Friday, November 21, 2014

Who's Sleeping in my Hickory Leaves?


Earlier this fall I discovered something sleeping in my hickory leaves. The underside of the leaves were covered with tiny fuzzy bumps - galls. Some insect, possibly an aphid, had laid eggs on the leaf and the irritation induced the leaf tissue to grow around it.

There are all kinds of galls: marble-sized knobs on the stems of goldenrod, fuzzy galls on the underside of a leaf, smooth round leaf galls, knot galls, galls that look like a bundle of needles or thin leaves... and the come in all colors: brown, red, gold, green.

The best time to collect galls is in the fall - you can find them on leaves and stems. If you want to see what comes out of the galls, collect the leaves or stem pieces and put them in jars with net over the top. Keep them in a cool area and take a look every day to see if anything has changed.

Check out some cool galls here and read about goldenrod galls here.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Animals, Animals, Animals

Today I'm reviewing a trio of books that fit together and provide a mix of fiction and fact. Our theme: animals

 Animals Work
by Ted Lewin
24 pages; ages 4-8
Holiday House, 2014

This easy-reader makes good on the title's promise. Each page features an animal at work. The text is simple subject/verb construction: "A dog herds. A horse carries." The illustrations show an animal doing its work, from herding sheep (dog) and lifting tree trunks (elephant) to mowing the lawn (sheep) and protecting the herd (llamas). Lewin includes the important work of a companion animal, too. At the back is a map showing where the featured animals live.

The World's Best Noses, Ears, and Eyes
by Helen Rundgren; illus. by Ingela P. Arrhenius
32 pages; ages 6-10
Holiday House, 2014

"Ears are for hearing, eyes are for seeing, and noses collect smells." But what are we trying to see? Or hear? And what is that stinky smell?

This book offers a fun look at the diversity of noses: long noses, short noses, funny looking noses. There are hedgehog noses and moth noses, elephant noses and shark noses and the very dazzling nose of the star-nosed mole. There are lizard ears and bunny ears, cricket ears and funny ears. We look at the biggest eyes and eyes on stalks, eyes that see at night and eyes that see hundreds of images at once. And then there's us. Humans. We're pretty average when it comes to eyes and noses and ears. Is there anything we do better than other animals?

A Night at the Zoo
by Kathy Caple
24 pages; ages 4-8
Holiday House, 2014

This is another easy-reader, with simple text and bold illustrations. "Sam and Pop are at the zoo,"  it begins. Pop takes photos with his cell phone and, when Sam gets hungry they get some popcorn and sit on a bench to rest. They fall asleep, and the zoo closes. Weird things happen once the people are gone... an ostrich snatches Pop's phone and somehow it ends up in monkey's hands. Eventually, Pop and Sam get the phone back and head home on the late bus. But wait! What are those photos?

Beyond the books: Are there any working animals in your neighborhood? The burros on my neighbor's farm protect her fallow deer from coyotes and other predators. A few miles away, a woman trains dogs to be reading partners for children in school and at the local libraries. And many people have cats to keep the mouse population down in the house and barn.

Visit a zoo with your sketchbook or camera. Take a close look at animal noses and ears and eyes - and draw some from different animals. What do you notice? You don't have to go to a zoo - you could observe mammals and birds and reptiles and amphibians that you see in your neighborhood. Even in cities you might find some interesting animals. In addition to cats, dogs, and birds some people report seeing deer, bears, possums and raccoons crossing city streets.

 You can see out what other bloggers are reviewing over at the STEM Friday blog. Today's review is also part of PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books.