Friday, July 19, 2024

Books for the Beach

 If you’re heading to a beach – whether it’s the ocean or a lake or a towel by the backyard wading pool – you might want to take along some beach reading…

theme: ocean animals, animal behavior

Speck: An Itty-Bitty Epic 
by Margaux Meganck 
40 pages; ages 3-6
‎Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2024  

Deep in a tide pool, too small to see, countless tiny specks go forth

These tiny specks are barnacle larva, tossed by waves and carried by currents until they find a spot to grow into a barnacle. They are part of the group of tiny edible things we call “plankton” and that fish and whales call “dinner.” 

What I like about this book: the text is lyrical and soothing, like the gently rocking of a boat at sea. I like the vivid watercolor illustrations (and the sweet expressions on the barnacle faces). I also like that the larvae are looking for a place to grow and thrive, just like us. I wish there had been a smidgeon of back matter so we could learn more about these amazing animals (barnacles are crustaceans) but even so, this book will leave children thinking about the smallest bits of life in the ocean.

Where Do Ocean Creatures Sleep at Night? 
by Steven J. Simmons & Clifford R. Simmons; illus. by Ruth E. Harper 
32 pages; ages 3-7
Charlesbridge, 2024  

Ocean creatures swim in their watery home…

But when their day is done, where do they sleep? Some burrow in the sand of the ocean floor, while others cling to corals or plants. Octopuses snuggle in their dens and otters snooze on their backs. Gentle rhymes and soft illustrations make this a perfect book to read during quiet time at the beach.

Beyond the Books:

Go on a barnacle search. You’ll find them attached to ropes, rocks, docks, and even mussels. Read more about barnacles at this Woods Hole page.

If you have the opportunity to spend part of the night at a beach, do it. What do you hear? What do you see? What do you smell? How does the air feel?

Check out some of these other books that are perfect “beach reads”

We’ll join Perfect Picture Book Friday once they resume. It’s a wonderful gathering where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copies provided by the publishers and Blue Slip Media (Speck).

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Explore Outdoors ~ Spittlebug Caught in the Act!

 Every now and then I see Cool Things Happening in my garden. Like a couple weeks ago when I discovered a spittlebug in the act of creating a foam dome so they could hide from the sun. And predators - because who wants a mouthful of foamy spit?


Spittlebugs are plant-suckers. They stick their short pointy beaks into stems and then suck up the sap. But they are messy eaters! As they spill sap down their bodies, they add some air and make bubbles. Lots of bubbles. Turns out they can make 80 spit bubbles in a minute.

This week keep your eye open for spittlebugs. 
  • If you see a spittlebug starting its foamy dome, stay and watch a while. How long does it take until they are covered?
  • What kind of plants do you see spittlebug foam on? And where on the plant do you find it?  Do they hang out at the tips of plants? The base? On stems or leaves? In leaf axils (where leaves meet the stems)?
  • How many foam homes do you find on plants? Are they close together or far apart?

Friday, July 12, 2024

The Ants are Marching...

 Today’s books are all about ants – because I have an abiding fondness for these truly marvelous tiny critters. I once spent an entire month trading barley seeds with harvester ants.

Theme: ants, animal behavior, ecology

City of Leafcutter Ants: A Sustainable Society of Millions 
by Amy Hevron 
40 pages; ages 4-8
Neal Porter Books/ Holiday House, 2024   

Below the towering trees of the dense rainforest canopy of Central America, a population the size of New York City bustles.

It is a city of leafcutter ants, and each one of them has a job to help their city thrive. There are ants that manage the city’s trash, ants that care for the youngsters, and ants that build and tunnel and dig. There are ants that gather food from the forest, ants that grow food in the city, and ants that make medicines to keep everyone healthy.

What I like about this book: I like the way this book takes readers right inside the ant city. I like the bright, bold illustrations. And I like that there’s back matter in which Amy Hevron tells more about Leafcutter ants and the important jobs ants hold in their city. 

The Wonderful Wisdom of Ants 
by Philip Bunting 
32 pages; ages 4-8
‎Crown Books for Young Readers, 2024

Hey! This is an ant. And this is an ant. And this is an ant…

In fact, there is an entire page introducing ants, about ten quadrillion of them (though not all of them individually). In this book you’ll discover things ants love and things they don’t love (such as big feet coming down on top of them!). There’s an introduction to a generic ant colony and the different jobs ants do, how they talk to each other, and a lot about what ants (and people) can do to make the world a better place.

What I like about this book: I like the stylized illustrations of ants and the humor that results from the combined text and illustrations. And the scene where ants discover sprinkles – who doesn’t love sprinkles!


Beyond the Books:
Back in April I interviewed Amy for the Fourth Annual Arthropod Roundtable over on the GROG blog. You can read it here.

Follow some ants. Where are they going? Where are they coming from? Are they carrying anything, such as dead insects or seeds? These are some of the questions that inspired Amy Hevron to write City of Leafcutter Ants!

Create art inspired by ant-watching. Perhaps your questions will inspire a poem or story. Or you might paint a picture of the ants in your neighborhood. Or perhaps you’ll map out where the ants live and work…

You can find more ant activities in one of my earlier blog posts here.


We’ll join Perfect Picture Book Friday once they resume. It’s a wonderful gathering where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. City of Leafcutter Ants provided by the publisher; Wonderful Wisdom of Ants provided by Blue Slip Media.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Explore Outdoors ~ Mullein Watching

 For the past couple weeks, I've been watching the mullein that grows along the roadside where I walk. It's a tall plant that grows like a spear, topped with yellow flowers that make it look like a torch. Sometimes I'll let it grow in my garden because the bumblebees like it. 

But you know who else likes it? Flies! Every time I walk by, the flowers are busy with syrphid flies. You can tell they're not bees because of their huge eyes and tiny antennae. Also, if you get close enough you can see they have only one pair of wings (bees have 2 pair). 


This week go mullein watching and see who you find on the flowers. You might find flies, bees, beetles, and more. Check out this article to meet some of the mullein visitors.


Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Happy Fourth of July

 Since tomorrow is the Fourth of July, I'll be taking a brief break. See you back here next week!

Meanwhile, check out some hands-on ways to celebrate the holiday at this post from two years ago.

By Michele Mazzola – Wikimedia [CC BY 3.0]