Join Me at TFOB!

The festival is coming! The festival is coming! On March 4 & 5, 2023, the best book festival in the country, the Tucson Festival of Books, will be held at the University of Arizona mall. If you’re a newbie to TFOB, or even a seasoned professional, planning your visit can be a bit overwhelming. Not to worry, I have some recommendations!

 

Join Me and My Fellow Authors

 

I’ll be sharing booth #325 with fellow author/illustrator Anderson Atlas. “Grab an Adventure by the Tale” will be in the Children’s section. We have books for kids of all ages, including those who are only kids at heart. Between the two of us, we have an incredible array of locally written and illustrated books. In addition, Atlas always comes up with an interesting decoration for the booth – you don’t want to miss what he comes with this year!

As you stroll around the mall, be sure to stop at the Arizona State Poetry Society, booth #413, and Tucson Sisters in Crime, #427. All of these booths will have books for sale by Arizona authors. Whether you prefer poetry or mysteries, these organizations will fulfill your desires.

Unfortunately, this amazing event only lasts one weekend. Clear your calendar and come on out. If you want to hear your favorite author, search for that one special tome, or enjoy learning some science, the Tucson Festival of Books is the place to be. Oh, and the funds raised go to support local literacy programs.

The Tale of an Old Time Term

One of my favorite pastimes is listening to Old Time Radio (OTR) shows as I drive around. The other day while captivated by a comedy show, I heard an unusual word. I thought it was perhaps a slip of the tongue or a word created for comic effect. But then I heard it a few more times on other OTR shows. The word was “discombooberate.” I’m familiar with “discombobulate,” since my parents used it frequently during my childhood, but I had never heard discombooberate. The BOOB sound lands very differently on the ear than BOB does. Every time it was said, I paid more attention. The first broadcast was a comedy, but the subsequent occurrences were on mystery shows.

I learned about the impact of sound in audio stories when I was involved with the Hunterdon Radio Theatre (HRT) back in New Jersey. The ear catches details much more effectively than the eye. For example, I still remember a police drama episode where the door opened and never closed, even though the sound from the other room decreased as if the door had closed! I worried about that unclosed door through several scenes. Not a good thing for the show. Details like this are important when writing scripts, which I was doing for HRT.

I was curious about this new word version. I assumed correctly that it was another form of the word that I knew. Both versions are intentional comic alterations of the word “discompose” or “discomfit” which are old-fashioned terms for upsetting, confusing, disturbing, or frustrating a person. Word historians consider them be derivatives of “discombobricate.” The intentionally reworked word first appeared around 1834, as “discombobracated.” Since then, it has become “discombobberate,” “discombooberate,” “discombobulate” and “discomboomerate,” according to an article in the Times Leader (January 22, 2001). Wow! What a ever-changing word. I’m considering creating a new version. How about “discombobboberate”? That has a nice rhythm.

If you’d like to check out my New Time Radio theater or audio scripts, you can see them on elaineapowers.com. They are family-friendly. They are different lengths from five minutes to ninety minutes in length. Some of them, I based on the OTR style of talk show hosts, like the Bob and Ray comic duo. Of course, my talk show hosts are lizards, a green iguana, and a water monitor. They are entertaining and educational, just like my books. Don’t worry, they won’t make you feel discombobulated!

No Ordinary Button

November 16th is National Button Day. What do you think of when you hear the word “button?” Do images of the many colors, diversely shaped garment fasteners come to mind? I remember selecting colors and shapes to add interest to my clothes. Then there’s the time spent searching through the massive collection that my mother had amassed over the years to find one that matched, or came close, to matching a missing one. But there is more to that word than one would expect. Join me as I explore more about buttons and share all about my favorite Button!

All About Buttons

I had never thought that much about buttons as a child, until my father mentioned harvesting freshwater mussels from the Illinois River to make buttons. In fact, it was quite the lucrative business in the area. The mussels’ shells were punched to create disks that were polished to reveal the shiny nacre, otherwise known as mother of pearl. Unfortunately, this industry led to the demise of many of the mussel populations. The loss of these water filtering mollusks increased the degradation of the river’s water quality. I tried to find the species names for the mussels involved in the button manufacture and could only find a few. Mentioned are yellow sandshells, pistolgrips, ebonyshells and the drilled threeridge mussel (Amblema plicata).

Or perhaps, your mind wandered to the phrases “cute as a button” or “to push my buttons.” Did you ever wonder where the phrase “cute as a button” came from? If someone was cute, you were saying they were clever or intelligent. Certainly, a compliment. But how does that relate to a button sewn on clothing? 

The “button” in the phrase probably actually referred to a flower bud, which are attractive. The tip of a rattlesnake tail when it’s born is also called a button. The rattler can’t rattle until its first shed, when the first keratin segment is added. But I don’t think the phrase originators were thinking of a rattlesnake when they came up with “cute as a button,” although I do think they are cute.

The phrase “to push my buttons” refers to intentionally making someone angry. How it evolved from household appliances going electric and “push button,” I’m not really sure.

My Favorite Button

But when I hear the word “button,” I think of Button, my first and my heart horse. Button was my second lesson horse when I was learning to ride bareback. She is a Missouri Foxtrotter, one of the gaited horse varieties. She is both a “cute as a button” and “pushing my buttons,” kind of girl. Buttons taught me a lot about horse philosophy and the mind of a prey animal. But mostly, she taught me about the bond that can occur between females of different species. 

Before Button, I never really liked horses. I like all animals and plants as a biologist, but reptiles have always been my thing. I had no interest in “owning” dogs and cats, which was enhanced by my allergies to them.But from the first time I climbed on Button’s back, we had a special connection. Given a choice of lesson horses, I always chose Button. Apparently, Button felt it too, since she chose me as her preferred human. I’m sure that rankled her owner, my trainer, at the time. When her owner’s life took a significant change, I was offered Button as my own and I took her. I really knew nothing about caring for a horse and the next few years were a rapid course in horse care, disease, attitude and how to ride! I’ve learned a lot.

Looking down at the back of Button's head and mane from a riding position.

Button is a gorgeous copper-colored chestnut with a flowing mane. With her seeming calm manner, she is definitely “cute as a button.” And with the attitude of a dominant mare, the stereotypical red-headed mare who feels she should be in charge, she can definitely “push my buttons.”

With age and the advancement of a non-operable tumor, Button has retired from riding. But we still take walks together and we still talk and share views of our world. Okay, I do the talking, but she communicates quite well.

On November 16, when the intent is to celebrate the world of buttons produced for clothing, I will be celebrating Button who brought such a wondrous change into my life. If you are interested in learning more about Button read my previous blog all about her on the Lyric Publishing website.

A chestnut horse with a white stripe running down it's head, Elaine leads it on a rope in the pasture.
Button

My, What Big Leaves You Have!

When I need an ocean fix, I head to the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. But when I need a green fix, I head back to my hometown of Peoria, IL. I call it my writing retreat because I sit on my cousin’s back porch, where my muse refreshes and my writing output increases. Having his two dogs draped on the furniture around me helps with the inspiration. I often take his Goldendoodle for a walk around the tree-filled neighborhood, to get some exercise and increase blood flow to my brain. After living in the Sonoran Desert for over a decade, the trees strike me as so…green! The trees are tall with thick branches and really big leaves! Why such a big difference in the flora? I’m glad you asked.

Small vs. Big Leaves

I’ve become used to the small, thin leaves of the desert trees. Their short stature, their thin branches, and the sight of the landscape through the leafy sparseness are what I now expect. This is a mesquite tree, common in the Sonoran Desert.

The tiny leaves of a mesquite tree.

The significant differences between the leaves got me thinking about how the tree species have adapted to their environments. Desert tree leaves are small to reduce surface area thereby decreasing water loss. Access to water is limited in desert environments. In the Midwest, water conservation is less of an issue for the trees. They have leaves with lots of surface area. It’s interesting that leaves that grow in the shade (all those leaves produce a great deal of shade) are usually bigger. They need a greater surface area to increase their amount of photosynthesis. The leaves exposed to the sun can be smaller. No need for them to fight over the sunshine.

Some of the more common Midwest trees are the oaks. The average oak leaf can be up to eight inches in length. This is huge compared to the palo verde or mesquite leaves which have leaflets about an inch long. In addition, the oak leaves are present from spring until fall, since they are deciduous, drop off for winter. In comparison, the desert trees’ leaves tend to show up after rainfall.

The leaves are responsible for feeding the trees. Photosynthesis is where sunlight is used to synthesize carbon dioxide and water into food for plants. Oxygen is given off as a byproduct, fortunately for us oxygen breathers.

A Whole New Tree-preciation 

I must confess, living in the desert has made me appreciate trees more than I need, as a once native Midwesterner. Sure, I knew they were important and beautiful, but I usually appreciated it when they bloomed in the spring or changed colors in the fall. Now, I more fully realize how critical they are to life in any environment. Animals and other plants really depend on their presence to survive.

If you want to know more about the plants in the Sonoran Desert, I offer a bit of information in How Not to Photograph a Hummingbird.

A Snake… with Legs?

We humans like to find ways of enhancing our means of movement. We strap wheels onto our feet, jump on skateboards, and climb on bicycles or motorcycles. We build cars to drive faster than we can walk. We build airplanes to fly in the sky like birds. But we’ve also invented wonderful devices to assist humans with mobility impairments. Furthermore, we don’t just build these devices for ourselves, we build them for other animals too. Explore some of these animal mobility devices with me, including one that gives snakes… legs!

Some Helpful Human Devices

Science and engineering have developed many useful tools for animals. Wheels allow animals without use of their back legs to roll along, from dogs to turtles. Then there’s the prosthetic limbs for alligators like Mr. Stubbs at the nearby Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary. Another remarkable prosthetic was the tail created for Winter, a bottle-nose dolphin.

Movement is very important to people, even if it borders on the absurd. For instance, I included the technology that allowed a fish to move its tank on wheel, i.e. FOV, fish-operated vehicle in one of my books. I used a FOV to allow my protagonist Clarissa Catfish to wander around the Peoria Play House Children’s Museum in my hometown of Peoria, IL.

Book cover for Clarissa Catfish.

How a Snake Got Legs

So it should be no surprise, I was intrigued when an engineer decided to give snakes legs, claiming they were reversing an evolutionary mistake. Robotic technology has really advanced over the recent years, so that a robotic exoskeleton could be built.

A snake in a tube with robotic legs attached.

It took a few tries for the snake to enter the contraption, but once she did, she seemed to enjoy moving about with legs. Of course, she wasn’t controlling the movement or the direction like the fish did, but those could be future enhancements. I am curious to see if this technology leads to more practical uses or if this was just fun with snakes. Maybe if the legs had a camera like the fish tank, the snake could be in control. Giving snakes legs might be the ultimate in enhancing movement, but then again who knows where movement technology will lead us and our animal associates.

Oh, and by the way, don’t be surprised if your snake requests legs for its next gift-giving event! If you are interested in learning more about snakes, download one of my many educational workbooks on the topic. 

Revenge of the Crows!

I’ve always liked crows and ravens. They’re very intelligent and dedicated to their families. They also don’t mind interacting with people. I’ve read about crows and ravens bringing gifts to their people in exchange for tasty tidbits. Crows have their own culture. Celebrity crows, like those kept at the Tower of London, have their own fan base. And of course, there’s the raven of Poe’s Nevermore fame. However, I was particularly interested in the article by Stephen Johnson entitled How to Befriend Crows and Turn Them Against Your Enemies. This I had to read!

A Crow Army

The author was trying to get birds to imprint on him, making them think he is their mother. Konrad Lorenz is famous for his work on imprinting with birds, so Johnson’s work should have been straightforward. He decided that he wanted a murder of crows following him around “like a black cloud of menace.” He intended to use his crow army to destroy his enemies. Oooh, cool.

The crow behavior that enticed Johnson was the ability to recognize human faces. He intended to be the Master of Crows! You can’t keep crows as pets, but you can befriend them, becoming their companion as they live their own lives.

Johnson’s Guide to Training Crows

  1. First, attract the crows. Provide a safe, quiet place for the crows to live, such as your yard. Crows can be socialized with people.
  2. Make sure there are lots of bushes and trees, for hiding and plotting.
  3. Eliminate items that irritate crows, like dogs and cats, chimes, etc.
  4. Provide water for cleaning their food and themselves.
  5. Provide food. Crows are omnivores, so practically anything will work. Johnson selected meat scraps because he wanted bloodthirsty crows.
  6. Feed in an open area with something shiny around it.
  7. Stay away from the feeding area, just lurk from afar until they are used to you.
  8. Be patient
  9. Feed consistently
  10. Gradually introduce yourself
  11. Become associated with the food
  12. If the crows are pleased with your delectable offerings, they may show their gratitude by leaving shiny objects in gratitude.
  13. Realize the crows will become territorial and protective of you. This trait could be effectively used against the neighbors.
  14. However, Johnson wanted his crows to only attack his enemies, not just generally attack people who were not him.
  15. Crows have people they like and people they don’t, and they remember!
  16. Not only do they remember people they don’t like, they tell other crows, so more of them dislike the same people. Okay, that’s scary.
  17. So, Johnson decided to get a realistic mask of a mortal enemy. While wearing it, he would annoy the crows. And annoy them until they’d hate the face.

That was Johnson’s ultimate goal. Train the crows to attack the people he hated. The crows would glare, screech, and, sometimes, actually attack. It would go on for years and years. The number of attacking crows would continually increase. A truly terrifying weapon for revenge.

This is a brilliant plan. However, Johnson should be careful that his victims don’t learn about this crow training method. They just might train a murder of crows of their own!

Excuse me while I go have a chat with the local ravens (crow relatives). Then maybe I’ll work on a list of enemies. I wonder where I can have masks made…

While I don’t have any books on crows or ravens (yet), I do cover many other bird species in my wonderful science-based picture books. Give them a read sometime!

 

Having Fun with Shadows!

Do you enjoy shadows as much as I do? As a child, I fondly remember making shadow puppets with my family, creating animals out of our hands. My shadows were always very simple and I admired people who could make more complex animal shadows. Little did I know that shadow puppetry is an ancient form of storytelling. That makes sense, though; as long as you have a surface for a light to be pointed at, you can make shadows. Hopefully, this blog will shed some light on the shadowy business of shadows. 

A Shadow by any Other Name

One of my favorite shadows is in that popular poem that I recited repeatedly as a child and, I confess, I still do today. You can’t go wrong with the poems by Robert Louis Stevenson.

My Shadow

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,

And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.

He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;

And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

 

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—

Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;

For he sometimes shoots up taller like an India-rubber ball,

And he sometimes gets so little that there’s none of him at all.

 

He hasn’t got a notion of how children ought to play,

And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.

He stays so close beside me, he’s a coward you can see;

I’d think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!

 

One morning, very early, before the sun was up,

I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;

But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,

Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

Me and My Shadows

I, too, delighted in the diversity of my shadow’s forms, and still do today. I even use shadows to examine my horse’s stride, since I can’t always determine what its feet are doing from my perch on its back. It’s so much easier when I can look at the horse’s shadow for confirmation that we’re moving correctly.

From my home in Tucson, I can see Pusch Ridge in the Santa Catalina Mountains, east of the city. When the sunsets, not only do the mountains change colors, orange to maroon, but shadows darken the indentations. These shadows give the ridge an air of harshness and mystery.

One mountain shadow near Phoenix is quite famous. From the third week of March through the third week of September, a shadow forms that looks like a mountain lion chasing a prey animal. This shadow forms in the Superstition Mountains, east of Mesa. The sun must be at the correct latitude on the western horizon to create this shadow. It’s amazing and spectacular to use one’s imagination on such a large scale. I wonder if the Native Americans enjoyed this phenomenon as much as modern people do.

A shadow that resembles a cougar lies between two mountain peaks.

Photo credit: Paul Fiarkoski for AZ Wonders

Shadows of the Wild

Shadows of trees can create a mysterious setting for a story. Moonlight on the desert’s sparsely leaved trees provides a satisfying effect.

An eerie shadow of a bare branches on asphalt.

My iguanas are also involved in my shadow observations. Calliope Green Iguana’s shedding skin created an interesting pattern along her back.

AN iguana with striped shadows on her side created by her shedding skin.

However, my rock iguana, Blue, did the best job of creating impressive shadows. The shadows of his claws are good enough for a horror movie!

The claw of an iguana, the shadow exaggerates the hook and sharpness of the nails.

And even though he is five feet long, his body’s shadow produced a huge reptilian creature! I especially like how his spines came out, too.

An iguana with a shadow that is twice its size with exaggerated spines.

What are your favorite shadows? For me, Shadows can be useful tools, something to enjoy, or writing inspiration. I hope you’ll find something new in a shadow the next time you encounter one. 

Why Don’t I Write That?

I’m so happy in-person book sales are returning. I love speaking to people about my books and about the importance of science education through children’s books. Many people are delighted to find my books and often suggest other topics for me to write about. I write them all down. 

My most popular books are my Don’t series, which features animals and plants found in the Sonoran Desert (and other places), are popular in the Tucson area. Often people will comment that they’ve bought one or seen it for sale in various gift shops. That makes my day. However, even though I’m delighted when people recognize my books, I often get credit for a book I didn’t write: Don’t Call Me Pig! But I do have a story about it.

Once Upon a Don’t

Book Cover: Don't Call Me Pig!

Don’t Call Me Pig!  is about the javelinas, or peccaries, of the Sonoran Desert. They are not pigs, although they look a lot like pigs. One clue is that javelinas don’t have tails! Another difference, which is important to my frequent topic of invasiveness of species, is that javelinas are native to the Americas (the New World), but domestic pigs (which become wild boars) are from the Old World (Africa, Asia and Europe).

Don’t Call Me Pig! was written by the very talented author, Conrad Storad. When I was planning on writing about the differences between turtles and tortoises, I wanted to emulate Storad’s book style. His books included many scientific facts and natural history, just like I wanted to do. When I bought my copy of Don’t Call Me Pig!, I discovered that his picture book rhymed. You may be familiar with my opinion that children’s pictures books should rhyme. Inspired, I created my rhyming picture book on behalf of my tortoise, Myrtle (not Myrtle the turtle!)

However, I was concerned about the title. I wanted to name my book, Don’t Call Me Turtle! Was this too close to Don’t Call Me Pig!? Even though, he didn’t have any other titles with Don’t Call Me, would people confuse us?

As I was contemplating my book’s name, I had the opportunity to sit next to Storad at a book festival in Tucson. This gave me a chance to speak with him. First, I learned that his book, Don’t Call Me Pig!, had just sold a million copies. Not bad for a rhyming picture book, published 1999. Modern traditional publishers have been wary of rhyming picture books, with some editors and agents refusing to even look at them. I doubt I will ever reach that sales level, but why not try?

I asked Storad if he minded if I titled my book so closely to his. He graciously told me to go ahead, that he didn’t mind at all. That was the start of my Don’t series about animals and plants that are found in the Sonoran Desert and other places. I am grateful to Storad for his kindness and encouragement. I doubt he remembers me, but I will always remember him.

For more information about my books and me, check out www.LyricPower.net. You’ll find tons of educational and entertaining books, downloadable workbooks, and puzzles.

Give the Gift of a Picture Book!

This is the season for gift giving. Why not give a gift that educates as it entertains, builds language skills, and can be enjoyed over and over again? Books are always a great gift for any age.

Not Your Average Picture Book

What makes my picture books worthwhile? Immense amounts of scientific information are included within the rhyming text. In addition, each page is filled with bold, colorful illustrations. Sometimes, the books contain extra features, such as the photographs of real boas in Bahamian Boas: A Tabby Tale.

As a scientist, my first goal is to provide science to my readers. However, I enjoy the fact that my texts are also capable of increasing literacy and vocabulary, as well as stimulating an interest in poetry and enjoyment of reading. Of course, we mustn’t forget the special bond formed when an adult reads to a child. 

Great for Children Ages 0-200

Sadly, as we grow older, our books include fewer and fewer illustrations. Shoppers often comment that they don’t have children to buy books for. However, my books are suitable for all ages. Everyone enjoys a great illustration, and the ones included in my titles are unique; they appeal to children without appearing ‘babyish’, and contain bits of humor that older kids and adults enjoy. I’m very fortunate to have incredibly talented artists, and their illustrations work with my words to enhance the reading experience. 

You’ll find that in my books, I use scientific terminology and refuse to talk down to children. If a reader doesn’t immediately understand a word, it will become familiar with time. Some may consider them too advanced for younger children due to the terms used, but they are all explained in the storyline, often with additional information in a glossary. Despite the abundance of information, the repetition of the rhymes ensures that readers are not overwhelmed. These are picture books, after all. They absolutely may be read before bed. 

Teaching Empathy and Compassion

I truly hope that through my books, people will gain compassion for animals that they might disregard and fear. Perhaps, through that compassion, they’ll be able to raise the level of empathy in the world and contribute to better treatment of the animals in our world. 

My Most Popular Books

A variety of picture books are currently available. Many were written with the Sonoran Desert in mind, although they are appropriate for other regions of North America and the world. Below are but a few options:

a green book cover with an illustration of a tortoise standing on hind legs

Don’t Call Me Turtle 

Myrtle the Tortoise helps explain the differences between turtles and tortoises. There are more than you realize!

 

illustration of a desert roadrunner

Don’t Make Me Fly

Roadrunners are fascinating birds who prefer to run instead of fly!

 

book cover graphic of rattlesnake

Don’t Make Rattle

The truth about rattlesnakes just might replace fear with respect. 

 

book cover Queen of the Night

Queen of the Night: Night-blooming Cereus 

This Sonoran Desert native is astonishing in that all the flowers bloom in one night, all together for one night only! How do they all know when bloom night is?

 

book cover for Squirrels of the Sonoran Desert

Squirrels of the Sonoran Desert

 I didn’t realize that the chipmunk and tree squirrels in my backyard are ground squirrels. Learn why these desert-adapted rodents are so important to the ecosystem.

 

A brown book cover with illustrations of bahamian boa snakes

Bahamian Boas: A Tabby Tale

To combat discrimination against snakes in The Bahamas, similar to that seen against rattlers, I wrote this book. It includes photographs taken by scientists in the field. 

 

book cover with photo of iguana from Cayman Brac

Silent Rocks: Iguanas of Cayman Brac

The first picture book I wrote for the Cayman Islands is a call-to-action to save the endemic rock iguana, the Sister Isle Rock Iguana, Cyclura nubila caymanensis. 

 

green book cover with turtle illustration

Hickatees vs Sea Turtles

People confuse freshwater turtles with sea turtles, with tragic results. Native freshwater hickatees are often thrown in the ocean as if they sea turtles!

Can’t Quite Choose?

If you’re unsure as to which books may be right for your family, feel free to contact me. Remember – picture books are appropriate for everyone. What you read in the privacy of your own home is your own business, so enjoy a picture book! 

You Know You’re From Arizona When . . .

You might be familiar with these Fun Facts posted on Facebook by Brad Snyder in 2013. They are still very true today, and I’d like to share a bit more about these interesting and fun topics.

Book Note: I am fascinated by  animals and plants and truly enjoy having them all around me. I have written two books about plants, one for ages 8+, Grow Home, Little Seeds, an adventure tale starring seeds that are all looking for just the right place to germinate. It teaches the science about plants and how they grow in a fun way.  The second one, Queen of the Night: the Night-blooming Cereus, is about the magnificent desert plants that all bloom on one summer night, together. It is colorfully illustrated and written in rhyme, so learning the science is memorable and interesting.

image of the covers of two plant books by Elaine A. Powers

I believe learning science in rhyme or a story makes the learning stick. Check my books out today. Someone you know might really enjoy a fun-science book. You can see all my fun-science children’s books on My Books page.

#funsciencebooks  #funscienceeducation  #funchildrenssciencebooks

#AuthorElaineAPowers

 

 

Brittlebush Can Take the Heat!

One plant that has always amazed me in the Sonoran Desert is the Brittlebush. No matter how little rain falls nor how hot it is, this bush produces a lush crop of flowers.

Brittlebush, Encelia farinose, is a bush native to the Sonoran Desert and is a member of the sunflower family.  The leaves are long, oval and silver-gray with a fuzzy surface (trichomes). The fuzziness provides protection from excessive heat and cold.  The grayish white color reflects sunlight, helping to keep the plant cool. In addition, the fuzziness helps collect any moisture and reduce water loss, which is very important in the desert.

photo of brittlebush plant
Brittlebush, Encelia farinose

In late winter and early spring, yellow flowers form on long stalks on the outside of bush.  Notice their sunflower-like appearance. Their bright color contrasts with the dull tan-gray of the ground.

The common name, brittlebush, refers to the brittleness of its stems. It’s also called incienso because the fragrant resin was dried and burned by early Spanish missions as incense. Brittlebush was used by indigenous and pioneer people. The resin was also used as glue, sealant, varnish and chewing gum. Brittlebush was important in oral hygiene.  Cowboys used stems as toothbrushes, while Native Americans used it to treat toothaches.

Brittlebush thrives in dry gravelly to sandy habitats. A sunny site is required along with the well-drained soil. The plant has a shallow taproot and lateral roots to take advantage of any rainfall.  It is sensitive to frost, so my bush enjoys the protection of my backyard wall.

The profusion of blossoms is an important food source for a variety of animals.  Once they fade away, thousands of seeds will be produced, another food source.

I hope that some of my bush’s offspring will germinate in my yard, creating more magnificent bushes.

Thank you, Brittlebush, for providing a bit of vibrant color in my life.

BOOK NOTE: If you love plants as much as I do, I hope you’ll check out my fun science books on plants, especially Queen of the Night: The Night-blooming Cereus, which is all about the very unusual Sonoran Desert flowering plants that bloom all together on one night per year!

Photo of night-blooming cereus in Tucson AZ
Photo courtesy of This is Tucson

It happens in June or July every summer and people come out by the hundreds to see these magnificent beauties bloom together. More to follow about the 2021 expected bloom dates. Learn all about the Night-blooming Cereus before they bloom this year!

book cover for the Night-Blooming Cereus
All about the mysterious plant that blooms only one night per year–all at the same time!

Also, to enjoy a tale of friendship and learn more about the ecosystems necessary to Bahamian trees, and how seeds find their homes, check out my children’s adventure tale (ages 8+), Grow Home, Little Seeds.

book cover about seeds finding a place to sprout
The graduating bundle of mixed seeds of the Leon Levy Preserve vows to stay together and form their own forest. Will they be able to remain together, or will their natures lead them in different directions? Will they find what the need to survive, to germinate, and to put down roots? Join these Bahamian natives on their adventures to find their places to call home.

For a humorous take on the Sonoran Desert and its flora and fauna, see How NOT to Photograph a Hummingbird. After the fun, refer to the desert plant and wildlife glossary in the back of the book.

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.

All three books would be help with science or book reports. And for summer supplemental, educational, and fun activity sheets and workbooks, go to Lyric Power Publishing, LLC.

It’s my calling to help make science fun, and I’m sticking to it!

#elainapowers  #sonorandesert   #sonorandesertflowers

Do You Slather or Smear?

The English language has a lot of really great words. As a writer, I enjoy exploring them. This time of year in the Sonoran Desert, we increase the amount of sunscreen we put on our bodies.  As the intensity of the sun increases with the warmer seasons, more sunscreen is definitely needed.
I put a copious amount of the protective cream in my hand and I slather it on my exposed face and arms. Slather is exactly the right word. I don’t apply, cover or spread the sunscreen on. I slather it.

The official definition of “to slather” is to spread or smear (another great word) thickly or liberally.  And that is what I do with my sunscreen.
With the danger of skin cancer, I encourage you, too, to slather your protective agents on.

Slather away!

#funsciencebooks  #funscienceeducation  #authorelaineapowers

#funinthesunadventuretales  #toinspirebuddingscientists

Book Note:  My adventure tales tend to be “fun in the sun with ecology and conservation mixed in.” I love to make science fun, hoping to inspire budding scientists. Check out My Books today for some delightful and educational summer reading for your children.

graphic with photos of book covers divided by subject

~Above image courtesy of Nika Akin from Pixabay~

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!

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 6th is National Nachos Day. YUM!

November 6 is National Nachos Day, a day set aside to celebrate a delicious culinary delight. Nachos are crunchy with melted cheese, a perfect combination of taste and texture. Nachos were created by “Nacho” Anaya from Piedras Negras, Mexico in 1943.

Over the years, other ingredients have been added to the tortilla chips and cheese. Even though I regularly enjoy beef on my mine, my favorite is seafood nachos topped with shrimp and crab meat. I’ve found just about anything goes well with the basic chips and cheese.

Try being creative with your nachos.  Today, go ahead and nosh on some nachos!

(Above image courtesy of José Vanegas López from Pixabay.)

And when you and the kids are done with the nachos, check out the activity sheets and workbooks at my publisher’s website, Lyric Power Publishing LLC. They’re entertaining, educational and economical and were created to coordinate with my fun science books for children.

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 by Anderson Atlas of the many animals they encounter, including the Dragon!
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.