Being Frog

So, are you the sort of person who would be distracted by a parade of hopping frogs and excited by the idea of helping them? Do you like being out of doors, even at night? Are you intrigued by the thought of listening to spring? Have you held a frog or toad in your hand, looked it in the eye, and felt something?

These are questions I posed in the pages of Citizen Scientists, suggesting those who answered YES! would make good frog watchers. Today I’d like to add that those people–frog people–will also adore this new picture book from April Pulley Sayre.

Being Frog is a delight, cover to cover, a celebration of language and image and, of course, frogs. Don’t miss this one, friends!

What Miss Mitchell Saw

Distilling a full life into 32 pages is such a hard thing to do. It requires deep reflection, a willingness to seize a single theme and, at the very same time, to let all the other beautiful and important and relevant themes in that beautiful and important and relevant life go. Hayley Barrett and Diana Dusyka manage this task brilliantly in their picture book biography of Maria Mitchell. WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW is a marriage of deliberate storytelling and expansive art, a book that focuses readers on knowing and naming, cornerstones of scientific inquiry, but doesn’t get mired in details of astronomy, its devices, and its techniques. I’m really glad I finally picked this gem up. You should too!

The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown

“No good book is loved by everyone,
and any good book is bound to bother somebody.”
~ Mac Barnett

Even if you don’t recognize the name Margaret Wise Brown, you’re likely to have read some of her books. The Runaway Bunny, Bumblebugs and Elephants, The Little Fireman, Goodnight Moon, among so many others. Hers are classics of childhood reading, even today, and I know I’m not the only mother of grown children who can still recite them rote. (And every now and then, does.)

Mac Barnett’s biography of Brown is unusual, deeply literary, and spellbinding. I cannot get enough of it. And while often such books are criticized as being inaccessible to children, I believe my kids would have adored this book. Would they have appreciated the metaphor that turns a single life into a single book? Would they have grasped, when they were small, the dangers of a gatekeeper? Maybe not. But they would have understood being misunderstood. They would have felt the joyful zaniness of buying an entire cart of flowers or bringing ducks into a place for no reason at all. They wanted desperately to know more about things they knew were frowned upon, like swimming naked in an ocean, or borrowing the fur from a dead rabbit. I think they’d have peered into the life of the woman behind books in their very own bedrooms and felt satisfied.

I cannot express how much I admire this book. I’m going to read it aloud to my kids, adults though they may be, when they’re home for the holidays. I’m not kidding. Because the important thing about me is that I share the stories that move me most. I’m grateful to Mac Barnett, Sarah Jacoby, and Margaret Wise Brown for this beautiful reminder of that.

Reading Life: No Heart, No Moon

I’ve been making my way through the 2019 edition of The Best American Science and Nature Writing, edited by Sy Montgomery, and as is the case every year, it’s like taking a master class in communicating life and living and all the ways those two things happen in this world. I try to read a couple essays a week, but often pause, struck dumb by a piece that begs for a deeper study. That’s what happened with Matt Jones’ No Heart, No Moon.

Originally published in The Southern Review, the essay is available in its entirety at Jones’ website. It’s a stunning example of literary nonfiction, of taking the facts of a story and weaving them into something that is informative and also deeply meaningful. Art. I read the essay before bed, and re-read it the very next morning, out loud, with my morning tea. It’s gorgeously written, layered with connections that surprise and worry. I’ll be studying it for a while, sharing it with students and friends, pondering the mechanics and the message.

Insects, Insects Everywhere








Last night we held our inaugural in-person Fill-in-the-Blank Book Club (if you don’t know what that is, read this post), and it was a joy, especially if you happen to love books, reading and … insects. Displayed at the top of this post are just a few of the titles folks brought along to share. I was thrilled to see a variety of fiction and non-fiction, as well as books for adults and for kids!

Our discussion was interesting and wide-ranging and, as I’d hoped, a clear demonstration of how books can connect and engage us. At the end of it all, our small group shared ideas for the next Fill-in-the-Blank subject, which I’ll share as soon as I clear a date for it at the library. Stay tuned.

FITBBC Recommendation: Joyful Noise

Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices
(HarperTrophy, 1988)
by Paul Fleischman
Illustrated by Eric Beddows

“The following poems were written to be read aloud by two readers at once, one taking the left-hand part, the other taking the right-hand part. The poems should be read from top to bottom, the two parts meshing as in a musical duet. When both readers have lines at the same horizontal level, those lines are to be spoken simultaneously.”

This is one of my favorite insect books of all time. Some of my fondest family memories involve gently encouraging (this might be a euphemism) my three kids to perform a poem from this book as part of our one glorious homeschool year.

I found a couple YouTube videos featuring Joyful Noise and two voices, and I couldn’t decide which I loved best. Have a peek at both. But truly, the best way to enjoy this book is out loud and with a friend.


The Fill-in-the-Blank Book Club

If you’ve been here before, you know how inspired I was by last April’s March for Science. One of the commitments I made at the march was to do what I could to further science literacy in my community. Since I make my living writing about science for audiences of all ages, a book club featuring all things science was a no-brainer way for me to do this. I recently hosted a book talk at my hometown library, which I blogged about here, and with the help of the book lovers who showed up that day, have fashioned a new-fangled all-ages book group. And I’d like you to join it.

Unlike more traditional book clubs, ours will not focus on a single book, but rather on a single topic. Attendees can choose fiction or nonfiction, a children’s book or a young adult book or an adult book, a picture book or chapter book or graphic novel. Pretty much anything goes. The only requirements are that your book selection tie into our monthly theme, and that you’re willing to share a little bit about it with the rest of us.

Those of us who live in central Massachusetts can meet in person at the Beaman Memorial Library at 4 Newton Street in West Boyslton, Massachusetts on Tuesday, October 24 at 6:30pm. But if you don’t live in the area and would like to join in the fun, please do! I’ll be featuring themed book suggestions here on my blog each week, and anyone can participate here; my dream is that this book club thrive in the virtual world as well as the real one.

Since I’m organizing this Fill-in-the-Blank Book Club (FITBBC) shin-dig, I get to choose the first topic. And as y’all know, I’m a bit of a bug geek. So for this first meeting, we will fill in the blank with …

drum roll, please …


I’ll be sharing some of my favorite insect-themed books on this blog in the coming weeks. At the same time, my friends at Beaman Memorial Public Library will be sharing their favorite insect books, too. (You can find them on Facebook and Instagram.) Please follow along as you’re able, and feel free to add your own book suggestions. You know what I always say: The more insect books, the merrier life is!

One last thing: this is an all ages book party, open to tweens, teens, and adults. I truly, really, surely, honestly hope you join the fun, and that you’ll think about inviting a kid or adult or neighbor or complete stranger to join in, too. Let’s share some time–and some books–with one another.

Happy Reading!

Some WRAD Book Recommendations

Yesterday, February 16, was World Read Aloud Day, and it was magnificent. I celebrated by Skyping into classrooms in Fairfax and Virginia Beach (Virginia), Madison (Wisconsin) and Quito (Equador), and I got to read and talk with students about butterflies, citizen science, and honey bees. I also got to give a sneak peak of my newest book (LIFE ON SURTSEY, due out in November of this year) and recommend some of my very favorite recent nonfiction books. You know, books like …

The Dolphins of Shark Bay


Earlier this year, I had the chance to talk with author Pamela Turner about her next big thing. (Here’s that post.) I’m logging on today to let you know that thing, the ‘Scientists in the Field’ book THE DOLPHINS OF SHARK BAY, is officially out in the world. Also? It’s a must-read.

I know. I say that about all the SITF books.

And I probably am biased, as I write for the series myself.


This is still a book I will recommend to everyone in my life, young and old. The dolphins living in the waters of Shark Bay are opening our eyes to the complexity of dolphin life and behavior … and what scientists are learning from these dolphins is rocking human notions of, well, what it means to be human. Don’t miss this one, folks!

Here’s a link to more information on the book.

Here’s a link to one of Pam’s latest blog post on the SITF website.