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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Earth Day - 7 Things Kids Can Do To Help Endangered Species

Happy Earth Day! 

      Today is the day to think of the ways we can contribute to the health of our planet. You can make a difference by helping endangered species. It doesn’t matter where you live or how old you are, every choice we make impacts our environment and the wildlife around us.
     Here are seven ways you can help today and everyday:

Learn About Local Endangered Species — It is hard to help creatures we know nothing about. Find out what animals might be having trouble where you live. Pick one and become an expert. Spread the news about it and how we might be able to keep it safe! You might even be able to volunteer in a local nature center or wildlife refuge. 

Throw Micro Trash In The Trash!  — Tiny items of trash, like bottle caps and small pieces of plastic are harmful to many species of wildlife. It’s hard for an animal to tell the difference between a piece of food and a piece of trash. Sea turtles and California condors are just two endangered species that suffer from tiny bits of litter. You can help by spreading the word and making sure that micro trash finds its way into the trash! 

Conserve Energy!  — Every time we use energy, we add pollution to the environment. You can help by turning off the lights when you leave a room, by carpooling with your friends when you go somewhere, and even buying less stuff wrapped in plastic. Every small thing you do can bring big results if we all work together. 

Be Wildlife Friendly — Make your home wildlife friendly by placing decals on your windows to prevent birds from flying into the glass, planting native plants that provide food and shelter for wildlife, and by keeping your home pesticide and herbicide free. Also, keep cats indoors. Many birds and small animals are killed cats each year. These easy steps make a huge impact in the lives of your local wildlife! 

Take the Plastic-Free Challenge —  Did you know that people produce millions of tons of plastic garbage every year? That includes plastic bags, plastic drinking straws, water bottles, coffee stirrers, and all sorts of packaging that we use only once and then throw out. All of this garbage ends up in our landfills and our waterways. It not only harms wildlife, it also harms us. You can make a big difference if you swap out your plastic for reusable glass bottles, cloth bags, and recycle the plastic you do use. So the next time you order a beverage in a restaurant, ask for a glass and don’t use a straw.  

Campaign for Wildlife!  — Write a letter to your local newspaper about endangered species. Attend a town board meeting and speak up for wildlife. Create a website to promote conservation. Join an environmental organization. Become a voice for the creatures you care about. 

©Nancy F Castaldo

Pay Attention — Sometimes we just don’t know what’s going on until it is too late. If you start to pay attention to the plight of endangered species and other wildlife you’ll be one step ahead. Once we know what is happening we can take action and together we can make a difference. Become informed and stay informed. And when you are old enough — VOTE! Voting is an important way to make your voice heard. 

We can make a difference if we all work together. Perhaps, then we can even prevent animals from becoming endangered in the first place. 
Earth Day, Every Day! 

Friday, April 20, 2018

COVER REVEAL - Stretch to the Sun by Carrie Pearson

I am so very excited to share with you the cover reveal for author, Carrie Pearson's new title -- STRETCH TO THE SUN: FROM A TINY SPROUT TO THE TALLEST TREE ON EARTH, releasing from Charlesbridge this fall.  This is the perfect title to pre-order this Earth Day weekend.  
Welcome, Carrie! 

Thanks, Nancy, for offering to reveal the cover of my next book. 

I say ‘my’ next book but like all books, it is a culmination of many – from the scientists and experts who found the tallest tree and shared its story, to Yolanda Scott, my fabulous editor at Charlesbridge who believed in the manuscript, to the amazing illustrator, Susan Swan, and the design team at Charlesbridge who brought the unique and vibrant ecosystem to life visually, and finally to the readers who I hope will love it! 
The book launches in October 2018 and is what I’m calling a tree-ography

I love that term, Carrie. What is a tree-ography? 

It’s a biography in that it is a life story, but it’s the life story of a very important tree. In my mind, all trees are important, but this one even more so because it is the tallest tree on earth. Just think of that! Of all the trees in all the places in the world, this tree has grown to be the tallest! 

WOW, the tallest? It is amazing that we even know that to be true. 

Plus, it is estimated to be over 1200 years old and has endured despite everything Nature could toss its way (such as fire, drought, storms, space to grow, etc.). However, the biggest challenge to this tree’s survival was people.  Over 95% of old-growth coast redwood trees have been harvested and in 1978, this tree was almost cut down. Thanks to the work of many people (who you will learn about in the book), the tallest tree, and other ancient coast redwoods, continue to grow. 

What an interesting and valuable story to share with young readers. 

STRETCH TO THE SUN: FROM A TINY SPROUT TO THE TALLEST TREE ON EARTH is a story of survival and a story of strength. 
While the tallest tree lives on protected lands, not all old-growth coast redwoods do. We can all do our part to protect coast redwoods and trees in our own backyard. My hope is that this tree-ography will inspire young naturalists and citizen scientists to learn more -- and do more -- on behalf of our natural world. 

My hope too! We all can make a difference. Let's hope that this book inspires young people to look at all their trees with appreciation and a desire to conserve them. 
You can pre-order STRETCH TO THE SUN: FROM A TINY SPROUT TO THE TALLEST TREE ON EARTH  now through  your favorite bookseller. 
Thank you, Carrie, for sharing this important and beautiful book with us today! I can't wait to add it to my shelf. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Happy Birthday, Jane Goodall

Happy Birthday, Jane Goodall!

Jeanette Winter's  The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps and Patrick McDonnell's Me...Jane both are perfect books to introduce young readers to the life of groundbreaking researcher, Jane Goodall. 

 Me...Jane focuses more on Goodall's childhood, while The Watcher focuses on Goodall's early days in the field observing chimps. 

Beautifully illustrated and well-researched, The Watcher is a wonderful celebration of Goodall's tireless efforts in chimpanzee conservation.  Both titles are a must for an elementary classroom collection!

Anita Silvey's Jane Goodall biography, Untamed,  is the perfect biography for older readers. It not only is filled with many beautiful photos, but goes deeper into the life of this extraordinary researcher and her conservation efforts. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Shooting for the Stars - Women Exploring the Universe

When I wrote Leap Into Space, I included many female scientists and astronauts -- Sally Ride, Maria Mitchell, Nahide Craig, Heidi Jo Newberg, and Annie Jump Cannon.  The truth is that women have been involved in exploring the universe for centuries.  Let's wrap up this Women's History Month by celebrating these women. Here are some great titles to add to your bookshelf.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Celebrate World Water Day!

Today is World Water Day and here's a great way to celebrate! 

Calling all Oregon students!  

I just learned of a fantastic program for Oregon students --- K through college!  It's an opportunity to submit work (both writing and art) to a student anthology called, Honoring Our Rivers. The deadline this year is Earth Day, April 22, 2018.    

I wrote about a similar program that was sponsored by the Columbia Riverkeeper in my book, River Wild.  It was an annual poetry contest called, Love of a River.  And there is another one called River of Words on the theme of watersheds.

Rivers are so inspiring.  I love hearing of programs that encourage kids to look at their local waterways, become inspired and then…..CREATE!

I can't wait to see the next Honoring Our Rivers Anthology!  I know it will be terrific!

And for those of you looking to be inspired by rivers - check out these titles! 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Blast from the Past - Climate Change Prediction

I just came across a quote that I wrote down from the New York Times that ran on August 8, 2009.

"The changing global climate will pose profound strategic challenges to the United States in coming decades, raising the prospect of military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought, mass migration, and pandemics, military and intelligence analysts say." 

It is now March 21, 2018. Nine years later and we have the agreement of every nation in the world (except the US) on climate change.  I am thankful for the states that have kept their Paris Accord commitment. If our federal government will not help us, then we must help ourselves. 

We can all make a difference when if work together. 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Elephants, Lions, and ....trophies. Oh my!

Here are the facts.

There were over 3 million African elephants in 1930. Today that has decreased to just about 3,000 due to poaching and habitat loss.

Elephants, the symbol of the GOP,  are the largest land animal on the planet and can live up to 70 years. They are highly intelligent and, like us, self-aware. That means that when they look at themselves in a mirror they know they are seeing themselves. This is rare among wildlife. Even our beloved dogs are not self-aware. They have even been shown to solve problems and create tools

      You can read more about their cognition in my BEASTLY BRAINS: Exploring How Animals Think, Talk, and Feel.

      In addition to their strong cognitive abilities, elephants live in highly organized social structures. They take care of their young and grieve the deaths of those around them.

      These fascinating creatures are endangered and at tremendous risk from habitat loss and poaching.

      China and the UK have banned ivory and trophies brought into their countries. The United States had also banned bringing in trophies, but now that is being reversed.

      This week Safari Club International announced that this ban would be changed to allow trophies in the US on a case by case basis.

Now, let's step back from this for a minute. This important federal policy was not announced by our government, but by a private organization that supports big game trophy hunting. This is concerning. How was the decision made and by whom? What are the guidelines?

Hunting endangered species is illegal in the United States. A hunter who might shoot a deer cannot go hunting for bald eagles or California condors.  Is our government now saying that it is ok for Americans to hunt endangered species in other parts of the world?

There are a lot of ways we can help save endangered species in our country and around the world. One very easy thing that everyone can do is to make your voice heard! Contact Congress by calling 1-800-344-WILD and press "0" to speak to your representative.

Write an editorial. Tweet to your friends and followers.
Speak up and contact the Fish and Wildlife Service!

We can all make a difference and together we can do amazing things.

Here are some other ways:    

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Endangered Species Day -- Get Planning

It's not too early to plan ahead for Endangered Species Day - May 18, 2018. 

This is the 13th annual international celebration of endangered species. It's an ideal day for teachers and community leaders to educate students about the importance of protecting the Earth's biodiversity. 

There are so many ways to engage in the celebration. Here are just a few:

*Plan a school-wide Endangered Species Day fair with exhibits.
*Arrange a special display in the school library or cafeteria.
*Invite a local expert to speak to the school/class.
*Work with a community/environmental group on a habitat restoration project.
*Attend an event at a local zoo, aquarium, botanic garden or other location.

Once a specific activity is planned, your class can register it on the Endangered Species Day website: ( is external)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Award-Winning STEAM Kidlit

Congratulations to all the winners and honorees of the American Library Association book awards. It's always an exciting day when we can celebrate children's literature. 

Here are the award-winning titles that you should add to your STEAM bookshelf: 

*Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers written by Deborah Heiligman and published by Godwin Books/Henry Holt, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group (art, biography) YALSA

The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found written by Martin W. Sandler, and published by Candlewick Press  (marine archeology)   YALSA honor

“Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem,” written by Patricia Newman and published by Millbrook Press, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc. (conservation, ecology) Sibert Honor

Wolf in the Snow,” illustrated and written by Matthew Cordell, and published by Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan. (wildlife, wolves)

“Grand Canyon,” written and illustrated by Jason Chin and published by Roaring Brook Press, a Neal Porter Book. (environment) Sibert Honor, Caldecott Honor

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

I HEART Sharks!

I happen to like sharks. Sorry, President Trump, I don't believe they should all die. And for that reason, I'd like to share a new, favorite book about sharks with you all -- SMART ABOUT SHARKS, by Owen Davey.

Not only does this book have a fun, retro-styled cover, it is wonderful to hold. It's cloth over cardboard, like many vintage titles. That's where the old-style nonfiction style ends.

Turn the pages and you'll see what I mean.

The text is kid-friendly, fun, and informative -- exactly what we love in current nonfiction titles. 

Check out this page all about shark teeth. It's so much fun that I wish I had written it myself.

Most of us know how important sharks are to our ocean ecosystem. This book reiterates that and goes above and beyond telling us how amazing they are as well.

Perhaps we need to get a copy off to the White House?

To donate on behalf of shark conservation: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Friday, January 12, 2018

Sniffer Dog Super Powers

One of the most interesting stories I wrote for SNIFFER DOGS is the story of Zuma and Jax. Both are trained forensic sniffer dogs. These dogs sniff out OLD BONES. They can find ancient Native American burial sites, missing cemetery plots, and cremation remains, and know the remains are human. Pretty incredible! 

I watched and wrote about Zuma, a beautiful border collie, locating a small amount of cremation remains -- basically human sand -- in the woods of North Carolina. 

Zuma from Sniffer Dogs (HMH)

If that isn't mind blowing enough check out what Zuma’s teammates are doing in California after the horrific wildfires. 

Imagine having your house burn to the ground with all of your belongings, including the cremation remains of a beloved family member. Just heartbreaking. Well, Zuma's team of forensic sniffer dogs can actually find those treasured remains (cremation ashes) among all of the ashes of everything else in the house that burned. 

These aren't the only detection dogs in the news. Other dogs are searching today for people missing in the California mudslides. 

The skills of sniffer dogs are endless. I am proud of these working canines and their dedicated handlers, and so privileged to have spent time with many of them. 

If you'd like to find out more about sniffer dogs, check out my book and these additional tittles: 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

2018 Free Monthly Skype Visits

Would you like a free short Skype visit for your students? If your class has read one or more of my books you are eligible to book a time during one of my monthly  FREE SKYPE VISIT DAYS.

Skype visits enable students to meet an author and ask questions about research and writing -- especially if an in-person visit isn't an option.

There are limited times available for January 19th.

The next available date is the afternoon of February 14th -- following my National Biodiversity Teach In Webinar.

You can also book a visit for March 15th.

Of course, I love to visit schools in person. I'm currently booking spring and fall author visits.

For more information and to contact me please visit my web site .

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Astronaut/Aquanaut - Interview with Jennifer Swanson

 Science rocks! And so do Jennifer Swanson's books. She is the award-winning author of over 30 nonfiction books for kids and a self-professed science geek. 

Her latest book, Astro-naut/Aqua-naut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact, releases today and she's here for our latest interview.

Welcome, Jennifer! 

In a world where nothing seems unexplored, it is exciting to read a book that focuses on two places that remain remote. Tell us about the inspiration for this title. 

This book was developed from a conversation that I had with my National Geographic Kids editor, Shelby Lees. We were talking about astronauts and how they train and then we started talking about how that was probably very different from how a deep sea diver trained. I got to thinking and started researching. To my surprise, I found out that they do a lot of things in common when training. It was a fascinating tidbit of information and one I KNEW would make a great book!

It's fascinating to imagine training for space and ocean exploration. They certainly do have many things in common. What were the things that you found in your research that were the most surprising? 

That astronauts actually train underwater for about three weeks in the Aquarius underwater research station. Which makes total sense! I mean, underwater is the only place on Earth where you are going to get close to the micro gravity conditions in space. This one was shocking and a bit sad, in my opinion, but humans have explored less than 5% of the ocean, but they contain more than 99% of the living space on our planet. It seems that funding for ocean research is considerably less than that for space exploration. While I do think space is amazing, I think the ocean deserves just as much attention.
Finally, I was surprised to learn that Aquarius, the underwater research station is actually very close to where I live in Florida. How cool! One day that will be a fun research road trip!  :)

If you had the chance to explore one of these locations would you choose space or ocean and why? 

The ocean! I have had a deep love the ocean since I was very young. One of my favorite shows to watch as a kid was "The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau".  I desperately wanted to be an oceanographer and deep sea diver. Unfortunately, I have an issue with my ears that prevents me from deep diving, but I still have an abiding love of the ocean. That was only enhanced when I went to the U.S. Naval Academy for college, where I got to learn all about oceanography, ship design, and all of the oceanic research the U.S. Navy does though their naval research lab. Today, I live about 4 miles from the ocean and we go there all the time. It is one of my favorite places to be!

Cousteau's show brought the ocean alive for many of us! Lucky for your readers you took your love of the ocean into another direction. What were the challenges in conducting the research for this title? 

There is TONS of information about space travel, astronauts, and their training, but not much information about how aquanauts are trained, and where they live. The other part that was challenging was when I decided that I wanted to ask real astronauts and aquanauts for quotes. To me, it was very important to include questions that kids might have for these amazing explorers. That said, it took me awhile to track down astronauts who would be willing to speak with me about this. (Their emails are not readily available). I was thrilled to get a few astronauts, but also be able to speak with a couple of NASA engineers who actually worked to design the spacesuits and are also working on figuring out how humans can live in space. On the aquanaut side, I was thrilled to be able to interview Fabien Cousteau, the grandson of Jacques Cousteau, about his time spent living 31 days underwater in Aquarius. To me the most fascinating part of the research was talking to the explorers who have actually been to these extreme environments.

I'm sure that must have been a thrill. This is a great STEM title, Jennifer. Please tell teachers how they can use this book in their classroom. 

This book would be a great discussion and debate topic. Sides of the class could be split up into two groups -- one group of astronauts, the other aquanauts.  Students could debate which is a better career choice, which should get more funding, which has benefited the Earth more, etc. There are so many ways this book could be used as a jumping off point to introduce STEM not only in science, but in math and ELA classes as well. And if you need more ideas of ways to use this book, check out my website. Soon there will be a free teacher's guide available for all elementary grades.

What’s next for you, Jennifer Swanson? 

I have two more books from National Geographic Kids releasing this year-- Dr. E's Super Stellar Solar System and Abolute Expert Dolphins. In June, I have a narrative nonfiction book out with American Girl/Scholastic about Pearl Harbor featuring the American Girl doll, Nanea. As for writing, I am working on edits for my new engineering book next year with Peachtree Publishers. It's called "Save the Crash Test Dummies" and will be a hilarious history of car safety and engineering. I'm so excited about that one!

That's so exciting! We'll be on the lookout for this book and your upcoming titles. Thank you for this great conversation.