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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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My Interior Decorator is a Tortoise! by Elaine A Powers Author

Because tortoises are free-roamers, they help with designing interior décor. Their specialty seems to be rearranging.

My desk chair is on wheels, a very practical design for me.  However, sometimes I’m typing on my laptop when I feel the chair moving away from the table.  Myrtle Red-foot Tortoise has put her head underneath the wheel frame and is pushing. She’s strong enough to move the chair with me on it! If I’m not sitting on the chair, I see it moving across the room.

A Red-foot tortoise pushing a desk chair on wheels away from table
Myrtle Red-foot tortoise can push my wheeled chair even when I’m in it!

And it’s not just my chair that moves. The iguana enclosure in the front room is also on wheels. I find Calliope rolled across the room.  She probably enjoys the change of scenery.

The red-foots are reasonably sized tortoises. Sulcata or African spur-thighed tortoises (Geochelone sulcate) like Duke tend to fall on the large side of the scale.  He’s currently 120+ lbs. The impressive spurs on Duke’s forearms are used for protection, but also for digging through hard ground to create underground dens. Those spurs are also very effective in digging through dry wall, doors, and pretty much anything he wants to get through. Sulcatas can dig dens that are 30 feet long and 20 feet deep.

Looking down at a 120 lb Sulcata Tortoise that takes up the whole bathtub
Duke is so big (over 120 lbs), he takes up the whole tub!

Duke lives in the reptile room along with iguanas housed in wire enclosures.  I have put the enclosures on wheels so Duke can roll them around as opposed to knocking them over. People wonder why the stuff in the room is arranged as it is – because that’s the way Duke wants it.  He has created his own den areas and even cleared a basking spot.

A silver-colored metal plate is installed across the bottom of a red-brown wooden door (to keep a Sulcata tortoise from digging through the door)
Metal panel placed across bottom of door. So far, Duke hasn’t dug through it.

I love the adventures (and the occasional mystery or two!) and wouldn’t have it any other way.

LPP NOTE: Because Myrtle’s name rhymes with turtle, she was often called Myrtle the Turtle. One day, she asked Elaine to write a book about the difference between turtles and tortoises. The result is a favorite rhyming book of little ones, Don’t Call Me Turtle! Did you know there are at least ten differences between them?

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60 Tried and True Iguana Foods by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A list of iguana foods, showing a salad illustration, an iguana and the list of vegetables and fruits

Ever since I operated a reptile rescue center, I’ve had a good number of iguanas. Over ninety percent of newly purchased iguanas die within the first year, so their good health is very important to me. Fresh Vegetables and fruits are important to their survival.

I use a potato peeler to make long slices of zucchini and carrots and chop the other veggies into small pieces.

Above is a list of basic vegetable and fruits and the special treats that can be given on an occasional basis.

Their basic salad in the morning includes Collard Greens, Red Bell Peppers, Zucchini, Carrots, and Bananas or Grapes.

To learn more about these fascinating big lizards, see our 30-page downloadable Supplemental Workbook, My Unit Study on Iguanas.

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Lightning and Me–We’re Close by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Blue sky but light is fading. Lightning strikes power poles. Dark line of trees across bottom of picture.
Nope, not just ONE pole . . .

When lightning strikes, you probably do not want to be near me.  I’ve never been directly struck by lightning, but too many times, it has struck close by. I opened my apartment door in Houston during a thunderstorm and the bolt hit just outside my door.  All my hair stood on end as I closed the door. I’ve been inside multiple houses when bolts struck the house directly in front of where I sat.

My favorite occurrence of near misses occurred in Pensacola, FL. One of the main thoroughfares is a wide, straight road with regularly-spaced power transformers on poles. I was driving home in a violent thunderstorm, when a lightning bolt flashed through the air, striking a transformer as I passed. Boom! The transformer exploded in sparks. I was startled, but I continued. Boom! The next transformer exploded with another bolt as I passed. A third transformer met the same fate as I drove by it. Boom! Followed by the fourth! Boom!

Grateful to have finally traversed the stretch of the road with the power lines, I now had to cross railroad tracks. Just before I reached the tracks, lightning struck the rails on my right. The electricity sparked as it rushed down the rails in my direction! I floored my car’s gas pedal hoping to outrun the approaching sparks. “Don’t touch the frame of the car,” I told myself. “Surely my rubber tires will protect me.” But after the four power poles, I raced across the tracks just in time and I didn’t have to find out.

So, if you’re ever near me with lightning in the area, you might want to move away. 😊

Elaine A.Powers loves an adventure and never sits still for long. She also writes stories for children that feature adventurous non-human characters, such as Grow Home, Little Seeds.

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Cuckoos: Anis and Roadrunners by Elaine A. Powers, Author

I have written about birds such as roadrunners and anis and didn’t realize at the time that they were both members of the Cuckoo family. No, not the bird that pops out of the clock, but the family of medium-sized birds that are found throughout the world on all continents except Antarctica. The cuckoo family members live in a variety of habitats, including forests, mangroves and deserts.

A Greater Roadrunner brown and white bird, standing in a desert
Greater Roadrunner

The two basic body types have adapted to their environments: tree dwellers, like anis, are slender; and ground dwellers, like roadrunners, are stocky. Most cuckoos have long tails that are used for steering, whether flying or running.

Ani Bird

The interesting characteristic of the cuckoos is their zygodactyl feet: two toes point forward and two toes point back, making an X. This means you can’t tell which direction the bird is going.

Since cuckoos are found worldwide, many legends have been created about them. Cuckoos were sacred to the Greek goddess, Hera, who ruled over the heavens and the earth. Cuckoos are also sacred in India to Kamadeva, the god of desire and longing. In contrast, cuckoos are associated with cuckoldry in Europe and with unrequited love in Japan. In the Bahamas, the smooth billed ani is believed to bring death, which, of course, is not true.

Roadrunners are cuckoo family members in the Southwest U.S., where they are of special significance for Native Americans. Roadrunners are believed to ward off evil. The X-shaped footprints conceal the direction the bird is running, so spirits can’t follow them. The roadrunners are symbols of strength. Some cultures believe they are sacred and do not kill them, while others use their meat to gain strength.

An orange book cover with a roadrunner popping out of a blue circle, with the words Don't Make Me Fly

Elaine A. Powers is the author of Don’t Make Me Fly, which is a fun-fact book about Roadrunners, written in rhyme, colorfully illustrated by Nicholas Thorpe.

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Trevor, the Amazing, Climbing Box Turtle! by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A box turtle, climbing onto a box, stuffed between a glass door and a screen door
Trevor, between the doors. The box was supposed to stop him from doing this…

When we think about turtles, like box turtles, we think about an animal that spends his days roaming around on the ground, stumbling over low rocks and debris. However, I have found male box turtles, at least my box turtle, Trevor, to be a daredevil. Trevor had been moved from family to family to family—until someone decided that Trevor should have a forever home and he came to live with me.  I contacted the State and was told he should never be released into the wild because, having been in captivity so long, he could introduce new diseases.

Trevor became an interesting family member. Back East, he loved going out on the lawn. He would wait until I wasn’t watching, then make a break for it. Fortunately, he has short little legs and I could outrun him, but he could be quite quick. He liked leaping off stairs and in one case, a balcony. Soft landings and maybe a guardian angel allowed him to survive. He wasn’t injured, not even a chipped shell. Trevor must tour, even if it means stepping off an edge!

Then there was the day I looked for Trevor all around the house and couldn’t find him. I looked under and behind every piece of furniture and in every corner, and checked that all doors were closed, but no Trevor. Where could he be? I went into my sunroom again, where I often find Trevor. I heard a scraping sound, coming from the ceiling. There he was! Trevor had climbed up the screen door, bracing his back against the sliding glass door, until he reached the top.

A door is opened, to a screen door, with a Box Turtle climbing up the screen
Here the Amazing Trevor is attempting to climb the screen without the glass door as a support.

Trevor continues this behavior in my Arizona house. Here are some photos of Trevor climbing up the screen door. The mixer box was supposed to keep him out of there. Didn’t work.

Below, Rose wanted to join in the fun, but she didn’t fit.

So, when looking for your box turtle, be sure to look up!

a turtle on abox inside a narrow space between two doors, with a tortoise that is too big, trying to squeeze into the space
Rose, a red-foot tortoise, wants to play but can’t quite fit in the space!

Elaine A. Powers is the author of the fun, rhyming, science-based books about critters called the “Don’t Series.” In Don’t Call Me Turtle, she explains how to tell the difference between tortoises and turtles.

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“Leave Me Alone or I’ll Pee on You,” says Tortoise! By Elaine A. Powers, Author

Why do tortoises pee, you may ask? Besides the usual elimination of body wastes, tortoises use urination as a method of defense.  When a predator grabs hold of a tortoise, she has two defenses. 

Background is the desert, browns, tans, yellows. The face and front legs of a Desert Tortoise, with its shell.
A Desert Tortoise stores the water it needs in its bladder through the dry seasons.

First, she can pull her limbs and tail up against her hard shell so there’s nothing to grab. The outer skin of the limbs is thick and tough, resistant to bites.

The second defensive action is peeing.  The tortoise stores water in her bladder. When she is picked up, she will empty her bladder, leaving the foul liquid on the predator.  The intent is for the predator to release the tortoise so she can make her escape.

This defensive urination is common throughout the tortoise family and it works well for those that live in areas with access to water.  However, for the Desert Tortoise, losing the water in their bladders can be a death sentence. Tortoises need water to survive like the rest of us.  During the rainy seasons, they drink and fill up the bladders enough to last them during the dry times. 

Unfortunately, if a Desert Tortoise uses its stored water when threatened, it may die of dehydration before the rains return. So, please, never harass or pick up a desert tortoise unless absolutely necessary to save its life. Then release it as fast as you can.

Remember the danger for the Desert Tortoise: Save a life. Don’t cause strife.

Elaine A. Powers is the author of Don’t Call Me Turtle! It is a fun-facts book about the differences between tortoises and turtles. The book is written in rhyme so kids–young and old alike–have a lot of fun reading it.
Don’t Call Me Turtle is part of the “Don’t” Series, which includes Don’t Make Me Fly and Don’t Make Me Rattle, all three wonderfully illustrated.

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Enjoy “Do Not Fear Tarantulas,” a Music Video, by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A closeup of an animated tarantula on the ground, against a dark background
The tarantula from the

One of the things I’ve learned about writing books is that it’s important to have a critique group. These are people with differing backgrounds, not family members, who are willing to give honest feedback about your work. Not only do they critique what you’ve written, but they can provide new ideas to help your story. If you’re fortunate, you meet very talented people and I have been lucky in this regard. 

The members of one of my critique groups are authors of children’s’ books. But they aren’t only authors, they are poets, artists, and musicians. One member, Susan Oyler, wrote a rhyming piece about tarantulas.  I loved the science in it. I also noticed that the rhythm of the poem matched the cadence of Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King.” So, another member, Lori Bonati, took the poem and put it to music.  She had to tweak it a bit, but it is simply fabulous.  Such a magnificent musical piece deserved to be animated.  So, I got my animator, Anderson Atlas, to bring the tarantula to life. 

Why shouldn’t you be afraid of tarantulas? Here is the delightful answer in song:

Please enjoy it and my other videos on the YouTube channel Curtis “Curtis Curly-tail Speaks,” featuring the perfectly wonderful curly-tail lizard and my friend, Curtis.

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Chile, a Red Green Iguana by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A red morph green iguana in a cage, on a log with salad greens at front of picture
Chile is a red morph green iguana, created through selective breeding.

You may have noticed in a previous blog post that Chile is a very orangish-red green iguana. Shouldn’t a green iguana be green, like Algae?

It turns out that not all green iguanas are the same color. They come in all shades of green and I once had a black-and-white green iguana. Noting color differences encourages breeders to try to bring out the less common colors. Albino green iguanas have now been produced and today, blue (blue axanthic) and red morphs are available.

Chile is a red morph green iguana and her red color is constant, not like some male iguanas who turn orange during breeding season. One nice thing about these morphs is you know they are captive bred and were not taken from their native wild environment.

Learn more about these incredible reptiles with our 30-page Iguana Workbook and Activity Sheets for Grades 2-4.

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The Krinkled Iguana who Became a Member of My Family by Elaine A. Powers, Author

I operated a reptile/iguana rescue in New Jersey, and I only had green iguanas there. I like green iguanas and each one is an individual. But I hoped to someday rescue other kinds of iguanas, as well, like rock iguanas or spiny-tails. I was on reptile speed-dial with many rescues and animal control departments in the Tri-State area, and one day I got a call about a “black iguana.” The animal control officer had never seen one before and really didn’t know what to do with him, so they called me. I knew what a black iguana was! I told them I was on my way and that’s how my buddy, Krinkle, came into my life.

a woman in a yellow shirt holds a spony-tail iguana in her front room
Elaine Powers with her rescued buddy, Krinkle, a spiny-tail iguana.

Krinkle is a Ctenosaura similis, commonly known as a black or spiny-tail iguana in the pet trade.  However, they are also known for being difficult to socialize. In Krinkle’s case, this was especially true because he had been badly abused. The family who owned him had surrendered him after he had bitten every member. Good for him!

This adult male iguana who should be four to five feet long was kept in a five-gallon aquarium for the first five years of his life. Some people think that if you keep an iguana in a small tank, they will remain small.  Actually, they die.

Krinkle’s body sacrificed its back half to allow the front half to grow.  So, when he was removed from the tight confines of the much too small tank, his tail was accordioned to about four inches, instead of the expected 24 inches. His hips were shrunken. When I first got him, he couldn’t walk. Over time his legs strengthened and he learned to walk, but is still not able to run. The compaction of his tail has eased but it is seriously curved, which is why I named him Krinkle. My mom used to call him Twizzler.

the head and upper body of a black, or spiny-tail iguana being held by human hand
Krinkle, a spiny-tail iguana, got his name because his body was unable to grow in the small aquarium he lived in for the first five years of his life.

Krinkle’s kind are not known for being friendly. However, he is so happy to be free of his first family, he has never shown any aggression toward anyone since. I take him for ‘Show and Tell’ to schools and he is so calm, Kindergarten students can pass him around and hold him.

Krinkle is now a member of my family and shares the reptile room with Rascal, a tegu; Stella and Ezra, green iguanas; Reginald, a rhino iguana; and Blue, a blue iguana/rock iguana hybrid, along with Big Boss, Duke, a 115 lb. Sulcata tortoise, who likes to move the iguana enclosures wherever HE wants them to be. 😊

To learn more about these fascinating reptiles, see our 30-page workbook on Iguanas.