With the start of the monsoon season, you may be wondering about the animals that live in this harsh desert environment. With an annual rainfall of only 12 inches, having water to drink is a significant issue. Rattler bodies are adapted to prevent unnecessary water loss: the scales are impermeable, the snakes don’t urinate and they can detect water with their incredible sense of smell and taste.
Rattlers take advantage of rain by drinking from puddles, of course. But more impressive, is that they collect water on their skin to drink. This amazing behavior is shown in this illustration from Don’t Make Me Rattle!, a book I wrote in rhyme to make learning about rattlesnakes fun!
This image was created by the talented Tucsonan, Nick Thorpe.
Lyric Power Publishing also publishes supplemental, educational and fun activity sheets and workbooks. Want to learn all about rattlesnakes while keeping busy this summer? Click below to see all that is inside these masterful workbooks.
It’s the start of monsoon season here in the Sonoran Desert. When the rain begins to fall, the tortoise comes out of her den. Why? Is it because she’s afraid the water will rush into her underground den and fill it up?
No, she comes out because it’s time to drink. The desert tortoise finds a depression in the ground where the water collects. Then she drinks and drinks and drinks until her bladder is full.
I’ve tried putting out dishes of water for my tortoise, but she won’t drink from a source where the water is still. Sometimes, I pretend to be a storm and rain down water from my hose.
It’s a truly wonderful thing when it rains in the desert. We should all be more like the tortoise and go out and drink it in!
If you’d like to know more about tortoises, check out my rhyming book, Don’t Call Me Turtle! My tortoise, Myrtle, asked me to write about the differences between turtles and tortoises because everyone kept calling her Myrtle the Turtle. She’d finally had enough! She likes her book a lot, perhaps just a smidge more than my young readers!
And check our our workbooks on tortoises and turtles at our Lyric Power Publishing Workbooks page. They are full of information, and have lots of fun activity sheets for kids (and adults like them, too, I’m told!) that help to pass the long summer days.
Here in Tucson, we recently celebrated Ice Break Day. It occurred on June 9, 2019 at 2:37 pm, as reported from the Tucson International Airport. Those of you up North know what ice break originally meant. During winter, rivers and bays have been known to freeze solid. Ships are unable to navigate the waters until spring when the ice breaks. Consequently, supplies are limited until the ships are able to push through. Ice breaking ships were built to aid in hastening this release from being ice-bound. Many communities hold events to guess when ice break will occur in their waterways.
Here in the Desert Southwest, where we enjoy our dry heat, we also celebrate Ice Break. However, the only ice we have here is our freezers. We frequently add it to beverages for cold refreshing drinks. So, what is Ice Break in Tucson? It’s the day and time we officially reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit for the first time in a calendar year. Many TV station weather-people have contests with prizes for the person whose guess is closest to the actual time.
“Has Tucson ever failed to have a 100-degree day?” you ask. Hah, you’re amusing. Ever since temperature records have been kept, it has reached 100 degrees every year.
How does 2019 compare to previous years for the Ice Break? The earliest date was April 19, 1989 and the latest was June 22, 1905. May 26 is the average. So we’re a bit later than average this year, although we had several near misses earlier.
So, just how hot does it get in Tucson? The highest recorded temperature was 117 degrees on June 26, 1990. Even with the low humidity, that would be hot.
Many people head for cooler climes when the summer heats here in Tucson, but I enjoy the hot temperatures. I say, Don’t go! Make your plans now to be here for next year’s Ice Break in Tucson and get that chill out of your bones.
Elaine A. Powers is a true adventurer and the author of science-based children’s books, written in rhyme and adventure stories.
Lyric Power Publishing also publishes supplemental, educational workbooks with activity sheets to help keep the kids busy during the summer. My Book on Directions and Place is packed with information to help your child understand directions, use maps, the Compass Rose, etc.
Sometimes 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.
The 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.
In this post, I’d like to tell you about some of the common reptiles that live in my neighborhood in the Sonoran Desert.
Coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum cingulum) is a slender nonvenomous snake with variable coloring to help in camouflage. In Tucson, Arizona, coachwhips that are pink to red in color are called Red Racers. The pattern on the scales give the snake a braided look, like an old-time leather coach whip. Their large eyes provide good eyesight. In times of trouble, they prefer to rapidly slither away (considered one of the fastest snakes) but, if cornered, they will rise up, hiss, vibrate the tips of their tails to simulate the sound of a rattlesnake, and strike quickly and repeatedly.
The coachwhip is associated with several Western fables. One is that the snake bites its own tail to form a hoop, then rolls in pursuit of its prey. Another is that a coachwhip will chase a person, coil around him, and then lash him to death with its tail. The snake checks the person for life by inserting its tail into the person’s nose. If the person isn’t dead, the snake will continue the lashing. Of course, none of these stories are true.
Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister) is a large, stocky lizard of southwestern Arizona. The male’s body features a purple stripe near the neck.
Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) This snake is known for its distinctive rattle when threatened. The keratin rattle mechanism at the tip of the tail twitches up to 100 times per second. The dark diamond-shaped pattern on its back identifies this common Tucson rattler.
Rattlesnakes belong to a group of venomous snakes called pit vipers and are found in a wide range of habitats. The pits, located between the nostrils and the eyes, are used in sensing the heat of other animals, and are sensitive enough to detect a body only a fraction of a degree warmer than the ambient air. Rattlers usually hunt at night, preferring small nocturnal mammals. Rattlesnakes are important in controlling the populations of disease-carrying rodents.
A picture file is a file box filled with beautiful photos that represent anything you are teaching about. These beautifully mounted photos are ideal visual aids to accompany and enhance the supplemental workbooks offered on this website. Whether it’s turtles, tortoises, snakes, tropical birds, tropical trees and foliage, flowers, or people, colorful visual aids will give children an authentic look at what they are studying. Instead of relying on drawings and cartoons, it’s important that students see realistic photos of what they are learning about.
In my teaching experience with elementary, middle, and high school students, every time I had a lesson to teach, I was able to pull out several pictures related to that subject for my students to see what I was talking about. Propping them up on the chalk tray of your white board works well, or create a bulletin board with them.
A person will remember 10% of what s/he has heard, 60% of what s/he’s heard and written down, and 90% of what s/he’s heard, written down, seen, and done.
This means that adding visual aids and practice (students taking notes) to what I verbally taught, enhanced my teaching and the students’ learning. My students remembered the information. Every age group benefits from visual aids.
It took me about two months to cut out and mount 200 pictures. Once I got started, it was hard not to get carried away! Two hundred pictures sounds like a lot, but it’s very easy to surpass that number.
Tagboard. 200 sheets of 9” x 12” white tagboard are available at school supply stores and art stores.
Rubber cement. A large can of rubber cement. NOTE: Elmer’s glue, homemade paste, staples, and tape will not do for this project. Rubber cement doesn’t ripple and warp the pictures as it dries. It’s also neat to work with since it rolls right off your hands. Spray adhesive works also, but it makes cloudy fumes. When using rubber cement, always work in a well-ventilated area. Leave the doors and windows open in the room you’re working in, or take your work out to a sun-sheltered porch.
Donated magazines, outdated calendars, posters, and travel brochures. I got grocery bags full of magazines from neighbors willing to part with them for a good cause. Other good sources are thrift stores and used book stores. Photos of animals and plants can be found in science magazines, National Geographic, and Smithsonian. Photos of household items can be found in home and architectural magazines. Photos of plants, flowers, and trees are in garden and landscape magazines.
What to look for:
Look for large, clean, clear, colorful photographs in the following categories. These are just suggestions. You might choose to limit your search to just one subject matter such as birds or reptiles.
Everyday personal and household items
Modes of transportation
Bodies of water
National symbols of the U.S. and other countries
Flowers and trees
Art such as the Old Masters
Carefully tear the photos out of the magazines.
Using a pair of paper scissors, neatly trim the edges of the pictures, leaving a sixteenth-inch white border whenever possible.
Use a paper cutter if necessary to get the straightest edge possible.
Clear off a wide, flat space in your house such as the kitchen or dining room table.
Cover the entire table top with a thick layer of newspapers. This is so the top layers can be rolled up and removed to continually reveal a clean working surface throughout the mounting process.
Turn the trimmed photos over and brush rubber cement over the entire backside of the picture. Rubber cement dries quickly, so work quickly.
Turn the picture over and carefully lay it on the sheet of tagboard. Leave a wider margin of white tagboard at the bottom edge than at the top, just as if you were framing the photograph. Not all photos will have a white margin because they will fill the entire tagboard space, and that’s okay.
Use one hand to hold the photo in place and the outside edge of your other hand to spread the picture down and force any excess rubber cement out from under the photo. The great thing about rubber cement is that as it dries, it rolls up into gummy balls that easily come off the tagboard and leave no residue or marks.
Work all the bubbles out from under the photo. Use a straight pin to prick any bubbles that refuse to be worked out.
If rubber cement gets on the photo itself, leave it there until it completely dries, then use your clean, dry finger and a light touch to carefully roll the dried, rubbery adhesive off the photo.
Lay the finished pictures on a flat surface to dry. Leave them there for a couple of days. If you stack the finished pictures right away, they’ll bond to one another, and you’ll never be able to pull them apart without ruining them.
Finally, store the finished photos in a plastic, portable storage box with a lid that has a handle (available at office supply stores). This will keep your pictures portable, dust free, and looking like new for many years.
You can also use these pictures to decorate your classroom, create bulletin boards, and as creative writing prompts.
LYRIC POWER PUBLISHING offers 23 affordable, comprehensive, supplemental Workbooks for Teachers, Tutors and Home-Schooling Parents. Each WORKBOOK has a theme and can include pages for reading, writing, spelling, vocabulary and math, along with Venn-Diagrams, life-cycles, fact sheets, coloring pages, puzzles, connect-the-dots, word searches, mazes, label-the-parts, cut-and-paste, true or false, fill-in-the-blanks, match the pictures, greater than/less than, count-and-classify and graphing.
You might have noticed that most of my books involve reptiles. I am a biologist by profession, and I particularly like reptiles. My brother was allergic to fur, so growing up we had snakes. This was back in the days when television sets were always warm, so the snake’s tank sat on top. The snakes were part of the family, being cuddled as we watched TV shows at night. I consider my current reptiles to be family members. They provide an endless source of inspiration for my writing.
When I was looking for a house in Tucson, the disclosure sheet listed an abundance of lizards. I don’t think they intended for this statement to be a selling point, but it was. All reptiles are welcome. In this post, I’d like to tell you about the Sonoran Desert Tortoise.
This tortoise has adapted to the extreme environment of the Sonoran Desert. The tortoise has powerful limbs covered with thick scaly skin for digging underground burrows, where it spends much of its time. It eats a wide variety of plants, including many that are indigestible to other animals. It feeds most actively during the monsoon season, and is dormant much of the rest of the year. The tortoise stores water in its bladder, allowing it to go up to a year without drinking.
Like other reptiles, as a defense mechanism, the tortoise will empty its bladder to discourage a predator. Unfortunately, this can deplete its water supply and result in death during a drought. For this reason, it is important to never pick up or interfere with a Desert Tortoise. The gravest danger to Desert Tortoises is human-caused mortality.
I have one of these awesome tortoises, Zoe, pictured here, who joined my home through the Tortoise Adoption Program, sanctioned by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. This program assists in the proper care of captive Desert Tortoises by qualified custodians, and since they have been in captivity, they can never be released. Their behavior has been altered and they might expose other tortoises to diseases not known in the wild.
I had to have my yard approved to participate in this program. Did I have sufficient food, a proper hibernation den, any dogs that could be predators, enough vegetation to provide shade, as well as basking places in full sun, and would the tortoise be kept away from the pool?
I am honored to be allowed to foster Zoe.
Note: Elaine a. Powers became an author after contact with Curtis, the Curly-tail lizard in the Bahamas. Her first book was inspired by Curtis and is an adventure called, Curtis Curly-tail and the Ship of Sneakers. And though Myrtle, a Redfoot tortoise is neither a turtle nor a desert tortoise, Myrtle asked Elaine to write about the differences between turtles and tortoises. So, Elaine did, in a fun book written in rhyme, beloved by young children. It is called Don’t Call Me Turtle!
My books are termed science-based and my intent is to educate while entertaining. Why? I want all readers to learn scientific facts, even the ones who say they don’t like science. The colorful illustrations in my books draw the reader in, as do the stories I tell in rhyme. Who doesn’t love rhymes? And sending curly-tail lizards on their own adventures teaches the reader about the foods the lizards eat, their natural environment and the dangers they face. Curly-tail lizards are very special—in fact, it was Curtis the curly-tail lizard who launched my writing career. 🙂
I also strongly believe that we shouldn’t talk down to children. I think they absorb words, even if they don’t fully understand the meanings when they first hear them, and that the word is planted in their memories. Later on, the terminology won’t be scary. It will be an old friend, encouraging them to learn more science. I include glossaries in some of my books with further information for curious readers.
One term I use in my book called Don’t Make Me Rattle is THERMOREGULATION. My books are often about reptiles, who need to thermoregulate to function. They obtain their body heat from the environment, often by basking in the sun. This need results in many being killed on roads where they lay at night to obtain a bit more warmth. I was told no way could I use the word thermoregulation in a children’s book. It was too big, too advanced.
But it was the correct word—the only one. Having known toddlers who could tell me the difference between his/her toy dinosaurs, using their proper names, even correcting me when I incorrectly identified them, I concluded children can handle a “big’ word every now and then. It’s never too early to use the correct word—even if it is a big one.
Elaine A. Powers is the author of fun science-based children’s books, including those in the “Don’t” series, which are written in rhyme and vividly illustrated to draw the reader into the wonderful world of biology.
CURTIS CURLY-TAIL COMES ALIVE ON YOU TUBE!
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Learn about our latest science-based children’s books and workbooks. Read here about reptiles, birds, cats in a variety of locations. Read the blog to learn how the books come to be, what inspires an author to write, and many more interesting aspects of the publishing business.
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