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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


There's good news, good news, and even better news today!

First Good News:

Last year was a big year for me because I had a children's picture book manuscript accepted by Millbrook Press, a division of Lerner™Publishing Group. All sorts of things have to come together before the book is published, so it will 2020 or beyond before it is actually a physical book. But in the meanwhile...

Second Good News:

I am so grateful to you, my readers and friends, for your support of this blog and feedback over the years that helped me reach this point. To share my gratitude, I have a treat. This week I'm giving away two wonderful picture books from Millbrook Press, Love, Agnes: Postcards from an Octopus by Irene Latham and illustrated by Thea Baker AND Plants Can't Sit Still by Rebecca E. Hirsch and illustrated by Mia Posada (reviewed at our sister blog, Wrapped in Foil).

Don't they look amazing? Before you jump down to the Rafflecopter form below to enter the giveaway, however, there's still more.

 Even Better News:

Now, the best news of all. Irene Latham, the author of the lovely and imaginative picture book Love, Agnes has stopped by to help us celebrate and to tell us all about it. Welcome Irene!


On the surface, LOVE, AGNES: POSTCARDS FROM AN OCTOPUS, my first narrative picture book, looks like it's about the life cycle of a giant Pacific octopus. It does, in fact, offer reader lots of factual information, like how these clever creatures are boneless shapeshifters with three hearts. How they have host of amazing defense mechanisms, and how their lives come to an end shortly after mating (for the male), or once the eggs are hatched (for the female).

The book is also a complete fantasy – one that's firmly rooted in my psyche. Consider the things Agnes and I have in common:

Agnes sends – and receives – postcards. So do I! Each year during National Poetry Month, I send out hundreds of “Live Your Poem” artsy postcards... because I want to. (Want to receive a postcard from me? Sign up here:

Agnes loves being a mother. Me, too! I have three sons I nurtured from before they were born through all the crazy-busy years, and have since watched float away on a current. I couldn't be prouder or more in love with my guys!

Agnes believe the best way to handle death is to live a good life. YES. When I was writing this book, my father was in the final stages of colon cancer. He remarked to me that it was a strange situation, and frustrating, because some visitors would talk to him like he was already dead. So I researched what the dying need to hear/say, and somewhere – I wish I could remember where! - I found this gem: the dying need to hear/say 4 things: thank you, I love you, forgive me, I forgive you.

Fortunately I was able to say those things to my father, and hear him say those things to me. And I was able to give those words to an octopus named Agnes, too.

Ultimately, Agnes is grateful for her life and forgiving of her predators and competitors. She even gives her primary prey (crabs) a break at the end. Agnes is me, and she's my father, and she leaves this world the way I hope to – with joy and wonder and gratitude.

Side-note: Agnes is also funny. She's a cheeky octopus. And guess what: I'm a little bit cheeky, too – even though you may not know it from my previous books. It takes me a while to warm up, but when I do – well, there's a reason my husband calls me “the fun girl in the house.” (Yes, I am also the ONLY girl in the house!) No matter. I am certain Agnes – and my father – would agree.


I'm getting tears, Irene. Thank you so much for sharing your moving story with us.

If you'd like to try to win a copy of Irene's book plus Plants Can't Sit Still, leave an entry in the Rafflecopter form below before January 15, 2019. If you have any difficulties entering, please let me know in the comments below. The giveaway has now ended. Congratulations to the winner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway