National Library Week – 2015

“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child.”

Dr. Seuss

 

I’m skidding in on the last day of National Library Week this year, but it’s not really the end of the celebration. Around our house, every week is library week. We live in a bit of a remote area if judged by city dwellers, but after 15 years among towering oaks and more than a few wild animals, we have our own library branch! We existed until quite recently (and throughout the fallout from the direct hit of Hurricane Katrina) with a sparsely stocked grocery store, but the one lack of amenity we lamented most was a neighborhood library.

Now don’t think for a minute that we don’t also celebrate technology or that we shun it in favor of the printed book. We own an iPad, a NookColor, and a Kindle, but we love our always growing library of books and the ability to access many more through our library. We can have the convenience of driving three minutes to pick up any book that they have or can order from their network of library branches. I missed the easy access to research and entertainment that had been mine before we moved from a bustling city to a bucolic countryside.

Now I’m thrilled to have even more reason to call attention to National Library Week. We have a little great-granddaughter who loves our outings to the library. Ours has a Mark Twain theme in the children’s room, so she always asks to see the jumping frog of Caliveras County, the mural where Huck Finn adventured on his raft, and sit inside the dock-side hut where we can read books she chooses from the low shelves. We have watched her progression from toddling through the door on her first library visit, to asking to go often, to bringing home her books to “read” by herself.

The library is one of the very best ways to prepare your child for the world. It was one of my best early experiences where I realized the magic of animals and people in their times and places. It made me want to go home and write my own stories. It’s free, fabulous, and fun for a lifetime!

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This Writing Climate

What I’m about to say may sound odd to the 21st century community of writers, as well as many who know me. It’s not so much that I’ve changed my mind about digital technology as it is that I’m seeing a desperate need to strike a balance in how we introduce reading to children.

Regarding ebooks/apps versus print books, my whole emphasis is not an either/or attitude toward literacy education. Increasingly, there are blogs, news articles, and marketing efforts directed by traditional publishers vs. ebook and app developers – all producing exclusive arguments for either print books or newer products on digital readers, depending upon which publishing method they represent. Even the staunch traditional print book publishers are phasing away from print and competing in the digital marketplace. They haven’t completely abandoned print, but their attempt to compete with newer ways to publish and profit further narrows the field for children’s print books.

The key word “profit” is a prime motivation. Digital publishing affords many publishing opportunities that seem almost magical to educators and children. Many innovative processes have evolved rapidly, and there’s no doubt that fireworks get attention and sales. Some of the products are excellent, but too many apps are games disguised as education. If a child has only to tap an element to get a sound or cartoon-like movement, he is simply being entertained. Education should definitely be enjoyable, but there are basic elements which need to be grasped and interspersed with the fun.

There is a difference between interactive ebooks and apps. With interactive ebooks, a child might touch a word which becomes highlighted, and then immediately moves the reader to the glossary. Another touch in the glossary takes the child back to the word in the story. Fun facts and extra information, recipes, puzzles, and other things related to the story allow the child to read and interact without as much “razzle-dazzle.” Ebooks definitely can have spectacular illlustrations. They can be an enhancement to classic ways of helping children love to read.

Apps allow much more movement and sound, with many exciting eye-catching special effects. This thrills, but can also lead to a kind of tech device addiction. So many factors are part of reading, not the least of which is the creation of a story world inside the head. The activation of the thinking process, and the interaction of communicating with others are necessary learning for life. What is better than listening to the re-telling of a story, hearing it read, face to face. There is a time for the fun and opportunities of digital devices, and a time for quiet reading and developing individual ideas. It’s possible to share exciting learning and stories from both digital readers and print books, but a constant use of one without the other is missing out on half the benefits. Each has its own contributions to childhood literacy and the development of future possibilities. It’s all about balance!

Just to punctuate my thoughts, I’m including some completely candid photos of young children as they discover the wonderful world of books. They cannot yet read, yet are fascinated with books and digital devices. It’s up to us to make sure they get a taste of variety in their learning, with ways to light a fire of curiosity which will propel them into their best future. This is Children’s Book Week, which seems the perfect time to think about reading with our children.

Chicken Little and Big Isaac

Sometimes Mother Nature overtakes the reading road as it did last week. Hurricane Isaac arrived on the seventh anniversary of Katrina. We no longer say “Hurricane Katrina” because she is famous enough to be known by one name. Once again, we had to decide whether to outrun a powerful weather event, or hunker down. “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” I couldn’t shake the refrain from that old nursery story, Chicken Little. We heard it everywhere because we, along with countless others along our Gulf Coast, had lived through the utter devastation of Katrina. For those who may not be acquainted with this tale, Chicken Little got bopped on the head with an acorn, and started a comical chain of events. Everyone he met heard his extreme warning, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!”Jim and I busied ourselves with preparations while keeping an ear to announcements of coordinates, tropical development, and water temperature. We knew what was coming.

Every creature in the path of the 30-odd feet of rolling wave as Katrina made landfall has his own sensory and emotional memories of all that happened on August 29, 2005. Most of us have photos which can only begin to show the dimensions of Katrina’s effects. So many words have been put to paper that I have chosen to wait, to think deeply about it from the perspective of time elapsed. Now that we have felt the fear again, I can talk of it in relation to the way it is part of all nature rather than an isolated incident. A hurricane isn’t one malevolent tree in a dark fantasy forest; it’s one force of an entirety which drives the forest and all other systems around our planet.

The world’s cycles were here before us. They continue to prove that they are more powerful than all our advances. They catch us unaware, though we have the intelligence to expect them, put them into perspective. All the aspects of our lives that we treasure bow before the forces of nature. A hurricane is simply one way to know that we are not in control. Love and loss, joy and grief; these wax and wane throughout our years. The moments between the raindrops are triumphs, sparkling in their fleeting intensity. They remain in our subconscious alongside the terror. We store them, but sometimes forget to call them up when we are faced with another unknown. A hurricane is a time to remember, to listen, to see and feel more than what is obvious.

Certain Indians are known to have burned all their belongings every few years so that they would not become dependent upon material possessions. Hurricanes sometimes rid us of ours, because none of us would have the courage of the Indians. Of course, Indians didn’t have computers and TV’s and iPhones and, especially, all the photos which hold the faces we love and our best days. We assign such value to our possessions that we are forever in their service, often failing to live fully in each day. I know this, but am guilty.

I try to be thankful for the things I cannot control. They usually are things which make me realize how human I am, and how I would tremble to have complete control. I can see that there would be no right decision for all, and the weight of responsibility would seem unbearable. The best we can do is protect those within our reach, those we love, and those who need understanding. This example of forbearance is present in all of nature, so all we have to do is pay attention. When the howling, assaulting wind finally quieted on Isaac’s third day, and the rain became a silent silver sheet across the landscape, I looked up to see a lone seabird winging across the gray ceiling outside. It probably followed water farther inland than usual because of Isaac’s tumult. The bird was headed south toward the beach, so one more mile would offer it a more familiar place. Things would begin to look more as they had the week before.

And so the sky is not really falling, all you Chicken Littles. All signs of approaching autumn are murmuring that the annual cycle is undisturbed. Migrating hummingbirds zoomed through the heaviest downpours of the hurricane to circle the end of the back porch where their feeder, full of nectar, had hung. As soon as I was able to re-hang it from a climbing rose branch, their staccato chirps were in my ears. The Duranta, now more tree than shrub, dripping lavender flower clusters and golden berries, is host to a few dozen bumblebee drones – male bees banished from the colony once their job of fertilizing the young future queens is done. Now they fly and feed until they soon die. The female worker bees have died, and those fed, fattened and chosen to become new queens have searched under leaves and quiet sheltered places to hibernate until next spring. We hope that hurricane season is having its last hurrah of 2012. The moon is full, the silent drama is performed; the sky is not falling. It is full of stars.

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Snapshots two days post-Katrina from our golf cart:

A video clip of Isaac’s third day should appear as soon as I can complete edits.

WIK12 Blog Tour: Meet Jodi Wheeler-Toppen!

It’s such a pleasure for me to introduce Jodi Wheeler-Toppen, the science teacher I wish everyone could have! You’ll understand when you meet her at WIK12 where she will be on the faculty sharing her love of teaching and writing. Go HERE to make plans to attend.

Don’t forget to ask Jodi about rockets, explosions, gushers, shooters and blobs – or you could just go to her website, www.onceuponascience book.com and read about her books. Our conversation is a preview of the excitement Jodi generates.

Jodi Wheeler-Toppen

Jodi, when did you first become fascinated with all things “science?” What area(s) of science were most compelling for you?

You know, it’s funny. I didn’t even like science until high school biology. I think I hadn’t had very good teachers. I only read fiction, and I went off to college planning on being an English major. Then I took a great zoology course my freshman year, and eventually even got fascinated with chemistry. I ended up a high school biology teacher, myself.

What sort of childhood did you have? Did you live in a city, the country, or what was your environment like?

I grew up in Savannah, Georgia, which is a great place to enjoy nature. My high school biology teacher passed on her love of the salt marshes, and all the wonderful life inside. I still long for that pungent, salty smell as I drive around Atlanta.

Besides your biology teacher, were there other adults, a family member, or particular books that had an influence upon you?

My high school biology teacher, Jacqueline Baker, was wonderful, but I also had a college professor, Larry Davenport, who helped me see how to join my interest in science with writing. He’s a botany professor at Samford University, and he also writes a nature column in the Alabama Heritage Magazine. He shared some of his columns in class, and they were excellent models for merging science and human interest. He’s also has a book out now, and I was touched that he sent me a copy when it came out.

You have said that you began writing nonfiction in college. Did you write in other genres earlier?

Yes, I started proclaiming a desire to be an author in elementary school. Of course, then I always assumed it would be fiction. I have done some fiction, and I had a fiction story published in Spider magazine a few years ago, but at some point I decided I wanted to focus on one thing and do it well. Science writing seemed like the logical place to settle. I don’t rule out doing more fiction later in life, but I’m passionate about this, and enjoy it.

I agree with you that kids need the “WOW!” factor when learning about science. How do you teach science teachers to help kids become excited about the natural world without realizing they are “learning?”

The biggest thing I push is to let kids have the hands-on experience first. Traditionally, teachers lecture or assign reading first, and then have the kids do a lab to “see what they were talking about.” It makes such a difference for kids to explore the actual stuff first, and then they are ready to learn all the vocabulary and principles afterwards.

Please talk a bit about your work with special needs students.

As a teacher, I just ended up as the go-to science teacher for placing a lot of the special needs students in my school. Later, working for the University of Georgia, they needed someone to teach a course for teachers titled, “Teaching Science to Students with Special Needs.” I volunteered to supplement my experience with more research, and took over the class. It was very fulfilling.

Do you feel that many students are generally unprepared in reading comprehension, or do you think that science literature presents special reading challenges?

Science reading is my area of research; I often do staff development with teachers on this topic, so I could go on and on about the reasons students struggle to read science. One huge problem I encounter when reading with students is that they don’t have the background knowledge that the text assumes. So the writer starts explaining something, but starts the explanation way ahead of what the reader knows, and the reader never has a chance to understand. Now that I’m in writing, I know a lot of times editors cut that crucial background information in the interest of word counts or keeping the writing energized. But it’s hard on struggling students.

Please share some of your favorite authors/titles.

I read a lot of preschool books with my children right now, and I recently came across a wonderful piece of non-fiction for preschoolers, MY GOOSE BETSY, by Trudy Braun. It managed to entice even my fiction-only daughter. I’m terribly jealous of Vicki Cobb’s work. I especially love her book, I FALL DOWN. I also love an old middle-grade novel that’s out of print now, WHERE THE RIVER BEGINS, by Patricia M. St. John. But, of course, my favorites change with whatever I’m reading.

If you could invite people from the scientific world, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be and why would they interest you?

Right now, I think it would have to be Michael Welland, the author of SAND: THE NEVER ENDING STORY. He’s a geologist who has poured his lifetime of studying sand into this densely-packed, beautifully written book. It’s truly a work of love. I mean, there just can’t be an enormous audience for a book on sand, so he wasn’t after fame and fortune! But he has mixed fascinating history tales and complex scientific discussions with some fabulous, literary-quality writing. It must have taken years to research and write, and I’d love to meet the man behind the passion.

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Thanks for your thoughts and words, Jodi! “Passion” is a great final word in our conversation, because that is what you convey in your pursuit of science, and that is what you are inspiring in your students who will need to understand the world they will inherit.

Meet more of the wik12 faculty by following their blog tour!

Aug. 15                Sharon Pegram at Writers and Wannabes (http://www.writersandwannabes.com/)

Aug. 16                Sarah Campbell at Alison Hertz’s blog, On My Mind (http://www.AlisonHertz.blogspot.com/)

Aug. 17                F.T. Bradley at Laura Golden’s blog (http://authorlauragolden.com/blog/)

Aug. 20               Chuck Galey at Elizabeth Dulemba’s blog (http://dulemba.blogspot.com/)

Aug. 21                Jo Kittinger at Bonnie Herold’s blog, Tenacious Teller of Tales (http://tenacioustelleroftales.blogspot.com)

Aug. 22               Irene Latham at Robyn Hood Black’s blog, Read, Write, Howl (http://www.robynhoodblack.com/blog.htm)

Aug. 23               Vicky Alvear Shecter at S.R. Johannes’ blog (http://www.srjohannes.com/)

Aug. 24               Doraine Bennett at Cathy Hall’s blog (http://cathychall.wordpress.com/)

Aug. 27               Virginia Butler at Bonnie Herold’s blog, Tenacious Teller of Tales (http://tenacioustelleroftales.blogspot.com)

Aug. 28               Jodi Wheeler-Toppen at Diane Sherrouse’s blog, The Reading Road (www.thereadingroad.com)

Aug. 29               Ellen Ruffin at Sarah Frances Hardy’s blog, Picture This (www.sfhardy.blogspot.com)

Aug. 30               Donna Jo Napoli at Writers and Wannabes (http://www.writersandwannabes.com/)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Reading Road at Lynn Meadows Discovery Center

Saturday, August 25, was one of those birthday party giddiness days for about 60 children (two separate parties) at the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, Mississippi’s only children’s museum, in Gulfport. I had been invited to read my book and talk about all things bumblebee to a range of children from toddlers to upper elementary age. Oh, boy!

My morning began with a cup of tea, honey, lemon, and lots of encouragement from Jim as I headed toward the herb garden with my specimen jar. First, I had split a ripe, very juicy peach and wedged it into the bottom of the jar. Next, I clipped some of the bees’ favored herb blossoms, inserted them into floral tubes of water, and arranged them attractively (I thought) for a bee. Finally, I approached a likely candidate so busy sticking his head into basil blooms that he never saw me coming. He quickly found himself in a new place between my perforated lid and homemade jar garden. Frantic buzzing is not a strong enough term to describe his efforts. I felt that he would soon find the peach treat and settle into exclusive peach probing. Instead, he (yes, it was a male bee because like all males, he had no pollen pockets) continued to fly continuously within his glass world. He had great stores of energy, because he was aloft for a couple of hours until we arrived at the museum. As if on cue, he descended to the bottom of the jar in a state of torpor, until he could recover strength. Fearing that the children would think I had killed one of the very insects I was asking them to conserve, I placed the jar inside my large supply bag and hoped for the best.

Jim and I arrived toting cameras and armfuls, including the iPad loaded with my nonfiction interactive ebook, LEMON TREES AND BUMBLEBEES, The Magic of Pollination. To sweeten the presentation beyond the waiting birthday cakes, we took bee and seed specimens, large color illustrations, crossword puzzle page handouts, and coloring page handouts of some of the first black and white illustrations for the book. We also showed parents how to construct a place for a bee colony that might prove irresistible to a queen bee next spring. They liked the idea of burying a clay pot with a drainage hole almost completely underground, inverted over some dry brush, and protected from rain with a tile or saucer balanced on rocks so the queen could enter (a photo is below the post). As I settled myself on a bench in front of the colorful murals, I heard the encouraging buzzing of my guest-in-a-jar. He awakened just in time to delight dozens of children, as I had hoped.

During the next hour or so, a number of children heard the story, asked about bees, shared their love of honey and lemonade, and gave us a day as special as the one we tried to give them. They moved in, out, and about; several enjoyed hearing the story from the vantage point of rocking horses or while sitting in a gingerbread cottage shared with stuffed animals.

When we were home again, I took our bee jar out to the same patch of basil, uncapped the lid, and watched the little guy slurp a bit more peach juice before he buzzed off above the rooftop.

I’ll give you a feel for the day in some photos we had to be quick to get. Photos including some children have been purposely cropped to conceal their identity for safety. With all the action, there wasn’t time to get parental permission to show their faces, but we have the smiling photos to enjoy in our album. You will get a good idea of the fun.

Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, Gulfport, MS

 

The Reading Road Banner

Reading LEMON TREES AND BUMBLEBEES on iPad

Listening from a rocking horse

Listening with a buddy

Flying Bees

Owls in trees

Happy Walls

Enchanted Forest

Under the Sea

Specimen jar with male bumblebee

A Peach of His Own

How to Construct a Manmade Bumblebee Colony

Perfect Ending for a Happy Day

From Black Bears to Bumblebees

In an earlier post, I said that one thing always leads to another along the reading road, a.k.a., my life. Mental meandering has so often become fascination, so “over the river and through the woods” from black bears to bumblebees seems natural. Good science requires time and patience; getting to the last page isn’t exactly instant gratification. It’s more like a treasure hunt where you have to dream, delve, and, often, literally dig in the dirt. Complicating all this is the fact that I have a family, with all the maintenance, surprises, holidays, advice given and taken or not, and daily love which often present detours around any other project underway. During all the stirring of pots and bandaging of bumps, thoughts and curiosity tug and won’t leave, ever.

A few years ago, I returned to academic life and jumped into a course in environmental literature. While reading and researching, I began to think about black bears with their history and their present state. Their decline affects so much more than the bears, themselves. A phone call put me in touch with a wildlife biologist who introduced me to a couple of experts studying bears in other states, and we began a five-year discourse, including particular details of radio-collared bears and others in the wild. I tried not to be side-tracked by more creatures, like birds and bees, but habitats in two states were a big playground/discovery center for me. I couldn’t know that this would lead to a rare invitation to accompany biologists into the field one summer to capture a black bear. Armed with hundreds of facts and years of study, I joined them in Tensas National Wildlife Preserve in northern Louisiana. My husband, Jim, carried my cameras and field equipment, and off we went.

Our ATV rumbled along through dense brush beneath towering old giants of oak, American elm, green ash and sweet gum. Palmettos had been grouped to form a path to a brush-covered foot snare that would not harm the bear. A nearby paw-paw tree yielded its melon-shaped fruit as well as a sack of raspberry scent (visible in the photo below). The coup de maître were honeybuns hung from trees and scattered in the brush just beyond the snare. With five traps laid, would luck be with us?

Anticipation was palpable that early morning. After finding the first trap empty, we moved on toward the second a few miles away. We found bear tracks crisscrossed with raccoon tracks parallel to a row of randomly bent corn stalks and nibbled cobs along a corn field bordering the woods. Around a bend, suddenly, “There she is!” A female black bear had flattened a 15-foot circle of brush permitted by the length of her snare attachment and sat in the middle registering typical displeasure by an intermittent snapping of the jaws and blowing with the lips. Then noises in the brush directed us toward a huge elm about 20 feet into the dense embankment above a crook of a tributary of the Tensas River. We watched a fuzzy cub heed its mother’s guttural signals and scamper to a vantage point on a limb about 25 feet up the trunk. A small, solid black head would alternately peek and retreat behind the limb, tiny ears at attention. We judged it to be about five months old, and approximately 15 pounds – about the size of a cocker spaniel.

Female black bear secured by foot snare. Note raspberry scent sack in tree.

Black bear cub

We needed to work fast so Mother Bear could return to nursery duty. We tranquilized her with a dart, examined, weighed and measured, and then outfitted her with a radio collar for tracking and further research. Care was taken to allow for any weight gain before the collar would wear away in a year or two. A glance up to the leaf canopy revealed a fast-asleep cub stretched out full-length, squirrel-fashion, belly flush and four legs limply dangling from either side of the limb. I knew there were yet a couple of fleeting minutes for me to rub the head and back of this wild creature in repose — silent minutes eloquent enough to convey to the most skeptical the value of preserving its kind, indicator of the well-being of so many other species of our forests and, ultimately, man. There is much more about this day, and my longer account was published in the Louisiana Conservationist magazine.

Me, with female black bear

Not letting go of black bears, and that one special black bear, fast forward a few years through new technology and new ways of communicating and publishing. One sleepy spring morning along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I opened the back porch door and was overcome with the fragrance of blossoms, the incessant hum of an undulating halo of bumblebees around our Meyer lemon tree, the music of water spilling over the fountain bowls. I forgot breakfast, grabbed my camera, and that’s how my first ebook was born. The words wrote themselves in my head, and I forced myself to turn back to the house to write the story for children, to help them understand. They need to know that without these quiet, ongoing activities underfoot, out of sight, on the wing, here and gone in the space of moments, we would not exist. It really wasn’t such a stretch from black bears to bumblebees. It was logical/magical.

I hope you’ll let yourself enter the world with new eyes. Grab a book about what catches your imagination, really see, walk and hunt, poke under things, ask questions and find answers. There are friends connected to those answers. You will be comforted, surprised, thrilled. It works. Whether black bears to bumblebees, or anything else, you’ll see how everything is truly connected. You’ll make sense of your happy unlikelihoods!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Have a Winner!

The Reading Road Writing Contest for July has now come to a close after introducing a terrific group of entries. Competition was strong, but after careful consideration and a lot of milk and cookies, lemonade and cookies, tea and more cookies, the panel of judges has awarded the first place prize to a young lady, Logan D., age 12. Her imaginative photo really made us curious, and her story lines “hooked” us and made us want to find out what would happen next! Check out her winning entry below:

I was stricken with fear. It used to be only the animals knew  where I was hidden. Now that some human found me, was in danger every step, every movement, I made.

My hiding place was a secret tunnel through the bushes and into a hole in a willow tree. used to be the only person who knew that amazing place I call home. But that stupid boy, whatever his name is, knows my hiding spot now and is probably going to tell everyone. What, dude? Am I in some kinda zoo? Come see the amazing forest girl! She has wings, too! Yes. By the way, I am a mix of an elf and a wood sprite. I call myself a Grelfling. But if that kid comes back again, I’ll be called “doomed.”

 

There were entries which made us laugh, wonder, admire, feel inspired, and want to sit right down and finish the story. It was a tough decision to select a winner, and we munched far too many cookies trying to decide. But we had so much fun and much more wonderment than we could have guessed over the talent we discovered.

My congratulations to Logan, and bushels of thanks to each of our budding writers and photographers who made my first contest such a joy. Logan will receive a T-shirt with The Reading Road logo and motto, “Let your heart speak and the world will hear your voice,” and some other treats to encourage her writing.

I hope that you will visit The Reading Road “Just for Fun” page for future contests – and most of all, keep exploring, imagining, reading, and writing!

Surprise for the Eyes

It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words. A writer must create pictures in the minds of readers, so exacting word choice is vital. For a long time, I have kept these words taped to my desk space. I do not know who wrote them, but they’re great:

         The written word is clean as bone,

         Clear as light,

         Firm as stone.

         Two words are not

         As good as one.

Some early mornings, I walk a garden path to find my word-pictures. My cameras go with me, and the surprises found out there often give me the words and the illustrations.

I look high into the wax myrtle and meet the gaze of an eye on me. She wants me to move along, but I return when she flies to the courtyard for a sip from the fountain.

The pine straw shifts slightly in the flowerbed, and a familiar shape is lapping rainwater in a brick crevice. He has a rival in one of the many garden turf wars. I am usually the loser in the assault on leaves and blossoms, whether we meet face-to-face, or I catch a mere glimpse of the offender.  

Doves and turtles share resting space in their pine straw bed, co-existing peacefully with other species.

The copper and brown of the wood thrush melds with the woodland floor or leafy undergrowth where he forages. He zooms out to scritch, scratch with with one foot and then the other, like a comical chicken, and turns over leaf after leaf to find insects. Then he races back under the shrubbery to hide. Perched on a limb, he looks a lot like the bark.

Here’s a fledgling wood thrush, but he’ll watch Mom and Dad and learn quickly.

Green on green is hard to be seen!

Whether fledging or spinning, the smallest creatures must find their way quickly to avoid predators.

I don’t know why this little chickadee looks so forlorn, but he finally seemed to find some purpose.

Wolf snails are cannibalistic and devour other snails, and even each other. They move much faster than other snails, and it’s not hard to imagine that they could terrify their prey with those “horned” heads.

A hummingbird snugs down over her two white pearl-sized eggs in the hanging cradle she has woven around a plant stem.

This walking stick and her offspring have found a perfect hiding place in a woven basket beside my back door. Their camouflage can get them into trouble if I don’t see them before I drop yard shoes into the basket. They are there often, so I look out for them now.

Back inside, I’m ready to write, but my garden friends have a little more to say before they leave me. I can’t resist a few more shots of them from my side of the windows.

It’s wild kingdom where I live, and I’ll return with more photo stories about my adventures. I agree with Thoreau that I can never learn everything in just my own square mile!

Attention All Junior Writers!

Since it’s summer vacation for students, this is a great time to enter THE READING ROAD SUMMER WRITING CONTEST. Go to the JUST FOR FUN page and click “Contests” to read all about it. The winner will be awarded a prize and be published here on The Reading Road where all your family and friends can see your entry.

While you are waiting to learn if you are the winner, you might want to try something I once did. During one summer vacation from elementary school, I made a neighborhood newspaper (which was a lot more work, but seemed like more fun than being in school). Since I was the roving reporter, columnist, editor, publisher, and then the delivery girl, it didn’t leave much time for getting into my usual mischief. The summer went really fast, and I loved writing about anything I thought would make a good story. Some of the neighbors weren’t too sure, but they seemed to be pleased to be featured, for the most part. They actually enjoyed my science column about birds, butterflies, and types of neighborhood pets. My cooking column was almost a disaster because I asked some of my mother’s friends for recipes. Some of them were ghastly, and I couldn’t be “choosy” without hurting feelings. I decided to share only my Mom’s and Grandmothers’ recipes because they were the best cooks. If you decide to try a newspaper or newsletter, you may want to include some friends and work together. A parent or neighbor would probably be happy to act as editor or type your stories and columns.

I’d love to hear about any reading or writing projects you do this summer, and I can’t wait to get your contest entries!