Little Cactus, Big Flowers

Usually, author Jo Busha writes the blog posts on plants, but one of my potted cacti inspired me to share this magnificent plant with you. Last year, a friend gave me this trio of the cactus, Mammilaria senilis.

This mammillaria is native to northern Mexico, growing on moss-covered boulders in high altitude pine forests. I am a bit surprised it is doing so well in my desert home. Its common name is Cabeza de Viejo, which translates to Old man’s Head. Not sure I see it . . .

photo of cactus Mammilaria senilis.
Fuzzy head of Mammilaria senilis

Although this cactus may look like it is covered with white tufts, they are hooked white spines. But the most spectacular feature is the enormous red flowers that contrast with the diminutive body.

This plant is considered difficult to grow since it needs a lot of light and ample airflow. Outside in the desert, mine is certainly getting plenty of sunlight and airflow. Letting the soil dry before watering is not an issue. However, as a mountain plant, it prefers cooler temps . . . oops. It can withstand full sun as long as it is morning sun, not the baking afternoon sunlight.

photo of Mammilaria senilis starting to blossom
Mammilaria senilis beginning to blossom

A cultivation guide says that if grown correctly, this cactus will reward the grower with generous displays of red flowers. I like my reward.

If you or your children are interested in fun plant books, I’ve written two so far: Queen of the Night: the Night-blooming Cereus, shown below, 20 pages for all ages, written in rhyme, about the magnificent Sonoran Desert plant that all bloom together one night each summer, an Amazon #1 book in the Children’s Botany section, with colorful illustrations by Nicholas Thorpe;

book cover for the Night-Blooming Cereus
All about the mysterious plant that blooms only one night per year–all at the same time!
illustration page from Night-Blooming Cereus
An illustration from Queen of the Night: the Night-Blooming Cereus

illustration of book cover Grow Home Little Seeds

interior illustration from Grow Home Little Seeds
An illustration from Grow Home Little Seeds

and Grow Home, Little Seeds, a tale for ages 8+, 25 pages with a 10-page seed appendix, illustrated in pastel colors by Monique Carroll, in which a group of seeds leaves the Leon Levy Preserve to find their homes. Along the adventure, they learn they are different and that they each have their own needs to grow, but that they can grow up alongside each other and remain friends.

www.elaineapowers.com

#elaineapowers

#botanybooks

#queenofthenight:nightbloomingcereus

#growhomelittleseeds

A Writing Prompt with Malice

I was experimenting with a writing prompt for mysteries. The prompt was to write about a common object in a mysterious way. I looked at my pepper grinder, a device that pulverizes hard objects. All the multi-colored peppercorns are ground into indistinguishable pieces. How terrifying it must be for the peppercorn to be crushed and chopped into little pieces! Fortunately, they are no longer alive and can’t feel pain, but it does provide an example of how mundane objects can be turned into objects of malice. In addition, it got me wondering about how peppercorn grinders were invented.

I was surprised to find out that the grinder was invented by Peugeot back in 1842. Prior to its production, people used the mortar and pestle. The grinder was much less labor intensive! Stainless steel is the desired material, since it is durable and crack resistant (some of those peppercorns fight back!) Zinc alloy, ceramic and acrylic have also been used.

The instrument of destruction of the above peppercorns.

 

photo of ground pepper

The results: releasing the delightful pepper flavors.

The next time you want to stimulate your creativity, look at some innocuous item in your house and make it into an object worthy of a murder mystery! I know I’ll never look at my peppercorn grinder the same way.

Book Note: I am a mystery lover and have several murder mysteries in progress. I have also written and published theater scripts in the mystery genre. You can see them all on my Theater Scripts page.  Interested in the Performing Arts? Click on any of the book covers to buy them at Amazon–for your own practice as an actor, or for your performance group. They’ve been performed back East and are a lot of fun!

cover of theater script Mayhem in Swamp and Snow
Danger can be found anywhere, in a mangrove swamp or on a highway in a snow storm.
Performance rights included with the purchase of this script.

A Creep or a Convergence?

With Spring, the tortoises wander about more actively. The brumating species, like the Sonoran Desert and Sulcata tortoises, emerge from my bedroom to join the now more ever-wandering red-footed tortoises. I have a heat lamp set up in the front room where the tortoises can sit and bask. Usually, one or two will be utilizing the basking spot at a time. However, one fine day, all the tortoises had a spring in their step and met at the warm spot. They were happy to share the food and the warmth, so they could digest properly.

Normally, the tortoises in the photo above would be called a creep of tortoises, but on this day, they were a convergence of tortoises.

P.S. There are three species of tortoises in the picture. Can you identify which is which?

screen shot from Reptile-Side Chat
April is Iguana Month!

Note: Please join me tomorrow, Thursday, April 8 at 3:00 p.m. MST on my Facebook page for my informative and fun chat about Rock Iguanas, Cyclura species. April is Iguana Month and I will be introducing you to some of my iguana roomies–tomorrow the very handsome big guy, Blue.

#AuthorElaineAPowers
#TortoiseID
#RockIguanas
#ReptileSideChat
#AprilisIguanaMonth
#ElaineAPowers.com
#LyricPower.net
#FunScienceBooks

Chorale, Cul-de-sac and . . . Chupacabra?

To maintain safe social distance, my chorus has been meeting outside in a neighborhood cul-de-sac.  We’re masked and standing six feet apart. We meet after dark and we each bring an illumination device, such as a clip-on light, or a head lamp or maybe even a wrap-around flashlight you wear on your neck. Whatever type we use, it only illuminates the music we are holding – even combined they do nothing to dispel the darkness around us.

One of the chorus members brings her service dog with her. He sits quietly at her feet, usually gazing into the darkness behind us. But every now and then, he’ll growl, sometimes barking at something unseen behind us.

phWhat is in the darkness? One of the usual nocturnal desert creatures? Perhaps a Great Horned Owl, a coyote or a Gila Monster.  We stop, look and listen, but the intruder is not identified.

photo of gila monster
Image courtesy of jessiegirl413 from Pixabay

Of course, my murder-mystery-writer’s-imagination suspects it isn’t merely an ordinary animal, but something much more sinister. Is it one of the infamous el chupacabra? Or perhaps a thunderbird? Maybe it is merely a ghost or evil spirit.

illustration of a dragon monster
Monster image courtesy of Eric Labayle from Pixabay

Chupacabra translates to “goat sucker.” The story goes that sheep and goats were found with puncture wounds in their chests with their blood drained out. Initially, descriptions were of a reptilian creature with spikes. Red eyes and fangs enhanced its fierceness. However, more recently the chupacabra is described as a breed of wild, hairless dog with a prominent ridge and, of course, fangs.

Or it might be a Thunderbird. I like large birds, but none of them, not even the golden eagle, can produce thunder from its wings and lightning from its beak. In some story versions, the feathers are knives. In the Sonoran Desert, my neighborhood, the thunderbird lived in a mountain cave. From its lair, the creature preyed upon Pima Indians, including men, women and children. Fortunately, the Pima warriors were able to defeat the thunderbirds.

So far, our chorus has emerged unscathed by the unseen dangers. But I’ll continue to be on alert, along with the canine chorus member. He’ll do his best to protect us, and I’ll fight by his side–even if it’s only a kangaroo rat.

#elaineapowers  #AZmyths  #Chupacabra  #Curtis Curly-tail  #LimeLizardLads

Book Note: I weave science into adventure tales, figuring if the learning is fun, the knowledge will stick. I’ve created three adventure series, Curtis Curly-tail Lizard, the Lime Lizard Lads, and Clarissa Catfish. The characters do not stay at home, they make mischief, and they have to face dangers–with the science of the animals and their ecosystems written into the stories. I hope you’ll check out these adventure tales today and weave some fun science into your children’s lives. See the book descriptions by clicking on the links below.

book covers curtis curly-tail
Four adventures so far! I meet Allison Andros Iguana in Curtis Curly-tail is Lizardnapped!
book covers lime lizard lads
Gene and Bony refuse to stay close to their den!
book covers clarissa catfish
All the humans get to see the wonders of the museums. So, Clarissa the Catfish decides she must, also!

 

I Should Have Known the Collective Noun for Iguanas!

Until today, I didn’t know the collective noun for iguanas. I should have, since I’ve had more than one for around 30 years. I knew that a group of tortoises was a “creep,” and it’s a “bale” of turtles. The general term for lizards is “lounge.” I think some of my iguanas are willing to lounge around.

The collective noun for iguanas is a “mess.” Why, you and I might ask? Iguanas may intertwine in large groups, especially when they are gathered around a heat source. It’s hard to tell where one iguana ends, and another begins. They are ectotherms, or cold-blooded, so iguanas get their body heat from the environment or my body, as in this photo of Calliope and me. She is my writing muse, named after the Muse of Long Poetry.

photo of elaine powers with her iguana muse, Calliope

One of my friends from the Southern US mentioned that “mess” refers to something else, as in a “mess of greens.” The greens she was referring to are collard, turnip and mustard greens, all of which are enjoyed by my reptilian family members, too. Of course, in my case, it may be accurate to say I do have a mess of greens: a mess of green iguanas.

How much or many is a mess? It is undefined, but in food, it is usually enough to feed a family.

I’d agree that my mess of greens is always exactly the right amount for my family.

a red. hybrid green iguana
Youngster Chile being his curious self.

 

an older green iguana on grass
Ezra, who is in his 20s, on the grass in my backyard

Book Note: While I haven’t yet written a lot of books about iguanas, I have written one important one called Silent Rocks. It is about how to save the endangered Rock Iguanas of Cayman Brac, and teachers can use it to show how human activity endangers the lives of other species.

I’ve also written an adventure tale that includes an iguana, called The Dragon of Nani Cave. It features two lime lizards, Gene and Bony, who must do the bravest thing possible–find the dragon of Nani Cave, and survive!

 

white book cover with rock iguana photo on cover

book cover illustration with two lizards
The Lime Lizard Lads, Gene and Bony, LOVE exploring
their island home, where the bravest thing possible is to go see the Dragon of Nani Cave.
An Adventure Tale For Readers Age 8+
48 pages
Fun and Colorful Illustrations of the many
animals they encounter, including the Dragon,
by Anderson Atlas

Writing and Riding Fill My Days

With the pandemic, I’ve been dividing my time mostly between two activities: riding and writing. I’m either at the stables with my two horses or at home writing, surrounded by my reptiles. It’s working out well since I’m getting fresh air and exercise with Button and Exuma, which stimulates my health and well-being for the writing. My household full of reptiles provides the inspiration.

Currently, my young gelding, Exuma, pictured above, is having his first lessons carrying a rider, while I take lessons to be able to ride him. You see, my first horse, Button, is a Missouri Fox Trotter, a gaited horse. A gaited horse moves more smoothly than a non-gaited horse. This is due to a unique natural broken gait that allows at least one foot to be on the ground at any given time. Gaited horses are desired for pleasure riding which is what I want to do, trail riding around the Sonoran Desert. Non-gaited horses when trotting move a front foot and the opposite rear foot at the same time. This creates a jarring, bouncing-rider, motion.

Since I came to horseback riding late in life (a few years ago), I’ve only had lessons on a gaited horse.  My new boy is a quarter horse, a non-gaited breed. Riding Button is not going to prepare me for riding Exuma. Therefore, I’m taking lessons on an amazing mustang named Napoleon. I’ve learned how to trot, both sitting and posting (which is when the rider rises from the saddle in time with the horse’s gait, which isn’t necessary on a gaited horse). Recently, I rode for my first free canter—which is faster than a trot—but unlike the trot, it is more of a scooping motion, sort of like riding a wave.

To prepare the horse for the signal to canter, I’m supposed to scoop the saddle with my hips. My first attempts were a bit over-enthusiastic. I was apparently envisioning the Geico insurance commercial that features the hip hop group Tag Team, scooping the ice cream. I scooped big! The cantering did not go well.

I was told I needed to scoop less, more like sliding a chair under a table. So while I sit writing, I roll my chair back and forth under my desk. I can improve my riding while writing! Back on Napoleon, when I scooped less, using the easy, chair-rolling motion, the cantering went much better. Every successful lesson takes me one day closer to riding both my horses.

photo of author Elaine Powers with Button, a missiouri fox-trotter

Here is my mare, Button, a Missouri Fox Trotter.

At the top of the page is Exuma, a quarter horse. Quarter horses are so-called because of their sprinting ability. They can beat other horse breeds in distances of a quarter mile or less.

I’m glad I can work on both my activities, writing and riding, at the same time!

Scoop, there it is!

Back to work on all my fun writing activities. You see, I weave science into poetry books and adventures tales, hoping to make learning science fun for the reader. And, I’m also writing murder mysteries, which I tremendously enjoy. If you’re looking for some fun science books about Sonoran Desert wildlife, here you go:

book covers Dont Series
These best sellers are written in rhyme, making learning science fun!

 

My Bahamian Boas Book is Having Its Birthday Today!

I’m celebrating the March 6th ‘birth’ day of my book, Bahamian Boas: A Tabby Tale.

CLICK THIS LINK TO SEE ME SPEAK ABOUT THE BIRTHDAY OF MY BOOK. A special guest appeared, whom you will very much enjoy seeing.

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 tells us about the natural history of the often misunderstood endemic Bahamian Boas, which have an important place in Bahamian life.

CLICK THIS LINK TO SEE SNAZZY THE SNAKE HIGHLIGHT THE BIRTHDAY BOOK ON YOUTUBE! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BAHAMIAN BOAS!

Bahamian Boas: A Tabby Tale is a very special book. It is narrated by Tabby the Five-Finger Fairy of The Bahamas, a magical being involved with conservation, and I wrote it in rhyming text, which makes the learning fun. It is colorfully illustrated, but also includes photographs of Bahamian boas, which are important to the ecosystem of the islands. The boas eat lizards, frogs, birds and rats, and can consume thousands of rats during their lifetimes. This is important, since these native snakes help control the population of the invasive rodents.

Unfortunately, the major threat to these incredible snakes is man. Irrational fears have led to the persecution of these harmless, nonvenomous snakes. The dangers to boas posed by humankind are a part of Tabby’s adventure tale, Tabby and Cleo: Unexpected Friends.

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!

Help me help these important snakes survive on The Bahamian islands and buy a copy for yourself today. Both books are educational, and Tabby & Cleo is also a chapter book of adventure and friendship for ages eight and above.

Thanks for stopping by today. If you’d like me to make a presentation to your classroom or group about reptiles or other subjects covered in my books, please use my Contact Page.

March 2nd is NATIONAL READ ACROSS AMERICA DAY

March 2nd, National Read Across America Day, is set aside to encourage kids to read. As an author of fun science-based children’s books, I love the idea of children reading books. I’m happy they’re reading, whether it’s one of my brightly illustrated picture books or adventure tales, or any other authors’ books, comic books, graphic novels. I want kids to just read!

Books can be sources of educational material or fantastical flights of imagination. In this world of visual stimulation through cell phones, computers, television and movies, children should be encouraged to use their imaginations, to come up with mental images all their own.

Children don’t have to read alone. Adults can read with them, children can read to other children, and children can read to pets.

photo of author elaine a powers reading to her tortoise, Myrtle
Myrtle, my red-foot tortoise grew so exasperated by being called a ‘turtle’ that she asked me to write her story. Here we are together, just after the book was published.

I enjoy reading to my reptilian family members. Here I am reading Don’t Call Me Turtle! to Myrtle the tortoise, the book she insisted I write after being called ‘Myrtle the Turtle’ one too many times! It’s a rhyming picture book for the young ones about the many differences between tortoises and turtles—so parents and grandparents learn, too. And the rhymes help the knowledge to stick with the kids. I’m inspired to write fun science books, and you’re welcome. 😊

Photo of interior book page of Don't Make Me Fly

Enjoy the vivid, colorful illustrations in the science-filled picture book about roadrunners, Don’t Make Me Fly!

image of book cover children's book Curtis Curly-tail Ship of Sneakers

Or a suspense-filled adventure tale like Curtis Curly-tail and the Ship of Sneakers. Curtis does not resist wanderlust very well—and then he has to find his way across the ocean and back home.

I encourage you to take up reading if you haven’t recently. There’s so much to learn and understand in our world. If you’re looking for something new, check out my books here at elaineapowers.com or all of the authors’ books at Lyric Power Publishing LLC.

At the very least, everybody, grab a book and READ! You will grow, and I like to think that’s why we’re here.

Today is National Tell a Fairy Tale Day– Meet Tabby the Five-Finger Fairy!

Today, February 26, is Tell a Fairy Tale Day. A fairy tale is defined as a children’s story about imaginary or magical beings and lands. Some fairy tales have been around so long they are part of folklore, passed down from storyteller to storyteller. Many of the fairy tales popular today were written in the 1800s; you might be familiar with those written by Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm.

I am excited to tell you that fairy tales are still being created today. These stories and characters might still be popular two hundred years from now.

Tabby the Five-Finger Fairy is a new magical being, a fairy who lives in the common Five-finger tree, Tabebuia bahamensis, found only in the Lucayan Archipelago. The land in my fairy tale is very real, but it is a wondrous, I might even say, magical, place: The Bahamas. It is hoped by Scott Johnson, Tabby’s creator, and The Bahamas National Trust, and me that Tabby (illustrated by Nicholas Thorpe), who loves Bahamian wildlife, bush teas, and making friends with animals and humans alike, will become a symbol for conservation and environmental education, not only in the islands but around the world.

photo of the cover of the book Tabby and Clean: Unexpected Friends
A Magical Chapter Book about
Tabby, the Five-Finger Fairy and Her
Adventures with Cleo, a Bahamian Boa
Reading Level: Ages 8+
52 Pages
Tabby Comes Alive in
Illustrations by Nick Thorpe
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! Glossary of plants and animals included.

I encourage you to meet this new fairy tale character, Tabby, and enjoy her story aloud with another who appreciates warm tales of adventure and friendship, in Tabby and Cleo: Unexpected Friends. These stories are what I do: making science fun by weaving scientific information into adventure tales or rhyming stanzas. Enjoy a new fairy-tale story, on this special fairy-tale day.

February 20th is NATIONAL LOVE YOUR PET DAY

Almost 70% of families in the US have pets. I suspect with the pandemic that percentage may have increased. I, of course, have a household filled with pets.

photo of elaine a powers with iguana
My pet iguana, Calliope, is also my writing muse. I dare not call her my favorite in front of the others!

Mine don’t have fur, like the more familiar cats and dogs–they have scales. Yes, my pets are reptiles.

In addition, I have two pets that I’m not allowed to keep at my house by local ordinance, although I wanted to. I also have two horses. Fortunately, they live in nice stables not too far from my house. It’s probably better for them since they are surrounded by other horses and people who can help care for them.

closeup photo of three year old quarter horse face
Selfie-training with Exuma, my three-year-old quarter horse. I can only say that everyone should have to try this once!

 

Reptiles aren’t the only unusual animals kept as companions. People bring rodents, birds (large and small), fish, even snails, into their homes as pets!

It’s nice to know that people can love unusual animals, too.

So, get out there and caress that shell, scratch under that scaly chin, or brush their hair with your fingers.

Love your pets, not only Saturday, Feb. 20th, but every day.

Here are some of my other companions.

elaine a powers with Eddie the iguana
With my old and dear friend, Eddie.
elaine a powers with Myrtle, a red-foot tortoise
With Boss Lady, Myrtle, who asked again if I would read her book to her–that’s right–she asked me to write about her and now it’s her book!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Note:
The rhyming stanzas of Myrtle’s picture book are loved by preschoolers and their parents and grandparents alike! Learn all about the many differences between tortoises and turtles, while making it fun!
And never, ever, call Myrtle a turtle! She is a proud red-foot tortoise.

infographic for children's book Don't Call Me Turtle!

Do Books Have Birthdays? Yes!

I am pleased to announce the “birth” day of my book above.

Curtis Curly-tail is Lizardnapped (an adventure tale featuring endangered flora and fauna of The Bahamas) is four years old this month.The book has a conservation/ecological theme–woven into a story about Curtis Curly-tail Lizard and his friends, who all work together to save themselves and stolen endangered plants from poachers.

I say, “Let’s learn about science in fun ways! That way, it sticks.”

And I have a new video to celebrate! The video can be seen on YouTube at Curtis Curly-tail Speaks.

Book Description:

In the third book of the series, the very curious Curtis Curly-tail mistakes a poacher for a tourist wanting to snap a picture of his perfectly-curled tail. Instead, he is captured, along with critically endangered native plants, Conch and Iguanas. Together the animals plot their escape from the dangerous poachers, but they can’t do it alone. Who will help them? How will they get free of the cages on a speeding boat and return home safely to Warderick Wells?

An Adventure Tale For Readers Age 10+
Lovely Colored Pencil Illustrations by Jessica Minns/30 Pages

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!

There’s a Rainbow in that Dying Cactus

The saguaro pictured above is dying. I was curious about where the colors were coming from. I learned the green color in the photo above is, of course, from chlorophyll; the orange is carotenoids and the purple in the rainbow is betacyanins.

Plants live and die like all living organisms. Some die of old age, but some die when they are young, like this saguaro. A rainbow of colors is revealed as the cactus dies. This is a similar process to what happens to the deciduous tree leaves that change color with the coming of winter, but I wondered what pigments are found in cacti.

The green is chlorophyll, present in the stem for photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process which converts light energy into chemical energy that is used to fuel the plant’s activities. As the chlorophyll fades away, the other pigments are revealed.

Associated with the chlorophyll are the yellow to orange carotenoids. As the green chlorophyll degrades, the carotenoids become visible. These pigments act as photoprotective agents as well as additional light-harvesting pigments, enhancing the light collection for photosynthesis.
The nice purplish colors seen here are the betacyanins, reddish to violet betalain pigments. These pigments may act as a screen, protecting the plant tissue, and may also serve an an antioxidant. Fungicidal properties have also been suggested. Betalains are most obvious in the cactus flowers and fruits, such as the yellow-orange betaxanthins and red-violet betacyanins.
So, the rainbow-in-death colors seen in this saguaro are produced by the pigments revealed as the green chlorophyll is reduced.

Book Note: If you’d like to learn about another fascinating Sonoran Desert plant, I wrote Queen of the Night: Night-Blooming Cereus, about the beautiful plants that bloom once a year, all on the same night, usually in July. The blooming is a big deal here in Southern Arizona and something fun and mysterious to learn about. I love to write fun science books (I believe the learning stays when it’s fun), so I wrote Cereus in rhyme. Check it out here.

image of yellow green book cover about the plant Cereus
The Night-Blooming Cereus: An Amazon No. 1 Book!

 

Photo of night-blooming cereus in Tucson AZ
Photo courtesy of ThisisTucson.com

What Does 2021 Hold?

If you’re familiar with Facebook, you know they often have games for people to play.  Every now and then I can’t resist and participate. After the difficulties of 2020, I was curious to see what 2021 might hold for me.  I swept over the letters with my eye looking for words hidden within. I was surprised and pleased with the result.

The first four words I saw were:  creation, self-care, power and breakthrough.  With the pandemic this year, I’ve been working on marketing the educational aspects of my books and workbooks and have noted for students learning at home that I hope my work adds some fun to their learning activities. I haven’t had any message-breakthroughs yet, but maybe next year, that will change. Maybe the focus and intent of my efforts this year will finally create results in 2021.

On days like today, we can say we truly don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that taking care of ourselves and our loved ones is important. Enjoy the word search and for 2021, I wish you and yours health and happiness . . . and creativity.

Elaine A. Powers
Elaine A. Powers, Author
Lyric Power Publishing LLC

Beauty in Unusual Places

With social distancing, I’ve been spending more time observing at my house. Maybe it’s the isolation, but I’m finding beauty in unusual places. Because of the drought this summer (no monsoon rains in 2020), my grass dried up and the outdoor-living tortoises ate more plants than usual since they had no grass to graze on. I discovered that they had eaten an entire aloe vera plant. It had been quite a large specimen. Now, all that was left was this stump.

I find the geometric organization of the leaves interesting and artistic. I don’t know if the root is still alive, but I’m hoping it is and new growth will come up when it rains again. Until it grows or dies away, I will enjoy this unusual offering of nature and my tortoises.

photo of an aloe vera plant
Now in a pot!

This is an intact aloe vera plant, protected by a clay pot, so the tortoises can’t eat it, too!

book covers turtle or tortoise
To learn about the differences between tortoises and turtles, with fun science books, check out these books by Elaine A. Powers.

 

Drawn to the Amazing Singing Wind Bookshop

Bookshop Photo by Erika Clary

Writing a book is often the easiest part of “the book business.” Unfortunately, due to the hours lost to writing, the author then has to market her work, even, in our times, if she is traditionally published.

As scary as it is to go to bookstores and ask the manager or the book buyer to consider selling my books, I have met some very interesting people along the way. When I was searching for selling opportunities, many people suggested I contact Winn Bundy at Singing Wind Bookshop.

I was not familiar with Singing Wind Bookshop. It was located in Benson, AZ for many years. I knew where Benson was, so I got directions and headed out. Singing Wind was not in the city limits of Benson, but in the surrounding territory. Driving through the open spaces, I wondered where the directions were taking me. Finally, there appeared a sign on a dirt road: Headquarters for Books about the Southwest.

Photo of dirt road outside of Benson, AZ
Photo Courtesy of Paul Vanderwiel

That dirt road took me to an amazing place. The Singing Wind Bookshop was located within Winn Bundy’s ranch house. And yes, it was a working ranch. As I entered the bookshop, I was greeted by a dog, and a gray-haired woman, who insisted on giving me a tour of the shop. That was a requirement – you had to have the tour.

I was used to book shops with organized sections: Fiction, Self-Help, Science, History, etc. Singing Wind was uniquely organized by Winn but it was organized. She could find any book that she stocked in the multitude of literary works contained in the rooms.

It was a magical place where you could spend hours among an unusual array of books, many I doubt I’d find anywhere else. She truly had the best collection of books about the Southwest.
After I had selected several must-have books, I approached the manager about stocking my books. I first offered her Don’t Call Me Turtle! She was non-committal, saying Winn would have to approve it.

I was thrilled when Winn told me that she thought my book was great and wanted it for her bookshop. I knew then I was a success as an author. I had Winn Bundy’s approval.

I was amazed that this cattlewoman in the middle of the wide open spaces of Southern Arizona knew so many authors around the world. We were working on school programs together when Winn’s health deteriorated. It would have been such an honor to work with her and the students. She did incredible work to promote literacy from her ranch house bookshop. If you like to read more about this remarkable woman, here is a great article in The Arizona Daily Star.

Don’t forget to purchase your copy of the Winn-Bundy-approved Don’t Series by me!

book covers Dont Series
These best sellers are written in rhyme, making learning science fun!

To Illustrate or Not? Yes–Absolutely!

In the above illustration from Don’t Make Me Rattle! the reader can see the heat-sensing ability of rattlesnakes.

I’ve been at odds with some of the ideas of traditional publishers lately.  First is the preference to avoid rhyming in picture books. Personally, I feel picture books should always rhyme. I don’t think Dr. Suess would be as popular as he is without the rhyming. He even made words up!

Another disagreement I’ve had with publishers is over illustrations. I hire illustrators to create bold, brightly colored images. Now, a study from Carnegie Mellon says children’s books should have fewer illustrations!

And the authors of this article say to keep it simple: Streamlining book illustrations improves attention and comprehension in beginning readers (by Cassondra M. Eng, Karrie E. Godwin & Anna V. Fisher). They found that reading comprehension was enhanced by the removal of extraneous materials, such as illustrations.

Despite their conclusions, I think illustrations are important in children’s books. We are very visual animals and use our color vision extensively.  Bright colors appeal to young children and color is known to affect moods and behavior.

Okay, I understand that if children only have words to read, they will concentrate on them and have better reading comprehension. But where is the joy of reading, the excitement of opening a book, delighting in the illustration, then delving into the words? If you let a child choose a book to read, it will usually be the one with the bright, colorful pictures.

I realize that the illustrations in my books are what attracts buyers, but then they do enjoy the words—especially the rhyming words! I get letters from kids and adults about this. Colorful illustrations and quality text work together to improve not only the reading but the interest in reading.  A minority of teenagers today read for enjoyment. If the love of books isn’t ingrained in the early readers, interest in reading will fade as they age. The content of the words is enhanced with a skillfully rendered picture.

And, to be honest, the illustrations aren’t only for the children. Adults appreciate them, too, just like the rhyming!

If you want to enjoy colorfully illustrated picture and adventure books, and believe as I do that illustrations keep the kids reading, visit My Books here at ElaineAPowers.com and Our Books at Lyric Power Publishing LLC to check out our wonderful science-based, illustrated, rhyming, FUN, educational books.

Book Note: Here’s a direct link to Don’t Make Me Rattle, which is full of scientific information about rattlesnakes, with fantastic colorful illustrations’ and ALL of the science is written in rhyme to help the student remember the facts. How about that!

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

John Bendon’s Works of Art Are Also Important Scientific Records

In my work as a citizen-scientist helping on iguana conservation projects, I had the privilege of meeting the very talented artist, John Bendon, of the United Kingdom. You don’t have to take my word for his talent – some of his drawings are included in this post.  A few years ago, I purchased a couple of his drawings at a fundraiser.  The detail in the drawing is incredible. These are more than accurate scientific drawings—they are works of art. I purchased the prints because of their beauty but didn’t know the story behind the drawings. At a recent conference, John gave a talk. I learned the background of these animals.

John was in the Galapagos on South Plaza Island which has both land (Conolophus subcristatus) and marine (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) iguanas. He came across the animal depicted above and suspected that this iguana was actually a hybrid of the two species. The scale patterns of the iguana he was studying didn’t match either of the other species. Instead, the physical characteristics seemed to be a mix of the two. This lizard has a bit of the yellow coloration found in the land iguanas but also the black coloration of the marine. The head shape is different, too. Fortunately, John was able to reproduce the detail of the scales and head in his drawings. These drawings are not only works of art but important scientific records.

illustration of a marine iguana by John Bendon
The head of a marine iguana by John Bendon

For more works by John and the causes he supports, visit https://www.iucn-isg.org/publications/

For children’s books that include iguanas in the stories, visit My Books at elaineapowers.com.

 

book cover illustration with two lizards
The Lime Lizard Lads, Gene and Bony, LOVE exploring their island home, where the bravest thing possible is to go see the Dragon of Nani Cave.
An Adventure Tale For Readers Age 8+
48 pages
Fun and Colorful
Illustrations of the many animals they encounter, including the Dragon! By Anderson Atlas

Nature is the Best Holiday Decorator

I usually travel during the December holidays, so I don’t do much holiday decorating. A garland and a lighted ball is sufficient for me. This year, due to the pandemic, I’m staying home and I’ve been trying to decide if and how I’ll decorate. I don’t really need decorations to feel the holiday spirit.
photo of golden pomegranate treeThis morning, I found the holiday colors I was looking for. I don’t need an evergreen tree in my house – I have a golden tree in my yard. This pomegranate tree comes complete with its own red fruit ornaments.
And instead of a star, I’ll top my tree with a hummingbird.

hummingbird in tree
Nature is the best decorator.

Book Note: How Not to Photograph a Hummingbird is a humorous tale about the dangers of trying to photograph a hummingbird. I was fortunate that this particular hummingbird cooperated with my photography efforts.

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.

Humans Have Always Moved Animals–Let’s Do So for the Right Reasons

At a recent conservation meeting in the Caribbean regarding iguanas, there was discussion about establishing additional colonies on islands, so that the lizards would be protected from human-caused threats. The selected islands included their historical homes and new, safe places.
Of course, moving animals is nothing new. Mankind has been moving and introducing animals to new locations throughout history–but rarely has this been beneficial to the native species. Pigs and goats, released to be eventual food sources, have been introduced to islands as natural “livestock pens.” Sadly, livestock often destroy the islands’ ecosystems.
In recent times, iguanas have been moved by people from one island to another, seemingly just because they can. Maybe it happens because the lizards are so attractive and people want some in their previously iguana-free zone, but they are also taken as a food source. Iguanas have been eaten for centuries, although they are now protected from hunting and consumption. Others may think they are helping the iguanas achieve more genetic mixing by adding individuals from one isolated populations to another.
Consequently, scientists prefer to ensure the safety of the iguanas and the island’s environment when translocating them.
Setting up a new community of iguanas is more than just grabbing a few of them and dumping them on their new home. Iguanas are selected by sex, age, reproductive fitness and health status.
Of course, the islands are carefully pre-screened before the iguanas are collected. There must be proper food, no invasive animal species, like mice and rats, den sites and perhaps most importantly, nesting sites. Once the appropriate candidate iguanas have been selected, captured, and examined, they aren’t just plopped onto the island. No, they must wait until the food they ate on their home island has cleared their guts. Iguanas are important seed disperses, but bringing foreign plants onto the receiving island must be prevented. Islands need to be protected from invasive plant species as well.
The possibility of increasing the ranges of critically endangered iguanas is exciting. It’s worth the years of planning that goes into making these projects realities! If you’d like to participate in these efforts, please donate to your favorite conservation organization, or volunteer as a citizen scientist. But don’t pick up an iguana and toss it onto another island!
Some organizations involved in iguana conservation are the International Iguana Foundation, IUCN Iguana Specialist Group, International Reptile Conservation Foundation, The Shedd Aquarium, The Trust of The Bahamas, and The Trust of the Cayman Islands, to name a few.

Book Note: Want to learn more about these wonderful creatures? Go to My Unit Study on Iguanas at Lyric Power Publishing–it’s 30 pages of fun activities and coloring pages for $1.47 until December 31, 2020.

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.

The Mystery of the Cleaning-fiend Tortoises

Above image is of Cantata, an African Spurred or Spur-thighed Tortoises (Geochelone sulcata) and a member of my family

Is this a species thing?

I have several species of tortoises roaming about my house. Tortoises are not potty-trained, so every now and then I have to mop to clean the floor. After sweeping and spraying the spots, I mop the floor.  Most of the tortoises move out of the way, running away to find a safe place.  Not the sulcatas. No, they must not only be near the area that is being cleaned, they must be in it! Do they think there might be something tasty being collected? Do they feel the need to supervise?  Being mopped or swept with a broom has no effect on them.  They just won’t be moved aside.

I first noticed this annoying behavior with my large male sulcata, Duke.  At 150 pounds, he can really be an impediment to cleaning.  He usually ends up outside until the cleaning is completed. He paces in front of the door until he is allowed back in.  Then he inspects the cleaned area – why, I am not certain.

Recently, I discovered my newly rescued female tortoise, Cantata, enjoys the same activity. She’s never met Duke, so he didn’t train her. I was mopping the tortoises’ communal basking place, and sure enough, she had to be right there, in the midst of the soapy water.  The other tortoises had skedaddled, but Cantata would not move away. At least she’s physically easier to move, at only 40 lbs.

I would love to know why sulcata tortoises are cleaning fiends!

Sulcatas are native to sub-Saharan Africa and do well in deserts. Above, Cantata is enjoying a prickly pear (Opuntia sp.) pad.

Book Note: I have a redfoot tortoise, Myrtle, who was often called Myrtle the turtle. One day, fed up, she communicated to me that it was time to write a book about the differences between turtles and tortoises. That was it–the book came to me in rhyming stanzas, and it turned out that kids and their parents loved the science woven into a rhyming book! It’s a lot of fun to read, the rhymes make it easy to remember the differences, and the little scientists in your life will love it. You can read about Don’t Call Me Turtle! here and it is available for sale at Amazon.

infographic for children's book Don't Call Me Turtle!

 

You’ll Never Guess What the Latest Pet Is!

With social distancing and domicile isolation, people are turning to animals for companionship. Dog adoptions have increased and even I bought a second horse. However, new family members haven’t been limited to limited to the usual animals, like dogs, cats, birds, or fish. The newest fad pet is a SNAIL. These mollusks are showing up on social media engaged in a variety of fun activities.

Snails are low maintenance animals, a perfect buddy during quarantine. They aren’t noisy, so the neighbors won’t complain, and their housing needs are minimal. Two snails are not enough for most enthusiasts but don’t worry, snails are very prolific.

The usual lifespan for a snail is 2-3 years.  Unfortunately, in my house it is significantly less, since slugs and snails are favorite foods of Trevor Box Turtle.

Yet, I find it interesting that people are embracing snails as pets. I’ve learned some interesting things about them that would endear them as companion animals.

      1. Snails have poor eyesight but an excellent sense of smell, through which they will recognize you.
      2. They like to have their shells rubbed.
      3. They will eat out of your hand, actually in your hand and enjoy the warmth of your skin.
      4. They like warm showers and baths.

Snails are the perfect pet: quiet, small, self-renewing, with colorful shells, slow moving so they won’t get away, and those eyestalks are so cute!

What do you think?

Book Note:  Just in case you or your youngster would like to learn more about turtles, I wrote a book about the differences between Hickatees and Sea Turtles. It’s fun to read and full of great turtle information!

a dark green book cover: Hickatees vs Sea Turtles
Do you know the differences between
the land-dwelling Hickatee and the
ocean-dwelling Sea Turtle?
Learn about them inside.
Reading Level:
Ages 6+
Written in Rhyme
45 Pages
Wonderful Illustrations
of the Native Hickatee Turtle
and Sea Turtles
by Anderson Atlas
Learn all about the endemic Hickatee turtle who has so many troubles–well-meaning humans who throw them to their deaths into the ocean, cars that run over them, loss of land to lay their eggs, and cousins pushing them out.
Shows physical traits and the differences between these land-dwelling turtles and the sea turtles that do reside in the ocean.
Make friends with the Hickatee today!

 

It’s National Native American Heritage Day on November 27th

The day after Thanksgiving is National Native American Heritage Day. Legislation was passed to commemorate Native Americans and encourage people to learn more about the cultures of the people native to this continent. However, a recently published study showed that we can learn much more from Native Americans, who well-preserve their lands and the habitats of the animals that live on them.

Above image of a Native American Man, possibly taken in 1899, is courtesy of David Mark of Pixabay.

a photograph from a mountain overlooking the Great Basin
Image of the Great Basin National Park, home to Paiute, Shoshone and Washoe tribes, is courtesy of David Mark from Pixabay

Even though this study was done in Australia, Brazil and Canada, I bet it would be true in other lands, too, including here in the U.S. The article, The Vertebrate Biodiversity on Indigenous-Managed Lands in Australia, Brazil, and Canada Equals that in Protected Areas, is linked here.

Habitat loss due to non-native human development has resulted in losses of species at such a level it is being called a “Sixth Mass Extinction.” Many countries haven’t managed to protect land as agreed in existing international treaties. The authors of the above study explored whether land management could be enhanced through partnerships between indigenous communities and government agencies. They found that the indigenous-managed lands had more vertebrate species than protected areas in all three countries. Interestingly, the indigenous-managed land also supported more threatened species. The authors suggest that partnerships with indigenous-managed lands would help the countries in reaching their goals for biodiversity conservation.

This article did not surprise me. I drove a friend around the Salt River area of Arizona. She was looking to buy some land for a house to retire in.  As we drove through the San Carlos Apache Reservation, we noted the forest was healthy and very attractive. My friend was delighted since the plot she was interested in was just outside the reservation. However, as soon as we crossed the border, the quality of the land deteriorated rapidly. It was obvious the Native Americans were much better stewards of the land.

Unfortunately, as with Native American heritage, the wisdom of their environmental conservation practices is either lost or ignored by us. Let’s celebrate Native American Heritage Day and commit to partnering with indigenous people in protecting the land before it is lost forever.

Book Note: Conservation of land and animals is a subject dear to my heart. Please take a look at the books in the Conservation area of my website that weave science education into stories. We have come upon a time when it’s important for all of us to learn what we can do to help preserve the remaining species on this planet–and the planet itself. As they say, we only have this one home planet.

Also, until November 30th, my book publishing company, Lyric Power Publishing LLC is having a 50% off sale on a workbook about the ROCKS that make up the earth. It’s a great time to give our workbooks a chance. They’re comprehensive, educational and FUN. My Book About Rocks is 43 pages of interesting activities and it’s only $2.50 until November 30, 2020.

book cover for workbook "My Book About Rocks"

Forty-one pages of information, worksheets, and activity sheets that will give students in grades 2-5 an all-around understanding of rocks and minerals and how they are formed. Includes three word searches, a crossword puzzle, opinion essay writing, group chart activity, cut-and-paste the rock cycle, check lists for collecting rocks in the field and sorting and classifying them in the classroom. Homework project: How to build a sedimentary sandwich, with full instructions.

Writings Tips for Creating Realistic Settings

We live in a very visual world. Our entertainment is mostly visual: TV, movies, videos and, of course, our cell phones.

Above Photo courtesy of Hans Benn of Pixabay.

When you write a story, however, you must create the setting for the reader through words alone. This can be challenging. For instance, the setting for a story includes a full moon. Is that enough information? Unfortunately not.
Look at the photos below.

photo of a full moon with dark trees in the firefront
Photo courtesy of Gerry Sprie

This photo was taken by my friend, Gerry Sprie. This could be a dense forest, or the woods on a foggy night. I envision this setting being used for a scary story, perhaps for a Halloween tale, but for others, it might be a romantic moon in a lush forest.
The trees in this photo are very different than the trees in the next image. The setting below seems more confining, as opposed to openness of the taller trees and the clearer view above. I feel a bit claustrophobic with the photo below.

Full moon peeking between trees

Full moons don’t appear only at night. Sometimes, the moon rises when the sun is still out. That setting is much different from the previous one.
Daytime moons can be varied as well.

Full moon showing in daylightThe moon here is rising above a majestic mountain range, while the one below is entangled in a ground level tree. Of course, the tree and mountains are part of the setting as well, and can help set the scene you’re writing. One gives a feeling of a wide Western vista, and the other is grounded. I might even write that the rising moon is snagged in the branches of a Palo Verde tree.

Full moon early risingA full moon provides many elements for a story: illumination for the nighttime activity, the effect of the full moon on the tides and possibly behavior, tying in the local cultural beliefs associated with full moons, or it could even mark a time of year. So many possibilities.

For practice, try writing descriptions of these photos or some photos of your own. Will the reader see the scene in her mind’s eye? Will you transport the reader to your story’s location to experience what the character is experiencing? What does the sky look like? Is there a breeze? What odors does he smell? What sounds surround him?

The goal of the writer is to utilize all the senses, pulling the reader into the story as if she was there. Have fun with this and remember to keep at it. Practice does make perfect with writing!

Book Note: I have very much enjoyed writing to bring alive the flora and fauna of The Bahamas and the Cayman Islands in my adventure tales written for 8-12 year-olds. The characters are critters who seem to be experts at making mischief. I hope you will consider these educational adventure tales that have the science of the islands woven into the stories. In other words, readers learn about the wildlife in these locales in a fun way. In my book, Curtis Curly-tail Hears a Hutia, an endangered species threatens a protected environment–and the reader gets to choose the ending he or she believes will best solve the problem. I believe science should be fun, and I hope you will agree.

colorful children's book cover with a curly-tail lizard riding on the back of a hutia
This is a special story for readers who like to solve problems. It takes Curtis Curly-tail on his second adventure, but is based on real ecological events taking place on Warderick Wells Cay in The Bahamas.
The hutia are endangered rodents native to the islands. Some are transplanted to Curtis’s cay, and Curtis meets his new friend, Horace. When the scientists come back to check on the hutia, they find that the native shrubs are almost gone, due to the hungry hutia.
But Curtis and Horace do not understand what is happening when the hutia are captured and put into cages. Curtis decides to do everything he can to help Horace and his family.
It is you, the reader, however, who must decide how the story will end. How do you solve a problem when an endangered species threatens a protected environment? There are three endings to the book. Which one will you choose?
Or, will you come up with another solution?
Lesson plans for teachers are also
available at iginspired@gmail.com.

November 19th is National Carbonated Beverage with Caffeine Day

When I saw that November 19 was National Carbonated Beverage with Caffeine Day, I immediately thought of my favorite soda, Mountain Dew.  I prefer the light citric crispness of Diet Mountain Dew.  I was attracted to the name, slang for moonshine, and its bright green color, of course. The color reminds me of green iguanas.

Mountain Dew was created in the 1940s by Tennessee brothers Barney and Ally Hartman as a mixer for liquor. I’m not surprised since I like to mix Diet Mountain Dew with flavored vodka or rum. The current version of Mountain Dew was released in 1961. My favorite form, diet, didn’t come along until 1988.

Over the years, there have been many debates between lovers of Coca-Cola and fans of Pepsi Cola, but I will always Do the Dew!

Book Note: To have fun learning all about the big lizards, Iguanas, and other reptiles, check out Lyric Power Publishing LLC’s workbooks and activity sheets. Click on My Unit Study on Iguanas to go directly to the download page. Economical, fun and comprehensive, the workbook can be printed as many times as you need!

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.

Sweet Iguana Dreams, My Friends

Every night I say “Sweet Iguana Dreams” to my iguana family members. Some people would think that is a silly thing to say, since iguanas are said not to dream. But I think they do. Iguanas are diurnal, active during the day and they sleep at night. In fact, they can sleep very soundly. I’ve been known to use this deep slumber to move aggressive iguanas or to clip the long toenails of recalcitrant family members.

Usually, the sleeping iguanas stretch out, with their arms relaxed alongside the torso.

photo of sleeping iguana
Sleeping comfortably and perhaps dreaming!

I’ve had a few hundred iguanas reside in my rescue over several years. Generally, they sleep quietly through the night. Every now and then, I would hear thrashing in the night and find an iguana asleep, rolling, snapping his or her tail, legs running in place. I believe these iguanas were having bad dreams, perhaps trying to escape a predator. Since they had been rescued, I hoped they weren’t dreaming about fleeing an abusive human.

I gently stroked the disturbed lizard’s back until they woke up, eyes wide open, looking around in panic. For some iguanas, this was enough and they would relax and go back to sleep. Others wanted to be held and comforted, which I was always happy to do.

This article in Scientific American gives a good summary about reptiles and REM sleep. See? They do have the potential to dream as you and I do.

May all your dreams be “sweet iguana dreams,” too.

NOTE: To learn more about these fascinating creatures, and for some fun with coloring, cutting and pasting, puzzles, charting, and more, see My Unit Study on Iguanas, proudly published by Lyric Power Publishing LLC.

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.

It’s a Climbing-the-Walls Kind of Time

Here, my youngest iguana, Twizzler Spiny-tail Iguana, is demonstrating that he is literally climbing the wall.

by Elaine A. Powers

If you’re like me, you’re spending more time at home than usual. Of course, this should help my writing output, but I often get distracted by the news of the world. Fortunately, I live with an assortment of animals who help me maintain my mental wellbeing.

At first my reptiles, many of whom free-roam my house, enjoyed having me around. They’d join in at my work area and sit at my feet, or wander by, walking over my feet or pushing my wheeled-chair. I liked the attention.

But over time, I noticed they weren’t around me as much. They had been accustomed to me traveling and having other caregivers while I was gone. Absence made their hearts grow fonder. Now, they have found favorite spots to hang out in in other rooms, especially the spare bedroom.

Was it something I said? Maybe I’m watching too much news or it’s been too long without me taking a trip. Well, we’ve all got our own space, so we should be content, right?

Nope! Today I realized that my reptiles may be experiencing enough stress to drive them “up the wall.” The phrase means being irritated or angry enough that one feels the need to escape, even if it means climbing up and over walls.

photo of iguana climbing back down the wall of cageTwizzler was eventually able to relax and made his way back down and settled into the day’s activities.

 

 

 

elaine a powers with rhino iguana rango
Here I am with Rhino Iguana Rango. Isn’t she a beauty?

As you can see above, iguanas can become quite large. So, when I wrote The Dragon of Nani Cave–well, the dragon isn’t really a dragon. It’s an iguana and only seems like a dragon to small Curly-tail lizards, the Lime Lizard Lads, who work up enough courage  to go find the dragon (with a little help from their friends). While the lizards are having an adventure, young readers are learning all about ecosystems (and they don’t even know it). That’s what we do around here–make learning about science fun!

Grab a copy today and while you’re at it, click the links below to check out the coordinating activity sheets and workbooks that reinforce the educational material in the book. They are lots of fun and help to pass the many hours at home.

book cover illustration of two lizards

 The Lime Lizard Lads, Gene and Bony, LOVE exploring their island home, where the bravest thing possible is to go seethe Dragon of Nani Cave.

An Adventure Tale For Readers Age 8+  48 pages

Fun and Colorful Illustrations of the many animals they encounter, 
including the Dragon! By Anderson Atlas 

Gene and Bony are bored. They go see Old Soldier Crab who tells them wondrous, dangerous creatures live up on the bluff. And, if they go, they must prove themselves worthy and return with a piece of Caymanite.

They must journey through Skull Cave and meet bats, and a cat with sharp teeth. Then they meet Kat, a fellow Curly-tail Lizard and she knows the way to Nani Cave. But she warns there might be more than one dragon.

Meeting one danger after another, they finally arrive at Nani Cave. There he is: the dragon! He’s HUGE! And look at all those teeth!

What will Gene and Bony do now?

KEEP THE FUN GOING!
COORDINATING WORKBOOKS AND
ACTIVITY SHEETS AVAILABLE AT
LYRIC POWER PUBLISHING, LLC:

MY  READING BOOK AND COLORING PAGES FOR THE DRAGON OF NANI CAVE

MY UNIT STUDY ON IGUANAS

MY BOOK ABOUT BATS AND RATS

NINE PLANTS OF THE CAYMAN ISLANDS

FIVE WAYS TO PROTECT CAYMAN BRAC WILDLIFE COLORING BOOK

MY PASSPORT TO THE CAYMAN ISLANDS

ANIMALS OF NANI CAVE AND
CAYMAN BRAC COLORING PAGES

ANIMALS OF CAYMAN BRAC
AND 13-MONTH CALENDAR

Desert vs. Island Temps by Curtis Curly-tail Lizard

illustration of curtis curly-tail lizard
It’s me, Curtis Curly-tail Lizard! Don’t you just love my perfectly curled tail?

Since I’ve been staying in my den more, I’ve been tuning in to old TV shows. I enjoy the old Westerns set in the US Desert Southwest—maybe because that’s where my good friend and author, Elaine A. Powers, lives! The dry climate there is so different from my humid island weather. Where I live in the Exuma Island chain in The Bahamas, the temperature only varies between 28.0° Celsius (82.4° Fahrenheit) and 20.0° Celsius (68° Fahrenheit).

I mention this because I was watching the show, The High Chaparral, which is set in the Sonoran Desert, outside of Tucson, Arizona. In one episode, the character Manolito complains that the desert is very hot during the day, but so cold at night. Summer temperatures can exceed 40°C (104°F) during the day, but fall to around 20.0° Celsius (68° Fahrenheit) at night!

That’s a huge drop! I wondered how that happens, so I asked Elaine, of course. It’s due to the lack of water. No humidity! The sun warms the ground during the day, which raises the temperature. The lack of water in the ground means all that heat is lost after the sun sets; and the lack of vegetation helps in the loss of heat from the ground, too.

I realized it’s the humidity here in the islands that helps maintain our temperatures, so we don’t heat up too high during the day and lose as much of the sun’s warmth at night. Our temperatures stay within a narrow range, while those in the desert swing wildly.

photo of ocean wave coming in, below an orange sunset
Image courtesy of RUBEN EDUARDO ORTIZ MORALES from Pixabay

I’m glad I live here, in this perfect place, here on Warderick Wells Cay in the Caribbean. It could be the most perfect place in the world. Well—except for one thing. The hurricanes. I’d love it if you picked up a copy of my latest adventure/survival story, Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away! The kids will learn all about how my friends and I work to survive the hurricanes and how the people of The Bahamas help each other to rebuild. It’s an adventure tale with a happy ending—and environmental and weather science woven into the story. That’s Elaine’s specialty: making science books fun! Check her books out here and click on the amazingly fun workbooks to see the educational supplements associated with her books, published by Lyric Power Publishing, LLC.

children's book cover about Curtis Curly-tail lizard and a hurricane in the Bahamas
In this story, I join 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.

If you’d like to learn more about the science of islands, check out the complete Curtis Curly-tail Series. If your children need to learn more about desert science, they should read Elaine’s Don’t Series, as well as the amusing How Not to Photograph a Hummingbird, which shows how dangerous that can be in a desert (in a humorous way) and includes a glossary of flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert.

Really! Check out Elaine’s books! She loves making science fun to read, in the hopes budding scientists will be born. And don’t forget about me! I have my own YouTube channel, where you can learn about Everything Reptiles! Come visit me today at Curtis Curly-tail Speaks. See you next time!

Moon and Venus say Hello to Each Other!

PHOTO above is courtesy of the App called SkyView.

Thanks to Tucson, Arizona being a dark sky city, stargazing can be wonderful. One recent September morning, I enjoyed viewing the crescent moon along with a bright object. Of course, that object was not a star, but the planet Venus. I thought it was worth a photo (below), even though my cell phone doesn’t take the best night-time images.

photo of crescent moon and the planet Venus near each other
Photo of crescent moon near the planet Venus by Elaine A. Powers, Author

I’m not very knowledgeable about constellations, so I use the SkyView app. The constellation for the Zodiac sign Cancer was overlaid. I like how the claws appear to be holding the moon.

Several of these astronomy apps are free and fun to use. All you have to do is go outside and look up.

I wonder if Curtis Curly-tail lizard ever navigated his way home using the stars as guides? He certainly is a bright little guy and he really helps make learning science fun. Check out the Curtis Curly-tail series today!

children's book cover about Curtis Curly-tail lizard and a hurricane in the Bahamas
In this story, I join 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.