February 25th is Book-Birthday Day!

Snazzy the Snake is celebrating! February 25th is the birthday of Don’t Make Me Rattle!, the rhyming book by author Elaine A. Powers full of rattlesnake facts and vibrant illustrations.

While Elaine writes to make science education fun, she writes particularly about rattlers so we will respect, not fear, them. They are shy creatures who prefer not to engage with humans. The rattle is only a warning: Please stay away!

Learn the rattlesnake’s role in the ecosystem, about their social behavior, what the venom is for and much, much more in this 40-page book with bold illustrations by illustrator Nicholas Thorpe.

See Snazzy celebrate on YouTube at the Birthday Book!

Find the birthday book here at ElaineAPowers.com and Lyric Power Publishing LLC. Don’t Make Me Rattle! is for sale at Amazon.com.

#educationalchildrensbook   #bookaboutsnakes   #rattlesnakes   #animation   #3dcharacter   #picturebookbirthday   #nonfictionpicturebook   #storytimeforkids   #nonfictionbooks

infographic complete book description of book Don't Make Me Rattle

Horseback Riding and Cougars Just Do Not Mix!

I recently had an encounter with a mountain lion while riding my horse. Button tried to tell me a big cat was near, but I couldn’t see it. I suspected she had seen the cat by the way she bolted. It was a wild ride but we got home safely (with much stomping and agitation) and the lion went on his way. As the fates would have it, an interesting article came up on my social media shortly afterwards.

A Canadian woman came across a cougar, another name for mountain lion, while hiking.  As the cougar approached, she yelled and waved her arms, causing the cat to stop but not back away. Keeping her wits about her, she pulled out her cell phone and played loud music to scare the cat away. Her choice was the loudest band she could think of: Metallica! The band’s hit “Don’t Tread on Me” did the trick. The cougar ran off.  Perhaps he wasn’t a heavy metal fan.

I really do like the idea of using loud music to scare off a lion. However, while riding a very agitated horse, I don’t have a spare hand to get the phone out of my pocket. Both hands are firmly on the reins. I’ll just have to sing loudly, instead. I know many operatic arias I could use.

There aren’t any videos of mountain lions . . . yet.

Note: If you like YouTube channels, please check out Curtis Curly-tail Speaks, where there are lots of videos about my children’s science books and my reptile family and friends, like the one about Roadrunner below that goes with my rhyming (fun) science book, Don’t Make Me Fly!

I happen to believe that science education should be fun! What about you?

 

Fossil Iguana Burrow in The Bahamas?

Even though Rock Iguanas (Cyclura nubila caymanensis) make their dens and escape holes in the limestone karst of the Caribbean islands, the females still need sand to lay their eggs. Females dig a burrow tunnel, lay their eggs in a chamber, then back fill it in—the iguana mothers cover over the entrance area to hide the presence of the eggs. I have watched females dig their dens and after their concealment efforts, I was unable to find the burrow entrance. Once the eggs hatch, the baby iguanas dig their way out of the tunnel to the surface.

Researchers have published an article stating they found a fossil iguana burrow on an island in The Bahamas: First known trace fossil of a nesting iguana (Pleistocene) The Bahamas  by Anthony J. Martin, Dorothy Stearns, Meredith J. Whitten, Melissa M. Hage, Michael Page, and Arya Basu.

Illustration by Anthony Martin of prehistoric iguana burrow

Illustration shows a cross section of the prehistoric iguana burrow, and how the surrounding landscape may have looked during the Late Pleistocene Epoch. (Credit: Anthony Martin.)

Anthony Martin is shown at the top of the page next to the trace fossil of the Pleistocene iguana burrow. (Credit: Melissa Hage.) The fossilized burrow dates back to the Late Pleistocene Epoch, about 115,000 years ago. The island still has iguanas, but they are critically endangered.

“After further investigation, Martin and his co-authors determined that the trace fossil he noticed on the limestone outcrop was that of a nesting iguana burrow. Ample evidence, including a nearby fossil land-crab burrow discovered by Hage, showed that the outcrop was a former inland sand dune, where iguanas prefer to lay their eggs.”

It is reasonable to assume fossilized sand dens would both be difficult to create and to be discovered, so if this is an ancient iguana nesting den, it is very exciting. Several iguana researchers doubt the conclusions of the authors, however. One point in question is that iguanas’ nesting dens are not dug straight down – they angle down slightly from the surface until the desired incubation temperature is found. They nesting chambers are not dug straight down as they appear to be in the fossil.

But that’s the great thing about science. Ideas are proposed and then evidence for and against the conclusions are presented and discussed.

photo San Salvador rock iguanas are critically endangered. Credit Anthony Martin.

The modern-day San Salvador rock iguanas are critically endangered. Credit: Anthony Martin.

One conclusion is certain: The San Salvador Rock Iguana is critically endangered. Hopefully, the current population can be preserved and not become known only as a fossil species.

For more information on iguanas and lizards and tortoises and turtles and snakes and roadrunners and desert plants and even a very special fairy (!), check out all the books here at elaineapowers.com.

Now That Dog Can Bark On Pitch!

I am a retired biologist who writes rhyming children’s science books. I’ve been questioned about this and I believe the rhyming happens because I’m also a musician and singer. I still sing in community choruses and one of them had to get creative with rehearsals and performances due to the pandemic. Many musical organizations have used video streaming services, creating combined videos (requiring expert technical ability).

My chorus sang outside in a cul-de-sac, masked and social distanced at least six feet apart. We gathered in the director’s neighborhood with our reading lights since the sun had long set. It was often a bit nippy and we had to dress accordingly. It was nice to be able to hear other singers, however muffled they were.

One of the other sopranos brought her Scottish terrier along. He was a well-behaved dog that sat quietly at her feet. However, the dog was aware of moving creatures going bump in the night. When one was detected, he would start with a low growl, then a short bark, alerting us to the approaching danger. One night his growling crescendoed to a series of barks, almost on pitch with the song we were singing. Since the director was recording us for a virtual concert, the terrier’s ad lib contribution was not appreciated.

The following week, the chorus sang a concert in another neighborhood. We stood in one of the yards.  We gathered and sorted ourselves into our voice-part groups, i.e. all the first sopranos together, second sopranos, first altos and second altos. The terrier had joined us, so I asked him what part he was singing.  The reply was…

Howl-to!

Book Note: One of the educational books I set to rhyme is called Don’t Make Me Fly! Can you guess what it’s about?

Roadrunners, of course! It’s full of fun facts about them and fun to read and hear because of the rhyming verses. It’s also vividly illustrated and kids, young and old alike, really appreciate the powerful drawings. It makes a great book for the family, and for a book report on roadrunners. It’s available at Amazon.com.

illustration of a desert roadrunner
Strong. Fast and Courageous, Roadrunner Doesn’t Need To Fly

February 1st is National Serpent Day!

I came across this beauty, a Western Diamondback Rattler, on a recent ride in the Sonoran Desert.

Ooh, February 1st is National Serpent Day! Some of my favorite animals are serpents. I grew up with snakes as family pets, mostly garter snakes, because my brother was allergic to fur. We cuddled them like you would any other pet.

The term serpent usually refers to a large snake, often in a negative way. In my books, I try to educate people about the value of snakes, to respect them, not to fear them. Religious beliefs have, unfortunately, been used to persecute snakes, which are important to the ecosystem of the human environment. Imagine a world overrun with rodents.

One of the misunderstood serpents in the Sonoran Desert, where I currently reside, is the rattlesnake.  You can learn all about them in Don’t Make Me Rattle! You’ll learn about what great mothers’ rattlers are, how they collect drinking water, what their venom is really used for and many other interesting facts.

book cover graphic of rattlesnake
There’s Much More to Me Than You Know! I Am Shy and My Rattle is Only a Warning: Please, Stay Away! For All Ages Reading Level 8+
Bold and Vibrant Illustrations by Nicholas Thorpe
Written in Rhyme 40 pages

Another misunderstood and persecuted snake is the rainbow boa of The Bahamas. I’ve written a couple of books about the gorgeous rainbow boa.

A brown book cover with illustrations of bahamian boa snakes
Tabby, the Five-Finger Fairy, is a good friend to everyone she meets. After Cleo, a Bahamian Boa, rescues her in their first book, Tabby & Cleo: Unexpected Friends, Tabby goes on to teach us about the natural history of the often misunderstood endemic Bahamian Boas, which have an important place in Bahamian life.

One is more of a natural history book, The Bahamian Boa: A Tabby Tale, while the other is an adventure tale, Tabby and Cleo: Unexpected Friends. It includes Bahamian folk tales and a study of human nature and is a true tale of friendship. Don’t worry, the adventure tale is full of science, as well.

Cleo, a Bahamian boa, one of the misunderstood animals of The Bahamas, rescues Tabby, a Five-Finger Fairy. In trying to find Cleo a safe place to live, this unlikely pair help each other and the people they meet. Tabby loves Bahamian wildlife, Bahamian bush teas, and making friends with both animals and humans alike. This book focuses on important conservation issues that threaten Bahamian wildlife, such as wildlife smuggling, habitat loss, invasive species and human intolerance of animals such as snakes and spiders.

May I suggest you get to know more about serpents and the important roles they play in their ecosystems, whether in person in your neighborhood or with a good book?  Here are a few of the serpents I’ve known personally.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes

Baby Rattlesnake born in garage

This rattler was born in my garage.

photo Sonoran Desert Rattler

Met this magnificent rattler while walking my horse.

Bahamian Boas

photo of New Providence Boa

A baby New Providence boa in The Bahamas.

On the Lyric Power Publishing LLC website, www.lyricpower.net, you’ll discover snake-related workbooks. such as this one, My Book About the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.

Book cover with photo of western diamondback rattler
Something for everyone from kindergarten through grade 3! Forty-six pages of fascinating information on the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. Worksheets and project sheets include snake anatomy, crossword puzzle, word search, predators and prey; assemble a rattlesnake analog clock; math sheets including line graph, tally sheet, pictograph, and bar graph; THREE Venn-diagrams with corresponding fact sheets; life cycle activity pages, and reading comprehension.

January 31 is National Inspire Your Heart with Art Day

The artist strategically placed the shells on the branches of the bush skeleton above. A piece of the exoskeleton of a horseshoe crab was also used.

January 31 is Inspire Your Heart With Art Day.  Art should evoke emotions, hopefully, pleasurable ones.  There are many kinds of art.  My book illustrators are all great visual and/or digital artists. The editor/manager of my websites, Pamela Bickell, is a creative collage artist, as well.

Other artists create sculptures and three-dimensional works. Every once in a while, I stumble across something fantastic in nature.

Today I want to feature and very unusual piece of art I came across on Bunche Beach in Fort Myers, FL. Most people appreciate a beautiful intact seashell. Most people also appreciate healthy green vegetation. Yet, few of us would see the art in a dead bush and bleached broken shells that this artist did.  Most of the shells had holes in them, the result of the predators who ended the mollusks’ lives.

close up of shell art on dried branches
This did inspire my heart!

While not everyone would see the beauty here, I appreciate it as an unusual but lovely work of art. It did bring joy to my heart.

I hope you make or find some art this weekend that brings joy to your heart, too.

Book Note: I truly appreciate my book illustrators, who have added so much to the words I write.

Arthur F. Winstanley

a pink book cover with an illustration of a green curly-tail iguana riding in the ocean in a red sneaker

Anderson Atlas

book cover illustration with two lizards

Nicholas Thorpe

a book cover about Tabby the five finger fairy and Cleo a bahamian boa

Jessica Minns

a blue and white children's book cover with curly-tail lizards illustrated

Simone Scott

image of book cover of a brown booby bird in cayman brac

Monique Carroll

book cover about seeds finding a place to sprout

Haley Gray

book cover of catfish

Jacqueline Klene

image of book cover with catfish and museum

January 28th is NATIONAL HAVE FUN AT WORK DAY

Working from Home with our Pets

January 28th is National Have Fun at Work Day and with the pandemic, many people who would go to work in an office or at least away from home, are now telecommuting or video conferencing. We find ourselves trying to convince our companion-animal family members to maintain professional boundaries. (Although, I’ll bet everyone enjoys watching other people’s pets photo-bomb their meetings.)

My household is no different. Meetings that I would attend in person are now virtual through my laptop. Even though my family members are reptiles, they feel the same need as mammals to participate. You’d think noise wouldn’t be an issue with animals that don’t bark, meow or squawk. But, my iguanas get creative. As soon as I log in, Chile Green Iguana (photo above) starts his gymnastics in his wire enclosure. He uses his full length to clank the sides and shelves as much as possible.

photo of Myrtle red foot tortoise pusing chair

Then I feel my chair start to move away from the table. Myrtle Redfoot Tortoise is underneath me, pushing as hard as she can, successfully rolling the chair and me away from the computer.

Calliope Green Iguana
Calliope Green Iguana checking to be sure Myrtle doesn’t roll me too far from the meeting.
Rose Red-foot Tortoise
Rose Red-foot Tortoise stops by so I’ll take a break from work and scratch hr shell.

Other family members merely stop by to see who I am speaking with or to ensure that I am working as I should be.

I hope you, too, are having fun at work, whether it is away from home or at home.  Co-workers can be very entertaining.

Book Note: My co-workers are my inspiration for many of my books. I hope you’ll check them out at My Books.

Don’t Call Me Turtle was inspired by my tortoise, Myrtle, pictured above.

photo of a children's book cover, entitled Don't Call Me Turtle
There are many differences between tortoises and turtles, and the wise tortoise who narrates this book tells us about ten of those differences–in rhyme.
She also says, “Don’t Call Me Turtle!” (Even if my name should be Myrtle.)

What Makes Sunsets So Spectacular?

Sunsets can be spectacular in Tucson, Arizona. Bright colors predominate, such as the red one above. Sometimes, they’re dark red, sometimes orangish-red like on this night.

Why are these sunsets red? Because of particulates in the air. The colors of a sunset are caused by the scattering of light’s wavelengths. Stuff in the air like dust, smoke, pollution, and water change the intensity of the light, i.e. scatter the light. However, the wavelengths don’t scatter equally.  The short wavelengths, blue and violet, scatter away easily, so we can’t see them. The other colors of red, orange and yellow are able to make it through.

The dust from the Sonoran desert monsoons can enhance the red color. It’s good to know that the dust has a positive purpose.

Even though our sunsets result merely from light scattering, their brilliance can be quite enjoyable.

photo of sunrise in tucson az

The same scattering effect happens at sunrise. The light at sunrise has even farther to travel through the air because the sun is low on the horizon.

It’s nice to know why the sky can be so colorful. Understanding the science doesn’t diminish our enjoyment of the bright colors at all, does it?

The Sonoran Desert has inspired me to write many fun science books. Check them out on the My Books tab today.

A collage of book covers indicating the categories of books at elaineapowers.com
My Books By Category

Uh, Oh! A Green Iguana Found in Sweetwater Wetlands Needs a New Home

Here is Albert finishing up his recovery in foster care. By the way, he’s very adept at using his magnificent tail for defense!

The Sonoran Desert is not known for its wetlands. That’s why the Sweetwater Wetlands are so special. This isn’t a natural wetlands, but was created by the City of Tucson’s reclaimed water system. Reclaimed water is used exclusively in the wetlands. Visitors have access to the wetlands and the inhabitants through 2.5 miles of pathways.

Surface water attracts wildlife in the desert, so many can be seen in the Sweetwater Wetlands. Being particularly fond of reptiles, I’m curious about what kinds might be there. Several reptiles are known to inhabit the wetlands, such as the Tree Lizard (Urosaurus ornatus), Western Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata), Sonoran Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer affnis) and the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox).

However, recently a reptile was seen that definitely did not belong there. It’s bad enough that Red-eared Slider turtles (Trachemys scripta elegans) have been introduced there, and the Sweetwater Wetlands does not need Green Iguanas (Iguana iguana).

Unfortunately, green iguanas have become invasive in many ecosystems around the world because people release them where they don’t belong, like the Sweetwater Wetlands. Part of my work in iguana conservation is to help people identify green iguanas. If you’d like more information on iguanas, please visit my website and contact me through elaineapowers.com.

After several reports were received about a male iguana in the wetlands, the Animal Experts were called. They had to wade through the water to reach the tree where the iguana was hanging out. Definitely, an incredible adventure. The men were able to successfully retrieve the lizard. You can follow their story on Animal Experts on Facebook.

The iguana was taken to a local reptile veterinarian who discovered he had a large bladder stone. It is suspected that this is why he was released. The staff named him Albert. Surgery was performed to remove the stone and Albert was put into foster care to recover.

photo of large bladder stone removed from iguana
Photo of the bladder stone removed by Dr. Jarchow of Orange Grove Animal Hospital.

A GoFundMe account was set up to help pay for Albert’s medical costs. As soon as he has healed, Albert will be put up for adoption. Hopefully, Albert will find a forever home soon.

Book Note: I wrote a book called Silent Rocks about the critically endangered rock iguanas of Cayman Brac, and how they need the help of humans to survive. If you’d like to help, book information is here and it is available at Amazon.com.

white book cover with rock iguana photo on cover
The endemic Sister Isle Rock Iguana of Cayman Brac is critically endangered. This poignant book shows why* and how we humans can help. Includes many photographs of these magnificent large lizards.
*Silent Rocks can be used to teach how humans endanger many species.

The Box-Tortoise

Photo Above is Amarillo the Redfoot Tortoise (Chelonoidis carbonaria)

In some of my books and videos, I mention box turtles, genus Terrapene. These are amazing turtles that, because of a hinge on their bottom plate–the plastron–can fold up to protect their heads and limbs. No predator can grab an arm if it’s tucked inside a hard shell. You can read about this ability in Don’t Call Me Turtle! When you read this book, you’ll discover the many differences between turtles and tortoises.

a green book cover with an illustration of a tortoise
Voted 5-Stars by the
Preschool Crowd

Even though only box turtles have the hinge to fold up, that doesn’t mean there aren’t box-tortoises. I have several in my house! Look at the photos below to see what I mean.
a redfoot tortoise

Rose the Redfoot Tortoise fits in her box

Cantata the Sulcata Tortoise  (Geochelone sulcata)
But Cantata the Sulcata Tortoise (Geochelone sulcata) does not! She is a big girl!

Unfortunately, not all the tortoises fit neatly in their box. Some can only get their heads in! Sorry, Cantata – you need a bigger box!

Check out the fun and educational turtle and tortoise workbooks on LyricPower.net.

Interested in Becoming a Citizen-Scientist?

Recently, I posted on my social media about a citizen-scientist opportunity that you could do from the comfort of your home. This project was through Zooniverse.

For an iguana study, people were needed to look at photos and count the iguanas they could see. The scientists took the photos and cut them into little pieces. The resulting 25,000 images were shown 20 times. Four thousand volunteers participated. Two thousand to 10,000 images were classified each day.

photo of chopped up images of iguanas

In some images, the iguanas were challenging to find, while in others they were more obvious.

photo 2 of chopped up pics of iguanas

If you’d like to participate in scientific work, Zooniverse needs help with other projects. This work can be safely done from home, no traveling required, and you can contribute to important conservation efforts.

Book Note: And if you’d like to learn more about the remarkable large lizards called iguanas, grab a copy of My Unit Study on Iguanas from Lyric Power Publishing today! It’s on sale until 12/31/20.

Graphic image book cover about iguanas
Thirty pages of Iguana information and fun activity sheets for grades 2-4. Includes coloring pages, fact sheets, T/F about reptiles, parts of an iguana coloring page, compare animal traits, name matching, count and classify, reptile spelling page, life cycle of the iguana cut-and-paste activity, ecology word problems, iguana word problems, creative writing prompt, opinion writing exercise, mean, mode, median, and range worksheets, counting iguanas, histogram worksheet, grams-to-pounds worksheet, trace the words and color, short i sound, create an iguana puzzle.

November 30th is National Mousse Day

Mousse is an interesting word. It looks like “mouse,” a rodent, but is pronounced “moose,” like the largest member of the deer family. When I think of mousse, I think of a light, pudding-like dessert, especially if it’s chocolate. A mousse is a soft food made with air bubbles to give it a light, creamy texture. A mousse can be sweet (the way I like it) or savory. Mousse means “froth” in Old French, but also “scum!”

Mousse has few ingredients: a base, an aerator, the flavoring and an optional thickener.

Sweet mousses are usually made with whipped egg whites and/or creams and flavorings. These are typically chilled and served as dessert.

Savory mousses are made from meat, fish, shellfish, pate’, cheese or vegetables. Hot mousses can get their fluffy texture from the addition of beaten egg whites. I’ve never eaten a savory mousse but now I am intrigued. Here are some recipes if you’d like to celebrate.

There is one more kind of mousse that you might be familiar with, the foamy hair product called mousse. With so many types of mousse, it might be confusing. But one thing I do know: don’t use chocolate mousse on your hair!

Book Note: I think I once heard Curtis Curly-tail mention that though he does not appreciate fluffy mousses, he thought Tabby, the Five-Finger Fairy might. Next time I’m in The Bahamas, which I am greatly missing about this time, I will see if I can find Tabby and ask her. In the mean time, she is quite the ambassador for The Bahamas and for friendship, including cross-species friendships, which I am all for! Check out this heart-warming story of what friendship means and how we can make a difference in the lives of others.

a book cover about Tabby the five finger fairy and Cleo a bahamian boa
Tabby, the Five-Finger Fairy, who comes from the Five-Finger Tree, Tabebuia bahamensis, loves the native plants, animals and people of The Bahamas. She makes friends wherever she goes!

November 20th is National Absurdity Day

On November 20th, absurdity is celebrated by being whacky, for example. It strikes me as absurd that on November 19th, we celebrate carbonated beverages with caffeine day. One day later we can expand and include other absurdities.

Some might think it is absurd to write a book. Some days, writers think so, too! Or go to Caribbean islands and spend all your time chasing large lizards that are not happy to be part of a scientific study. I often visit islands with gorgeous beaches and never actually get in the ocean – now that is absurd!

Absurdity and ridiculousness keep life interesting. What is absurd? The illogical, unreasonable, the crazy, zany and the nonsensical. November 20th is the day to accept life’s absurdities and perhaps create some of your own. Have some fun with it. Let your absurd side run free . . . if only for a day!

Book Note: An absurd moment did hit one day when I was thinking about a recent visitor to Arizona and a story began to unfold in my mind. The scientist in me included Sonoran Desert flora and fauna in the story (with a glossary, no less!), but the comedian in me caused the story’s impolite visitor to stumble from one desert danger to the next, while trying to photograph a hummingbird. Even though I write mystery novels in addition to my FUN children’s science books, I did not kill off the visitor. But the number of his injuries might give him pause when thinking about returning, right?

For a good (and educational) laugh, check out How NOT to Photograph a Hummingbird. Your kids will enjoy the absurdities; you could even read it to your little ones–it is illustrated.

illustration of a hummingbird on a cactus
A Humorous Tale Introducing the Plants and Animals of the Sonoran Desert
“I’ll have a long-term memory of this visit. Maybe a permanent one,.” the visitor said. Whatever could he mean?  A bumbling visitor to Southern Arizona is repeatedly injured when trying to photograph a mischievous hummingbird, as the Sonoran Desert conspires against him.
Have a laugh while enjoying learning about the plants and animals of Southern Arizona.           For All Ages Reading Level Age 8+ 26 pages
Glossary of Minerals, Flora and Fauna
Illustrated by Anderson Atlas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ever Set a Pumpkin on Fire? In Your Kitchen?

My reptiles like hard squash, so I cook pumpkin, butternut and acorn squash until they are soft and squishy. The easiest way to cook them is whole in the microwave. I don’t bother to cut off the stem. I rinse off the outside, plop it in, and cook until it is soft.

Photo of Rhino Iguana standing on a tortoise
My pumpkin flambe, please?

I was cooking the third of the ‘Buy 3-for-$5’ pumpkins while writing at the kitchen table. Good thing, because I smelled smoke. Not the flavorful aroma of cooking vegetables but the odor of burning wood.  With the number of heat lamps in my house, I do worry about the wooden enclosures catching fire from a misplaced heat lamp. I immediately began sniffing for the direction the odor, which led my eyes to the microwave, where I saw that the pumpkin stem was in flames! (Inside the microwave, mind you.)

I ran over and unplugged the microwave, grabbed the pumpkin and poured water on the stem in the sink. The inside of the oven was scorched but had not been engulfed in flames, for which I was very thankful. Fortuitously, the pumpkin was cooked to perfect squishiness, so I would be able to feed the reptiles. The stem, however, was ash.

After all the squash I had cooked in microwaves, why did this one catch fire?

Microwaves produce an electric field that does the cooking. If small amounts of metals or minerals are present, they can enhance the electric field, sort of like a lightning rod. Pumpkins contain minerals; after all they are very nutritious. It is possible that the minerals in the stem, a conductive material, along with the extended stem, created a stronger electric field than the air around it. The dry stem was definitely flammable.

Poof! Kind of like a Pumpkin Flambe happened in my microwave.

Apparently, flames can be produced by many fruits and vegetables, but my advice is, “Don’t try this at home!”

Then, it was back to writing. Books, blog posts, newsletters–I am a busy writer, especially if you add in the mystery novels I’m working on. I hope you’ll check out my fun children’s science books on the My Books page. My publisher sells activity sheets and workbooks to accompany them, at Lyric Power Publishing LLC. They are jam-packed with lots of fun and interesting supplemental science education activities.

 

Umm . . . Ever Wanted to Lick a Toad’s Back?

Toad image courtesy of ockienot88 from Pixabay

Are you familiar with the word entheogen? I wasn’t either until I heard it mentioned in a talk about the Sonoran Desert toad, also known as the Colorado River toad, Incilius alvarius.

You may have heard of this toad without knowing much else: It’s the toad made famous by claims that if you licked its back, you would experience a hallucinogenic effect, due to entheogen. Entheogen is a psychoactive substance that produces alterations in perception, mood, cognition or behavior for the purpose of enhancing spiritual development. The compound found specifically in this species of toad that causes this effect is 5-MeO-DMT (5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine).

The toad only produces these toxins for defensive purposes, not for human use as an entheogen. You must harass the toad to get it to secrete its toxins and, for the record, harassing animals is just wrong. By the way, licking the toad will not get you high, or closer to your deity. And, if your dog tries to eat one of these toads, it could be fatal. Native predators have learned to avoid the toad’s back, grabbing its prey by the feet and eating the underbelly.

Sonoran Desert toads also produce the related toxin bufotenin (5-HO-DMT). These toxins are exudates from the parotoid gland behind the toad’s eyes.

Now you know what “entheogen” means. Try to include it your next conversation. I love the challenge of new words and try to inject them as often as I can. I guess that means I am a writer. Well, you can kind of tell that on My Books page, too. Still, to think a tiny curly-tail lizard could inspire me to write his story and that THAT would lead to all these science books that I’ve written to be FUN is really something! We just never know where life is going to take us.

Enjoy the quest!

A collage of book covers indicating the categories of books at elaineapowers.com
My Books By Category

 

 

One Thousand Pounds of the Unexpected!

One year ago today my life changed significantly.

Growing up, and as an adult, I’ve had only reptiles as companion animals. I never wanted a mammal. Okay, I did think about getting a hedgehog at one point, but they are nocturnal and I’m definitely a diurnal type of person. After I retired from my work as a biologist, I began horseback riding lessons so I’d be more comfortable with the stirrups on commercial trail rides.

Even though I enjoyed my lessons with my trainer, Tali, I wasn’t interested in leasing a horse and, of course, I had absolutely no interest in owning a horse. For my lessons, I alternated between Lady, an easygoing horse, and Button, who was stubborn and outspoken about her fears.

Despite Button being a challenge, I sought out every opportunity to ride her. As the saying goes, “calm seas do not a skilled sailor make.” Button provided me with the opportunity to improve my riding ability. Having spent many years wrestling large iguanas like Rango pictured below, I could be stubborn myself. If I was paying to ride Button, we were going to do what I wanted to, whether she agreed or not.

elaine a powers with rhino iguana rango
Here I am with Rhino Iguana Rango. Isn’t she a beauty? We’re both pretty good wrestlers.

Somewhere along the way, Button grew to like me. Well–she claimed me as hers. It is a very special feeling when another being wants you around. One night, completely unexpectedly, I decided that if for some reason Button ever needed a new home, I’d be willing to take her. The next morning Tali asked me if I was interested in owning Button!

A couple of months later, I moved Button to a stable near my house. Now every day, just like I do with my house reptiles, I spend time with this very special horse. We work on our skills and take trail rides in the wash.

It’s been an eventful year. I’ve learned a lot about horses, about Button and about myself. I have found an unexpected peace when I am with her. Maybe it’s because you have to be focused when hanging out with a thousand-pound, independently-minded creature.

photo of the back of a horse's head
My favorite view!

Happy Anniversary to my quite large mammalian buddy, Button!

Selfie of Elaine Powers with her horse Button
Have you ever tried to take a ‘selfie’ with a horse?

Note: Though I’ve yet to write a tale about horses (sorry, Button!), I’ve weaved science into adventure tales, hoping to make science education fun, which kids seem to really enjoy. (Why not make science fun?)

children's book cover about Curtis Curly-tail lizard and a hurricane in the Bahamas
In this fourth story of the series, Curtis joins Allison Andros Iguana to warn the iguanas of Beach Cay about the impending hurricane. Low lying areas are particularly vulnerable to the storm surges, high rainfall and powerful winds of hurricanes. Small islands or cays here in the Bahamas can be completely washed over. Beach Cay, the setting of Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away, has entire populations of endemic animals, such as the iguanas like Allison. One powerful hurricane could wipe out her entire species.

Please see the Curtis Curly-tail Adventure Series here and the Lime Lizard Lads’ Adventures here.

book covers lime lizard lads

Gene and Bony, the Lime Lizard Lads, love exploring their island home! Come along on their adventures today!

Workbooks and activity sheets to supplement science education like the one below are also available at Lyric Power Publishing LLC/Workbooks.


image of a book cover, My Book About Bats and Rats

47 pages of captivating activities that kids from kindergarten through 3rd grade are certain to enjoy! Includes spelling pages, two Venn-Diagram activities: bats vs. parrots, and bats vs. rats; math pages, reading comprehension pages for both bats and rats; a teacher-driven felt board activity; rhyming words, less than-greater than coloring sheet; two word searches, and MORE! Students will gain a deeper understanding of the Caribbean Fruit Bat and the rats that live on Cayman Brac and how they affect the ecology.

The Sea Wrote to Me!

As part of my writing business, I travel to numerous places, not only for inspiration but also for the marketing of my books. Most of the places I visit involve oceans and often islands, such as The Bahamas and the Cayman Islands. I don’t get to spend much time on the beaches since I’m working but, whenever I can, I seize the chance to walk barefoot in the sand as waves lap on my feet.

Of course, due to the pandemic, I haven’t traveled anywhere this year. Fortunately, I enjoy living in the Sonoran Desert. However, the one thing the desert doesn’t have is a beach with ocean waves. In addition, the desert sand is made from rocks and I miss the sand made from seashells, which has a different texture.

Knowing I was missing the salty bodies of water, my friend, Pam, created a beautiful card for me. She said the sea called to her on my behalf. The card is from the seashells and sand grains on the beach! It brought me much joy.

Pam is an incredibly talented artist. I have several of her paper paintings in my home and have given her permission to share a few here.

paper painting called Tree of Life
Tree of Life by Pam Bickell

She is also a skilled editor and a fabulous web mistress. And most importantly, she is a special friend.

 

 

~NOTE: Thanks, Elaine! I appreciate you very much. Pam~

paper painting Grenhem
Grenhem by Pam Bickell
paper painting The Seer
The Seer by Pam Bickell

September 4 is National Wildlife Day

This guy, Roadrunner Geococcyx californianus, and his species inspired my book, Don’t Make Me Fly!

September 4 is National Wildlife Day.  As a biologist, I love wildlife, whether it is in my backyard or at some distant exotic location. Wildlife Day was established to remind us about endangered animals, locally and around the world.

This is also the day to recognize the work being done on behalf of these animals, both in preservation and education about them. I do my part for conservation through my volunteering as a citizen scientist, talks I give, the books I write about animals, and supplemental, educational workbooks that teach about animals in a fun way.

photo Regal Horned Lizard Phrynosoma solare
Regal Horned Lizard Phrynosoma solare

I love to talk about and share my reptiles with people and I hope my tales that weave science into animal escapades and picture books educate children and adults alike. Sometimes my message is subtle, such as in stories featuring curly-tail lizards and their environments and plights, and sometimes it’s more direct, such as in Silent Rocks about the disappearing rock iguanas on Cayman Brac.

photo Desert Cottontail Sylvilagus audubonii
Desert Cottontail Sylvilagus audubonii

While you are contemplating how you can help the endangered animals of the world, get outside and enjoy the wildlife in your neighborhood. With habitat loss and climate change, some may be more endangered than you realize.

photograph of tarantula
Tarantula, Aphonpelma chalcodes
photo Cooper's Hawk Accipiter cooperii
Cooper’s Hawk Accipiter cooperii

I hope you enjoy these pictures of some of my neighbors.

photo of two Great Horned Owl Bubo virginainus
A mating pair of Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginainus
photo Gopher Snake Pituophis melanoleucus
Gopher Snake Pituophis melanoleucus

If you want to read more about these Sonoran Desert critters, I suggest How Not to Photograph a Hummingbird, which is a fun story about the desert conspiring against a photographer—I just can’t help myself—I am, at heart, a murder-mystery writer. (It was a curly-tail lizard who started my career as a children’s science book writer.) I am still working on those murder-mysteries, however!

illustration of a hummingbird on a cactus
A Humorous Tale Introducing the Plants
and Animals of the Sonoran Desert
“I’ll have a long-term memory of this visit.
Maybe a permanent one.”
For All Ages
Reading Level Age 8+
26 pages
Glossary of Minerals, Flora and Fauna
Illustrated by Anderson Atlas
A bumbling visitor to Southern Arizona is repeatedly injured when trying to photograph a mischievous hummingbird, as the Sonoran Desert conspires against him.
Have a laugh while enjoying learning about the plants and animals of Southern Arizona.

There’s a glossary in the back of How Not to Photograph a Hummingbird with the scientific details about the mischievous conspirators. I love making science education fun!

Aug 26th is National Webmistress Day!

I have been very fortunate to have very talented webmistresses to create and maintain my websites. Yes, I could have worked on my websites myself, but I would rather be writing books. More importantly, they are much more visually creative and attentive to the many details. Like I said, I’d rather be writing my books.

graphic illustration of Lyric Power website

Nora Miller, editor extraordinaire, developed my original author website here at ElaineAPowers.com. I was so thankful to be able to send her material and see it on the website, as if by magic. Pamela Bickell came along to add some color to my book publishing website, Lyric Power Publishing LLC, and when I needed to add my books to my author website, Pam redesigned my author site. She also adds my blog posts to the sites and Facebook.

As an author, I love writing books but, like many others, I enjoy the marketing of them less. I need my webmistresses. Not only are they knowledgeable about the inner workings of websites, they are both talented writers and editors. This is important, since my work might need tweaking now and then.

Today I honor my webmistresses and can highly recommend both of them. Should you want to contact either Nora or Pam for help, please use the contact page at either website and I will put you in touch. I am forever grateful to them. Happy Webmistress Day!

Surprise Your Employees with Some Fun–Use Zoom to Perform a Short Play!

Today is National Radio Day. Way back before TV/streaming media as we know it and before today’s audio books, there was radio. Of course, there still is, but in the early part of the twentieth century, radio was our only source for news from around the world, and it provided wonderful entertainment. Radio shows were sponsored by businesses, so the shows had set running times, leaving airtime for advertisements.

photo of old-time radio
Image Courtesy of Michael Mistler from Pixabay

Radio was available to everyone and we enjoyed being able to do other things while we were listening. There were comedic radio shows and dramatic storytelling, with sound effects, eliciting emotions. Several stories led to unfortunate circumstances, the most famous of which was Orson Welles’ broadcast of the H.G. Wells story, War of the Worlds. My mother, near the alleged site of the Martian landing, heard the broadcast and witnessed the panic.

Twenty years ago, radio shows had a renewed popularity with recreated “old-time” and modern “new-time” shows. These modern radio shows didn’t have the time constraints of earlier days. Some acting guilds today are performing what were radio shows on stage. Audio and radio theater provide listeners, whether in their homes, cars, or acted in a performance hall, a refreshing alternative to the usual standard fare of music, news and talk shows.

a book cover of an audio/radio script
Includes adaptations of three classic tales as audio theater scripts: The Spoon River Anthology has history students discovering the stories of occupants of a cemetery. A one-act version of The Ransom of Red Chief tells the tale of a kidnapping gone awry. The Ballad of The Ice-Worm Cocktail tells of false bravado revealed during the Yukon Gold Rush. Requires multiple actors. Well suited for community theaters. Performance rights included with purchase.

My first serious writing was in creating scripts for the Hunterdon Radio Theatre in New Jersey. My scripts have been performed on stage, as broadcasts, and recorded onto CDs.

Are you a performer–or a company manager? Need a break from those monotonous Zoom meetings? Why not take a look at my short audio/theater scripts, get a few co-workers together and perform a play for the wider audience? My scripts range from comedic to spooky and the purchase of a script comes with the performance rights. They can be performed by adults or children, are family appropriate, and you might even learn a little science! Break up the online-meeting monotony and have some fun today reading or acting a play! (Or two!)

book cover of audio/theater script
A collection of one-act length comedic audio theater scripts. “Joy’s Bug’s Blues” tells of an unfortunate encounter with an elephant. In “Take Your Best Shot,” a man develops allergies to political parties, but his allergist has the cure. “The Gift” is a Chanukah tale involving the rescue of an injured iguana and its impact on family members, both human and iguana. Performance rights included with purchase.

I’m Curtis Curly-tail and Have I Got a Roadrunner Video for You! (Meep-Meep)

“Hello to all! I’m Curtis Curly-tail and I am here to tell you about my latest YouTube video,  which focuses on Roadrunners in Southern Arizona. Did you know when these large birds leave tracks behind, you can’t tell what direction they came from or where they went? I wish I could do that! And roadrunners are really, really fast. That makes me a little afraid of them, too. They do love their lizard snacks!

We lizards are pretty fast, ourselves. So far, so good.

Come on over to my YouTube channel, Curtis Curly-tail Speaks, and watch my latest video about the Southwest’s iconic bird: the Roadrunner. I give lots of interesting details about this unusual bird that stays mostly on the ground.

And then, take a look at Elaine A. Powers book called Don’t Make Me Fly! The book tells all about this bird sacred to Native American peoples because of its courage and speed. The book is written in fun rhymes and vividly illustrated. Don’t Make Me Fly! is available at Amazon.com.

Thanks for stopping by to ‘catch a tail–I mean, tale!’ here at Elaine A. Powers’ author website. We both appreciate you very much! See you over at You Tube!

illustration of a desert roadrunner
Strong. Fast and Courageous, Roadrunner Doesn’t Need To Fly