And the winner is …

© Loree Griffin Burns

Last night I printed the names of all seven entrants in my Odyssey of KP2 giveaway on strips of paper, folded them up, mixed them into my favorite mug, and had Mr. Burns draw one out.

He didn’t even know my Auntie Mary’s name was in there, I swear.


I was going to add these instructions: “Please email me at lgb (at) loreeburns (dot) com with your mailing address and I will get your book in the mail.” But I know where this particular winner lives. Your book is on it’s way, Mary Laughton!

I’ll be raffling another SB&F Prize winning book on Monday, so please come back and check it out. Auntie Mary won’t be eligible to enter again, so unless I get a crush of new readers over the weekend, your chances of winning are very, very good. What’s the book? You’ll see on Monday, but here are a few clues: it’s on this list, it’s not something I’ve already raffled, and I didn’t write it.

Happy Reading!

Cybils Love


One year ago today, on a holiday otherwise known as CITIZEN SCIENTISTS Release Day, my son Sam surprised me with the coolest valentine ever (above). I will never get tired of that graphic!

This year, Valentine’s Day morn was spent celebrating the Cybils Awards. More formally known as the Children’s and Young Adults Bloggers’ Literary Awards, these honors are bestowed one stroke after midnight each Valentine’s Day, and they are always a great bet for book lovers.

Need proof?

Click on over to the Cybils award announcement (link below) and scroll through the winning titles. Explore the genres. Read the reviews. Fall in love.

What to do next is up to you, of course, but I recommend you pick a book for yourself. Pick one (or three!) for your valentine, too. Then scroll back up to the top of the page and click on the embedded “Shop Now” link. Find your selections and pop them into your cart. When you check out, a small portion of Amazon’s proceeds will be given to the Cybils.

Your valentine gets some book love. A Cybils author gets some book sale love. The Cybils award gets some thank you love. Three birds, one click.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Wednesday Wild: Sea Urchin

© Gerry Burns


Another wild photo from our trip to Acadia in July. And, yes, I realize it is not Wednesday. But yesterday was filled with First Day of School and Back to Work craziness, and I forgot.

Happy Thursday!

Quick Quiz!

© Loree Griffin Burns

If you’ve read my new book, Citizen Scientists, then you know each chapter concludes with a Quick Quiz that tests readers’ knowledge of the butterflies, birds, frogs, and ladybugs they’ve been reading about.  The little fellow in the photo above, who I met this week, has inspired me to create an online version today.

On a recent trip to Maine, my family and I came upon a pond covered in lily pads and ringing with the sounds of a one-stringed banjo. (Want to see a photo of this pond? Click here.) At first we couldn’t see the banjo strummers, because they blended so well with the lily pads. But because we’ve studied frog calls a bit, we knew who we were dealing with.

Do you?

First clue: its call sounds like a one-stringed banjo.

Second clue: the frog is pictured in the photo above, which was taken after one of my kids tossed a pebble into the pond and got the frogs there moving enough for me to see them!

So … which New England frog is it?

The Flora and Fauna of Our Place

© Loree Griffin Burns

As a science project for our homeschool year (2010-2011), my three kids and I created an inventory of all the creatures we’d documented in our suburban back yard. We scoured a decade of garden photographs and, at the same time, began spending loads of time outdoors looking for animals we had not yet recorded. At the time, we lived on a one acre property about five minutes outside Worcester, the second largest city in Massachusetts. I was SHOCKED at the diversity we found on our little patch of Earth. Talk about a year of surprising discoveries and unexpected connections!  I have been thinking and writing about it ever since.

This month, a portion of our project is on display at the Beaman Memorial Library, including the stick insect above (I’d never seen a stick insect in my life, outside the movie Ants, but when I started looking closely, they popped up regularly) and the introduction below …

In September 2010, we began to organize years of our backyard photographs as part of a science project on animal classification. We were shocked to discover that a fairly large variety of creatures from the Animal Kingdom were living under our noses. Here are a few of our findings …


  • Of the nine phyla in the Animal Kingdom, we photographed members of four (Chordata, Arthropoda, Annelida, and Mollusca).


  • Of the seven classes of animals with backbones, we recorded four (Amphibia, Reptilia, Aves, and Mammalia).


  • Of the ten species of frogs and toads found in Massachusetts, we saw four in our yard, and we managed to see three others around central Massachusetts.


We spotted an amazing variety of other animals in our one-acre West Boylston yard, including stick insects, cicadas, katydids, a clearwing moth, monarch butterflies, two species of salamander, a snake, pileated woodpeckers, a ruby-throated hummingbird, a porcupine, a groundhog, deer, and a black bear! Some of our favorite animal photographs are shown here. We hope you like looking at them … and we hope our project inspires you to look more closely at your backyard.

Insect Sounds

Remember this record? Well, I finally had a chance to hear it, thanks to my friend Doris, who actually owns a record player.

(Thank you, Doris!)

This track list will give you an idea how cool the recording was, but only an idea. It doesn’t tell you, for example, that the commentary accompanying the insect sounds occasionally included nifty experiments. Like the one where the sound recorder, Albro Gaul, set up an audio experiment to prove to listeners that wasps don’t fly in the dark.

Here’s how it worked …

Mr. Gaul put a wasp’s nest in a cage rigged with a microphone. At bedtime, he turned out the lights in the room and went to sleep. The wasps appeared to go to sleep, too, because the buzzing their wings make in flight settled down.

In the middle of the night, Mr. Gaul got up and turned the lights on. The hive remained quiet. So he slapped the cage until the wasps woke up. How could you tell when they were awake? Buzzing. Lots of loud and angry buzzing.

Then Mr. Gaul turned the lights out, and the buzzing stopped. Because, apparently, wasps don’t fly in the dark.

When he turned the lights on again, the loud, angry buzzing resumed.

Again, lights off: silence.

Again, lights on: buzzing.

This was by far my favorite track on the album. Although the “six-footed cadence” of a viceroy butterfly walking was pretty cool, too.

My New Vinyl

That right there is a 33 ½ rpm vinyl phonograph record called Sound of Insects. It includes tracks like “Viceroy Butterfly Walking” and “Mud-dauber Wasp in Flight.” It is by far the most incredibly perfect gift I have ever received.

I got it from the Tech Old Timers, a group of retired former students, faculty, and staff at my almer mater, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). The Old Timers gather once a month on campus to socialize and explore new ideas through invited speakers. Yesterday, their new idea was citizen science, and their invited speaker was me.

I can’t even tell you how wonderful the morning was. It included conversations with old friends (Dean Trask! Professor Bleumel!), the making of new ones, the sharing of passions, and a reminder of just how long and deep and interesting and interested my WPI family is. At the end of the morning, the Old Timers gave me this album, and I am still—a day later—stunned at its aptness. I have no doubt that once I find a record player, the sounds captured in the album’s grooves will bring me joy; I’m a true insect geek. But it will also remind me, each and every time I play it, of the way learning transcends discipline and gender and time and age.

In fact, I can’t quite shake the feeling that I’ll be bringing this record back to WPI one day. Perhaps when I’m an Old Timer myself. I’ll drag along whatever beaten up old record player I eventually find, and I will tell my new Old Timer buddies about the day, back in the spring of 2012, when I hung out with the old Old Timers. I’ll recall the connections, share again the same funny stories I heard yesterday. Maybe I’ll know a little something more about beetles by then, and I’ll tell what I know. Eventually I’ll drop a needle onto Sounds of Insects and play a few tracks. “Japanese Beetle on a Ruse,” or maybe “Cicada Warmup and Flight.”

Snow? On Launch Day?!

Hello friends,

Ellen and I will be launching Citizen Scientists at the Harvard Public Library today at 1:30pm, as planned. The impending snowstorm, however, has forced us to postpone tonight’s launch event at the Beaman Memorial Library in West Boyslton. That event will now take place next Thursday, March 8 at 6pm.

Signing events in central Massachusetts over the next week are summarized below:

Wednesday, February 29, 2012, 1:30pm
Harvard Public Library
4 Pond Road
Harvard, MA

Saturday, March 3, 2012, 10am-12noon
Tatnuck Bookseller
Route 9 & Lyman Street
Westborough, MA

Thursday, March 8, 2012, 6pm-8pm
Beaman Memorial Public Library
8 Newton Street
West Boylston, MA

Enjoy the snow!