloring page, recipes and games for a wormy party, and more) HERE. Have fun making your own worm puppets and acting out the story! This activity is perfect for preschool and kindergarten age children.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Turning a Jumble of Facts into an Idea

When I was a child, my favorite lunch was Campbell’s alphabet soup. I loved to fish out the noodle letters and arrange them on my plate until they spelled a word. Writing and illustrating a book is a little bit like that. I take a jumble of facts and put them together so they make sense. Just as the letters in my soup could be made into a variety of different words, facts can be arranged to tell a variety of different stories.

In my book A Penguin’s World, I followed two Adelie penguin chicks through a year of their life. The organizing principle is time sequence. In this book, I illustrated each step with my own cut paper art.
In Australian Animals, I grouped the animals by the places where they live. The organizing principle is a common space. This book is illustrated with photographs, many of them taken by me on my several trips to Australia.
In Birds: Nature’s Magnificent Flying Machines, I showed how each part of a bird’s body helps it to fly. The organizing principle is the physical act of flying. This book is illustrated with beautiful, scientifically accurate art by Patricia Wynne.

Each of these books is organized in a different way, but by the end of each one, all the pieces fit together in logical order to make a unified whole.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Books Give You Someplace to Go

I don’t read the comics on a regular basis, but last week I opened the newspaper (I still get an actual paper newspaper!) to the comics page and saw a wonderful cartoon. Dennis the Menace is seated under a tree with his pal Joey listening with rapt attention to Gina reading a book. This in itself caught my attention because Dennis is usually pictured getting into some kind of trouble. Instead, he is caught up in the magic of books. The caption reads, “Reading is fun. It gives you someplace to go when you can’t go anywhere.” I couldn’t agree more. Books can transport us to far away places both real and imaginative. We can run with zebras in Africa, float high in the clouds, or encounter magical creatures with Harry Potter. As a child, I traveled vicariously to France with children whose professor father was spending a year in Paris as I read the book Family Sabbatical by Carol Ryrie Brink. Books expand our world through both words and pictures. Books helped me dream that someday I could go someplace and see for myself some of the things I had first encountered through reading. A few years ago, I did go to France and climbed the Eiffel tower just as the children did in the book I read long ago.

Monday, March 14, 2011

How Do We Get Ideas?

How do we get ideas? On occasion, they come full blown in a sudden flash of insight. More often, though, they evolve a little bit at a time. My recent book, Global Warming and the Dinosaurs: Fossil Discoveries at the Poles, was a project that developed slowly. At first, all I had were random bits of information. These facts, fascinating though they were, did not make a book. I did not have enough and I still needed an organizing principle. But by keeping all those interesting bits floating around in my mind, over time, an idea for a book on polar dinosaurs began to gel.

This is the opening paragraph of my article Evolution of a Book Idea: From Percolation to Publication published in the Spring 2011 issue of Kite Tales, the newsletter of SCBWI-Los Angeles. In the article I discuss how the book grew out of my natural interests in fossils and dinosaurs, how conversations with librarians gave me valuable new material, how other book research added to what I already knew, how experts in the field helped answer questions, and finally, how a chance encounter propelled me to start writing and finishing the book. Click here to read the full article on page 31.

Global Warming and the Dinosaurs is illustrated with beautiful watercolor paintings by Laurie Caple. Laurie has illustrated five other books of mine about prehistoric animals and has done a fantastic job on all of them. Her naturalistic style is perfect for these books. She does as much research as I do to make sure that everything she draws is as scientifically accurate as possible. This is a challenge when most of what she draws has been extinct for millions of years. By creating whole environments for the animals, she truly brings them to life.

I am often asked, why don’t I illustrate all my own books? After all, I’m trained as an artist. The truth is that I don’t want to illustrate all my books. My style does not necessarily always suit the subject matter I write about. I am delighted that artists like Laurie Caple can illustrate my books. It takes just as much time to illustrate a book as it does to write it. If I did all my own illustrations, I wouldn’t have as much time to write. I enjoy illustrating my own books, but only when the concept of the writing and the art work together for me.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Etsy Anniversary

February marked the one year anniversary of the launching of my Etsy gallery, CarolineArnoldArt, offering cards and prints of my book illustrations. I now have 74 items listed, 48 cards and 26 prints, and plan to add more in the future. I am sometimes asked which of my images are the most popular. Platypuses, koalas and wombats are surprisingly popular. Perhaps it’s their exotic nature. After that, pandas and penguins seem to be well liked. Their black and white markings certainly lend them to decorative designs. That said, all of the animals get plenty of views. Etsy has been an ideal way for me to market my artwork to a wider audience. I’d love to hear what you think of my Etsy site!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Read, Know, Grow: Support School Libraries

Some time ago, I donated a piece of my art from my book A Panda's World to help support school libraries. It has now been incorporated into the California Campaign for Strong School Libraries. Visit the Campaign’s Library Store and see how you can buy a t-shirt, mug and other items with great art (mine or someone else's) AND support school libraries! (I've already ordered a bunch of t-shirts and mugs!) Great for gifts or for yourself!

The Campaign is a public awareness program aimed at publicizing today’s role of school libraries and shining a spotlight on the new Model School Library Standards approved by the State Board of Education last fall. The standards include: 1) Standards for Students that delineate what students should know and be able to do at each grade level or grade span to enable students to succeed in school, higher education and the workforce, and; 2) base level staffing, resources and infrastructure, including technology, required for effective school library programs for students.

Patrick Nelson, CEO of California-based bookseller Mrs. Nelson’s Toy & Book Shop, used his vast network of contacts with authors and illustrators to facilitate the arrangement with the California School Library Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that oversees the Campaign. Last year, Nelson was recognized by the California School Library Association for his role in creating and developing a statewide school library advocacy campaign. For more information about the Campaign or the Campaign’s LIBRARY STORE, contact Connie Williams at

Friday, February 4, 2011

School Visit Tip

Recently, I was asked by my friend Alexis O'Neill to contribute a tip for doing school visits for her blog School Visit Here's my tip: Create coloring pages, activity sheets, and other “hands on” projects that can be downloaded from your website and used in the classroom to build up knowledge and interest in your books before or after your visit. Include this information in a packet sent to the librarian before your visit. I love going to schools and see walls of cut paper zebras created from the template on the web page for my book A Zebra’s World. No two zebra’s are ever alike!
In the photo above you can see the wonderful zebra mural made by the students in my brother's third grade class in Novato, CA. I love the way they created a whole African scene.
If you are an author or illustrator, check out the many other useful tips and resources on the School Visit Experts site.

Monday, January 17, 2011

ALA San Diego, January 2011

A week ago I spent a day at the winter American Library Association meetings in San Diego signing my books A Polar Bear’s World and A Bald Eagle’s World in the Capstone booth. I always love the opportunity to meet the librarians and teachers who are using my books with children and to see them happily taking my books home with them to add to their libraries and classrooms. When I wasn’t signing, I was cruising the aisles to see friends, read new books in other publishers’ booths, and collect catalogues, free posters and other goodies. In all, it was a great day!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Colorful Animals

Nobody ever said that animals have to have realistic colors! At a recent event, I set up a table with crayons, colored paper, scissors, glue and coloring pages from some of my animal books. Then I let the children free to use the materials as they liked. The picture above shows the ingenious use of the materials by Jossi and Laura, two nine year old girls. I love the way they let the shapes of the animals inspire the filling of the space and how they made patterns of colors and lines. The coloring pages for the koala and penguins can be downloaded from the book pages on my website. A Koala’s World and A Penguin’s World. Go to the project section of each page to click on the link. Have fun making your own creative and colorful animal art!