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Lyric Power Publishing is Proud to Announce a #1 Book at Amazon!

Lyric Power Publishing is pleased to be the publisher of Queen of the Night: The Night-Blooming Cereus by Elaine A. Powers and illustrated by Nicholas Thorpe. The Cereus blooms beautifully in the Sonoran Desert–but only one night each year! Author Elaine A. Powers explores the plant and the phenomena in RHYME in this book that is #1 in sales in Children’s Botany Books at amazon.com. The book is also available in Tucson, Az. at Tohono Chul Museum.

Congratulations to both Elaine and Nicholas!

a light brown book cover with green lettering: Queen of the Night: Night Blooming Cereus, with illustration of a white flower
A favorite in /southern Arizona where the Night-blooming cereus blooms one night per year
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Trees That Are Not Loved by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Joyce Kilmer
wrote the poem
Trees

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

However, not all trees are revered.  Today, I’m going to discuss two that I have met in my citizen scientist work in the Caribbean.  The first one is Poisonwood, Metopium toxiferum.  A character, Polly Poisonwood, based on the poisonwood tree, is featured in the adventure tale Grow Home, Little Seeds. You can probably guess from its common name, the poisonwood is not a tree to embrace. Poisonwood belongs to the cashew family, which includes poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison oak.  There seems to be a theme in the names. Poisonwood resin contains urushiol, which causes severe dermatitis. It is so potent that water dripping off leaves is enough to irritate.

So, why don’t we just get rid of all the poisonwood? Even though the tree is not useful to people, the fruit is a major food source for the endangered white-crowned pigeon and the Bahamas parrot, as well as many migratory and local birds. These trees really are “for the birds.”

The second unloved tree is the Manchineel tree, Hippomane mancinella, which I encountered in the Cayman Islands. It is considered to be one of the most deadly trees known to man. It is believed this tree was used to kill Juan Ponce de Leon.  The name is from the Spanish word for little apple, manzilla, due to its fruit that resemble apples.

Every part of the tree contains toxins, which cause strong contact dermatitis. A drop of rain washing over the tree will cause blistering. The sap will even damage the paint on cars.

Machineel is a member of the spurges, so named from “purge,” because of their toxic saps. Poinsettias are also members of this family.

Why do people keep such a dangerous tree around?  The fruit is deadly poisonous and toxic to birds and mammals.  Most plants want the fruits to be eaten, so the seeds can be dispersed during defecation. Why have a toxic fruit? One group of animals is immune to the toxins and enjoy eating the machineel fruit. It’s my favorite group of animals – iguanas! These large lizards eat and disperse the seeds for the birds.

So, remember: Even though we may not like certain trees, it doesn’t mean they aren’t important to the certain birds or animals in the environment. They do need to be preserved for them and their eco-systems.

The two trees above are characters in the delightful children’s book, Grow Home, Little Seeds, about  seeds that are raised together in a greenhouse and decide that when they are dispersed, they will all try to stay together. However, they learn along the way that they each need they own special place to put down roots, to grow up to be strong trees; but they remain good friends–as neighbors. 

a book cover of a nature preserve, where seeds are cultivated. Seeds are drawn as cute characters

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Queen of the Night: The Night-Blooming Cereus by Elaine A. Powers

a light brown book cover with green lettering: Queen of the Night: Night Blooming Cereus, with illustration of a white flowerSometimes in life, we end up on an unexpected path. I was going to write murder mysteries, but the muses had different ideas.  I ended up writing science-based children’s books. These aren’t general topic books–most are written for specific locations.  I have found a niche for writing books about places and things other authors probably wouldn’t.

When I was told there were not any books about the Night-Blooming Cereus, I accepted the challenge to write a picture book about them. In researching the book, I didn’t find any information on the details of the plant’s growth and flowers.  The amazing thing about this species is that all the plants flower together on the same night! An incredible sight and feat.  How do they all know? Fortunately, the local botanical garden, Tohono Chul, has Lee Mason, an expert on all things Cereus (Peniocereus greggii). He generously shared his knowledge.

Then the rhyming began. YES, it’s written in rhyme. It’s fun!

Tucson artist, Nicholas Thorpe, created the illustrations.  You may remember Nick from the “Don’t” series books. We were able to complete this book in record time, so that it would be available for Bloom Night 2019. Fortunately, the Cereus waited for us.  Now, they are free to bloom whenever they want.

From The Queen of the Night: the Night-blooming Cereus:

 It’s just a bare stick, stuck in the ground,

Why on earth would you keep it around?

The reason becomes abundantly clear,

On one very special night each year.

image of web page re: night blooming cereus at tohonochul.orgThe book is available at Tohono Chul in Tucson, AZ., where they are currently awaiting the annual one-night only 2019 blooming of Cereus, and at amazon.com.

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The Land Building Tree by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A botanical Illustration of a Red Mangrove Tree SeedIf you’ve ever visited the ocean’s edge, you may have seen one of my favorite trees, the Red Mangrove, Rhizophora mangle. Red Mangroves are remarkable plants, able to live in salt water, thriving along the edge of the ocean. A Red Mangrove has prop-roots that extend down from its trunk to anchor the tree in the shifting sediment; the roots also are used to breathe air.

Fallen leaves and the prop-root structure encourage the buildup of sediment. Red Mangrove wood is unusually dense, so when a tree dies, the trunk sinks in water. The green leaves are darker on top than on the underside. Pink flowers appear in the spring. The trees have both sexes and are capable of self- or wind-pollination. A Red Mangrove produces a propagule, an elongated seed pod that lodges in sediment, sprouts roots, and grows into a new tree. The propagule can float in brackish water for over a year before rooting.

Red Mangrove seed sprouting its first green leaves in the water

So what does this process look like?

A mangrove seed came to rest offshore on a beach in Fort Myers, FL.  The seed sprouted out in the water in the sediment which is still being moved by the waves.

Red Mangrove leaves from a new tree break the surface of the water

The tree continues to grow, adding more branches and leaves that rise above the surface of the water.

A body of water with a large bird perched on a Red Mangrove tree barely showing above the surface of the water

Eventually, this one seed may grow into a dense group of red mangroves which will then provide habitat for other plants.

a book cover of a nature preserve, where seeds are cultivated. Seeds are drawn as cute characters

A botanical illustration of a Red Mangrove seed, a character named Cerise in a children's book, Grow Home, Little SeedsIf you want to read an adventure story featuring a Red Mangrove, check out Cerise in my story called Grow Home, Little Seeds. A bundle of seeds have grown up together and want to remain close as they head out into the world. But Nature carries them to their own perfect environments to establish roots and grow into the magnificent trees they are each meant to be. They are not far from each other, however, and remain fast forest friends.

Learn about the following trees while sharing their seed-adventures with your favorite little one: the Black Mangrove, the Bromeliad, the Christmas Orchid, the Gumbo Limbo tree, the Lignum Vitae, the Mahogany, the Poisonwood, the Red Mangrove, the Sea Grape, the Shell Orchid, and the Silver Thatch Palm.

 

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What’s In a Name? by Elaine A. Powers, Author

What do you think of when you hear the name Tabby?  Do you think of tabby cats? Those domestic cats that have distinctive stripes, spots, or swirls on their coats.

Or maybe you have a friend named Tabitha and she’s called Tabby for short.

One of the new characters in my books with Bahamian wildlife themes is named Tabby.  Scott Johnson, her creator, named her that, so it isn’t my fault.

An illustration of an African-American woman, with a warm demeanor and attractive smile. She has a green headband and dangling earrings. She is called Tabby, the Five-Finger Fairy
Tabby, the Five-Finger Fairy, loves animals and humans alike. She likes to make a difference for others.

I showed a friend in Nassau my new book “Tabby and Cleo: Unexpected Friends.” She looked at the cover and her expression was not what I expected.  She’s liked my books in the past, but her face communicated dismay and concern.  She tentatively opened the cover and turned a few pages.

A smile erupted and she exclaimed, “Tabebuia! Of course!” She noted my confused expression and explained. “When I read Tabby, I thought of tabby cats and I didn’t want to read a story about cats.  How delightful that Tabby is a Five Finger Fairy.”

To be honest, I never once thought of tabby cats when I wrote the story.  Hopefully, soon everyone will know of Tabby, the Five Finger Fairy, from the Bahamas. She was introduced in the adventure tale, “Tabby and Cleo: Unexpected Friends.”

Cleo, a Bahamian boa, one of the most misunderstood animals of The Bahamas, rescues Tabby, a Five-Finger Fairy. In trying to find Cleo a safe place to live, this unlikely pair help each other and the people they meet. Tabby loves Bahamian wildlife, Bahamian bush teas, and making friends with both animals and humans alike. This book focuses on important conservation issues that threaten Bahamian wildlife, such as wildlife smuggling, habitat loss, invasive species and human intolerance of animals such as snakes and spiders.

A bright green children's book cover, showing a Five-Fingered Fairy riding a Bahamian Boa

Tabby will also be introducing the land animals of the Bahamas in a series of picture books, filled with scientific information, called the Tabby Tales.  The first Tabby Tale is about Bahamian boas, about the fascinating boa constrictors native to the islands.

A children's book cover, brown background, orange and yellow lettering, with images of snakes from the Bahamas
BAHAMIAN BOAS: A TABBY TALE Now Available at Amazon

 

 

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Why the Colorful Illustrations? By Elaine A. Powers, Author

Vivid, colorful illustration of a Greater Roadrunner along with rhyming text
From Don’t Make Me Fly by Elaine A. Powers

When writing a story that will be illustrated, the author should ask herself, Who are the illustrations for? Do they convey the book’s message? For example, do they impart important information not fully covered by the text? Will they help sell the book? What style goes with the story?  How will they be created? Colored pencil, pen and ink, water color or pastels? A combination? Illustrations can be cartoonized photographs or actual photographs.  Whatever best helps tell your story.

Hand a child a variety of books, and note which illustrations attract them.  They are usually brightly colored with lots of interesting action. Yet, many children’s books for sale today have simple images, somewhat “artsy” in nature.  That’s because children’s books are often marketed to grandparents, since these are the people who will most likely be purchasing books. I have chosen to use colorful, dramatic, and vivid illustrations because I want children to be attracted to my books so they will learn the science.

Are My Books Fiction or Non-fiction?

My books, although scientifically accurate, are not considered non-fiction.  To be considered non-fiction, publishers prefer photographs to be used and for the book to follow one specific animal. I have found that an illustration (even if it’s only of a photograph) is much more eye-catching and will hold the reader’s attention better. I also have concerns that by not using colorful images, my books would resemble textbooks and be less interesting to the child, i.e., too much like schoolbooks. My goal is to educate while entertaining, because when learning is fun, it is better retained.

A colorful illustration of a pair of roadrunners in a Southwestern Desert
From Don’t Make Me Fly by Elaine A. Powers

My “Don’t” series of books are written in rhyme for the same reason: Scientific information presented in rhyme causes the children to think of the material as song-like, and they enjoy remembering and repeating the rhymes. The science is memorized in this case because it is fun.

The colorful illustrations shown here are from my book, Don’t Make Me Fly, all about the Greater Roadrunner, common to the Southwest.  It was a lot of fun to write and I hope it is equally fun to read.

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Imaging with Poetry by Elaine A. Powers, Author

An image of a typed poem, with the letters in the shape of the subject of the poem: the X of the roadrunner's footprint and how it confuses any evil spirits that are following.

I enjoy writing the rhymes for my picture books. I believe the flow of the language enhances the reading experience. Besides, rhyming makes science more fun. My illustrators create incredible images to complete the package.  Recently, I was selecting poems for an anthology.  I couldn’t use the text from  an entire picture book, so I was selecting stanzas that could stand alone.

In one of the craft workshops, I learned about positioning the words to enhance the poem’s content.

For my poem about the X-shape of roadrunners’ feet, I decided to try to paint an image with the words. 

What do you think? Does this make the rhyming more fun?

A colorful image of the orange setting sun, clouds and rainbows, along with roadrunner "spirits" chasing the roadrunner of the American Southwest, who gets away because his footprint is directionless.
The rhyming verses and vibrant images of Don’t Make Me Fly capture the reader’s interest and make learning about science interesting and fun.

Elaine A. Powers is the author of science-based children’s books. The “Don’t” Series includes Don’t Make Me Fly, about the Roadrunner, a favorite siting of those residing in the American Southwest.

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Books, by Popular Demand! by Elaine A. Powers, Author

I inherited my mother’s house, which is in an RV Resort in Ft. Myers, FL. Every year, I travel there at Christmastime to perform in each year’s original Cantata, composed by a very talented woman, Ruth Rodgers, and her husband, Dr. Ted Rodgers. I directed the orchestra, sang, played the trumpet and thoroughly enjoyed the celebration. Sadly, 2017 was the final cantata.

That meant, however, that this past Christmas, I could fully participate in the park’s holiday potluck dinner.  A gift exchange takes place every year—you know, the kind where everyone gets a number and as each number is called, that person selects a gift. The fun part is, they may keep the gift they chose or trade for one another person has already selected. Some gifts are traded (grabbed!) repeatedly until the numbers finally run out.

I decided to take the collection of my “Don’t” series books (Don’t Call Me Turtle, Don’t Make Me Fly, and Don’t Make Me Rattle) as my gift. I also took along some Southwestern-themed wrapping paper and tape since I didn’t know what supplies were in the house. I brought some yummy Tortuga rum cakes from my travels to the Cayman Islands. I was ready.

Green book cover with a tortoise standing on hind legs, pointing at the viewer
Let ME tell you about the differences
between tortoises and turtles.

Cold feet struck that afternoon. Was bringing my own books the right thing to do?  Geez, maybe I should have brought something more appropriate. I searched the house for something I could substitute, but there was nothing. Fate determined the “Don’t” series books would be my gift.

One of my neighbors greeted me at the door that evening . “Is this one of the books you’ve written?”  

I confessed it was.

His reply? “I know what gift I’m choosing.” 

Sure enough, his number was called and he selected my gift.  I was honored and delighted that he wanted my books.

His number was called early, but his possession of the books was short lived. A few numbers later, a woman took the books from him.  Then a few more numbers, and another woman selected the books—and so on! 

My books were one of the most desired gifts of the evening. It was both engaging and rewarding to know that my efforts to make science education fun are working. I hope to inspire many future scientists by creating books written in rhyme, filled with scientific facts, that children and their parents truly enjoy reading.

Happy new year to all!

A brown book cover with a Diamondback rattlesnake inside a circle, showing the sky
I am shy and I love it
when you simply pass by.
An orange book cover with a southwestern roadrunner painted within a circle, blue sky in background
Roadrunners don’t fly–
do you know why?
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Why Are Two Books Titled Ship of Sneakers? By Elaine A. Powers, Author

A book cover with a Curly-tail lizard riding the waves in a red sneaker
Curtis, the perfect curly-tail lizard of Warderick Wells, decides to see where the tourists come from. He sets sail on his adventure in a ship of sneakers.

My book business started with the publication of Curtis Curly-tail and the Ship of Sneakers. In this story, a Curly-tail lizard named Curtis travels from his home island of Warderick Wells to the big city of Nassau to see where the tourists come from. When he gets homesick, Curtis must figure out how to get home. Not to worry—Curtis is a smart Curly-tail lizard and he would be bored if life didn’t get exciting from time to time.

Then—and how fun for me!—several people in the Cayman Islands requested their own Curly-tail adventures, and the Lime Lizard Lads, Gene and Bony, were born. The first book in their series, The Dragon of Nani Cave, explores the animals, plants and sites on Cayman Brac, as the two adventure off to find the island’s dragon for themselves.

But, “One is not enough,” the people said. I was asked if could I adapt one of the Bahamas books for the Cayman Islands. Yes, I thought. I can adapt Ship of Sneakers fairly easily. Ha! It turned out I had to rewrite the entire story, but it was worth it. In The Lime Lizard Lads and the Ship of Sneakers, Gene and Bony leave their home on Cayman Brac, one of the Sister Islands, and travel to the tourist sites on Grand Cayman. And since the only way in or out is by airplane, they have quite the adventure!

The Lime Lizards of Cayman Brac, Gene and Bony decide to see where the tourists come from. They set sail on their adventure in a ship of sneakers. Will they ever see the Brac again?

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Curtis Curly-tail Must Know! by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A lizard curling his tail on a sandy beach
The curious and courageous Curtis Curly-tail scoping out a sneaker on the beach.

Living on a Caribbean island can be wonderful, but it is also rather isolating. Just as we humans enjoy having visitors, Curtis Curly-tail enjoyed seeing people come ashore from their boats. When he watched them leave again, Curtis wondered where they had come from and where they were going.

One day the curious and courageous little guy decided to find out for himself. He crept into a sneaker and traveled to the big city, delighting in the many sights and sounds a small cay doesn’t have. Eventually, though, Curtis wanted to go home. It didn’t take him long to realize that getting onto a tourist boat from his beach was much easier than catching a ride home would be. He would have to get on the right boat and he had no idea how he would cross the water between the boat and his beach.

You can find out how Curtis gets home in Curtis Curly-tail and the Ship of Sneakers, which is published by Lyric Power Publishing and available at Amazon.com.

Thanks for stopping by Tails, Tales and Adventures, Oh, My!