WIN A COPY OF THIS BOOK! Just email me at Click on this photo for a free activity MARKLE'S BOOK SAFARI ADVENTURE on SANDRA MARKLE SPEAKS!

Sunday, October 11, 2015


Wow! Who knew we could have an excuse to have fun exploring dinosaurs. But October is it!

Dig In
Here are some sites where you can find lots of fun things to do and ways for children to investigate.

Science Made Fun
This site is packed with info about dinosaur record holders. For example do you know which dinosaur is the smallest when fully-grown? Or which kind was the first ever to be discovered in North America? You will once you visit this site.

Can you make up a story about what's going on in this picture?

Child Care Lounge: Dinosaur Activities
Songs and crafts add fun and games to learning about dinosaurs.

Enchanted Learning: Dinosaur Quizes

Ten questions, word unscrambles, crosswords and name hunts. There's lots of dino-fun here. 

And don't miss the jokes! You'll find the answers to these and more.

Why did the Archaeopteryx catch the worm?

What do you get when dinosaurs crash their cars?

Breaking News: Dinosaur Egg Discovered

Check out this latest discovery of dinosaur eggs. Also, take a look inside my book to see how the latest technology let scientists study baby dinosaurs. And learn what they were like and how they developed.
See a real baby dinosaur on page 35

 Encourage children to imagine dinosaur eggs were discovered at their school or at home in their backyard. Have them become reporters to bring this breaking news to the world.

South Pole Dinosaurs
Dr. Christian Sidor with fossil

Hard as it is to believe, during the Age of Dinosaurs the world's climate was very different. In fact, it was a time of Greenhouse kind of warming. So there were forests in Antarctica where the land is now covered with thick ice sheets. Scientist Dr. Vanessa Bowman reported that the rainforests of New Zealand with their fern trees show what the Antarctic forests were once like. In fact, Robert Falcon Scott found fossilized plants there in 1912. Since, explorers have discovered fossilized, bush-sized beech trees and remains of ginkgos, another ancient kind of tree. And dinosaur bones have also been discovered.
What's fascinating about these dinosaur remains isn't that they lived in Antarctica. It's that they had to deal with the polar night. Though the climate was clearly warmer in that ancient time, there still would have been the long period of dark. Professor Thomas Rich has found several of the now eight known species (kinds) of Antarctic dinosaurs. And the only complete skeleton found was for Leaellynasaura. This provided a big clue as to how the dinosaurs managed. Its skull had extra big eye sockets so it probably had big eyes--what it would have needed to see in the long night. 

[Don't miss the sweet story of how this dinosaur got its name.]

So what kinds of dinosaurs once lived near the South Pole? Here's the names of three. Click on the name of each to link to a site where you can begin learning more about that dinosaur. If you're interested go online to discover more about one or more of these dinosaurs. And create a 12-page mini-picture book about the dinosaur.

 Antarctopelta, meaning “Antarctic shield.” Discovered in 1986. Believed to be an ankylosaurus type of armored plant eater.


Cryolophosaurus, means “coldcrested lizard.” Approximately 20–26 feet (6–8 m) long, this massive creature must have required a hefty diet, including other dinosaurs.

Glacialisaurus, meaning “frozen lizard.” The entire dinosaur must have been 20–25 feet (6–8 m) long and weighed an estimated 4–6 tons.

Now, imagine that you have travelled to Antarctica. And you're part of a team that has found the fossil remains of a brand new kind of dinosaur. Read this story about someone who lived that exciting adventure. Then make up a story about being along on this expedition.

Have Dino Dreams

Dinosaurs are also perfect for launching all sorts of creative thinking. Let children look at this picture and:
1. Imagine living in that city.
2. Draw another kind of dinosaur that's hosting a city.
3. Dream up a class pet dinosaur. 

And enjoy some of these fun reads:
How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?

Dinosaur Dig

Dinosaurs Love Underpants

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


Open this book and set sail.
The E-book is as close as Amazon
Enjoy these activities and don't miss the give-away chance to win one of 3 autographed copies of WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL TEETH!?
Get in the drawing for this gift give-away by emailing me before October 21st at

What if Columbus was planning his voyage today? 

Would you laugh and say, "How silly!"

Would you stand on the dock and shout, "Good luck?"

Or would you say, "Sign me up! I'm going with you."

Hi Ho It's A Sailor's Life For Me!

Pretend you've heard Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain are funding a voyage of exploration.  

An Italian chap named Christopher Columbus claims he's figured out a sea route to the faraway lands that produce spices and silk. It's an exciting idea because trekking overland to those places is expensive and dangerous. 

Make a list of pros and cons for why you should or shouldn't sign up to join Columbus's crew. Make sure the pros win. 

Then write a letter to your parents--or your best friend--telling you're going and why.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.1b Provide reasons that are supported by facts and details.

What animals sailed with Columbus?

If you have the book or E-book, read pages 16 and 17. Don't miss the info in the Red Box!

Look at this picture to see one of Columbus's ship getting ready to sail. List all the 
animals you see? Which were stowaways, meaning they weren’t wanted?

This cat looks like my cat "Tiger". But he hates to travel. 

Write a short story about getting ready 
to set sail with Columbus from the ship 
cat’s point of view.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.4.4 Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.

Anybody Want A Biscocho? (say biz-KOH-choh)

A common sailor's fare onboard was what the Spanish call Biscocho or biscuits. 

Sailor's also called it hardtack. Bake up this recipe and you'll know how this biscuit got it's name.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup water
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
*Be sure and check with an adult that's it's okay to whip up this recipe. Have your 
adult partner take the hot tray out of the oven.

In a bowl, mix the flour and salt. Add the water and stir until it's a stiff dough. Then 
knead (push the dough, turn, and push again). Add more flour if necessary to make a 
very dry dough.

Press the dough out so it is only about 1/2 inch thick. Use a bread knife to cut into 
squares. Place the biscocho on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes. 
Remove from oven and cool. Then enjoy! (or at least try)

In Columbus's time, sailors often ate biscotto with sardines or bean soup. 

What do you think about that?

Watch Out For The Sargasso Sea!
If you have the book or E-book, read pages 20 and 21. Don't miss the Sargasso Food Chain.

Columbus's ships sailed into what looked like a gold and green meadow of floating weeds, an area that is now called the Sargasso (sar-GAS-oh) Sea.  Why do you think the sailors thought this meant they were almost to land?  Look at this map to find out where Columbus and his crew really were.
The arrows show sea currents. Why do you think sailors could be trapped in this part of the ocean?

Now, dive in and explore some of the animals living in the Sargasso Sea--the ones in the picture. Next make a mini-book with a little information about any four of these animals: Mahi Mahi, Mako Shark, Dolphins, Baby Eels, Baby Loggerhead Turtles.  You can find information on-line or in books. Add pictures to bring your mini-book to life. And don't forget to give it a title.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W. 4.7 Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.

What An Adventure!

Reaching the New World was just the beginning of the adventure.  Read pages 28 and 29 to discover some of the events Columbus and his crew shared.  Next, pretend you were there--part of Columbus's crew. Tell your story about being part of one of those adventures.

CCSS. ELA-Literacy.W.4.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.

And, in honor of featuring animals for this Columbus Day event, I'm giving away 3 autographed copies of WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL TEETH!? Get in the drawing for this gift give-away by emailing me before October 21st at

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


GOOD GOLLY it's Autumn!

I love this season! Whether you live where autumn brings lots of changes or only a few, it's still a great time for seasonal fun. So let's jump in and get started.


There are thousands of kinds of apples. However, only the most popular are grown and harvested. Even that changes as new varieties emerge. Today, the top ten are most often listed as the following:
Pink Lady 
Golden Delicious
Cox's Orange Pippin
Red Delicious

Collect samples of any three then compare. 
Do the apples look different? 
Check color. 

Now wash and slice. Then taste one sample. Rate it from 1 to 4 on crispness with 1 being the softest and 4 being the crispest.
Also rate it on sweetness with 1 being the least sweet and 4 being the sweetest.

Have a swig of water. Next, repeat these two tests with the second apple. Then with the third. 

Now create an advertisement for your favorite kind of apple. Tell why that's the best kind to buy, eat, and enjoy. Share something that will make people who've never tasted that kind of apple really want to try it.

If you can, share your findings on sweet taste with at least five friends and build a bar graph to compare the kinds of apples. 

It's estimated that each person in the United States eats about 50 apples a year. So while your investigating, you'll be on your way to eating your fair share of this year's crop.

RIDDLE: What kind of fruit do ghosts like?


In pioneering times, apples were carved and allowed to shrink and dry to make heads for dolls. You can carve an apple head to create a spooky shrunken head. Just follow the easy steps.

1.  First, peel the apple. Leave some peel on top for "hair". 

2.  Plan what you want the face to look like.

3.  Pour 4 cups of water into a bowl and stir in a teaspoon of salt.  Place the carved apple in this for about two hours.
That soften's the apple's flesh. 

4.  Next, use an unsharpened pencil or a popsicle stick to push in eye sockets. Also carve the shape for a nose and mouth.

5.  Push raisins into the eye sockets for eyes. You may also want to poke unpopped popcorn kernels into the mouth for teeth.

6.  Set your complete apple head on a plate. Check daily to see how the face changes as the apple dries.

The dried apple head usually won't mold. That's why people used to preserve food, like apples, for winter by drying it.  The lower water content helps prevent bacteria and mold growth.

Now, create a doll body for your apple head. It could be made out of poster board. It could be made out of paint stirring stick and have cloth clothes. Or something else. Whatever you make, make a list of the steps to follow. That way, others can make an apple head doll just the way you did.

RIDDLE: What's a vampire's favorite fruit?


In ancient times, Celts and Romans thought apples were magical fruit. So a popular tradition in Great Britain was apple-snapping. In those long ago times, a rope was tied to the center of a stick that was hung from the ceiling. Next, an apple was stuck on one end of the stick. A candle was attached to the other end. Once the candle was lit the stick was started twirling. Contestants then tried to snatch the apple without getting burned. This was a very dangerous game. Later, it was turned into bobbing for apples.

To bob for apples, fill a large plastic storage tub or child's plastic wading pool nearly full of water. Wash the apples--one for each contestant. Set these afloat. To play each person, in turn, bends over the tub with their hands behind their back. Have someone time each person working to snatch an apple in their teeth. The fastest snatcher wins. Only each person wins a tasty apple snack. 

Write a short story about a bobbing-for-apples contest.

RIDDLE: What kind of horses do ghosts ride?


You're not done yet.

Twist and Shout--Find an apple with a stem. Twist it around and around saying a letter of the alphabet with each complete turn. How many letter can you say before the stem separates?

Cut and Print--Apples make great print blocks. Cut a nice firm apple in half. Use a sturdy plastic knife or popsicle stick to cut away parts of flesh. Pour tempera or finger paint on a sturdy paper plate. Touch the cut apple to this to coat. Then press firmly on paper. Repeat to "stamp" your design all over the paper. If you want more than one color, wash off the apple and pat dry with a paper towel. Then keep on stamping with a new color of paint.

Johnny Did It--Look up Johnny Appleseed on-line. Then make up a short play about his real life (at least what people think may be real). Or let children work together to make up a short play about something that Johnny Appleseed could have done--maybe even in your home town. Then invite visitors to see them act out this play.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

WRITE THE REAL DEAL: Writing Nonfiction for Children

There's never been a more exciting time to be writing nonfiction books for children. That's because nonfiction books need to be just as good at grabbing kid's and making them want to keep turning the pages as fiction. I always add that I want my nonfiction books to be ones kids want to read more than once just the way they would a favorite fiction book.  That's why I like to make my nonfiction books discovery experiences on more than one level: the fact-based story is key (and I usually make it have the appeal of an adventure); next there are the photos and captions that can be explored separately as well as within the story. And I pack some more opportunities to explore and discover in the Back Matter.

There are three main types of nonfiction books for children. I'll share some of my books as examples of each of these so you can dig into them at your leisure and get a better feel for each type.

Survey Books--These provide an overview of a topic. 

Bats: Biggest! Littlest! (Boyds Mills Press, 2013) introduces children to different kinds of bats using the hook that being big or little or having big or little parts is an adaptation for survival.

Growing Up Wild: Bears (Atheneum, 2000) introduces children to different kinds of bears while also sharing the general life cycle of bears.

Tough, Toothy Baby Sharks (Walker, 2007) provides children with a look at different kinds of sharks focusing on juveniles and how they have special adaptations for survival.

Concept Books--These share an animal's life cycle or a special concept. 

How Many Baby Pandas (Walker, 2011) shares the Giant Panda's life cycle and presents the concept of why this animal is endangered. It also introduces efforts to protect and expand the population of Giant Pandas.

Animals Marco Polo Saw (Chronicle, 2009) introduces children to this historic explorer's life and achievements. It takes the special approach of sharing how the explorer was helped along the by different animals and how he discovered never-before-seen species.

Specialized Nonfiction Books--These dig deep into scientists at work and key science advancements, research, and issues needing further research.

The Great Monkey Rescue (Millbrook/Lerner, 2015) shares the work of teams of scientists and volunteers around the world working to save golden lion tamarins. And they do it in a very creative way

This book is for young children and it's 32 pages long.

Once you decide what kind of nonfiction book you'll write, you need to know what to include.  For young children (ages 4-8 years), you should plan on your book being 32 or 40 pages long.  For older elementary-aged children (ages 8-12 or 14 years), plan on your book being 48 or 64 pages long.

These first graders are showing their enthusiasm for my book What If You Had Animal Teeth?

Your book will include the main story or information. Start with an introduction that grabs attention. Have the story or information unfold page-by-page or in short chapter. Then wrap up with a conclusion that summarizes the key points and leave the reader feeling satisfied.

You may also want to include these features:

  • Glossary--New vocabulary words introduced in the text.
  • More Information Section--Books and websites children can use to learn more about your topic.
  • Author's Note--What inspired you to write this book or some personal connection you have to the story.
  • Index--This is usually only in longer books for older students to help them quickly locate information.

This is a two-page spread from How Many Baby Pandas?

Before you start writing, think about the layout of your book.  After I research my book, I always think about how the book will look. By that I mean how each spread--the lefthand and righthand page--will look together. And I consider what children will see and discover by reading that spread. That helps the book flow well and give the book a feeling of completeness. That's really something a nonfiction book shares with a fiction one. The child reading it wants to settle into the book (the introduction) and feel at home in the world it shares. Then the reader wants an adventure or to discover something. Finally, the reader wants to feel there's an ending. The big difference between fiction and nonfiction is that many times readers are challenged to use what they read. They might help save an animal, improve the world, or realize they've discovered the career they want for their lives.

I love to get fan photos! She loves Butterfly Tree (Peachtree Publishers, 2011)

So just like a fiction book, today's nonfiction books for children can inspire and change lives. You could do that!!

Monday, August 3, 2015


I’m excited to share this special opportunity. August 1-31, 2015, AAAS and Subaru are donating classroom sets of award-winning books including my book, THE CASE OF THE VANISHING GOLDEN FROGS! (Millbrook/Lerner). 

Currently, this offer is being provided through the Eastern part of the U.S. So, if that's where you live, visit your local Subaru retailer for details on how to help your local schools receive classroom sets of my award-winning book! Visit this site for more details.

Thursday, July 9, 2015


Okay, this is going to be one of those top ten lists. Don't know why but lists of tips like this always seem to go from least to most so this one will too. Although, frankly, the order changes for me on a regular basis. This is today's version. SMILE!


Please read catalogs digitally. SMILE

NUMBER 10: Study publishers' catalogs thoroughly and regularly. It's the best way to know you're not offering up a book similar to something they've recently published. And to think about the kinds of books they might be looking for.

NUMBER 9: Read interviews with editors and agents. Check out  the kinds of books they've worked on or represented and think about whether yours might be a fit--or not. Check if they are also published and, if so, what they've written. 
Remember, 9 is only a fact finding step.

NUMBER 8: Read PW Children's Bookshelf to see what editors are newly acquiring. But absolutely do NOT worry about trends.

NUMBER 7: Attend SCBWI conferences and listen. LISTEN. LISTEN!

NUMBER 6: Read award winning books. READ more. READ even more!!!

NUMBER 5: Read award winning books aloud. LISTEN!!!!

NUMBER 4: When you think you're ready to send something out, STOP! Let it brew for two weeks and not one day less. Then reread. Revise. POLISH!! Meanwhile, go back through Numbers 10, 9, and 8 to decide who/where to share (and have a Plan B in mind). THEN GET IT THE #%* OUT THERE. Nothing sells sitting on your computer.

NUMBER 3: Stop writing for yourself. Write to sell.  So pick a target audience and get to know them: observe them in action, talk to them, and listen to them.
I love letters and emails from kids with ideas about the books
they want me to write.

NUMBER 2: Find a critique group. Share. Bond. Learn from them. Learn with them.
My group (L-R): Janet McLaughlin, Teddie Aggeles, Susan Banghart, Me, Augusta Scattergood, and Melissa Buhler

NUMBER 1: Write. Write. Write. Breath. Sleep. Eat. Write. WRITE. WRITE!!!!!

And a final thought to those who've asked me, "How many words should there be in a children's picture book text?" Here's what I tell myself: 

Think what you need to say. Then use the very best words you can think of to grab kids and keep them reading (or listening) all the way to the end. Better yet--make them want to read it or hear it again.