Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Going "Batty": Activity

Bats have an amazing sense of hearing and can detect sounds far above the range of human hearing.  These high pitched sounds are called ultrasounds.  Even more amazing, bats use the echoes of their own sounds to navigate as they fly.  This ability is called echolocation.  Bats can direct their cries very precisely, in the same way that you can point a flashlight to shine a narrow beam of light.  They send out streams of high-pitched sounds and listen for echoes bouncing off objects around them.  It is like having a built-in radar system that uses sound instead of radio waves to “see” objects.  By listening to these echoes they can learn about the texture and shape of an object as well as its size and location.  They may even be able to tell which insects are good to eat and which are not.

Demonstrating how big ears help bats hear well (photo by Richard Hewett)
One thing that helps a bat hear well is its big ears.  Large ears capture more sounds than small ears.  Here is an activity you can do to demonstrate how this works.  Cup your hands around your ears with your palm facing forward.  Listen to the sounds around you.  Do they seem louder?  Take you hands away and notice the difference.  In the picture above I was in a museum. I was pretending to be a bat.  When I listened with the huge bat ears I could hear a pin drop on the other side of the room!
Note from a friend in Ireland about the origins of Halloween:  As millions of children and adults participate in the fun of Halloween tonight, many will not be aware of its ancient Celtic roots in the Samhain festival. In Celtic Ireland about 2000 years ago, Samhain was the division of the year between the lighter half (summer) and the darker half (winter)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

PEN Literary Awards Festival: Meeting Matthew Kirby, author of Icefall

In my September 5th post I wrote about Icefall, by Matthew Kirby, winner of the PEN award for Children's/Young Adult Literature.  On Monday, October 22nd, I attended the awards dinner and had the honor of meeting Matthew Kirby in person, who had flown to Los Angeles from his home in Idaho to accept the award. He told me that the germ of the idea for the book came in a dream, then followed by an enormous amount of research into Viking life in Norway. You can read about PEN and the Awards Festival held on October 22nd at the Beverly Hills Hotel at the INK blog in the October 24th post by Gretchen Woelfle, finalist for her book All the World's a Stage: A Novel in Five Acts.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Educator Reception at Barnes and Noble: Meeting Teachers and Librarians

At Educator Reception, Barnes and Noble, Valencia, CA with Laurisa Reyes and Greg Trine
On Saturday, October 13th, I participated in an Educator Reception at the Valencia Barnes and Noble where I enjoyed meeting teachers from the Valencia and Santa Clarita area and had the opportunity to talk about my books and my author visits to schools.   I want to thank the Joelle Beigel, the Community Relations coordinator at Barnes and Noble for hosting the event, and author Candace Ryan (Moo Hoo, Ribbit Rabbit, and Animal House), the SCBWI PAL coordinator in our area, for helping to organize the author panel.  Other authors who were there were Greg Trine who writes the Melvin Beederman Superhero series, Laurisa White Reyes, with her new novel Rock of Ivanore, Janet Squires, author of the picture book The Gingerbread Cowboy, and Scott M. Fischer, author of the popular Scary School books.  We each made a short presentation and then answered questions from the audience.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

New Life for OP Books at StarWalk Kids Media

At StarWalk Reader, the child can choose the reading mode--Read to Me, Let Me Read, or Auto Play
I was delighted by the launch of StarWalk Kids Media Digital Library last week and to see many of my out-of-print books getting a new life. Nine of my books are currently in the catalog and more will be added in the coming year. The books have been redesigned with a contemporary look for today's readers and can be used in a variety of ways–to read alone, to listen to, or on auto-play.

All of the StarWalk Kids titles will also available on Amazon as Kindle books.  You can search by title on Amazon or link directly from the StarWalk Kids catalog.

StarWalk Kids Media was co-founded by children's science author Seymour Simon and Liz Nealon, the former Creative Director of Sesame Street.  I have known Seymour for many years, since the days when we both published at Morrow Junior Books. The catalog of StarWalk Kids includes books by Seymour Simon as well as by David Adler, Stephanie Calmenson, Joanna Cole, Doug Cushman, Diane deGroat, Johanna Hurwitz, Kathryn Lasky, Stan Mack, Doreen Rappaport, Hudson Talbott, Laura Vaccaro Seeger and more.  Read more about StarWalk Kids Media in this excellent article in School Library Journal.

The books are available via the browser-based StarWalk Reader, which works on most devices, including desktop and laptop computers, tablets, smartphones, and interactive whiteboards. It’s anytime access—students with an account can log in from home or anywhere they have an Internet connection. And multiple users, whole classes, can read the same title simultaneously.

Designed for classroom use, the books accommodate note taking and highlighting. Educators can search for books by author, title, keyword, subject, Lexile level, alphabetic reading level, and Common Core (CC) State Standards links. An especially handy feature for younger users is the ability to navigate by thumbnail images of each page, which appear along the bottom of the Reader. “Teaching Links” match each title to relevant CC standards and provide suggested activities.

Caroline Arnold titles now available at StarWalk Kids:
  • Sun Fun
  • Playtime for Zoo Animals
  • Mealtime for Zoo Animals
  • Splashtime for Zoo Animals
  • Noisytime for Zoo Animals
  • Sleepytime for Zoo Animals
  • Mother and Baby Zoo Animal
  • Wild Goat
  • Tule Elk

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Easter Island: Captions Add Information

Perhaps the most exotic site I’ve ever visited is Easter Island in the South Pacific, where I went to photograph and research my book, Easter Island: Giant Stone Statues Tell of a Rich and Tragic Past. Although I had read about the giant statues and the people who made them a thousand years ago, nothing prepared me for standing in the ancient quarry amid dozens of half carved statues that never made it to their seaside platforms or climbing to the top of the cliff where the birdman rituals were once performed. My personal experience on Easter Island was important for bringing a sense of immediacy to my book, but the cost of time and travel meant that I could only spend a short time there. After I got home I needed to do extensive museum and library research as well. It took me a year to collect everything I needed and when I was ready to write I had a box bursting with notes, brochures, books, tapes, and other research materials. My book was for children ages ten and up so I knew I was limited to a manuscript of about 5000 words. Several months later, after distilling the mass of material I had collected to its essential points, the manuscript was ready to turn in to my editor.

The agony of being a nonfiction writer is that the space allotted for text in the book is never enough for all that wonderful information that was discovered in the research. This is particularly true when writing for children since the text and page length of the book are relatively short. Even if I were able to include every detail, I don’t want to overwhelm the reader by providing more than he or she wants to know. But there are several ways I supplement the information included in the main text and enrich the overall impact of the book: through captions, sidebars, charts, maps, time lines, projects, list of further resources, author notes and acknowledgments.

Since most books for children are widely illustrated, there are ample opportunities to add information through captions. Minimally the caption needs to identify the illustration and show how it ties into the text, but often there is room to elaborate. For instance, in my book Easter Island, a scenic photo showing several cultivated fields has the following caption: View from the crater Puna Pau. Now, as in ancient times, much of Easter Island’s land is tilled for agriculture. (Captions are almost always written in the present tense) Throughout the book I used captions not only to add information but to tie the photos and text together to create a more unified presentation.

Note:  You can read more about Easter Island at my October 1, 2012 post on my travel blog The Intrepid Tourist.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


My friend Alfred Zerfas offered to make a video promo of my book, A Warmer World: From Polar Bears to Butterflies How Climate Change Affects Wildlife. He's Australian, so the narration (which he did himself) is with an Australian accent. The video is short but, I think, quite effective and provides great close-ups of Jamie Hogan's beautiful art. I have put it on YouTube.
With thanks to Fred for helping to spread the word about the book!