Label: Animals

May 15, 2013

Using Rich Vocabulary is the goal of today’s Writing Wednesday. Look at this funny-looking creature, commonly known as the "piglet squid."

Could I have used richer vocabulary to describe this photograph? What if I described it as a "roly poly, rubber-nosed Cephalopod"? Do you hear the difference in these two descriptions, "funny-looking creature" and "roly poly, rubber-nosed celephod"? Both describe the animal in this photograph, but the second description uses much richer vocabulary to help the reader understand what I am seeing.

Click on the yellow "Comments" link at the bottom of this blog and write your own description of this cute animal. Take your time and come up the richest vocabulary you can to help your reader imagine the animal in this photograph. Happy writing!


Photo: Cabrillo Marine Aquarium/Gary Florin

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(10) Comments  •   Labels: Writing Wednesday, Animals Nobody Loves, Animals, Cool Photo   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 2, 2013

We had a lot of fun yesterday as Mrs. Alaniz’s Class from Texas and Mrs. Ellefson’s class from Wisconsin tried to figure out a "Mystery Poem." We asked students to read a poem and guess what kind of animal the poet was writing about. By clicking on "Comments" down at the bottom of the blog, both classes told us that they liked the poem, and Mrs. Alaniz’s class figured it out! The poet’s "alarm clock that’s covered with furr" is a cat!
Thanks for your contributions to Writing Wednesday, everybody. That was fun! 
CAT KISSES By Bobbi Katz

Sandpaper kisses

On a cheek or a chin -

That is the way

For a day to begin!


Sandpaper kisses -

A cuddle, a purr

I have an alarm clock

That’s covered with fur.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: Writing Wednesday, Animals, Cats, Kids Write, Poetry   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 1, 2013

Today we’d like you to read this poem by Bobbi Katz and tell us what she is writing about. What are sandpaper kisses? How does the person in the poem wake up every morning? Is it a pleasant wake up, or an annoying one?

Click on the yellow "Comments" button below and tell us what you think Ms. Katz had in mind when she wrote this poem, and how you figured it out.


Sandpaper kisses

On a cheek or a chin -

That is the way

For a day to begin!


Sandpaper kisses -

A cuddle, a purr

I have an alarm clock

That’s covered with fur.

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(7) Comments  •   Labels: Writing Wednesday, Animals, Poetry   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 19, 2013


My Earth Day resolution is to create a safe haven for bluebirds in my neighborhood. ‘Really?” you might ask. ‘With everything that is going on with our environment, Seymour Simon decides to make a difference by putting up a blue bird box?’

It’s a fair question, but let me tell you why one small act like this one is important. The existence of the Eastern Bluebird, our New York State bird, has been threatened in recent years by the loss of open land and the presence of European starlings, a non-native species that was introduced to NY in the 1890’s. These birds are are strong and aggressive, and they have taken over the little hollows in trees where bluebirds commonly lay their eggs. And where previously the lovely bluebird was a common sight, in recent years it was rare to see one at all.

Last summer, I noticed that there was a bird that perched nearly every morning at the very top of the spruce tree in my front yard. I didn’t recognize its song, so one day I pulled out my binoculars and saw to my surprise that it was a bluebird!

So this spring, the time of year when bluebirds lay their eggs, I have put a bluebird box right next to that tree. (Thanks to my friend Jody Soules at the Wild Birds Country Store in Great Barrington, MA for introducing me to the ways of bluebirds). The hole is similar to the size that the birds used to look for in the tree hollows, and the copper “sleeve” around the hole will prevent those pesky squirrels from chewing their way in to steal the eggs. I am hopeful that the bird that visited last summer will return with his or her mate and start a family!

I am telling this story because the everyday choices that we each one makes have an impact on the neighborhood where we live, whether we live in the city, in a suburb, or far out in the country. No one of us can solve all the problems facing our environment. But each one of us can make a difference with the choices we make every day.


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, birds, Conservation, Earth Day 2013   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 17, 2013

Today, for the Writing Wednesday before Earth Day, we are thinking about biodiversity (bye-oh-dye-VERSE-it-tee). This means that we are thinking about Earth and how many different, or diverse, kinds of living things are present on our planet. We can help to preserve biodiversity by making sure that our human presence does not destroy crucial habitats that support all the different life forms living here.


Experts think that Madidi National Park, in northwest Bolivia, may be the most biologically diverse place on Earth. More than 200 species of mammals, 300 types of fish and more than 12,000 plant species live in this single park. They range from the huge, 660-pound (300 kilograms) lowland tapir down to the tiny Spix’s disk-winged bat (right), which weighs just 0.14 ounces (4 grams) - about the same weight as a kidney bean that you would find in a bowl of chili. Record numbers of leopards live in this park, and so do more than 60 species of hummingbird!

How do human activities threaten the survival of all these fascinating species? Logging and stripping away forests has a huge impact by taking away habitats and reducing air quality, as trees remove harmful CO2 from the air and turn it into oxygen. Building highways, planting farmland and other human development also takes away critical animal habitats. In other locations, warming ocean temperatures are causing the death of whole reefs of coral, which are invertebrate animals living under the sea. Water pollution can also make animals and plants sick, or cause them to be trapped in nets, plastic and other debris. And unfortunately, many animals and plants are hunted by humans for food, trophies, fur, and other "collectibles."

Your Assignment: Write a letter to your fellow humans, helping them to understand why it is important to think about our impact on the environment around us. Make your letter as persuasive as possible by giving concrete reasons why people should change their behavior. And write a powerful conclusion that will help your readers understand the importance of your point of view.

When you are finished writing, you can post your letter for other to read by clicking on the yellow "Comments" link at the end of this article.

Photo: Kelley Miller / National Geographic

Note to Educators: Today’s Writing Wednesday exercise supports Common Core Writing Standard W1: Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Writing Wednesday, Animals, Conservation, Common Core, Earth Day 2013   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 15, 2013

Fifteen years ago I wrote three books about the amazing travels of animals in the sea, over land, and in the air. These animal migration books were very different from what I usually do because they didn’t use photographs. My editor, Linda Zuckerman, had to work hard to convince me that I should do these stories of awesome animal journeys as illustrated books. I kept resisting, saying that we needed to see photographs of the animals on these extraordinary and in many cases inexplicable travels. Then she showed me the work of a wonderful painter named Elsa Warnick. As soon as I saw Elsa’s luminous watercolor paintings, I knew that I had to work with her on these illustrated books.


I’m not sure, but I think these were the first children’s books that Elsa Warnick illustrated, and she went on to do more. Throughout her career as a painter, Elsa was devoted to teaching other artists, and every summer she would make time to serve as a faculty member at the Portland State University Children’s Book Conference. My condolences go out to her sons, Matt and Milan, who wrote last week to let me know that Elsa had died, and to tell me how much our collaboration meant to her.

Elsa lived on the West Coast and I live on the East Coast, so we had rarely been in touch in recent years, until I called her two years ago to ask her permission to republish these beautiful books in digital. Her paintings came alive once again, this time in professionally narrated, digital editions. I am so happy that she was able to see how beautiful they are.

Here is a sample from THEY SWIM THE SEAS, one of the books we did together. Click on the "play" button down below to view (be patient - it may take as long as a minute or two to load the first time you view it). You will see what a wonderful artist Elsa Warnick was, and why I am so proud of these books.

Educators: Every eBook in the StarWalk Kids streaming eBook collection for Schools and Libraries comes with a free "Teaching Link" document, which makes Common Core correlations and suggests related activities. Click Here to download the Teaching Link document for THEY SWIM THE SEAS, and if you like what you see, visit to learn more about how your institution can subscribe to this affordable, multi-user collection of high quality eBooks which work on whatever kind of computer or tablet your students are using.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, eBooks, Oceans, Earth Day 2013   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 4, 2013

Something extraordinary happened on the first spring day up in the country (the Hudson Valley in New York State). Not the first day of spring (that’s March 21st) but the first day that feels like spring, which can be any day from early March to mid April. Well, we had a day like that last week and naturally we went looking for early signs of spring like spring peepers. So we were visiting pond after pond but most of them showed no signs of spring. Many of the ponds were still partly frozen and even those that had no ice still showed no signs of frogs, frog eggs, or tadpoles.


All that changed when we drove past a small spring pond with the car windows open and heard a deafening chorus of what sounded like a mixture of peepers and birds honking. We immediately stopped the car and got out to look. In addition to the usual high pitched chirping of the tiny spring peepers, the pond was alive with honking sounds and large, thrashing frogs. The sounds were deafening. The water looked alive with frogs leaping and grasping and showing sudden bursts of speed. I had never seen anything like it before. I had binoculars and a camera but the frogs were too far away from where we stood to really identify them. It was only after I got home and did some research that I found out what kind of frogs they were and what was happening.

I went to my computer, opened up the Google Search, and typed in "Frogs Quacking like Ducks". Sure enough, the answer popped right up.


The frogs were wood frogs, a small (1 to 3 inches long) blacked masked frog that lives in the eastern United States from Georgia all the way up to the Arctic Circle. It is the only frog known to live north of the Arctic Circle. Usually they live in wet grasslands or moist woodlands. But they hibernate during the winter and as soon as they thaw out in spring, they head for temporary ponds formed by spring rains and snow melt.

The wood frogs use these ponds to make and lay eggs. The male frogs call to the females with duck-like quacks. The females lay their eggs and the males fertilize them in huge masses that contain 1000-2000 eggs. The females move the floating egg mass into the shallow ends of the pond in a large raft of other egg masses. Then all the frogs leave the pond leaving the eggs to survive on their own. The eggs are even able to withstand freezing weather and ice formations. The eggs hatch in a few weeks as tadpoles and the tadpoles take about six weeks to develop into frogs. Another amazing story of the natural world!

I recorded some of the scene using the video setting on my camera. Click play below to hear (you may have to wait up to one minute for the video to load, depending on the speed of your connection. Be patient - it’s worth it!). The wind is blowing, which makes it a little noisy. But, listen past the gusty wind. The first thing you’ll hear are the high-pitched peepers. Listen more closely, and you’ll hear quacking, as if there was a flock of geese flying by. That is the sound of the wood frogs, and it was even louder in person!

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: SeeMore Explorers, Animals, Video, Frogs, Earth Day 2013   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 2, 2013



Hooray! SEYMOUR SIMON’S EXTREME OCEANS is being published today by Chronicle Books.


In honor of publication day, we decided to choose our "Cool Photo of the Week" from this amazing book. This is a photograph of the biggest fish in the ocean, the whale shark. Do you see, at the top right in the photo, the size of the human snorkeler compared to the whale shark?

A whale shark can grow to be 50 feet (15 meters) long and can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds (36,288 kilograms). It has a huge mouth and approximately 3,000 very small teeth. Fortunately, the snorkeler has nothing to fear from this huge fish, which does not have much use for its tiny teeth. The whale shark swims with its mouth wide open to collect seawater, then pushes the water out through its gills and eats the small sea animals that are trapped inside its mouth.

Barbara A. Ward, writing in IRA’s Reading Today wrote of EXTREME OCEANS: "The text and photographs in this engaging nonfiction title are sure to appeal to middle grade readers, especially those attracted to anything extreme, in this case, ocean extremes. The book contains twelve short chapters that explore oceans that are extremely warm and those that are extremely cold as well as the life-threatening enormous waves and tides that sweep in from the ocean’s depths so swiftly. In his usual straightforward style replete with interesting details, this nonfiction maven also covers tsunamis, hurricanes, and sea creatures so incredibly dangerous that no diver wants to encounter them, even briefly. Even those who know plenty about the world’s oceans will still be able to add to that knowledge after reading this photograph-filled book. It has an ocean of interesting facts for readers to share with others."

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, New Books, Oceans, Cool Photo, Earth Science Books, Earth, Earth Day 2013   •  Permalink (link to this article)

March 19, 2013

Today’s "Cool Photo of the Week" is high up on my list of the cutest animals ever. 

And I learned something. Otters sleep holding hands so that they don’t drift away from each other. Makes sense, doesn’t it? 

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, Cool Photo   •  Permalink (link to this article)

March 15, 2013

 I have been struggling all week with how to keep squirrels from breaking into my "squirrel proof" bird feeder and eating all the food. I tried strong packing tape to keep the top on, and then I tried locking the top down with bungee cords. The squirrels quickly and easily broke through both. 

OK, let me think about this. Squirrels have sharp teeth and they were easily able to bite through the packing tape and the bungee cords. But squirrels can’t bite through steel and they can’t bite through the bars of the feeding cage. 

What do I have that is steel and that is easy to put on and take off? Of course, I thought. Paper Clips! Big ones! Don’t try to hold the top down, just use the clips to prevent the squirrels from picking up the top.

I put clips on both sides of the top and sure enough, they prevent the squirrels from being able to lift up the top. At least it’s worked so far. The squirrels haven’t gone in to get the seed from the feeder. But I’m not entirely convinced yet. There may be a squirrel Einstein that’s working to solve the problem of moving paper clips, and it won’t entirely surprise me to find out that the clips are gone one day soon!

Thank you for your ideas, helping me to try to solve the Great Squirrel Robbery!


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, birds, Great Squirrel Robbery   •  Permalink (link to this article)

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