Author Charlotte Bennardo Talks Science.

My writer friend and author Charlotte Bennardo has a debut MG book series coming out soon.  The book is beautifully illustrated by Cathy Thole-Daniels.  Book one is called EVOLUTION REVOLUTION: SIMPLE MACHINES, and explores the notion that animals are a lot smarter than we might think.  Here’s Charlotte to tell us about the science behind the story.

Animals outwitting humans has always been a popular science fiction story premise.

But could it ever happen?

National Geographic, the Smithsonian, scientists, and many experts in animal behavior know that animals learn. They cite studies and tests and brain sizes.

All I had to do to be convinced that animals were so much smarter than being taught to ‘sit’ and ‘fetch’ was watch a BBC television program which showed a squirrel solving and overcoming increasingly difficult obstacles and puzzles to get to a supply of nuts. They don’t give up until they have conquered the puzzle, no matter how long it takes. (One squirrel spent over a month on a single part of the obstacle!) It was the basic premise I needed to write my middle grade book, Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines. I took it one step further—a young boy teaching a squirrel, whom he names Jack, about simple machines like the wheel. Since squirrels are such good puzzle solvers, and share what they’ve learned with other squirrels (usually family members), it doesn’t seem like that big a stretch. Teach one, they all learn.     cover_frontonly_rgb_72dpi-best

So the next step was for the squirrels to teach the other animals. In my novel they can talk to each other which of course they can’t do in the wild. But have you seen recent videos on Youtube and Facebook showing animals of different species doing the unexpected, like a lioness nurturing an orphaned deer instead of devouring it? Everyone knows about Koko and her kittens, and our family dog King ‘mothered’ our cat’s litter of kittens, so maybe it’s not so farfetched…

I took the premise one step further. Loss of habitat is a big concern for the earth’s creatures. When construction machines enter the squirrel’s wood, he applies what he’s learned from humans against humans to stop the destruction. It would only work for a short while because we are infinitely smarter, but this would certainly draw scientific interest and thereby halt destruction of the woods while scientists studied the animals. So maybe it could happen.

I suggest being really nice to the squirrels in your backyard; they’ll bring friends.

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Twitter: charbennardo

Facebook: Author Charlotte Bennardo 

bio-pic-300x300-pixelsCathy Thole-Daniels is the Illustrator of the series.



Don’t Throw That Away…Make Folk Art!

There is no question that we are a throw away culture.  Just stop by any neighborhood on trash day or on any college campus during moving in or out day.  Many of us don’t see value in reusing everyday objects once their purpose has been served.

But thankfully, there are also some unique artists who use everyday materials in their art and create some amazing things as a result.  The definition of FOLK ART is:

“artistic works, as paintings, sculpture, basketry, and utensils, produced typically in cultural isolation by untrained often anonymous artists or by artisans of varying degrees of skill and marked by such attributes as highly decorative design, bright bold colors, flattened perspective, strong forms in simple arrangements, and immediacy of meaning.”

A more simple definition is: Turning what other deem as junk into works of beauty, whimsy and fun.  

Haitian folk art iguana made from recycled steel drum.

Haitian folk art iguana made from recycled steel drum.

There is no end to the creative expression found in this art form.  Every medium is used, from glass, metal, paper, wood, stone, shells, clay.  Visit the Coral Castle, a Bottle Village, or the Magic Gardens of Philadelphia.  These are just a sample of some amazing folk art installations throughout the US.  Here are some more:

You might also want to check out these roadside attractions made from recycled materials…including a house made entirely from beer cans.

Have you ever tried your hand at Folk Art?  Or seen some amazing examples?  Tell us about your favorites.    

"stash" doll made from fabric scraps and vinyl film.

“stash” doll made from fabric scraps and vinyl film.



Arrrr…Beth Ferry Talks Like a Pirate + Free Donuts!

Ahoy landlubbers!  Tomorrow – September 19 – is TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY! If you’ve never heard of such a thing, sit back and larn a thing or two about how to talk like a pirate.  Author and pirate expert-in-training Beth Ferry is here to set you straight on pirate lingo.  At the end, thar be donuts!

International Talk Like a Pirate Day happens every September 19th.  Every single September 19th!  That thar be the hornswagglin’ truth.

It is a day that is: a little odd,  a lot of fun,

and a great time to talk about pirate books.

International Talk Like a Pirate Day was invented in 1995.  Which means it is now 21.  And can celebrate with a glass of rum punch.

It was founded by two friends, John Baur and Mark Summers of Oregon, known as The Pirate Guys.  They were playing racquet ball with a cannon ball.

No, not really. (Although that would make for a better story)  When one of them got hit with the regular old racquet ball, he yelled “Arrrr”, and this genius idea was born.

International Talk Like a Pirate Day is the perfect day to be talkin’ about Pirate’s Perfect Pet, which was published in August 2016 by Candlewick Press.


Thar be lots of fun pirate-speak in the book as Captain Crave sets off to find the perfect pet.

Which I bet you guessed from the title.

After reading it, ye’ll be dyin’ to talk like a pirate.

And get a pet.

And write a note to yer mum.

And learn about homophones.

And become a big fan of Matt Myers, because his art be absolutely’ amazin’.

When talking like a pirate, don’t be forgettin’ the 5 As. The Pirate Guys explain it beautifully here:

The 5 As are:

Ahoy – use to greet others, friend and foe alike.

Avast –  use to called attention to something, like a whale or a sale on ice cream.

Arrrrr – use to express frustration, happiness, unhappiness, confusion, or basically anything ye be feelin’.

Aye – use instead of “yes” or when agreein’ to something.

Aye-Aye – use when meaning “yes, sir” or in response to a command, such as “Parrot, please nibble me ear.”    parrot-nibbling-crave

To summarize, a landlubber might say, “I want to read Pirate’s Perfect Pet”, but a pirate would say “I be needin’ to read this merry yarn about swashbucklers.”


For further fun, try this Pirate translator:

There’s a great glossary of pirate terms in the back of Tom Lichtenheld’s Everything I Know About Pirates.  It be a jolly fun book with lots of silly explanations about why pirates do what they do. And I’m a huge Tom Lichtenheld fan.     tom-pirate-book


Another favorite pirate book of mine is How I Became A Pirate by Melinda Long. It is such an awesome read aloud!



Don’t be forgettin’ to visit Krispy Kreme on September 19th. If you talk/dress like a pirate, they’ll be sure to give ye a free donut.  (I told you there were free donuts!)

Google and Facebook both be havin’ “pirate” as a language choice, so go crazy.

I hope ye learned loads from this here blog.  I hope ye had fun.

I hope ye be plannin’ to Talk Like a Pirate on September 19th!!

bethFerry Headshot 500

Beth Ferry is the author of Stick and Stone, a NYT bestseller. She is also the author of Land Shark, Pirate’s Perfect Pet and the upcoming A Small Blue Whale, swimming into print Fall 2017. She lives with her family by the beach in New Jersey. 


Author Holly Schindler Talks About WORDQUAKE + Giveaway!

Today  I am delighted to bring a post from my author friend Holly Schindler.  Holly has written many award winning MG and YA books for children. Her latest one – WORDQUAKE – has her branching out into illustration as well.  Here’s Holly:

Where did you get the idea for the story? 

I was in the midst of doing a ton of Skypes for my MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY. I’ve actually met with all sorts of classrooms or reader groups in conjunction with that book—honor students to “kinda-sorta” readers. But I went through this streak where I was dealing primarily with reluctant readers—and around the same time, happened to see a few tweets from teachers about how MG books were brimming with readers (and good students). I kind of wondered at the time if those two things didn’t go together: if reluctant readers gravitated away from books because they weren’t seeing themselves in the protagonists. So I knew I wanted to write a story featuring a non-reader.

How did you come up with the main character (tell a bit about her):

I didn’t want to fall to stereotypes—so I didn’t want my non-reader to be a boy. In fact, in WORDQUAKE, the academically-oriented reader IS a boy! Izzy Ashby is, instead, an outdoor kind of girl—the kind of girl who loves the smell of dirt on her kneecaps and would rather be anywhere other than the library.

What 3 things does the MC learn from events? 

Primarily, Izzy’s adventure teaches her about the power of words. One day, as Izzy is walking to the library, she shakes the words off her sweatshirt, and the textbooks, and worksheets, and bulletin boards and chalkboards! Our academically-oriented character, Alexander Gum, explains that her hatred has caused a wordquake (which is kind of like the text-version of an earthquake). This seems like a dream come true to Izzy—but the school day turns out to be an utter disaster. Izzy had no idea just how important words were until they’re all gone!

To a lesser degree, she also learns that actions have consequences, and that it’s best to keep an open mind (you never know what you’ll love—you’ve got to give everything an honest shot)!

On the illustrations:     EXAMPLE WORDQUAKE ILLUS

I had those not-straight-A students in my head again as I started to sketch illustrations. Those students who were not quite seeing themselves in the pages of their books. I knew I didn’t want the illustrations to look perfect. I wanted them to look accessible. I think, at times, things that are too polished can be discouraging to some students—especially those who aren’t academically oriented. That’s certainly not the impact I wanted this book to have. I wanted students to be inspired to pick up a pen and put it to paper in some way. I’ve also long appreciated the quick, simple style of Liza Donnelly, who’s a cartoonist for THE NEW YORKER. So with that in mind, I drew simple graphics and illustrations of my own to accompany WORDQUAKE.

You can purchase the illustrated version of WORDQUAKE here:


Barnes and Noble (this one’s still in the midst of going live):

You can also purchase the e-only (non-illustrated version) here:


iBooks, B&N, Kobo:


Holly Schindler is a hybrid author of award-winning traditionally published and Amazon-bestselling independently published books for readers of all ages. Her MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, is currently nominated for the Mark Twain Readers Award and Oklahoma Sequoyah Award. Booklist praised her latest YA, SPARK, saying the book “cast a shimmering spell.” Contact her for a Skype visit with your own young readers at Visit her at,, or on Twitter: @holly_schindler.

To win a free copy of Holly’s book WORDQUAKE, click on the Rafflecopter link below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Got Teachers in Need? Here’s How to Help.

We all know how long and hard many teachers work to provide the best education for our kids.  Did you also know that teachers typically spend $500.00-$600.00 per year of their own money to furnish their classrooms with supplies, books and other necessities?  Instead of a mug or box of candy, why not help relieve the strain on your favorite teacher’s wallet by contributing to one of these programs:

  • ADOPT A CLASSROOM: This program has been around for 18 years and allows you to select a category – art, music, first year teacher assistance – to make your impact.
  • DONORS CHOOSE:  Here you can read classroom testimonials and select one based on need, location or what’s one their wish list.
  • FROM ONE HAND TO ANOTHER: This organization was established by entertainer Pharrell Williams and gives at-risk children the STEAMM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics, and motivation) tools they need to succeed.  The organization has also donated school supplies to needy classrooms.

In what ways have you helped teacher s and students in classrooms?  Care to share?

Peach Raspberry Galette

My local farmer’s market has had a wonderful and delicious peach season this year.  And, there are still plenty of peaches to enjoy before the season ends in a few weeks.  Here is a simple –  and tasty – dessert that is not too sweet or fatty.  You can enjoy it as is  or with a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt or ice cream.


For this recipe you will need enough dough for a single crust pie.  Instead of pressing the dough into the pan, You will fill it with the mixture of:

  • 4-5 Cups of peeled, sliced peaches, 1 C fresh or frozen raspberries, 1T of sugar, dash of cinnamon, and 1T of flour.  Mix these together until the peaches are coated.  Pour into the crust and gather the crust around the fruit, crimping and folding as you go , to hold in the fruit.     2015-08-19 23.07.42See photo at below.


Bake in a 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until crust is browned and peaches are tender.  Set aside to cool before serving.

You can enjoy it as is, or ala mode.  Experiment with different fruit combinations as well.  Easier than pie, but with the same satisfying comfort food appeal.

2015-08-20 00.31.16

Host a Movie Night…Outdoors!

Even though summer is fading fast and kids are going back to school, there are still a lot of great evenings with pleasant weather for hosting an outdoor MOVIE NIGHT.  And you don’t have to make yourself crazy organizing one.  Here are a few simple ideas to keep in mind.

  • Be sure to select a good movie that appeals to everyone and doesn’t have a lot of quiet dialogue or dark scenes.  There are plenty of “family” films that appeal to kids of all ages as well as adults.  You might want to buy a few glow necklaces for the little ones – to keep track of them in the dark.
  • Have a test run of the equipment BEFORE the event to make sure it all runs smoothly.  This goes for sound as well as video.  Loud enough for guests to enjoy without disrupting the neighborhood.
  • Secure and cover any cords so folks don’t trip over them in the dark.
  • Have bug spray to ward off unwelcome guests.
  • Set up a table of drinks and snacks with a light on it so everyone can help themselves to treats during the show.
  • Have guests bring blankets.  As fall approaches, evenings can get cool. So much fun to snuggle under a blanket while watching the movie.

How simple is that?  Movie night doesn’t have to be complicated. And, as dusk arrives earlier in the fall, you can even enjoy a light supper of hotdogs or burgers while watching the latest blockbuster.  Happy Movie Watching!