Dragonfly Days in the Midwest

Welcome to my blog, where I share news, great books, writing tips, and what is happening in the garden. I just categorized 3,700 photos I took this year. May and June are packed with wildlife events. Every May Jeff and I take off time for bird migration. We watch the weather and look for conditions that bring warblers to northwest Indiana and southwestern Michigan.

In June we are in bug mode: photographing butterflies, caterpillars, dragonflies, beetles, and just about any creature that comes to our yard. My Canon EOS 20D, equipped with a EFS 60mm macro, is constantly clicking. Then there are the wildlife rescues that invariably come at this time of year. We took an injured woodpecker to a rehabilitator. We helped the juvenile box turtle across the road.

Last week I operated on a dragonfly that emerged from its underwater nymph stage in the skimmer of our watergarden. At this critical, formative stage, it fell into the water. I found it, wings stuck together, and drying in this mangled shape. As the dragonfly crawled on my shirt, I gently used a leaf to separate its back wings so they would not dry together. One of its front wings was folded as well, but I was afraid I might injure it by trying to fix this part. So I left that wing alone. A day later I saw it flying in the garden. It is a female blue-dasher.

The bluets, which are damselflies, are visible in quantity. They are laying eggs.

I just finished a novel and sent it off to a publisher. Last week I received an early copy of BIRD, BIRD, BIRD: A CHIRPING CHANT, which is being released this fall. The art, by Gary Locke, is laugh out loud hilarious. I can’t wait for you to see it.

Common milkweed, swamp milkweed, and butterfly milkweed are all in bloom in our yard. The caterpillars are munching. I hope all of you out there are enjoying the summertime.

Nutritious Nonfiction: Cesar, Si, Se Puede!

Nutritious nonfiction. Sometimes I have to be tricked into reading what’s good for me. I accidentally read this book and I am so glad. I just read Cesar, Si, Se Puede! by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, illustrated by David Diaz (Marshall Cavendish, 2004). Wow. It is a luminous, inspiring book. Bernier-Grand gently lays out the life of migrant worker advocate Cesar Chavez through easy-to-read poems. Her work is so loving and understated that you don’t feel you are reading poetry; you are just being pulled piece-by-piece into the daily, yearly events that shape a person strong enough to do heroic things. Teachers would surely love reading one spread at a time and then having brief discussions of what the pieces brought forth. This book is not in-your-face nonfiction. It’s nonfiction and heroism made personal. All the material could be used for kids at young ages…1st grade through 6th. But older kids, and sort-of adults like me love this, too! David Diaz’s art is sunny, joyful, delicious. It seems to grow and glow on the pages. Every school needs several copies of this book. I think it could change lives.

Teaching Guide Database

Teaching Guide Database
Visit http://www.susantaylorbrown.com/teachingguides.html for a searchable teaching guide database which helps to connect children’s books to the classroom curriculum. It is searchable by name, title, and keyword. New guides are being added all the time.
Susan Taylor Brown
Once upon a time there was a girl who wanted to write
My Blog: www.susanwrites.livejournal.com

This notice was originally on the Children’s Media Professional’s Forum, hosted by the Sayres on this site.

Picture Perfect Science

Picture-Perfect Science Lessons Ansberry/Morgan
I just returned from a day at the two-week workshop, sponsored by Miami University in Ohio, on using children’s books to jumpstart science lessons. Wowee! The leaders, Karen Ansberry and Emily Morgan, are dynamos. I learned a lot and the teachers were having a great time. If you can get to one of their workshops at NSTA or elsewhere, do. Either way, take a look at their book PICTURE-PERFECT SCIENCE LESSONS, published by NSTA press. It has great ideas that are easy to use. Their teaching is great for encouraging exploration that leads to clear-thinking scientific understanding.

Stories from Where We Live

One of the finest collections of geographically linked material for children can be found in the volumes of the series Stories From Where We Live. I’m going to ask the editor, Sara St. Antoine, to post a little bit more about this terrific set of books.

Thanks for inviting me to join this discussion, April.

First, the background: When I was a graduate student, I spent a summer interning with ethnobotanist and writer Gary Paul Nabhan (The Desert Smells Like Rain, Geography of Childhood, etc.). We found that even the most rural-dwelling kids, even those from Tohono O’odham and Yaqui communities, were learning most of what they knew about nature from T.V. or memorized facts from textbooks. What was lost was a direct experience of nature and, for many of these kids, the stories once told in their communities that conveyed information, values, and appreciation for the living things right around them. In the process, personal discovery and celebration of their immediate surroundings were being supplanted, at best, by top-down, large-scale programs about Nature Out There.

This research got me thinking about the importance of stories that are rooted in particular places. I realized that of course it’s not just indigenous communities that have powerful place-based stories. Any of us who grew up hearing fishing tales, animal stories, and the like formed a broader understanding of our community through stories. Where, I wondered, are those stories now? Are they still being told? Would it be possible to collect place-based stories to help today’s younger generation form stronger connections to the vibrant–though sometimes overlooked and neglected–natural world around them?

And so it was that I began developing the Stories from Where We Live series. I formed a wonderful working relationship with Milkweed Editions, a nonprofit literary press based in Minneapolis, and together we began producing an anthology of place-based literature for each of 15 ecoregions–regions defined by both natural and cultural boundaries–across North America (Gary Nabhan helped devise the original map). The anthologies have a huge variety of literature–contemporary, historic, by famous authors, by new authors, fiction, memoir, poetry, even songs and journal entries–all of which together say something about the natural world in these regions and the way it has shaped and been shaped by the people who live there.

As of this month, we’ve released six anthologies in hardback and paperback: The North Atlantic Coast, The Great North American Prairie, The California Coast, The Gulf Coast, The Great Lakes, and The South Atlantic Coast and Piedmont. They’re aimed at readers ages 9-13, but we’ve found that parents and grandparents enjoy them just as much. Science illustrator Trudy Nicholson has provided exemplary illustrations for each volume.

I guess if I had to sum up my goals in creating this series, it would be two-fold: to help develop kids’ curiosity and interest in the natural world around them and to encourage them to explore and tell their own stories about these never-ordinary places. 

Note: This piece was originally published on the Children’s Media Professional’s Forum, hosted by the Sayres on this site.

Children’s Book Author and Illustrator Sites

Please e-mail me if you are an author/illustrator with a site that suits the elementary school audience and you would like your site considered for inclusion in the next update.
Elaine Marie Alphin

Barbara Haworth-Attard

Barbara Bash


Haemi Balgassi

Franny Billingsley

Mary Bowman-Kruhm

Sara Jane Boyers

Karleen Bradford

Toni Buzzeo

Janie Bynum

Mary Casanova

Randy Cecil

Carolyn Crimi

Peter Cumming

Katie Davis

Marianne Dyson

Kathleen Duey

Helen Frost

April Young Fritz

Judith Harlan

Linda Oatman High

Esther Hirschenhorn

Jeanette Ingold

Ellen Jackson  

Helen Ketteman

Jackie French Koller

Jane Kurtz

Bruce Langton

Valerie Lewis

Dandi Daley Mackall

JoAnn Early Macken

Carolyn Marsden


Elsa Marston

Carmela Martino

Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Carol Matas

Walter the Giant Mayes

Debbie Miller

Wendie Old

Alexis O’Neill

Trip Park

Dian Curtis Regan

Mary Ann Rodman

Coleen Salley

April Pulley Sayre

Lola Schaefer

Janni Simner

Cynthia L. Smith

Melissa Stewart

Michael Thorn

Maxine Trottier

Mary Dodson Wade

Lee Wardlaw

Rick Walton

Kay Winters

Gretchen Woelfle

Jane Yolen