Summer Reading Road Trip

Summer Reading Road Trip
I'm shortly heading out to schools and visiting more via Skype to celebrate my Scholastic WHAT IF YOU HAD?! Series! Click on this photo to find out about my school visits on SANDRA MARKLE SPEAKS!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

GOOD GOLLY it's Autumn!

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.

CHOMP!

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 
Honeycrisp
Fuji
Golden Delicious
McIntosh
Cox's Orange Pippin
Red Delicious
Gala
Jonasgold
Cortland



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


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?
Boo-berries. 







SHRINK A HEAD

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?
Neck-tarines.














SNAP IT UP

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?
Nightmares.












MORE FUN!

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.





Monday, August 21, 2017

EYE SPY WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL EYES?!

The newest member of the 
WHAT IF YOU HAD?! family is here!
THIS SERIES IS NOW AVAILABLE IN LIBRARY BINDING AS WELL AS PAPERBACK

I've been delighted to read Tweets and Face Book posts sharing how the books in this series are going beyond being fun informational texts. I'm hearing from teachers, librarians and media specialists that the WHAT IF YOU HAD?! books are favorite mentoring text for writing experiences. 


I LOVE knowing these books are inspiring children to write and be creative! 


Jen Rusin's class at Homestead Elementary in Aurora, Illinois

sharing WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL EARS?! 

So I thought I'd jump in and share some ways to let WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL EYES?! launch young writers. Here goes...

FAVORITE EYES

I have a favorite animal in each and every WHAT IF YOU HAD?! book. And my very favorite animal eyes are found on pages 14 through 15. Yes, I have my reasons why this animal's eyes especially appeal to me. It includes both the real facts about those eyes and the way Howard McWilliam, my super illustrator, brought my imagined use of those eyes to life with his art.




So now your challenge is to find your very favorite animal eyes in this book.  Write a convincing argument for why those animal eyes are truly the coolest in WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL EYES?! And why you could enjoy claiming them as your own.





You might also want to write about which animal eyes you'd least like to have of all the examples in WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL EYES?!

Teachers: Why not wrap this activity up by building a class bar graph for favorite animal eyes.  You could color in bars on paper. Or have everyone line up and physically be part of a favorite animal eye graph. 



I'd love to see your student-graph photos!


By the way... Here's a peek at an early stage of the book when the illustration is still a sketch. At this stage, I'm checking to be sure it's both fun and scientifically correct.




BLINK AND SWITCH



What if one kind of animal could claim another animal's 
eyes?! 


Imagine a dragonfly having colossal squid eyes? How might that help it hunt insects? How might having colossal squid eyes cause problems for a dragonfly?









Now imagine a tarsier having dragonfly eyes? How might that help it be an even better insect hunter? How might having dragonfly eyes cause problems for a tarsier?








Are there any animal eyes in WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL EYES?! that might be even better for the llama than its very own eyes? Suggest an animal eye switch. Then come up with three reasons to make a strong case for that switch.




OUT TAKES

I start working on every book by brainstorming a long list of animal possibilities to include. Then, as I research, I weed out the maybes to come up with the very best candidates--ones that are both interesting, if possible haven't appeared in other books, and that readers will have fun imagining having themselves. 


In WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL EYES?! there were three animals that stayed in the running right up to the final cut. 


Here are the three Eye Runner Ups:

Jumping Spider



Hippopotamus





Giant Panda





Read books and search on-line to find out more about each of these "Eye Runner Ups". Then pick one and create your own two-page spread for your choice. 

On the lefthand page, you'll need to briefly tell about that animal's eyes and what makes them special. Be sure to include a FACT. That's one extra bit of information about a way that animal's eyes are just right for it. 

On the righthand page, come up with a way it would be fun for you to have that animal's eyes. For extra fun, add a drawing of yourself doing whatever you imagined possible thanks to having that animal's eyes.


EYE HAD AN ADVENTURE!



It's story time! Children can either pick their own animal from WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL EYES?! or pick the name of one of those animals from slips of paper in a hat.

The challenge is to imagine waking up one day and having that animal's eyes for one whole day. 





What adventure did you have? 
Did your animal eyes  help you solve a mystery? 
Did they help you be a hero? 
Did those animal eyes cause you any problems?

Write your story in three short paragraphs: 
1. One to launch what happens. 
2. One for the action in the middle.
3. One for the conclusion. 

Of course, illustrations are a nice touch. 

Teachers: Be sure to allow time for young writers to read their stories aloud. After all, WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL EYES?! is meant to be read aloud so everyone can share the fun. These EYE HAD AN ADVENTURE stories are best shared read aloud too.


GOOD NEWS!! 
All of the books in the WHAT IF YOU HAD?! Series--even ANIMAL EYES--are now available in Library Binding. So they're ready to be read, and read, and read, and read, and READ....





Sunday, August 6, 2017

IT'S PENGUIN TIME!

I've written three books about penguins and each book has been about a different kind of penguin.

THE GREAT PENGUIN RESCUE
(Millbrook/Lerner, 2017) is about African penguins. 

A MOTHER'S JOURNEY (Charlesbridge, 2005) is about Emperor penguins.







PENGUINS: GROWING UP WILD (Currently Available on Amazon Kindle) is about Adelie penguins.




I love penguins because I had the wonderful opportunity twice to live with 160,000+ Adelies in Antarctica during the summer while they raised their chicks, watch Emperors from an icebreaker while they were riding on icebergs (off duty from wintertime egg hatching) and see even more kinds of penguins (Fairy Blue and Yellow-eyed) in New Zealand. 


So, as I celebrate my newest penguin book, I wanted to share some activities for children to enjoy learning about penguins.

HOW PENGUINS STAY DRY

First, use the link to download a printable picture of an African penguin--two for each child.  

The picture is labelled telling children how to correctly color an African penguin with one exception. 
Check out this real photo of an African penguin on the cover of THE GREAT PENGUIN RESCUE. African penguins always have that pinkish area by their eyes. Be sure children color the white areas too.

Next, supply children with paper cups of water and eyedroppers. Have them drip five drops of water on the uncolored African penguin. Then have them drip five drops on the colored African penguin. Ask, "What difference do you see?"

The children will observe the water soaks into the uncolored penguin and beads up on the colored on. African penguins, like all penguins, have a special gland that lets them spread an oily coat over their feathers. Like the wax, that lets their feather shed water. And penguin feathers are incredibly small (I know because I've held some in my hand). But the tiny feathers tuck tightly over each other, like roof shingles, to form a thick, watertight coat. In fact, penguins have more feathers than most birds--as many as 100 feather per square inch.




What looks pink above the
penguin’s eyes is a special
body part that keeps it
from overheating. As the
penguin’s body warms
up, blood flow increases
to that area. The lack of
feathers over that area
lets heat radiate away as
the blood flows through it.

That cools the penguin.

Emperor Dad On Duty

A MOTHER'S JOURNEY shares the less familiar story of what female emperors do while the dad's hunker down incubating their egg through Antarctica's freezing cold winter.  I know what winter in Antarctica is like. I experienced it firsthand at McMurdo Station.
Winds could be strong enough to lean into. Snow like tiny ice-glitter would fill the air. And temperatures averaged -50F to -70F (painfully cold to breathe) and dropped as low as -129F. It's an impressive cold. 



So the females get credit for traveling through this--in the dark--to reach open water and to feed, stay strong, and return just in time to feed their newly hatched chick. And the males get credit for staying the winter with the egg tucked into their brood patch (to share body warmth) and hold the egg on top of their feet to keep it off the cold ice and snow--even as they shift around with the huddle of other males. This activity will let kids get the idea.


Use any kind of baggie--even a self-sealing plastic bag full of pennies or anything to give it some weight. This is "the emperor's egg". Ideally, each child needs an egg. First, have the children the egg on top of their shoes and practice waddling to move slowly without losing their egg. 

After a little practice, children are ready to be in a large huddle with their eggs on their feet. Tell them to pack as close together as they can. Then challenge them that when you call "MOVE" everyone at the outside of the huddle shifts one person to the inside. Repeat several times. 


It's fine for anyone who drops their eggs to return it to their feet. But point out in real life that puts the chick developing inside at risk of not surviving to hatch. 

And check out these sites for lots more penguin discovery-fun activities.



Sunday, June 25, 2017

TEN THINGS TO DO THIS SUMMER!

Okay, it's summer! So here are ten things to enjoy while it's hot, sunny and being outdoors is fun....




1.  Make something out of mud. Even better do it after it's rained. What is that mud like? How is different from dry dirt? Is there one way it's still the same? 

And then read Mud by Mary Lyn Ray with illustrations by Lauren Stringer.


2. Play flashlight tag in the dark. 



3. Go on a shadow hunt to find the following shadows. But take an adult along because grown-ups need to have fun too:
a. Find a shadow with a bright hole in it.
b. Find the biggest shadow you can. Figure out what made it.
c. Find the littlest shadow you can. Figure out what made it.  

And then Read Flashlight Night by Matt Forrest Esenwine and illustrations by Fred Koehler.


4. Fly a kite. But make one first. Here are sites with easy how-to instructions.


And read The Emperor's Kit by Jane Yolen with illustrations by Ed Young

5. Make a FOOT painting. Sure, you've probably done fingerprinting. But have you ever painted with your feet? It will really let you STEP UP as an artist. Try mixing your own paints first. Here's some how-to sites to help you. 

 

And read What If You Had Animal Feet?! by ME Sandra Markle with illustrations by Howard McWilliam.


6. Look at the world through a magnifying glass. Especially something you never thought to look at closely before. See anything that surprised you?  



7. Put on a puppet show with puppets you make yourself. Here's some sites with ideas to help you do just that.



8. Learn one constellation you didn't know in the night sky. Find out what story people used to tell about it. Then make up a new story yourself.

Mmy favorite constellation is ORION. And here's a couple of sites with star stories, including ones about Orion.






And read Zoo in the Sky: A Book of Animal Constellations by Jacqueline Mitton



Hope you have fun with these activities. And to share an adventure that happened one summer, Read Gasparilla's Gold by ME Sandra Markle :-)! Of course, any time you read one of my books it's like I'm right there sharing it with you.


HAPPY SUMMER!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

THE STORY BEHIND THIRSTY, THIRSTY ELEPHANTS


So I’ll share a little known secret about me—I have a thing for elephants.



It goes back to my childhood, which you might find quirky if you knew I grew up in Fostoria, a small town in the middle of miles and miles of northern Ohio farmland. HOWEVER, when I was about ten years old Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus came to my hometown for one day.


AND they put up their tents in the field directly across the street from my house.

That meant the elephants marched from the train station past my house and spent the whole day, well from my point of view, visiting me. I definitely spent the day with them. I was intrigued.



Fast forward to the early days of my writing career. I was offered the opportunity to spend three days visiting Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus on tour while I worked on an article about world famous animal trainer Gunther Gebel Williams. Of course, I politely said, “YES!”


Besides his big cats, Guther’s animal troupe included elephants. I will never forget walking alongside him as he checked over and cared for his elephants. It was my first chance to see elephants up-close. And I learned they were gentle giants, clearly intelligent, constantly curious and genuinely elegant. I was impressed.


After that, I read all I could about elephants. I visited zoo elephants and nature park elephants. And along the way of my life’s journey, I became a mother with young children and a children’s nonfiction book author.



So, I shared my interest in elephants with my children and tucked elephants into my books wherever I could to share them with young readers. 

Although there are more examples, elephants make a guest appearance in Math Mini-Mysteries (Atheneum, 1993), which interestingly was my last all black and white children’s nonfiction book before publishers FINALLY became convinced children’s nonfiction could be full color. Elephants also slipped into Animals Marco Polo Saw (Chronicle Books, 2009) and became the one animal that makes repeated featured appearances in my WHAT IF YOU HAD?! Series (Scholastic).  




And thanks to the Scholastic books I had an opportunity to visit Baby Mike, a six-month old Asian elephant.

















He made sweet baby elephant noises. And was intriguingly working on conquering using his trunk. When he reached out and wrapped his soft, wrinkly little trunk around my hand I was thrilled—that is right up until I discovered he was working on removing my ring and doing a good job of it. 


But by now my relationship with elephants had become truly personal. I was enthralled.





Fast forward to my being a grandmother because, well, time does pass. And while I’d written over two hundred books for children, I was still on the lookout for a new elephant story to share. Then I found it. Somewhere in the vast piles of research I do all the time there was a fascinating story about a herd of elephants that totally survived when other herds suffered serious losses during the worst drought to hit Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park in nearly twenty-five years. With some more digging, I tracked down Dr. Charles Foley who was in Tanzania studying the Tarangire’s elephant herds. I remember listening intently during our Skype visits as he shared the details of that surviving elephant herd’s story with me.

I was especially interested because the herd had a hero--the elderly herd leader named Big Mama. She was known to be at least thirty years old—possibly older—and was a grandmother. The drought was extremely hard on all the elephants in the Park but was hardest on the little calves because elephants need to drink water daily. Can’t go more than two days without a drink. Amazingly, when most of the reliable water sources in the Tarangire dried up, Big Mama led her herd out of the Park to another water source. Dr. Foley is certain that wasn’t chance. He believes Big Mama is old enough to have been a young elephant during the last terrible drought. And he’s convinced she led her herd to a water source she remembered from that past drought.



What a great story! What an amazing elephant! I knew I had to share Big Mama’s story with children. Happily, Charlesbridge agreed and I wrote it, pouring in the sights and the sounds of Big Mama and her herd as they struggled during the drought, searched for water—found a little wherever they could—and kept plodding on. Grandma elephant (Big Mama) led them on and on with determination, persistence, caring and courage. And, at last, brought her herd to WATER.


It was nearly two years after I first discovered the story in 2012 and began to dig into it that my research became Thirsty, Thirsty Elephants.

And as is often the case in illustrated books, producing the finished art required another two years. But I believe you’ll agree the pictures are gorgeous, marrying with the unfolding story to bring it fully to life.



Finally, on April 4, 2017, Thirsty, Thirsty Elephants became available for young readers. But there was a breath-holding moment just before the book went to press, I needed to update the Author’s Note about Big Mama. Because of her age, I was nervous as I reached out to Dr. Foley again to catch up and to ask about the elephant who had become dear to my heart. To my great joy, Dr. Foley assured me Big Mama was still alive and doing well. In fact, under her leadership her herd had grown to be forty elephants strong—one of the largest herds in Tanzania’s Tarangire Park.
I was delighted!


Are there more elephants to feature in my books? Are there more elephant stories to tell? I’m absolutely sure of it.

But--I love this one!