Author Guest Post: “Using Fiction to Understand and Enrich Non-Fiction” by Kimberly Behre Kenna, Author of Artemis Sparke and the Sound Seekers Brigade

Share

“Using Fiction to Understand and Enrich Non-Fiction”

When I was a young student, I found history boring. Back then, it required lots of memorization and comprehension of readings that felt flat to me, dry as the age-old dust they were steeped in. Years later, a gifted teacher flipped the switch—she introduced the personal stories behind historical figures and events and BAM! I was hooked. Learning about Hatshepsut’s struggles as one of the few female Egyptian pharaohs, or Wangari Maathai’s crusade to teach African women to plant trees and claim their independence and power, excited me and provoked lots of questions. I imagined what it’d be like to be those women and face those challenges. This led me to research more and to care more, which then led to greater retention of concepts and the desire and ability to share them with others.

            As a fifth-grade teacher, I sought ways for my students to step into the shoes of others so they too could attempt to feel some of the pain, passion, and motivation of historic figures. In my classroom, we did this through writing projects, dramatic interpretations, and culminating performances. For instance, during our exploration of ecology, we read picture book biographies of environmentalists, including those who were not scientists. How did Pete Seeger’s singing and songwriting impact the Hudson River? Simon Rodia built the Watts Towers in Los Angeles from recyclables. How did he do this when he didn’t speak English? We cast a broad net so students could see that the preservation and rehabilitation of the natural world could be approached in many ways, and, most importantly, it could include them.

As we examined local problems affecting Long Island Sound, we wondered how environmentalists from the past might attempt to solve them. Each student chose one environmentalist and wrote a monologue which they presented to the rest of the class in costume, using props to introduce themselves. Students also took part in a popular activity called History Speaks, a mock talk show that got kids to think more deeply about what motivated these environmentalists. As host, I facilitated a conversation between the “guests,” students impersonating ecologists, and the audience of other students who asked them questions. Why did MaVynee Betsch give up her career in opera to save American Beach in Florida from development, even when she got so sick she couldn’t eat? How did Chico Mendes stay brave in the face of his attackers as he worked to protect the rainforests in Brazil? Kids learned how to craft deep interview questions. Those representing the ecologists had to think on their feet, often answering them by extrapolating from facts that they already knew. Sometimes their answers or their body language caused the audience (or host!) to debate whether they spoke the truth, another useful discussion when it comes to teaching how to research. This seemingly simple, playful activity encouraged critical thinking and active listening.

The resurrected ecologists also participated in a roundtable discussion to brainstorm a list of creative ways that they, as a team, could alleviate one of Long Island Sound’s problems. They experimented with combining strategies used in the past with newer present day ideas. Could George Washington Carver’s ideas about soil conservation possibly apply to saving Connecticut’s shoreline? How would he and Jacques Cousteau interact as team members? Finally, using notes gathered from all these activities, students wrote stories about resurrected dead ecologists who helped confused modern day activists solve problems around Long Island Sound and shared them with younger students. Other times, groups wrote a story as a script, built props, and then performed it for an audience. With their deep research into the history of environmentalism, students armed themselves with enough knowledge to become passionate environmental activists themselves.

Using the imagination to extrapolate on what we know as fact is a fun and enlightening practice that promotes rich discussion, enhances the development of empathy, and allows kids to practice ways of assessing “the truth.” The strategies that I used in my classroom and the memories of my explorations with students were the seeds for my middle-grade novel, Artemis Sparke and the Sound Seekers Brigade, whose protagonist conjures up ghosts of environmentalists to help her save her beloved salt marsh sanctuary. I hope readers gain respect for the legacies we’ve been gifted by those who are no longer with us and are inspired to consider how their own legacy can be a gift to future generations.

Published February 2, 2023 by Fitzroy Books

About the Book: When Artemis Sparke has had it with humans, she heads to the nearby salt marsh to hang out with the birds, plants and mollusks who don’t make a big deal of her stutter. The shoreline sanctuary is predictable, unlike her family and friends, and the data in her science journal proves it. But one day that data goes haywire, and her bird friend RT confirms it: the salt marsh is dying. Artemis discovers that the historic hotel where she lives with her mom may be part of the problem, but speaking up would mean confronting the cranky hotel owner who happens to be her mom’s boyfriend and boss. Artemis conjures up help from deceased ecologists, and as she works to untangle their clues, she finds family secrets that could be the key to saving the salt marsh. An empowering read about the importance of finding your voice, “Artemis Sparke” will strike a chord with kid activists everywhere. 

About the Author: After years as an adolescent and family counselor, and then as a fifth grade teacher of ecology and language arts, Kimberly Behre Kenna returned to school for her MA in creative writing from Wilkes University. Her middle-grade novel, “Artemis Sparke and the Sound Seekers Brigade” was a finalist and received Honorable Mention in the 2019 Tassy Walden New Voices in Children’s Literature Competition, and will be published by Fitzroy Books in 2023. Another book in her Brave Girl Collection, “Jett Jamison and the Secret Storm” is forthcoming from Black Rose Publishing. A third in the collection, as yet unpublished, won second place in The Institute of Children’s Literature 2022 MG Mystery First Pages Contest. Her poems and short stories have been published in American Writers Review, Mused, Plumtree Tavern, and Rubbertop Review. Her full-length play, “Ana’s Hummingbird,” was given a staged reading at The Dramatists Guild in NYC. She’s a member of SCBWI and PEN America, and now devotes herself to writing full time. Connect with her at www.kimberlybehrekenna.com

Thank you, Kimberly, for this great post showing that connection between fiction & non-fiction!

Author Guest Post: “STEM + Poetry = Fun!” by Lydia Lukidis, Author of Deep, Deep Down: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench

Share

“STEM + Poetry = Fun!”

Hi everyone! I’m so excited to talk about my new STEM book, DEEP, DEEP, DOWN: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench written by me, Lydia Lukidis, illustrated by Juan Calle, and published by Capstone Editions, a Capstone imprint.

First off, here’s a short summary of the book:

Deep, deep down, at the very bottom of the ocean, lies a secret world. Through lyrical narration, this spare-text STEM picture book takes readers on a journey to a place very few humans have ever been–the Mariana Trench. The imagined voyage debunks scary myths about this mysterious place with surprising and beautiful truths about life at Earth’s deepest point. DEEP, DEEP, DOWN: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench shows a vibrant world far below, and teaches readers how interconnected our lives are to every place on the planet.

Why Poetry?

When writing nonfiction, finding the right structure and voice is critical. When I was researching DEEP, DEEP DOWN, I fell into a rabbit hole and watched hours and hours of trench footage. Many creatures were mesmerizing and moved slowly and gracefully, like underwater ballet. That’s when I realized that the Mariana Trench itself is a poem; a mysterious, remote trench at the deepest spot on our planet, full of wonder. To really do it justice, the text would have to reflect the beautiful poetry I witnessed. So, I chose to write the narrative with a lyrical voice and felt it could not have been written any other way.

Science and poetry are two of my biggest passions, so why not merge them? After all, there’s so much beauty and poetry in science, and there’s also a certain science and rhythm to writing poetry. Below are a few activities for children (in class or at home) to help them become inspired by the written word and craft their own poetry.

Figurative Language

Children can read the definitions below as well as my examples from the lyrical text of DEEP, DEEP DOWN.

-Onomatopoeia: When you use a word that makes a sound close to the action it refers to.

SWISH!
Something shimmers.
Not a monster,
but a fish.
A rattail
drifts through the darkness,
in search of food.

Now ask the child to make up a new way to use this poetic device.

-Alliteration: When you repeat the first letter or sound of several words close to one another.

Diving deeper,
a long, thin body
slinks and sways,
ever so slowly.

Now ask the child to make up a new way to use this poetic device.

-Simile: When you compare two unlikely things, usually using the words “like,” “as,” or “than.”

Glide forward,
past rows and rows of xenophyophores,
clustered like cabbages.

Now ask the child to make up a new way to use this poetic device.

Fun with Haikus

Another great exercise is learning how to write haikus. Children can read the information below to inspire them to write their own haiku about one of the creatures that lives in the trench.

-Haikus have 3 lines, each with a specific number of syllables. They don’t need to rhyme.

-This is the structure:

Line 1: 5 syllables

Line 2: 7 syllables

Line 3: 5 syllables

-Here’s an example:

“The Old Pond” by Matsuo Bashō

An old silent pond

A frog jumps into the pond—

Splash! Silence again.

Ask students to pick one of the trench creatures and write a haiku about it:

More Fun Stuff

I created a 40-page teacher guide that provides dozens of curriculum standards in Common Core ELA and Math, and Next Generation Science Standards that align with the narrative. It also proposes various curriculum-based activities for students K-6.

Click here to download the guide: http://www.lydialukidis.com/img_educators/DEEP,%20DEEP%20DOWN-%20Teacher%20Guide.pdf

Capstone and I also created a beautiful poster and trading cards for children. You can find them on my website:
http://www.lydialukidis.com/books.html

I hope you enjoy my book and the material!

About the Author: 

Lydia Lukidis is the author of 50+ trade and educational books for children. Her titles include DANCING THROUGH SPACE: Dr. Mae Jemison Soars to New Heights (Albert Whitman, 2024), DEEP, DEEP, DOWN: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench (Capstone, 2023), THE BROKEN BEES’ NEST (Kane Press, 2019) which was nominated for a Cybils Award, and NO BEARS ALLOWED (Clear Fork Media, 2019). A science enthusiast from a young age, she now incorporates her studies in science and her everlasting curiosity into her books.

Lydia is an active member of SCBWI, CANSCAIP, 12 x 12, and The Authors Guild. She’s very involved in the kidlit community and also volunteers as a judge on Rate your Story. Another passion of hers is fostering love for children’s literacy through the writing workshops she regularly offers in elementary schools. Lydia is represented by literary agent Miranda Paul from the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Social Media Links

Website & order links: http://www.lydialukidis.com/
Twitter: @LydiaLukidis
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LydiaLukidis
Blog: https://lydialukidis.wordpress.com/
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3fATvqtKDk

Thank you, Lydia, for sharing this focus on poetry and its tie in with your books!!

Author Guest Post: “Encouraging Young Readers” by Bethan Woollvin, Author of Three Little Vikings

Share

“Encouraging Young Readers”

The very first inklings of my new tale, Three Little Vikings came about back in early 2020 after I’d been spending a lot of time reading old Nordic tales over Christmas. I wanted to create another original tale centred around an era in history, just the same as my previous tale, Bo the Brave, which is set in a medieval kingdom. Deciding upon the Viking age, I began researching the era and diving deeper into the history, traditions, beliefs and folklore. During my research, I discovered that many Vikings believed in, and feared, all kinds of mythical creatures, which naturally I was fascinated by!

Steadily, my story developed, as did my characters. I began to draw this horrid forest-dwelling creature, who crashed and bashed his way through the Viking village. But who was going to stop this awful beast? I needed some mighty shield maidens. 

Naturally, akin to all my protagonists, they were going to be feisty, brave and full of wit – exactly what the Viking village needed with a destructive creature on the loose! Soon enough, I had created Helga, Ebba and Wren, my heroic Viking trio. 

But my three Little Vikings are faced with a bit of a problem. They discover that something or someone is causing chaos in the village, and despite raising the alarm and telling the Chieftain, they simply cannot get their voices heard. Having your voice disregarded or overlooked is a familiar feeling amongst women and young girls, and this book gave me the perfect opportunity to explore this further, weaving in an important message throughout the book. My aim when creating this book, was to encourage young readers to challenge authority, question the world around them, and to stand up and do something – even if your voice isn’t being heard. 

But Three Little Vikings isn’t all about rebellious children and challenging authority (though, I’m sure I’ll write that book one day). It’s a celebration of the friendship that Helga, Ebba and Wren share. The mighty little shield-maidens embrace each other’s strengths and differences, all while working together to rid their village of the horrid creature from the forest. If that’s not sisterhood, I’m not sure what is!  

Bringing Three Little Vikings into the classroom:

  1. Make your own Viking helmet – If you’re looking for a Viking-themed crafting activity, try creating a Viking helmet. This craft can be easily created using cardboard, scissors, tape and pencil, and involves making a simple band from cardboard to go around your head. You can get really creative with the design of your Viking helmet, and it can be adorned with all manner of things, including horns, buttons, feathers, jewels, or twigs!

  2. Make your own Viking shield – In Three Little Vikings, Helga carries a shield for protection. You could try crafting your very own Viking shield to protect you from that horrid troll! For this activity, you’ll need some cardboard, scissors, glue, markers, tape and any items you’d like to decorate your shield with. The shield is straightforward to make, created by cutting out several circles from card for the shield and a strip on the back for the handle. Have a go at decorating your shield with markers, tape and perhaps some jewels or buttons!

  3. Creating a wild garden troll – In Viking lore, trolls are known as mythical creatures that live in the wilderness in isolated caves, and can easily blend in with their natural surroundings. Make your own forest troll using materials that you find outside or in a garden. Using the troll in Three Little Vikings as inspiration, look for items that you would be able to use for different parts of the troll. Use glue to stick it all together, and just like that – you’ll have your very own garden troll!

  4. Baking Viking bread – For an authentic Viking experience, why not try baking some Viking bread? Hearty bread made from wheat and oats was a staple for most Viking diets, served with tasty soups or drizzled with honey. Yum! You’ll be pleased to know there’s plenty of free and easy recipes for Viking bread online for little hands to get busy with. But be careful of any looming trolls (they’re always hungry!)

  5. Viking Treasure Hunt – The horrid troll has been defeated and the Three Little Vikings, Helga, Ebba and Wren, are basking in their victory. But wait! All that precious Viking treasure has been strewn across the village…Find all the Viking treasure, count all of the jewels, gold and silver and make sure there isn’t any missing! This is a really simple activity, which involves a little imagination and some Viking treasure. (If you don’t have any coins or jewels, you could always have a go at making some from cardboard!) Begin by hiding your jewels and coins and encourage your Viking scavengers to find the missing treasure. Once they’ve picked up all of the treasure, make sure they count it all to check all the missing treasure has been found!

You can find a downloadable activity pack for Three Little Vikings and activities for Bethan’s other books by following this link: https://www.peachtreebooks.com/resources/

Published August 30th, 2022 by Peachtree

About the Book: Three little Vikings fight off a fearsome troll in this funny, feminist adventure story for little rebels from award-winning and critically acclaimed creator Bethan Woollvin.

Once upon a time in a Viking village, everything seems to be going wrong. Chickens are disappearing, trees are falling down, and there’s lots and lots of crashing and bashing. The silly Chieftain won’t listen to the three littlest Vikings, but can they work together to figure out what’s going on and save the day?

Three Little Vikings is all about cooperation, bravery, and getting your voice heard, from the creator of the New York Times Best Illustrated Book Little Red, Bethan Woollvin.

About the Author: Bethan Woollvin is a recent graduate of the Cambridge School of Art, where she won the prestigious Macmillan Children’s Book Competition with her version of Little Red Riding Hood. It was her first picture book. She lives in England.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bethanwoollvin/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/bethanwoollvin
Website: https://t.co/kqJQaPJ22X

Thank you, Bethan, for sharing these fun activities that add enrichment to your book!

Author Guest Post: “Fridge Problems” by Josh Funk, Author of Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast #5: The Great Caper Caper

Share

“Fridge Problems”

First, thank you, Ricki and Kellee, for inviting me to post here at Unleashing Readers! It’s an honor to share on your awesome site.

As the fifth Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast adventure, The Great Caper Caper, was just released, I thought I’d share a little bit of what I talk about with students when I visit schools.

After reading one of the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast books and discussing how I wrote it and how Brendan Kearney illustrated it and how long (three and a half years) it took from the time I came up with the idea until it was available on bookshelves, I like to get some volunteers and create some characters. I’ll usually ask students to share their favorite foods and jobs they want to have when they grow up – and then we mash them together and end up with Doctor Pizza. Or Professor Cupcake. Or President Peanut. And we’ll make up a little story with these characters, but it doesn’t really get good until we introduce the most important ingredient: Conflict.

I tell students that in a story, we always need our characters to encounter some sort of challenge. Or something bad has to happen that they have to overcome. Or maybe we need … a villain (at which point I’ll rebrand the principal or librarian or some faculty member to be someone’s least favorite food mixed with a super scary animal/monster/creature. Say hello to Evil Mushroom Spider. Or Moldy Broccoli Vampire).

But conflict isn’t always a villain. In fact, when I write the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, the conflict rarely is a villain (at least not directly). It’s usually a fridge problem. And I always try to keep them relatively kid-relatable.

I ask myself (and students) the question: What is a problem that could happen in a fridge?

  • Have you ever fought with a sibling over the last slice of pizza or last cookie or last drop of syrup? That’s what happens in the original Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast (the two titular characters race for the last drop of syrup).
  • Have you ever opened the fridge and smelled something kind of funny? That’s what happens in The Case of the Stinky Stench (a rotten smell threatens to take over the fridge)
  • Have you ever opened the fridge and things were too cold and starting to freeze? That’s what happens in Mission Defrostable (the fridge starts to freeze over).
  • Have you ever been excited to eat something, but when you took it out of the fridge it was all moldy and spoiled and gooey and gross? That’s what happens in Short & Sweet (Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast start to go stale).

And in the newest book in the series, The Great Caper Caper, fridge problem is: Have you ever opened the fridge and the light bulb had gone out?

I believe it’s important that conflicts have high stakes (pun intended). The higher the stakes the more satisfying the ending will be when the characters overcome the challenges. Sometimes the conflict affects the entire fridge community. Other times it’s more personal and affects only our main characters, but those stakes can be just as important.

So when it’s time to break out a pencil and paper and everyone creates their own characters, I always try to ask one question as I go around to see what all of the students have come up with:

What is the worst thing that could happen to your character?

And when they answer that all of the ketchup and mustard and relish paint was stolen from Art Teacher Hot Dog’s classroom, I tell them that that is the story they should write. And I can’t wait to see how their characters solve those conflicts.

Published November 15, 2020 by Union Square & Co

About the Book: Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are back in a Las Veggies heist for the ages!

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast awake one morning to near-darkness. Who could possibly have stolen the fridge light? And what if the fridge is—gasp—dark all the time? Not to worry; Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are on the case! Along with their friends, they assemble blueprints, collect supplies, and investigate. Will they bring the fridge back to its bright self, or will they have to live in semi-darkness . . . forever?

About the Author: Josh Funk writes silly stories such as the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series (including sequels The Case of the Stinky Stench, Mission Defrostable, Short & Sweet, and The Great Caper Caper), the How to Code with Pearl and Pascal series (including How to Code a Sandcastle and How to Code a Rollercoaster), the It’s Not a Fairy Tale series (including ​It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk, It’s Not Hansel and Gretel, It’s Not Little Red Riding Hood, and It’s Not the Three Little Pigs), the A Story of Patience & Fortitude series in conjunction with the New York Public Library (including Lost in the Library and Where Is Our Library?), Dear Dragon, My Pet Feet, and more.

Josh grew up in New England and studied Computer Science in school. Today, he still lives in New England and when not writing Java code or Python scripts, he drinks Java coffee and writes manuscripts. Since the fall of 2015, Josh has presented (or virtually presented) at over 650 schools, classrooms, and libraries.

Josh is terrible at writing bios, so please help fill in the blanks. Josh enjoys _______ during ________ and has always loved __________. He has played ____________ since age __ and his biggest fear in life is being eaten by a __________.

For more information about Josh Funk, visit him at www.joshfunkbooks.com and on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at @joshfunkbooks.

Thank you, Josh, for this fantastic idea as well as your always present and loveable humor!

Author Guest Post: “Dual Narratives” by Tricia Springstubb, Author of Looking For True

Share

“Dual Narratives”

You are not the center of the universe.

Of all the hard lessons we learn growing up, this may be the hardest. Discovering that the world won’t always give us what we want, when we want it, is hard. Understanding that other people see things differently from us and, what’s more, they may be right, is really hard.

As with so many things (maybe everything?), books can help. By their very nature, stories ask us to see through other eyes. Reading, we live inside other heads, share the joys, sorrows and fears of other hearts. Whenever I visit schools, I ask kids for book recommendations. I’ll never forget the look on a fourth grader’s face as she raptly described a book where two characters experienced the exact same thing but described it in two totally different ways. Hers was the look of revelation!

Before Looking for True, I’d never succeeded in writing a boy main character. Somehow I could never find the right voice–I’m not sure why. Maybe I was waiting for Jude, a guy who’s actually pretty stingy with his words but nonetheless started whispering in my ear. Quiet as he is, I needed to introduce Jude to Gladys, who is a blabbermouth. Then along came True, an abused dog. While Jude labels her ugly and Gladys calls her adorable, each of them feels the pullind a connect with True

Writing from two points of view, I could show how Gladys knows Jude is in love with True long before Jude does. I could show how Jude, who’s got lots of trouble at home, thinks Gladys has a perfect family, even as Gladys, who’s adopted, worries about losing her parents’ love. Meanwhile, the god-like reader gets to see not only how often they misunderstand each other but also how, by caring for True, they slowly discover all they share. For me, someone who usually writes a close third point of view, this was as close to omniscience as I’ll ever get. I loved writing this book.

A dual narrative can be great fun for students to try. They can do this in a quick writing prompt, describing something (a blizzard, a rock concert) from two points of view (a school kid, a tired parent).  In stories, a dual narrative gives them the freedom to write shorter scenes and try out different voices. While some students will choose to create a clear antagonist and protagonist, others will find themselves puzzling over how the characters are different, where they connect, and what it all might mean.

Some wonderful mentor texts, stories told from two (or sometimes more) point of view:

  • So Done by Paula Chase is a powerful YA about two girls whose long friendship is fraying after a summer apart. Chase explores ambition, secrets, and loyalty.
  • Pax by Sarah Pennypacker is a remarkable MG novel about a boy and the fox he has raised from a kit, told from both the child’s and the animal’s points of view.
  • We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly gives voice to three siblings, each tracing a separate orbit in a troubled family. This historical MG is about science, resilience and the enduring bonds brothers and sisters share.
  •  Alfie (The Turtle That Disappeared) by Thyra Heder is a whimsical picture book where, halfway through, the perspective switches from the child to Alfie. Only the reader gets to know the full story! 

You are not the center of the universe. A hard lesson! But writing and reading stories with multiple narrators teaches us this: You are one shining light in a wide, wonderful galaxy of fellow stars.

Published November 1st, 2022 by Margaret Ferguson Books

About the Book: Though they live in the same small, Rust Belt town, there’s no way Jude and Gladys—a quiet, sullen boy big for his age and a tiny, know-it-all girl– could ever be friends.

Until…along comes a dog with a crooked tail and true-blue eyes. Gladys has never liked dogs, and Jude’s afraid of them, but this one, who’s being sadly mistreated, tugs at both their hearts. They hatch a plan to hide True in an abandoned house on the edge of town till they can figure out a better solution. As their ties to the dog–and to one another–deepen, the idea of giving her up becomes impossible. Keeping such a big secret becomes increasingly difficult.  Then True’s owner offers a big return for her return–money Jude’s family desperately needs. The friendship, and True’s fate, hangs in the balance.

Told in alternating voices, this fresh, moving, suspenseful novel explores the joys and challenges of opening our hearts to others, whether they have two legs or four.

“A heartfelt contemporary novel about unexpected friendship that kicks off with a Because of Winn-Dixie–tinged bond. . . . Springstubb gracefully conveys their need for both connection and independence, portraying sweet, protective relationships that each has with young children. Alternating third-person perspectives render unique characterizations.”—Publishers Weekly

“A bighearted novel. . . .”—Kirkus Reviews

About the Author: Tricia is the author of many books for children, including the award winning middle grade novels What Happened on Fox Street, Moonpenny Island and Every Single Second. She’s also written four books in the Cody chapter book series, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler, as well as the picture book Phoebe and Digger, illustrated by Jeff Newman. Her newest picture book, Khalil and Mr. Hagerty and the Backyard Treasures, illustrated by Elaheh Taherian, is an ALA Notable Book. Kirkus called her 2021 middle grade The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe, a “perfect thing in the universe of juvenile literature.” Her next novel, Looking for True, publishes November 1, 2022. Tricia has worked as a Head Start teacher and a children’s library associate. Besides writing and, of course, reading, she loves doing school and library visits. Mother of three grown daughters and four perfect grandbabies, she lives with her husband, garden and cats in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, and contact her at www.triciaspringstubb.com

Thank you, Tricia, for this reflection and recommendations!

Author Guest Post: “Fun Ways to Bring Animal Migration into the Classroom” by Amy Hevron, Author of The Longest Journey: An Artic Tern’s Migration

Share

“Fun Ways to Bring Animal Migration into the Classroom”

I love birdwatching and am fascinated by migrating birds. In The Longest Journey: An Arctic Tern’s Migration, I showcase an epic migrator on her first globe-spanning adventure. When I began writing this story, I wondered, what would it be like to travel across the globe? Across every climate zone from polar lands to temperate zones, to subtropics and tropics? What would the landscapes look like? What other animals would be along the way? Piecing together this little seabird’s journey was fascinating and combined my passions for wildlife, world geography, Earth sciences and art. Here are some fun ways kids can explore animal migration and mapmaking in the classroom.

Track birds in your area

Birds are all around us. And whether they are year-round residents or just here for the season, these wildlife neighbors of ours are fascinating to learn more about. Kids could pick a migrating bird from your area and find out where they migrate. They could plot their bird’s journey on a world map. What cities, states, countries, and continents does this local bird see? Kids could learn about their bird’s life cycle and draw how it looks at the different life stages from egg, to chick, to juvenile, to adult. Many birds migrate in their first year of life. At what age does their bird migrate? They could find out what kind of habitat their bird lives in, what kind of nest it makes, and what kind of food it eats. And in learning more about its migration, kids could think about what obstacles this bird might encounter or what amazing sites it might see on its journey. A helpful site to find out more about birds in your area is www.allaboutbirds.org. Also, the Audubon app for smart phones and tablets is a great birding resource as well.

Track other Arctic migrators

In addition to Arctic terns, other Arctic animals migrate, like narwhals and Pacific walruses. Kids could pick a different Arctic animal and explore the migration of this species. Why does it migrate? What might that journey look like on a map? By focusing on other animals that live in the Arctic region, this could provide an opportunity to discuss the impacts of climate change on wildlife as well. Animals that live in the Arctic are especially sensitive to global warming because the Arctic is warming at a faster rate than elsewhere in the world. How is their Arctic animal impacted by warming land and oceans? How is it adapting? Additionally, you could talk about the Earth’s seasons as they relate to the Arctic and how around Summer Soltice the sun never sets, and in Winter it is dark all day. How do the Arctic seasons affect their animal’s activities? The Active Wild website lists a range of interesting Arctic animals to learn more about (https://www.activewild.com/arctic-animals-list/).

Dive into mapmaking

A fun way to learn about world geography is through creating maps. Kids could create a map of their own migration adventure, either real or imaginary. They could start with a whole world map, a continent or a country. Kids could add traditional map details like labels for the land, bodies of water, and a compass with North, South, East, and West. On a world map, kids could add in the major latitudinal lines of the Equator, Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, the Arctic circle and Antarctic circle. They could learn about how the climate is different at these different latitudes. They could research and then illustrate different flora and fauna on the map within their appropriate climate zones. From here, kids could plot their migration path. Where would their journey take them? What sites would they see? What food would they eat along the way? A fun tool to use for research is Google Earth (earth.google.com). You can zoom in to see what the landscape looks like anywhere on Earth. Also, Google image searching “illustrated maps” can provide some inspiration for different ways to illustrate maps. Wikipedia’s site provides different world map images, including this simple world map that could be used as a starting point https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_large_blank_world_map_with_oceans_marked_in_blue.PNG.

Published July 12, 2022 by Neal Porter Books

About the Book: Follow the epic annual migration of an Arctic Tern on its sixty-thousand-mile journey to the South Pole and back again, the longest such migration in the animal kingdom.

In their thirty-year lifetimes, Arctic Terns travel nearly 1.5 million miles, that’s enough to fly to the Moon and back three times! Each year they brave blistering winds, storms, rough seas, and airborne predators as they travel between the Earth’s poles, chasing the summer. In The Longest Journey: An Arctic Tern’s Migration, we follow one such bird as it spreads its wings and sets out to make its first globe-spanning trip with its flock.

Amy Hevron is the illustrator of Trevor by Jim Averbeck, the recipient of multiple starred reviews. She also illustrated Candace Fleming’s The Tide Pool Waits which was the recipient of the Portfolio Honor Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Her brilliant, naturalistic artwork mimicking maps and nautical charts is supported by extensive research and paired with material at the back of the book explaining the science behind the life cycle of Arctic Terns.

About the Author: Amy Hevron is an illustrator, designer, and children’s book author. She wrote and illustrated Dust Bunny Wants a Friend and illustrated Trevor by Jim Averbeck, which received multiple starred reviews. She also illustrated The Tide Pool Waits, by Candace Fleming. In both 2015 and 2016, she received the Portfolio Honor Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She lives in Seattle with her family.

https://www.amyhevron.com/
@amyhevron on Instagram and Twitter

https://holidayhouse.com/book/the-longest-journey/
@holidayhousebks on all social platforms

Thank you, Amy, for these fun migration activities for the classroom!

Author Guest Post: “See the Seeds!” by Antoinette Portis, Author of A Seed Grows

Share

“See the Seeds”

Once you start thinking about seeds, you might be surprised to see how many different kinds you encounter in daily life.

When you’re planting a garden, of course you think about seeds. And when you’re eating a slice of watermelon, you kind of have to think about seeds. But this summer, as I sliced tomatoes and the slimy guts slid out onto a plate, or when I ate a plum and spit out the little rock in the middle, I started to notice how many seeds I encounter in a day. Maybe you eat a handful of nuts as a snack—walnuts, pecans, almonds, pepitas—these are seeds. But so is your morning oatmeal, made from the edible seed of the oat grass plant! The bread most of us eat is made from flour that’s the ground up seed of the wheat plant.

See how many seeds we can meet in one day! Maybe try keeping count to see how many kinds of seeds you eat or interact with in a day or a week.

As a child, I used to gather seed pods from the various kinds of trees in my neighborhood: bottle tree seedpods that looked like little boats, and others, from the Jacaranda tree, that looked like clam shells or tortoise shells; from the carob tree, hard brown pods that looked like giant snap peas and rattled like maracas when you shook them. Pinecones that looked like miniature Christmas trees and every once in a while had a seed still attached to a scale or two. And prickly balls from the Sweet Gum tree that look like Christmas decorations.

Finding these seeds when walking to school or to a neighborhood friend’s house was a jumping off place for my imagination. But more importantly, it reassured me I lived in nature, that my life was part of a giant, beautiful cycle of life.

I’ve made some activity sheets about various kinds of seeds. Enjoy!

Published June 21st, 2022 by Neal Porter Books

About the Book: The transformative life cycle of a sunflower plays out in this bold read-aloud by Sibert honoree Antoinette Portis.

A seed falls,
And settles into the ground,
And the Sun shines,
And the rain comes down,
And the seed grows…”

To understand how a seed becomes a sunflower, you have to peek beneath the soil and wait patiently as winding roots grow, a stalk inches out of the earth, and new seeds emerge among blooming petals.

With evocative and lively illustrations, A Seed Grows offers a close-up view of each step of this process and the ways in which flowers and seeds depend on other creatures, with a striking fold-out spread of a full-grown sunflower and additional material at the back of the book explaining the science of plant life cycles.

About the Author: Antoinette Portis is the author of many inventive books for children, including Not a Box, a New York Times Best Illustrated Book and a Geisel Honor Book; and the Sibert Honor Book Hey, Water!. Other books include A New Green Day, which was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, as well as the ALA Notable Books Wait and Now. A recipient of the prestigious Sendak Fellowship, Antoinette lives in Southern California where she grows her own sunflowers, like this one. 

https://www.antoinetteportis.com/
@aportisa on Twitter

https://holidayhouse.com/book/a-seed-grows/
@holidayhousebks on all platforms

Thank you, Antoinette, for sharing all of the amazingness of seeds!