The Tortoise and the Chair by Elaine A. Powers

Note: This post was inspired by my friend, Don Fialkowski. I had complained about my tortoise, Myrtle, pushing on my chair.
My apologies to Aesop and his fable, The Tortoise and the Hare.

A tortoise was recently pushing on my chair to move it away from the table, over to where she wanted it, by the door.

“I’ll take you away from there,” she said with a mocking tortoise laugh.

“No,” I replied to the tortoise, “I’m going to sit here and write science books on my laptop. But I will lift my feet, so that you can push away.”

The tortoise was so amused by my idea that my weight would hold the chair in place that she agreed to the challenge. The iguana in the room, who had consented to act as judge, took her position as observer and told the tortoise, “Push!”

The tortoise braced herself between the spokes of the rolling wheels. I couldn’t see her beneath my seat, but I felt her shell hit the metal. She pushed and pushed, and I felt very deeply how ridiculous it was for her to try to push my chair away from the table. Confident, I returned to my typing.

The tortoise, meanwhile, kept steadily moving, and, after a time, pushed the chair slightly away from the table. I quite peacefully continued to type until I had to stretch so the tips of my fingers could reach the keyboard. It was too late then. I realized I couldn’t stop her progress. The next push and I couldn’t reach keyboard anymore.

The tortoise had won the battle of the chair, proving the old adage that perseverance pays off.

Below is the book Myrtle asked me to write: Don’t Call Me Turtle! It tells about the differences between tortoises and turtles and there are many! A favorite of preschoolers and their grandparents!

a green book cover with an illustration of a tortoise standing on hind legs, pointing at the viewer
Learn the differences between tortoises and turtles today!

It Does Take a Village to Make a Book

I do write my science books, of course, but I don’t create the books by myself.  As the saying goes, it really does take a village. Where did I find Nora Miller, editor extraordinaire and designer of my books? At an editor speed-dating event! I had written, “Curtis Curly-tail and the Ship of Sneakers,” and my friend, Art Winstanley, had brought Curtis to life in the illustrations. But I had a problem: How would I get the text onto the pages with illustrations? That was beyond my technical capabilities.

Illustration of Curtis on boat looking at a sneaker
Illustration by Arthur Winstanley. Words on the page by Nora Miller!

As I was contemplating this situation, I read an article in the newspaper. The local editorial association was hosting an event to allow a limited number of authors to meet with editors who provided a variety of services.  Each author could meet with an editor for five minutes, then move onto the next editor—just like speed dating. If a connection was made, the parties exchanged information for a follow-up meeting.

I thought my need was straightforward and that I would have to choose between several editors. However, when I asked the editors if they could put text onto an illustration, the repeated response was, “No.” I needed a graphic designer, too. I was getting discouraged. Then I got to Nora’s table and her answer was, “Of course.”

This was the beginning of a wonderful relationship.  Not only does Nora compile my books, she tweaks the pictures, formats the files for the publishing types and she edits in at least three languages! She is truly versatile and indispensable in an industry requiring knowledgeable and thorough partners.

Thanks, Nora!

Saving the Sister Isle Rock Iguana

a book cover with a photograph of an iguana on the island of Cayman Brac

The Cayman Islands are a system of three islands located south of Cuba: Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. I’ve been privileged to work as a citizen scientist for the conservation of the two types of iguanas found there. The most famous is the Blue Iguana found on Grand Cayman, Cyclura lewisi.  Their body color really is sky blue.  They were almost lost to extinction, but some hardworking humans created the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme and their numbers are climbing. This doesn’t mean they are out of danger, but it is a step in the right direction as they say.  You should visit the Blues at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park if you’re ever on Grand Cayman.

I am more interested in the lesser known Sister Island Rock Iguanas (SIRI), Cyclura nubila caymanensis.  They’ve also been called the Lesser Caymans Iguana but there is nothing lesser about them. They’re said to be a subspecies of the Cuban Rock Iguana, Cyclura nubilaThey are endemic to only the Sister Islands.

Little Cayman has a fairly large population of iguanas, but Cayman Brac’s iguanas are having a tough time surviving.  Along with the usual human-caused problems, habitat destruction and feral pets, the iguanas on Brac have a high road mortality. Because the iguanas enjoy the warm, smooth roads, they are at risk for being run over by cars. Sadly, over the last few years many of the local iguanas have died this way.

My friend Bonnie Scott Edwards, who lives on the Brac, asked me to help her spread the word about the iguanas being needlessly killed. I’m always willing to help with causes like this. She had some terrific photos of iguanas both living and dead – I prefer the live ones myself. Then my friend, Anderson, who does great drawings for my books, filled in the blanks with his illustrations for my book, Silent Rocks. The book turned out great and I hope it helps not only to educate people but also tugs at their consciences. Every time an iguana is senselessly killed, a part of the future dies.

Some people wonder about the value of the iguanas. Did you know that many plants require the help of the iguanas to germinate and grow? When seeds pass through the iguana after being eaten, they germinate faster. The iguanas also help with the seed dispersal because it’s hard to make such large, active lizards stay in one place. They go up the bluff, then down the bluff, then up the bluff, then down–well, you get the idea.

However, not just any iguana will do. Many areas have introduced the Green Iguana, Iguana iguana, into rock iguana territories. Some research suggests that seeds passing through the Green’s gut does not help the plants in rock iguana territories. Only the correct iguana will do. This makes sense, since many of the plants evolved along with the iguanas. More studies are being done.

I’m helping Bonnie with her mission to save her Brac iguanas. They’ve put up some signs reminding people that there are iguanas on the road, so they’ll slow down and maybe even stop texting. Bonnie also tells them about the dangers of letting their pets run loose. Iguanas didn’t evolve with large mammalian predators, so they don’t know that dogs and cats are dangerous. They think they are just friends they haven’t met yet. It is so sad when they realize their mistake too late.

Then there’s the habitat destruction, with the iguanas’ dens being buried during construction. And lastly, are the poisons. Some rat poisons are the same color as the iguanas’ favorite flowers. Of course, the rats and mice were introduced by people, too. So many dangers have come along with people.

The population of the endemic Sister Island Rock Iguana (Cyclura nubila caymanensis) on Cayman Brac is in serious decline. These vegetarian lizards are an important part of the island’s ecosystem. The reduction in population is the result of human activity on their habitat and the threats can only be eliminated by human action.

But people can also solve these problems and I’m hoping the people on Brac working to help the iguanas do succeed. Like the blue iguanas on Grand Cayman, the Brac rock iguanas can be brought back from the brink of extinction.

I wrote a book about this important issue. It’s called Silent Rocks. Bonnie’s photos of the iguanas of Cayman Brac are wonderful.

The Story of a Green Iguana Named Stella

I am an author of both children’s and adult science books, inspired to write about the world of reptiles. I am as ‘at-home’ with reptiles as I am with mammals–perhaps even more so. And I tend to look after the underdogs.

So, when Stella, a green iguana, was found on a street in Bethlehem, PA, with her tail badly chewed, I took an interest in her. The veterinarian thought it was done by dogs, possibly pit bulls owned by drug dealers. Her rescuers had to amputate most of her gorgeous four-foot tail.

The amputated tail of a green iguana
Stella’s tail was chewed up and had to be amputated.

Stella was full-sized, uncommon for captive green iguanas. Apparently, she had been cared for up until she was separated from her family. Once she had sufficiently healed from her surgery, they sent her to my rescue center in Highbridge, New Jersey. Her health returned, and she soon moved to her forever home with me.

Despite her injuries, she produced eggs after her arrival. She also tried to regenerate her tail, but the stump had been sewn shut.

She likes to hang out with her buddy, Ezra, another green iguana who lives in a nearby separate enclosure. Ezra likes to stand on his rear legs and show off for Stella every now and then. They’re very attentive to each other.

Stella has developed high blood pressure, as evidenced by a swollen nictitating membrane. It is kept under control with medication.

She is a sweet-natured iguana, and it is my pleasure to have her as a pet in my home.

Scripts or Books?

I’m often asked how long I’ve been writing books. I have been writing mostly children’s science books–which I like to make fun to read with fantastic illustrations or by writing in rhyme. I’ve been creating mystery stories, as well, for a total of about five years.

A collage of book covers indicating the categories of books at elaineapowers.com

Before that, I wrote scripts. I was involved in several community theaters that often needed original scripts. I wrote a variety of them, many of which were performed locally. Performance rights are included when you purchase the scripts.

Then my employer transferred me to Tucson, Arizona, and my mother came to live with me. I no longer had time for theater, but the need to write had awakened in me. I met little Curtis Curly-tail lizard on a beach in the Bahamas and my book writing adventure began.

I am very happy in my unexpected, post-retirement second career.

Thanks for stopping by my website. This is the cover of one of my audio/theater book of scripts. You can see them all on the Theater Scripts page.

a gray book cover with an illustration of an iguana and a water monitor standing at a microphone

60 Tried and True Iguana Foods

Ever since I operated a reptile rescue center, I’ve had a good number of iguanas. Over ninety percent of newly purchased iguanas die within the first year, so their good health is very important to me. Fresh vegetables and fruits are important to their survival.

I use a potato peeler to make long slices of zucchini and carrots and chop the other veggies into small pieces.

Here is a list of basic vegetable and fruits and the special treats that can be given on an occasional basis.

Their basic salad in the morning includes Collard Greens, Red Bell Peppers, Zucchini, Carrots, and Bananas or Grapes.

To learn more about these fascinating big lizards, see the 30-page downloadable Supplemental Workbook, My Unit Study on Iguanas
at Lyric Power Publishing, LLC.

Which Iguana is Which?

Iguanas are an important part of my life. They are featured in the children’s book I wrote called The Dragon of Nani Cave, which is an adventure tale starring curly-tail lizards ,Gene and Bony, who live on Cayman Brac. I weave the science of the island into the story, because science can be fun!

I am also the author of the book Silent Rocks, which is for all ages, and is about how to save the endangered Rock Iguana of Cayman Brac.

Most iguanas are found in the Americas and on Caribbean islands. They are grouped into three types: iguanas like the common green iguana, rock iguanas and spiny-tail iguanas. Each has evolved to thrive in their native environment. Unfortunately, through international commerce, the green iguana, Iguana iguana, has been introduced into ecosystems where they don’t belong.

Have you ever wondered how to tell iguanas apart? Being able to accurately identify iguana species is important to telling the difference between native iguanas and the invasive green iguanas. I have nothing against green iguanas. I’ve known many through the years as pets and when I operated an iguana rescue. Unfortunately, they are damaging the ecosystems and out-competing the native species.

Green iguanas live in an environment with many predators. So, greens lay many eggs and adapt to many foods. They have that in common with rock iguanas, who are also opportunistic eaters. (Sadly, they’ll even eat human food.)

But back to the telling iguanas apart. There are now booklets that show the physical differences. Rock iguanas don’t have the gorgeous subtympanic scale–that’s the big scale under the ear–that the green iguanas have. My mother called it the ‘jewel.’ It is lovely, in many pretty colors. No other iguanas have that scale. Greens also have little points on their dewlaps. A dewlap is the piece of skin under the chin. ( Oooh, that rhymes.) The greens have smooth, striped tails. Other iguanas have less striped tails.  Rock iguanas have that nice ribbing along the tail, while spiny-tails have keeled scales on their tail giving them a rough appearance.

I wanted to produce an item that would aid people in correctly identifying iguanas, something that was convenient to carry and interesting to look at. I was asked to make the text rhyme because this helps in memorizing the facts.  Anderson Atlas, John Binns and I have prepared these conveniently-sized booklets that people can carry around with them.

Check them out –they’re free. Please use the contact form on the Contact Page to request copies of these brochures for iguana identification.

Welcome to Tales and Tails!

“Welcome! I’m Elaine A. Powers, the biologist and author of the science books on this website. Welcome to Tales and Tails–a blog written by two adventurers, one human–me–and one small lizard.”

“Hold up! Why are you calling me small?” Curtis asked. “And let’s not forget where your first book came from!”

“Curtis, look at the picture of you on my shoe–you are pretty small, my friend. You’re not an iguana, after all.”

two feet in sneakers, on a beach, with a Bahamian curly-tail lizard on left shoe
The day Curtis and I met on a beach in The Bahamas.

“I may not be an iguana, but I am perfect!”

“I would have to agree! If they removed the word perfect from the dictionary, they would replace it with your picture.”

“Why, Elaine, thank you.”

“You do have a point about the first book, though. Should I tell the readers how it happened?”

“No—I should!” he said. “I tell it much better than you do.”

“Once again, Curtis, you’re right. Let me, instead, welcome and thank our readers for stopping by our new blog, Tales and Tails.”

Curtis and I both hope you enjoy your time here and that you will look around the website. These days, there are fun science books for just about everyone. And, please hop on over to Curtis’s post and he will tell you about how the first book, Curtis Curly-tail and the Ship of Sneakers, came to be.

A second career as a science book author was certainly not on my radar, but when you follow the muse, you never where she will lead you. May your journey be a fun-filled adventure, too!

From both Curtis and me:
Welcome to TALES AND TAILS!