Monday, April 30, 2012

Project: Measuring Your Wingspan

Do you sometimes wish you could fly like a bird?  Even if we had feathers all over our arms, we still couldn’t fly because we are too heavy.  But it is fun to imagine what it would be like to fly.  What kind of bird would YOU be if you could fly?
One of my favorite activities during my school visit presentations is measuring the “wingspans” of the students.  I ask them to spread out their arms as if they were flying and I use my wingspan measuring tape to identify what kind of bird they would be.  First graders are usually peregrine falcons.  Third graders are almost always red-tailed hawks.  Two students together make one bald eagle and two and half students are needed to measure the wingspan of a California condor, the largest flying bird in North America.Click here to find out how you can make your own wingspan measuring tape.
Learn about birds in Birds: Nature's Magnificent Flying Machines and many of my other books about birds.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Warmer World on Archimedes Notebook

I was pleased to be interviewed by Sue Heavenrich about my book A Warmer World for her blog, Archimedes Notebook.  Her review of the book and her interview with me were posted on April 20th as part of her month long celebration of Earth Month.  One of the questions she asked me was, how can kids use less energy and help combat global warming?  Here’s my answer:
Scientists agree that the burning of fossil fuels is causing global warming. Since these fuels are burned for energy, and everyone uses energy, everyone can help stop global warming just by using less energy.  Here are a few things kids can do: Turn off the lights when you leave the room.  Turn off your computer when you are not using it.  Close the blinds on a hot day instead of turning up the air conditioning.  Bike or walk when you can instead of riding in a car.  Plant a tree (plants use carbon dioxide to grow.)  Here are a few of the things I do to reduce my energy footprint:  I turn down the heat in my house and wear a sweater to keep warm.  I drive a hybrid car that uses less gas.  I changed all the light bulbs in my house to low energy bulbs.  I recycle as much as I can.
This is just a short list.  There are many more things you can do to decrease your energy footprint.
Sue shared my tip about changing light bulbs in her One Thing Wednesday post on April 4, 2012. Read more of the interview and the review of A Warmer World at Archimedes Notebook in her post on April 20, 2012.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Terrible Hodag: What Do YOU Think It Looks Like?

Recently, I did an author visit at Pilgrim School in Los Angeles.  Before my visit, the librarian had read aloud my tall tale, The Terrible Hodag and the Animal Catchers, to the students.  But she didn’t show them the illustrations in the book.  Instead, the children had to imagine their own version of the creature that has the head of an OX, feet of a BEAR, back of a DINOSAUR, and the tail of an ALLIGATOR.  Afterwards, the art teacher asked the first graders to paint their images.  She gave them large sheets of black paper (after all, the Hodag is said to be forty feet tall!) and white paint and large brushes.  They worked in small groups, each one producing an amazing, and different giant Hodag.  The finished products were mounted on the walls of the room where I gave my presentation, making us feel as if we were in the north woods where the Hodag lives.

I did not invent the Hodag.  The first Hodag was described in a newspaper article in the northern Wisconsin town of Rhinelander in 1893.  Then, in 1896, prankster Eugene Shepard, (who had instigated the earlier report) claimed to have captured a Hodag.  He displayed his “living” monster at the Oneida County fair.  Later, he admitted it was a hoax. Rhinelander still considers itself the home of the Hodag.  When I visited Rhinelander several years ago, I had my picture taken under the huge fiberglass model of the Hodag that stands outside the Chamber of Commerce.  This Hodag looks considerably fiercer than those portrayed in my books!
Through the years, tales of the Hodag have spread throughout the upper midwest.  As with all tall tales, the stories have evolved.  I first learned about the Hodag when I was a child and went to summer camp at Camp Bovey (originally called Camp Hodag) in northern Wisconsin and we told Hodag stories around the campfire at night.  I remembered those stories and after I grew up and became a children’s book author I wrote one of them down.  That story became The Terrible Hodag, illustrated by Lambert Davis.  He depicts the Hodag as a kind of taxidermist’s assemblage of body parts.

I then took the characters from the first book and used them to create my own story.  That became The Terrible Hodag and the Animal Catchers.  The illustrations in that book, by John Sandford, are black and white and evoke turn of the century woodcuts.

I love the way every artist, from the first graders to the illustrators of my books, has created their own unique image of the Hodag.  The Hodag has come a long way from the monster that Eugene Shepard “captured” more than a century ago.
You can learn more about the origin of the Hodag in Long Live the Hodag: the life and Legacy of Eugene Shepard: 1854-1923 by Kurt Daniel Kortenhof.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Visiting Author, Pilgrim School, Los Angeles

    In March, I did an author visit at Pilgrim School in Los Angeles, which has an impressive Visiting Authors and Artists Series, organized by Upper School Librarian Kristine Williams.  Other authors in the program this year have been poet and novelist David Hernandez, young adult novelist Cecil Castellucci, poet Mark Erwin, novelist Erik Larson, whose presentation on May 14th  is open to the public, and a theatrical group, the East/West Players.  As it happened, on the same day that I visited, the East/West Players gave their performance, telling the story of Katherine Cheung, the first Asian-American woman to be a licensed pilot and who flew with Amelia Earhart.

A First Class Introduction
     I spoke to the children in the lower school (grades K-5).  (For a look at some of the wonderful first grade artwork prepared for my visit, see my blog post for April 18.)  My host was Carole Koneff, the lower school librarian, who, in my opinion, gets the prize for the most creative introduction that I have ever had for one of my school visit presentations.  She not only included essential information about me and my books, but she made it rhyme!  She has graciously allowed me to reproduce her introduction below:

Global warming, dinosaurs, animals big and small,
Petite but mighty Caroline Arnold has written about them all.
Easter Island statues and a monster in the woods,
When it comes to telling a story our visitor has the goods!
More than a hundred books have flown out of her pen,
And when one is completed she starts the process again.
Researching all her facts, checking them inside out,
Everything will be accurate, of that there is no doubt,
Doing the art herself, or working with a friend,
On a beautifully finished product we know we can depend.
We can learn about the Taj Mahal or what a walrus likes to eat.
Her series of non-fiction animals simply can’t be beat!
It’s her first visit to Pilgrim, we hope one of many to come.
Let’s give a warm welcome to Ms. Arnold and now let’s have some fun!

     Written and performed by Carole Koneff, Lower School Librarian at Pilgrim School, on March 20, 2012.

     Thank you Carole for your superb, and flattering, introduction!  You are a hard act to follow!  I had a wonderful day at Pilgrim School and hope that it is “one of many to come.”

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Author of the Month

April is Earth Month and the perfect time to focus on global warming.  I am pleased to be featured at CharlesbridgePublishing as the April Author of the Month along with my new book A Warmer World:  From Polar Bears to Butterflies, How Climate Change Affects Wildlife.  Here are some excerpts from my interview for the article:

A Warmer World tackles some serious issues and explores the consequences of global warming. What inspired you to write a children’s book about climate change?
     A Warmer World grew out of a suggestion from my editor, who knew of my interest in animals and the environment and my concern for the earth we live on.  Many subjects in the book–polar bears, walruses, penguins, sea turtles, migrating birds, coral reefs–are topics that I have written about previously.  In doing the research for those books I had learned how environmental changes are threatening their ability to survive.  A Warmer World gave me the chance to focus on those issues. 

How did you go about researching the different animals for A Warmer World?
Illust. by Jamie Hogan for A Warmer World

 My research process follows the same pattern for all of my books.  I start in the library and read books and articles.  I also search the internet.  In many cases, I consult scientists and other experts in the field.  And, whenever possible, I try to make my own observations about the animals in my books.  Ideally, I like to see animals where they live in the wild.  Several years ago, I visited a penguin nesting colony in southern Chile. More often, though, I observe animals in zoos and wildlife parks. 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. Unfortunately, melting ice in the arctic is making it harder for mother walruses to tend their calves.

It’s clear from your books that you love animals. Of all the different kinds of creatures you’ve written about, do you have a favorite?
Illust. by Jamie Hogan for A Warmer World
     I like all kinds of animals, but birds have always been a favorite topic in my books.  When I was a child I went on early morning bird walks with my father, who was an amateur bird watcher, and now my husband studies birds in his research at UCLA.  In my book Birds: Nature’s Magnificent Flying Machines, I focused on all the different ways a bird’s body is adapted for flight.  In A Warmer World, I looked at how climate change is affecting nesting and migration patterns, or, in the case of Antarctic penguins, how melting ice is diminishing their main food source, krill.

To read the full interview, go to the Charlesbridge website.  You can also order A Warmer World from the Charlesbridge book order page.