Wednesday, June 22, 2016

THESE BOOKS ROCK: Review of LIVING FOSSILS by Sue Smith-Heavenrich

The following review of my book LIVING FOSSILS, Clues to the Past by Sue Smith-Heavenrich appeared in her column, "Alexander’s Library", in the summer 2016 Ithaca Child. I can tell that the reviewer has had a lifelong fascination with fossils, just as I have!

Sue Smith-Heavenrich writes:
My favorite book when I was a kid was my dad’s geology text. I spent hours poring over photos of fossils, losing myself in the geological time scale, sounding out “Carboniferous” and “Silurian”. So I’m always happy when I find great books about rocks for kids.

Living Fossils: Clues to the Past
    When you think of fossils, you might think of dinosaur bones or trilobites...something preserved in rock. Something prehistoric. Extinct. But what if some of those ancient creatures still lived among us? Would we recognize them?
    Caroline Arnold shows us six amazing creatures that closely resemble their ancient relatives–“living fossils”. Comparing “then” to “now” she shows where these creatures live, how they survived, and what their future looks like. Take, for example, horseshoe crabs. One hundred fifty million years ago, horseshoe crabs had hard shells and long tails. They crawled up on sandy beaches to search for worms and shellfish to eat. Not much has changed. If you visit the east coast on a warm summer night when the moon shines full, you’re likely to see hundreds of horseshoe crabs pull themselves up onto the beach. They’re digging nests and laying eggs, just like they did millions of years ago.
    You don’t need to travel to the beach to find living fossils; just head to a wetland or hayfield on a warm day and look for dragonflies. Those keen mosquito-devouring hunters are the great-great-great-.....great-grandchildren of dragonflies that lived 280 million years ago. Over the years things changed, like size. Back then dragonflies were larger–the size of a crow. (Charlesbridge, 2016; ages 7-10)

The other books reviewed in the same article are:
Explore Fossils! With 25 Great Projects by Candace L. Brown and Grace Brown (Nomad, 2016; ages 7-10)
Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Rocks and Minerals by Nancy Honovich (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2016; ages 7-12)
A Rock Can Be by Laurie Purdie Salas (Millbrook Press, 2015; ages 4-7)

This review also appears in Sue Smith-Heavenrich's June 24, 2016 blogpost at Archimedes Notebook, a terrific website that focuses on hands-on science exploration for children and their parents.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


I am always delighted to find art projects inspired by my books. On a recent visit to Jennifer Best’s kindergarten class at Haynes School in Los Angeles, she showed me the cut paper penguin art the children had made after reading my book A Penguin’s World. The children had looked carefully at my illustration of a pair of penguins at their nest and then recreated their own versions with colored construction paper, doing an excellent job of matching the colors. In contrast to my art, which is cut with scissors, making a hard edge around each piece, the children tore the paper shapes, giving a wonderful soft edge to the pieces. The only pieces that were cut were the orange beaks and toes. The final works of art were then laminated. The best thing about this project is the individuality of each child’s art–no two pieces were alike and the penguins look wonderfully animated. Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing this project with me!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016


As I often do when I travel, I like to visit the local library and meet the children’s librarian. I also like to check the catalogue to find out if the library has any of my books–and invariably I find that they have at least one. On a recent visit to Philadelphia, I stopped by the children’s room in the Central branch of the  Free Library of Philadelphia. I had a delightful visit with Patti McLaughlin, head of the children’s department, who asked me to sign a few of my books that were on the shelves (the library has 60 of my titles listed in its catalogue!) and told me about the incredibly successful story hour held in the library every Monday and Wednesday which is attended by more than a hundred mothers and children. She also pointed out the series of beautiful N.C. Wyeth paintings that decorate the walls of the children’s room.

The paintings are part of the library's extensive Children’s Literature Research Collection. I was pleased to discover that the research collection also includes quite a few of my books. I returned two days later to meet Chris Brown, the curator of the collection, who had assembled a number of my books for me to sign. They marked various landmark points in my career, from my first published book, Five Nests, to my tall tale, The Terrible Hodag, and many of my books illustrated with photos by Richard Hewett including Dinosaur Mountain, our animal books published at Morrow Junior Books, and Saving the Peregrine Falcon, which I discovered had been one of Chris’ favorite books since he was child.

Later that afternoon I visited the Rare Book Department of the library, currently featuring an exhibit called Or Else: Cautionary Tales for Children, where I saw the dummy of one of MY all time favorite books, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig. The Or Else exhibit goes to July 23, 2016. As it turned out, a staff member was giving tours of the Elkins library, which is part of the rare books department, and invited me to come along. The Elkins library reproduces the actual library of its donor (chairs, curtains, carpets, shelves, etc.) exactly as it was in his home, along with his huge Dickens collection and other books. These are just a few of the fascinating things you will find at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Author Visit, the Meredith School, Philadelphia, PA

Last week I had a wonderful visit with Jennifer Jutzi’s 1/2 class at the Meredith School, a public school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I shared my recent books, we talked about birds and measured the students’ wingspans, watched my slides, and finished by reading The Terrible Hodag and the Animal Catchers. The children had read several of my books before my visit and I was impressed by their knowledge and good questions. I thank Jennifer Jutzi for allowing me to visit her class, and my good friend Esther Baker Tarpaga for helping to arrange the visit. Esther’s daughter Windega is a student in the class and was eager to show me the newly hatched chicks which were hopping around in their brood box. By this time next year the students will be able to read my new book coming out in 2017, Hatching Chicks in Room 6.