Barbara Gowan   
author - naturalist - photographer

PO Box 5674, Carefree, AZ  85377  480.502.8697

More professional development opportunities

Are you interested in learning how to locate and share primary sources with your students?  Or need ideas on how to integrate biographies in your classroom?  I have new workshops for staff professional development focusing on Common Core and nonfiction.  The Paradise Valley School district teachers gave rave reviews to the two hour workshops.  The workshop on nonfiction reading and writing strategies will also be presented to the Yavapai Reading Council and at the inservice day for the Phoenix Catholic diocese teachers.  Check out the latest topics.

                         How to Read a Building 
Have you ever walked past a building and wondered about its purpose?  Every building has its own story to tell and you can learn to "read" it by looking closely at it.  Analyze the symbols, decode the architecture, and expand your visual literacy as you discover the monuments and memorials of Washington DC.                                                                                                                      
Use  critical thinking skills to design a memorial.  Primary source documents and picture books will be shared in this virtual field trip to our Nation's capital.

"I am excited to have a hands-on, unique method to allow my students to discover our history."  Teacher of grade 5/6 self-contained gifted students

"I feel empowered.  My eyes were opened to the wealth of hidden treasures within our monuments and memorials in our nation's capital."  Technology instructor

   Biography - the Human Face of History 
Discover the variety of picture book biographies that capture the lives of famous and not-so-famous people. Hone your skills in writing biographical poems.  Gather information from primary sources and strategies for reading the text closely.  Delve into the writing process that I used to write a biography for a collection of contemporary Native American athletes (out next year!)  Participants will receive a bibliography and writing templates.

"It was great learning about the different types of biographies and I am excited to share this with my student.  Love the Bio Poem planning!"  3rd grade teacher

Writer's Toolbox - Connecting with Primary Sources
a social studies workshop for grade 3-8 teachers

Any idea as to what is in this picture?  Would you believe the contents of Lincoln's pockets on the night of his assassination and the newspaper from the following day?  Primary sources provide a window into history and give young people a very real sense of what it was like to be alive during a past era.  Discover the wealth of material available from the Library of Congress including tools to analyze primary sources.  The workshop will focus on Japanese internment camps during World War II.  Participants will take a scavenger hunt through the Library of Congress website so each will need to bring their personal computer.   LOC worksheets for primary source analysis handouts provided.

"I am so excited to have information and strategies to implement tomorrow!"  Teacher of grade 5/6 self-contained gifted students

"I am going to try many things!  I will have the students participate in a gallery walk, analyze the photos using the sheets, etc.  I have many more tools to engage the students."  7th grade social studies teacher

Writer's Toolbox - Strategies for Nonfiction Reading and Writing

Explore the variety of nonfiction formats and the skills to navigate through them.  Learn how to analyze informational texts by looking at tools or strategies that writers (like me!) use.  Develop lessons to encourage students to use these strategies to write with strong leads, sensory detail, and solid evidence from thorough research.  Samples of student work will be shared.  Participants will receive handouts including a bibliography of exemplary nonfiction books.

"I feel energized.  Your workshops renewed by love of nonfiction works!"  5th grade teacher

C is for Creativity 
- a writing workshop for K-8 teachers

Alphabet books are not for babies anymore!  Explore a variety of alphabet books and discover themes that cross the curriculum.  Using popular trade books as mentor texts, learn how easy and fun it is to create unique ABC books.  Delve into the writing process that I used to write my nonfiction alphabet books, G is for Grand Canyon and D is for Desert.  
Samples of student work will be shared.  Participants will receive a bibliography and writing templates.

"I feel energized to share ABC books with my class and to write a book, possibly on the Olympics.  So many ideas swirling in my mind..."  Teacher of grades 1/2 self-contained gifted 

Writing from Nature - writing workshop for grade K-8 teachers
Add a new dimension to your Earth Day celebration this year - bring nature into your classroom.  Survey a variety of writing inspired by nature, explore natural objects, and then write your own nature poem.            Center activities include creating a painter's palette for your Nature Color Walk and a sample page for your Looking Closely book.

"I am excited to expany my library, develop vocabulary and discuss "naturalist" passions beginning tomorrow."  1st grade teacher

"This class adds to the senses and enlightens the mind with active creativity.  You won't find this anywhere else.  Thanks."

National Book Festival - September 2013

What could be better than a weekend at the National Book Festival in Washington DC?  Huge tents covered the National Mall in front of the Smithsonian Castle and thousands of bibliophiles (including my grandsons!) gathered to listen to their favorite authors.  The Library of Congress sponsors this wonderful event.  

I parked myself in the front row in the children's tent and enjoyed inspiring words from award-winning authors.  

    Where do authors get their ideas?  

Katherine Applegate wrote The One and Only Ivan in 1st person gorilla!    She read an article in the NY Times over 20 years ago about a gorilla in a Tacoma, WA shopping mall.  That story is the basis for this Newbery Award winning book.  I always enjoy hearing how authors "find" their stories.  

In the Caldecott winning book, Locomotive, author/illustrator Brian Floca tells the story of a steam locomotive similar to the own in a park in his hometown.  

Katharine Paterson was at a women's conference when she heard about letters written by Vermont farm girls.  Anyone know which book that became?  Lesa Cline-Ransome and her husband, James, write picture book biographies giving them the opportunity to eavesdrop on conversations of famous people.  They gave the advice to write about what you know and love and that's evident in their book, Light in the Darkness.  Where do they look for ideas? the obituary pages! 

Richard Peck's The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail grew out of a trip to London. He saw a mouse darting around an old castle.  Why not tell a story from the mouse's point of view?  And so he did.  Even Queen Victoria is in the book.  

Christopher Myers, the son of award-winning author Walter Dean Myers, speaks at youth prisons.  Questions from prisoners about "power" led him to the idea of the power of the pen, a new release coming soon from Hyperion books.   Creative people like Suzy Lee can turn a day chasing waves at Galveston Beach into a book called Wave.

Growing up with five brothers and being a really funny guy has benefited Jon Scieszka (his name rhymes with fresca!) with ideas for books like Smash! Crash! and Battle Bunny.  How about a book with a chapter written in "hamster?" Just download the free hamster language ap and you're all set to enjoy Spaceheadz.  Funny!!!  

            "It seems like I always have a pencil in my hand," remarked illustrator Mark Teague.  His pencil is not for writing words but for sketching illustrations.  Teaming up with award-winning author Jane Yolen, How do Dinosaurs Say I'm Mad? is just the latest book in that series for preschoolers.             Did you know that each book features different dinosaurs?

In addition to the author and illustrator presentations and panel discussions, there are huge tents filled with books and book sellers.  In this tent, each state is represented by "their books" and kids travel from table to table getting their reading passport stamped.                  

And of course, there are free books, posters and more plus fun photo opportunities with our favorite storybook characters. 

You don't have to travel to our Nation's Capital to enjoy a book festival.  The Tucson Festival of Books on the University of Arizona campus is a great event.  Spend the weekend soaking up all the wit and wisdom from your favorite authors.  I'll be presenting Discover the World through ABC Books on Sunday, March 16.  Hope to see you there!

CTB/McGraw Hill purchases photo essay

What a surprise to open a letter and discover that McGraw Hill wanted to purchase the rights to 14 pictures from a photo essay that I wrote about our family's trip to the Amazon that was originally published in Appleseeds magazine.  Of course, I said "yes!" 

"Our Rainforest Vacation" will be used as part of the assessment system developed in compliance with Common Core Standards.  In other words, an estimated 1.75 million kids per year may read about Katie and Meghan on their Amazon vacation while taking a test on the computer.

I remember taking this picture of Katie in the doctor's office.  I documented everything about our trip including the immunizations needed to venture into the rain forest.  Because I originally shot photos with slide film (this was in 1995!), I had everything converted to jpegs for the magazine article.

Climbing the canopy walkway at the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research in the rainforest near Iquitos, Peru was a thrill for everyone.  This trip influenced Meghan to focus on environmental law in her studies.

We met some river kids who took us to their home to show us their pets - a boa constrictor and a 3-toed sloth.  Oh yes, we had many unusual adventures on this trip.  I'm thrilled that so many children will now learn about this unique habitat and our fun family vacation.  I just hope that the questions aren't too hard on the test!

Celebrate National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month.  There are so many fun activities from Poem in Your Pocket Day to creating student poetry books.  I visited Annunciation Catholic School in Cave Creek to work with grades 2, 4 & 5 to write poetry.  We worked on two different poetry styles - a puzzler rhyme like in my book, Little Arizona, and a (modified) cinquain or 5-line nature poem.

The day started with a trip to the ocean.  We listened to the crashing ocean waves and the squawking sea gulls (via an ocean CD) as I read tide-pool poems from Stephen Swinburne's  Ocean Soup.


The first entry in our word bank were sound words.  Kids described the ocean waves as splashing, crashing and booming.

Students built a bank of sensory words by smelling, touching, and looking at objects.

"It smells like smells like pizza," "Ooh, this leaf smells like lemons" were some of the responses from the kids as they sniffed fresh oregano, cilantro, rosemary, sage and lemon balm.  

Sight words can be shape words and nature is filled with shapes.  Jane Yolen's book, Shape Me a Rhyme, gave excellent examples. 

The kids explored shells, feathers, pine cones, seed pods and desert blooms through a hand lens.  

I shared Frank Serafini's book, Looking Closely Across the Desert, to encourage the kids to think "outside the box."  His close-up photographs are accompanied by imaginative ideas.  "Is it a pincushion?  Is it monster skin" when viewing a close-up image of a prickly pear cactus fruit. 

I challenged the kids to use their imaginations and they did.  One boy exclaimed that the shed skin of a rattlesnake looked like bubble wrap.

Our five-line poem starts with the name of the object but with a twist and is followed by two lines of sensory words describing the object.  Line 4 is a personal statement followed by the last line naming the object.  Here are some nature poems written by the fourth graders.

Ocean Treasure
Swirly, smooth, hard, pearly
Scent of fresh rain, color like butter
I like the ocean breeze on a warm summer day.
Sea Shell
by Emma 

Hard with holes, brown and white
Stick-like and broken
I like to hang out under the hot blazing sun.
Cholla wood
by Louis 

Home of Ocean
Beige, cone-shaped, football in the sand
Stiff runway, spirally around and circling and circling
I like cool, watery beaches on a summer day.
A seashell
by Natalina 

The older kids tackled the puzzler rhyme.  Key words that give important clues about their animal are written in a four line rhyme.  Students were given a brown bag with a beanie baby animal inside.  Following research in books and online, the kids chose key words to describe the critter, found rhyming words and clapped out the rhythm of their poem.   

Can you guess these animals?

It has giant claws.
and lives in the sea.
Colored brown and red,
it's a delicasy.

Rough, hard shell
Lays eggs in the moonlight
On the beach
Crunching leaves day and night.
by Avery and Natalina

Students were proud of their poems and had fun sharing them with their classmates.  Writing nature poems is an excellent way to celebrate Earth Day, April 22, along with National Poetry Month.  Please share YOUR students' poems with me so that I can add them to my collection.

Authors for Earth Day 2013

This Earth Day on April 22, I will be traveling to Tucson to visit two schools - Quail Run Elementary and Thornydale Elementary in the Marana School District - for my Authors for Earth Day visits.  It will be an exciting opportunity for classes to enjoy my presentation of the book Desert Digits and also to learn about conservation agencies that help Arizona wildlife.

A Gila monster visiting my backyard enjoys my book Desert Digits!

I have selected five conservation agencies and the students will have the opportunity to learn about how they are helping Arizona wildlife.   Each student will vote on the organization that they want me to donate a percentage of my Authors for Earth Day (A4ED) speaker's fee to.  I chose projects that have a direct impact on wildlife especially in southern Arizona.

Tucson Audubon Society

The Mason Center naturalists offer school field trips in the protected saguaro-ironwood habitat.  Tucson Audubon also sponsors bird walks and family nature activities in southern Arizona.  My A4ED donation would help purchase supplies for these activities.

Wild at Heart

Did you read the children's book Hoot by Carl Hiaasen?  Then you know about burrowing owls and how their habitat is being destroyed.  Wild at Heart builds artificial burrows and relocates owls to their new homes across Arizona.  My A4ED donation would help build burrows.

Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center

Last year, the Authors for Earth Day students at Kiva Elementary voted on Southwest Wildlife and together we started a campaign to collect peanut butter for the bears.  The resident black bears get a snack of PB&J sandwiches daily but peanut butter is expensive.  The A4ED donation would purchase this tasty and healthy treat.  Creamy peanut butter is their favorite!

Phoenix Zoo Native Conservation Project

The black-footed ferret and the Mount Graham red squirrel are an important part of the native species conservation program at the Phoenix Zoo.  The zoo is one of only six facilities world-wide that breeds the endangered black-footed ferret for release to the wild.  These critters often get bored in their cages so the A4ED donation would be used to purchase toys for behavioral enrichment.

Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society

The Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society is working with the Arizona Game and Fish wildlife managers to reintroduce the desert bighorn into the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. They plan to release the sheep in November 2013.  The A4ED donation would help make this possible.

Authors for Earth Day supports conservation through literacy.  Check out my previous blog posts to learn about Liberty Wildlife and Southwest Wildlife, Authors for Earth Day recipients in 2010 and 2012.

To learn more about the conservation agencies for my Authors for Earth Day 2013 visit, check out these sites:  Tucson Audubon SocietyWild at HeartSouthwest Wildlife Conservation Center, Phoenix Zoo Native Conservation Project and the Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society.  I'll report on the winner as soon as it is chosen!

Arizona Game and Fish Youth Expo Contest

It was a great day at the Arizona Game and Fish Youth Expo where kids, parents and teachers had the opportunity to see Arizona wildlife up close.  Aren't these kestrels beautiful? 

Wildlife experts answered questions about everything from bats and bobcats to rattlesnakes and gila monsters.  Kids tried their skill at archery, shooting, fishing and even catching crayfish.  

I love the message on this sign.

I was at the storytelling center sharing the rhymes and riddles from my book Little Arizona.  

We investigated the tools in a writer's toolbox and the process of writing a rhyming riddle with well chosen descriptive words.  After the reading, the kids were challenged to write their own rhyming riddle about an Arizona critter and submit it to my contest.  So here are the rules! 
You can enter up to 5 rhyming riddles about different Arizona critters.  (It's so much fun to write them that you may want to write more than one!)
Make sure that you research and learn about the animal's habitat and physical appearance.  Don't make up anything about the animal.  If you're not sure, look it up.  Remember how I had misinformation in my first draft of the bat poem where I said "brown furry wings" when they aren't furry at all!
Choose your words carefully.  Remember sensory descriptive words and the fewer the better.
Try clapping out each syllable in the words to make sure that the riddle has good rhythm.
You can send the final draft to my email,, or leave it as a comment on this site.  Make sure that you include your name, school (or homeschool) and age.  Deadline is April 1.
A winning riddle will be chosen by members of the Greater Paradise Valley Reading Council and the poet will receive a copy of one of my books.  Good luck.

Here are a few rhyming riddles to get you thinking...

Eight legs
Silk spinner
Sticky web
traps dinner
a spider

Big round eyes
Silent flight
Hunting mice
by moonlight
an owl

Brown leathery wings
flying at night
Eating mosquitos
by moonlight.
a bat

Be an Advocate for Literacy and Join the Greater Paradise Valley Reading Council

If you believe that every child should be a lifelong reader, you are an advocate of literacy.  The Greater Paradise Valley Reading Council, an affiliate of the Arizona Reading Association (ARA) and the International Reading Association (IRA), needs your support through membership. 

For over twenty years, the Greater Paradise Valley Reading Council (GPVRC)

has supported literacy activities locally and around the world.  Your membership in this professional organization is vital if we are to continue this work.  Please consider joining the GPVRC as an active member or as a literacy advocate.  Either way your membership dues support education, service and advocacy including...


ü      GPVRC professional development seminars (Sept through May) and online Teachers as Readers discussion groups

Community service projects – 


the Lake Titicaca Literacy Project, founded by Barbara Gowan - GPVRC officer, builds libraries on Amantani Island and provides an IRA membership to a Peruvian educator while the Pajama Program provides books and new pjs to homeless children in the valley

ü      Professional growth opportunities at literacy events throughout Arizona including the ARA Institute on November 3, 2012 featuring Ralph Fletcher and “Writing Strategies that Work”


Opportunities for scholarships and grants including the $1000 Graduate School program from ARA and $300 Teacher Literacy Grants provided by the Phoenix West Reading Council


Networking with literacy professionals at events and on the Greater Paradise Valley Reading Council facebook page


ü      Sharing your voice in advocacy and legislation that affects literacy


ü      GPVRC membership enrolls you in the Arizona Reading Assn. and you will receive  the Arizona Reading Journal providing the latest information about literacy education



___  $30 annual dues – ACTIVE MEMBER


                        ___  $15 – RETIRED OR STUDENT MEMBER

___  Yes, I’d like to donate $5 to the Lake Titicaca Literacy Project




HOME PHONE:                                           EMAIL:

SCHOOL:                                                   POSITION:

Make check payable to Greater Paradise Valley Reading Council

MAIL TO:  GPVRC c/o Sigrid Kuster, 6134 E. Calle del Paisano, Scottsdale, AZ  85251

Build a Book Workshop at Annunciation School - brainstorm, research, write and revise

The young authors in the 4th grade at Annunciation Catholic School in Cave Creek, AZ are approaching the final stretch of creating their classroom alphabet book.  Following the writing process that I used to create my alphabet books, these students began the project with brainstorming or  

selecting a topic about Arizona for each letter in the alphabet from Ancient People to Zane Grey along with Desert Tortoise, Four Corners, Barry Goldwater, Valentine's Day and more.  Then it was on to research and collecting information by being detectives searching for answers to their specific questions. 

I loaned the class books about Arizona's history, geography, people and natural history.


Students are encouraged to look first in the books and follow it up at trusted sites on the internet.  Some are interviewing experts, watching movies and even visiting a plant nursery for a closeup look at a yucca.

To help the students think more creatively about their writing (and to not be tempted to erase), thin-point markers and oversized white paper is used for the rough draft.  Four specific strategies for topic sentences were taught and used as hooks to get the reader to want to read more.

Lessons on writing with sensory details and wiping out wimpy words and writing with wow words help the young authors write so the reader feels like they are at the scene of the action.  And of course, after the sloppy copy or rough draft comes re-writing, re-writing and revising. 

Once the manuscript is complete, students will participate in peer editing.  Then it's on to illustrating or showcasing their topic in bright colors.  Publishing will occur at a local copy store.  This workshop started in mid-February followed by four more visits. 

We concluded with a Celebrate Writing party where the children received their books.

The classroom was buzzing with excitement as I walked in with the published book.  I shared positive comments about each person's writing - from their choice of "wow words" to their clear, concise explanations of science concepts to their use of sensory descriptions to their interesting biographical research to their power-punched ending sentences. Everyone was very proud of their book.

It was difficult to single out one writer for the Awesome Writer Award. 

Emily's page - H is for Havasupai - was filled with sensory detail.  Here's an excerpt - "Just imagine waking up in the morning and feeling the refreshing spray of the falls and catching the fragrance of the cool, crisp air evaporating from them.  You can hear the rushing water plunging into the turquoise pools." 

You feel like you've witnessed the gunfight at the OK Corral when you read Zack's words -
"Boom! Another cowboy drops, Frank McLaury dead from a stomach wound from Wyatt Earp's gun...
Tom McLaury dead from a blast of Holliday's shotgun...
Billy Clanton dying from a shot in the chest...
Morgan Earp hit in the shoulder and Virgin Earp and Dog Holliday wounded, and Wyatt Earp left untouched.
The fight lasted about 30 seconds on a Wednesday afternoon, October 26, 1881."

Anna and Erin worked together on Z is for Zane Grey and their first sentence sounds like the setting in one of Grey's famous Western novels - "A golden sun disappears behind the jagged Sonoran Desert peaks as a lone cowboy on his wild mustang gallops across the sand."

Some letters are more challenging than others.  Hadley wrote Q is for Queen Butterfly.  "Who do
you think the Queen Butterfly is named after?  Alfred Meeks named the butterfly after Queen Elizabeth I because Elizabeth fought off all the men who wanted to marry her because she did not want to share her crown.  The Queen butterfly is a fighter, too, and she fiercely fights off predators who want to eat her."

Alec used the topic sentence strategy of starting his writing with interesting information - "Sandra Day O'Connor made history in 1981 when Ronald Reagan appointed her as the first woman Supreme Court Justice."

William wanted his readers to feel like they were at the scene.  Here's how he began his writing for P is for Petrified Forest - "Picture 750 million years ago, feel the humid and moist forest where dinosaurs as large as a school bus roamed.  Now picture that the forest turned to stone.  How did that happen?"

Erin had a power-packed ending to her writing about Padre Kino.  "When he saw Bac for the first time with the delegation from Tucson, Padre Kino imagined a brilliant white church rising against the turquoise blue sky and the sandy, brown mountains and shining in the distance like a sparkling jewel on the desert floor.  He built it as he imagined it.  It is there still, shining in the desert."

Those were just a few examples.  I could show each page and you'd see excellent writing. 
I am so proud of these kids.  They worked hard to create an awesome class alphabet book.

4th grade AUTHORS at Annunciation Catholic School in Cave Creek, AZ

If you are interested in the Build a Book Workshop for your students, check out the post on School Author Visits for Kids and contact for details.  I am on the roster of teaching artists for the Arizona Commission on the Arts and you may be able to apply for a grant to help bring this program to your school. 

Play charades with kids' books featuring food in the titles

The last meeting of the Greater Paradise Valley Reading Council was filled with fun AND food.  Members were encouraged to bring a food item that corresponded to a children's book.  Many had the name of the food in the title or as in Heidi, crusty white rolls played a memorable role in the story.  Not only did we eat tamales, blueberries, popcorn and cookies (and more!), but a game of charades made everyone think about old favorites including 1946 Newbery award winner Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski, Blueberries for Sal by Robert McClosky (Caldecott Honor 1949) and Strega Nona by Tomie de Paola (Caldecott Honor 1976). 

This idea would work well at a meeting of librarians, book clubs, children's book lovers, and in a college kidlit class.  Have fun and enjoy the bibliography compiled by the Greater Paradise Valley Reading Council. 
It's a start...which book would you add?

A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle

Barney Bear’s Pizza Shop by Lawrence Di Fiori

Beans on Toast by Paul Dowling

Big Moon Tortilla by Joy Cowley

Black Potatoes – the Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850 by S.C. Bartoletti

Blueberries for Sal by R. McCloskey

Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban

Bread Bread Bread by Ann Morris

Burro’s Tortillas by Terri Fields

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak

Chicks and Salsa by Aaron Reynolds

Chocolate Fever by Robert Kimmel Smith

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett

Cookies: Bite-size Lessons by Amy Rosenthal

Corn is Maize by Aliki

Curious George Makes Pancakes by Margaret and H.A. Rey

Everybody Bakes Bread by Norah Dooley

Give Me My Yam! by Jan Blake

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

Handa’s Surprise by Ellen Browne

Heidi Johanna Spiry

How My Family Lives in America by Susan Kuklin

How to Make an Apple Pie and see the world by Marjorie Priceman

How to Make a Cherry Pie and see the USA by Marjorie Priceman

If You Give a Cat a Cupcake by Laura Numeroff

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato by Tomie de Paola

Lentil by R. McCloskey

Little Red Hen – traditional tale

My Mom Loves Me More than Sushi by Filomena Gomes

Pancakes, Pancakes by Eric Carle

Potluck by Ann Shelby

Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper

Scarlette Beane by Karen Wallace

Stone Soup by M. Brown

Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski

Strega Nona by Tomie de Paola

The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food by Stan & Jan B.

The Carrot Seed by R. Knauss

The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins

The Gingerbread Man – traditional story

The Jellybeans & the Big Book Bonanza by Laura Numeroff

The Little Mouse, the Big Hungry Bear and the Red Ripe Strawberry by Audrey Wood

The Pie and the Patty Pan by Beatrix Potter

The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willem

The Popcorn Book by Tomie de Paola

The Princess and the Pea by Hans Christian Andersen

The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka

Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco

Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto

Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens

Tortilla Factory by Gary Paulson

Where in the World is my Bagel?  By Frances and Ginger Park


Peanut Butter for the Bears

You're probably wondering what a children's author and a campaign to collect peanut butter have in common.  Last month, the students at Kiva Elementary School in Paradise Valley, AZ voted on the conservation agency that would receive a donation from me as part of my Authors for Earth Day visit (see previous post). 

 They voted for Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center (, a wildlife rescue and rehab facility specializing in native mammals - fox, javelina, coyote, mountain lion and BEAR.  While touring the rehab center, educator Kim Carr introduced me to Tahoe, Griz and Igasho, 3-year old youngsters, who stole my heart.  (70% of the animals at the center are rehabilitated and released back into the wild but that can't happen with these black bears.) 


In the wild, black bears search out roots, berries, insects, mice and other small mammals, fish, garbage and NUTS.  Although they wouldn't find peanuts in Arizona, they do love their afternoon treat of peanut butter.  Kim smears the peanut butter on the fence post and they lick away!

Not only do the bears enjoy their afternoon snack, the five bears (Cinnamon and Berry are adults) EACH eat a loaf of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner in addition to their other food. 
That's a LOT of peanut butter!

You can help stock the pantry at Southwest Wildlife by collecting jars of peanut butter (they prefer the creamy style) and grape jelly and honey.  It's a great service project for a classroom, club or school.  Contact Kim (  for information on delivery.  You can easily bring the jars to the conservation center when you come for a visit to tour the facility or attend a program. 

The bears may offer you a "high five" as a thank you for your help but don't smack back.  Just look at those claws.  They are capable of shredding tents, destroying coolers and tearing apart logs.  During a recent educational program about the bears held at the center, they did just that!

You can learn more about the black bear, Ursus americanus, at the Arizona Game & Fish Department website -

Check out these books produced in cooperation with the North American Bear Center and are particularly error free.  Both are available in the online store at .   

Bears For Kids (2007) by Jeff Fair was updated and republished in 2007 and is perhaps the most authoritative children's book on black bears.  Photos and text emphasize northeastern Minnesota.  

Discovering Black Bears (2007) by Margaret Anderson, Nancy Field, and Karen Stephenson.


April 2014

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