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Snails are fascinating creatures that are often overlooked. When I discovered the children's book Snails Are Just My Speed! by Kevin McCloskey on a list of great science and nature books from 2018, I knew I needed to get my hands on it.

Part of the Giggle and Learn series, this title combines fun illustrations with serious information about snails.

The first thing I love is that Keven McCloskey put the eyes where they should be, on the eye stalks or tentacles. Yes!

The second thing I love is that he puts in a lot of mucus for the "ick, gross" factor, but also adds useful information, like humans make mucus too, but it is mostly on the inside.

The thing I love most? The awesome lesson on how to draw a snail in the back! (Turn the page for useful tips for parents and teachers about "How To Read Comics With Kids.")

The books in this series are marketed as beginning readers, which may discourage some older children from picking them up. That would be too bad because they have potential to appeal to a larger range of ages.

Snails Are Just My Speed! should fly off the shelves. Check out a copy today!

Age Range: 4 - 7 years
Publisher: TOON Books (May 1, 2018)
ISBN-10: 194314527X
ISBN-13: 978-1943145270

Snails can be humorous? Yes, they can.

This is me on Monday morning.

Do I have to get up?

Argh, it is too bright out.

Okay, if I must get up I will.

Now, where did I put my coffee?

If you want some more serious science try our previous posts:

Adult readers might be interested in the memoir that Kevin McCloskey says inspired him, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. It reveals how her long recovery from a devastating illness was helped by observing a snail.

 

Publisher: Green Books; Later prt. edition (September 1, 2010)
ISBN-10: 1900322919
ISBN-13: 978-1900322911

Groundhog Day is February 2, which is right around the corner. To get ready to celebrate, let's take a look at a new book about groundhogs that just came out last month, The Amazing Groundhogs of Woodchuck Wonderland by Susan Sam and Joseph Sam.

Susan and Joseph Sam are passionate proponents for groundhogs. Their website Woodchuck Wonderland™ has long been an inspirational source of information, photographs, and videos that come from years of studying these often-ignored rodents. Now they have published a 36-page paperback that will delight children of all ages.

First up in the book, they present Wilhelmina, a special woodchuck that first introduced them to the joys of observing woodchuck behavior. Next they discuss what a woodchuck (or groundhog) is -- technically large squirrels of the marmot family -- and describe their life cycles, including hibernation.

Did you know baby groundhogs were called chucklings?

The rest of the book reveals what woodchucks eat and all sorts of interesting facts about them, all illustrated with large color photographs. The Sam's call themselves "The People" in the text and admit at times that the woodchucks' activities are at odds with their own.

Last year I looked for a books about groundhogs for a young relative who had developed an interest in them and the pickings were slim. The Amazing Groundhogs of Woodchuck Wonderland is a much-needed book that fills a special niche. Dig up a copy today!

Suggested Activities to Accompany the Book:

I. Hibernation Information and Activities

What is hibernation?

When it is cold outside and/or food supplies are low, certain animals are able to slow their heart rates and breathing rates, lower their body temperatures, and go into an extended resting state.

Rodents, in particular, are known to hibernate.

1. Hibernation Information Research

Make a list of animals that hibernate. What do animals that hibernate have in common? How are they different?

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources hibernation page is a good place to start.

2. Heart Rates and Breathing Rates

Gather:  Watch or other timing device that will measure one minute in seconds.

Teach children how to find their pulse (details at Women's and Children's Health Network). Count the pulse for one minute.

Most children at rest should have counts around 60-100 beats per minute (faster than adults). Have them walk around or do some exercises in place. Then count again. If they are struggling to count for a minute, have them count for 15 seconds and multiply by 4.

Now explain that in bears the number of heart beats go from 84 in an active bear to 19 beats per minute in a hibernating bear (ScienceDaily). Other animals my drop to 4 or 5 beats per minute. That is slow!

3. Getting Ready to Hibernate

Animals that hibernate must put on a heavy layer of fat to act as an energy reserve while they are not active or feeding. How do they do it?

Did you know that one source of food for bears is moths? Studies have shown that bears in Yellowstone Park eat as many as 40,000 moths a day in preparation for hibernation (Smithsonian). The moths themselves have big fat reserves they have stored for their own preparation for overwintering.

Woodchucks eat mostly plants. What kinds of plants might be best for the woodchucks to eat if they want to make fat?

What does this groundhog have in its front paw? Can you see?

It is picking up fruit from under a mulberry tree. It has an ability to grasp its food like other members of the squirrel family.

If you are lucky enough to live where woodchucks occur, observe what they eat. Does what they eat change as they approach the time to hibernate?

Visit TeachHub for more classroom activities about hibernation.

II. Past Groundhog Day Science Links:

Groundhog Day Science - Groundhogs and Shadows

Groundhog Day Information and Poem

And don't forget, The Amazing Groundhogs of Woodchuck Wonderland.

Paperback: 36 pages
Publisher: Independently published (December 11, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1731288786
ISBN-13: 978-1731288783

Today is a special day. Not only is it the first Day of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count and the last day of our week celebrating children's books about birds for the Year of the Bird, but we have a real treat:  a visit by author Anna Levine with her new picture book about bird migration and some bird-themed activities!

All Eyes on Alexandra by Anna Levine and illustrated by Chiara Pasqualotto

In All Eyes on Alexandra, young Alexandra Crane is terrible at following her family in their flying Vee. She can’t help it that the world is so full of interesting distracting sights! When it's time for the Cranes to migrate to Israel's Hula Valley for the winter, Alexandra is excited but her family is worried. Will Alexandra stay with the group, and what happens if a dangerous situation should arise? Might Alexandra—and the rest of the flock—discover that a bad follower can sometimes make a great leader?

Be sure to visit our sister blog Wrapped in Foil for a more in-depth review and links to upcoming stops on the blog tour.

Bird Migration

All Eyes on Alexandra is a fictional account of a real event, the twice annual migration of millions over birds to and from all the neighboring continents.

The following video shows footage from a proposed documentary about the migration, set to music. What a sight!

Imagine trying to count birds there. What a challenge it would be! On the other hand, it would be easy to fill your Big Year lists with new species.

About Anna

Anna Levine is an award-winning children’s book author. Like Alexandra Crane, the character in her latest picture book, she loves to explore new worlds. Born in Canada, Anna has lived in the US and Europe.  She now lives in Israel, where she writes and teaches.

You don’t have to wing it!  Three bird-themed activities by Anna Levine.

Honk! Bellow! Whoop! Take part in the action.

When Alexandra Crane and her flock arrive at the resting and refueling spot in the Hula Valley they meet storks, falcons, wagtails and pelican and other bird families that honk, bellow and whoop. Now you can join the commotion, just by stepping out into your own backyard.

1. Take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count on February 16-19th. You don’t have to be an expert to join. Step outside for as long as 15 minutes or less and count as many birds as you can.

2. Awaken your senses. Experience birds through sound. Have your child listen and try to note the sounds of different birds. Record the bird song and then see if you can identify which birds they are. The Cornell Lab has a wonderful site (All About Birds Academy) where you can learn about birds and their different calls.

3. Bird beak experiment. Why do some birds have beaks that are long and sharp while others are shaped like a straw? You should have most of these tools around the house for this experiment, scissors, tweezers, chopsticks, a straw, and pliers. Gather the following foods, juice, string cheese, gummy snakes, rice, and pistachios. The idea is to try and match up the best tool for eating the different foods.

You might find that:

  • A hummingbird’s straw-like beak is perfect for drinking juice (or nectar from a flower).
  • The eagle’s scissor-like beak can rip up string cheese like an eagle tears meat.
  • A robin’s beak is perfect for digging out worms from the ground, as precise as picking up gummi worms with chopsticks.
  • A woodpecker’s beak is as sharp as a chisel and used also like a crowbar to pick out insects from dead trees, just like tweezers picking up a grain of rice.
  • And for opening seeds, a cardinal’s beak, just like pliers, is great for cracking open pistachios or seeds.

What about the beak of a curved-bill thrasher?

You can see even more fun ideas from Anna Levine to celebrate birds at Read. Write. Sparkle. Coffee. blog.

Thank you to Anna Levine for stopping by and sharing the wonderful book and activities.

You can find Anna Levine online at --

 

Age Range: 3 - 8 years
Publisher: Kar-Ben Pub (August 1, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1512444391
ISBN-13: 978-1512444391

Don't forget our growing list of books about bird migration at Science Books for Kids.

Disclosure: This book was provided electronically for review. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

 

Thank you for visiting us this week. That concludes our celebration of The Year of the Bird.