History from
the Bottom Up

Author Visit, The Country School

Yesterday I visited The Country School in Madison, CT, where I spoke to kids from preschool through seventh grade in celebration of their S.T.E.A.M. Theme Day: (Bugs, Biomes, and Beyond). First I spoke to the older kids about my new book, Bugged. After that, I spoke with the younger kids, where we read The Dragon’s Scales, and they acted out the story by helping with weighing and measuring.

It was such a fun day, and open to everyone in the community, so there were lots of guests in attendance. Here are some pictures, taken by the amazing Liz Lightfoot, Director of Communications, and used with permission. Thanks to Liz for organizing such a great day, and to Karen Rosenthal from RJ Julia Bookstore for coordinating the books!IMG 8987 450x299 Author Visit, The Country School IMG 8989 450x299 Author Visit, The Country School IMG 9005 450x299 Author Visit, The Country School IMG 9012 450x299 Author Visit, The Country School IMG 9042 450x299 Author Visit, The Country School 10277063 738199799545096 8869279887259217214 n 450x300 Author Visit, The Country SchoolIMG 9059 450x299 Author Visit, The Country School

Today is my BUGGED Book Birthday!


Today is the official pub date of my new book, Bugged: How Insects Changed History. It’s been a long road to publication. But I’m pretty proud of how it turned out.

To my loyal readers: I apologize for posting less frequently recently. It’s been a pretty frenzied time–but a good frenzied–with the launch of my book and all the stuff we authors need to do to publicize it. Lots of traveling, book fairs, guest posting, skyping, and school visits. But I hope to resume my regularly-scheduled blogging soon.

I hope you like the book, … Read more

Cape Elizabeth Author Fest Starts Tomorrow!


I’m heading to Portland, Maine today and will be signing books at the Cape Elizabeth Author Fest tomorrow at the Cape Elizabeth High School from 10 – 2.

This will be the first time my brand-new book, Bugged: How Insects Changed History will be available. It’s always scary-yet-exciting to release a new book into the world, and I can’t think of a better place to launch it. I love the Portland area. I have lots of dear friends and family who live there, and my son, who goes to college about an hour … Read more

Shady Characters


You know those drops they put into your eyes at the eye doctor, the ones that dilate your pupils? The dilating stuff is called atropine sulfate, and it’s extracted from the Atropa belladonna plant (known as deadly nightshade). I don’t know about you, but I hate the sensation it causes. My eyes water like crazy when I go out in the sun, and I can’t read for hours afterwards.
But many Italian women of the Renaissance willingly used a derivative of the belladonna plant as eye drops to dilate their pupils, … Read more

Thanks, Bradley Elementary School!


On Wednesday I visited the Bradley School in Derby, Connecticut and spoke to three groups of kids, aged kindergarten through fifth grade. The kids were fantastic listeners and participants.
Here are some kindergarteners and first graders helping to demonstrate weights and measures as I read the book Dragon’s Scales.
And here’s me talking to the second and third graders about chamber pots.
During the presentation to the fourth and fifth graders, I asked for a teacher to volunteer to … Read more

Size Matters


When I was in college I had the amazing fortune to take a course with paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and science historian Stephen Jay Gould. His lectures were entertaining, fascinating, fact-filled, and completely accessible to non-science majors. He instilled in me a lifelong love of quirky science, and especially the history of science. I remember one of his lectures opened with this image:The subject of the class was about size and shape, and the relationship of surface to volume. All animals, from a tiny gnat to a giant seismosaurus, … Read more

Thanks for the Skype, Ms. MacMillan’s Grades 2-3!

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 12.29.39 PM

On Friday I had a Skype session with a lively and engaged group of second and third graders from Halifax, Canada. They were just coming off a two-day snow holiday. You have to think they’re accustomed to snow, so that must have been some storm.

We talked about writing, and bugs, and sanitation, and where ideas come from. And they even sent me a follow-up suggestion for what to name my current book project–I’d tell you what it is, but I still have to write the book so … Read more

Thanks for the Skype, Cape Elizabeth Middle Schoolers!


Yesterday I had a really fun Skype visit with fifth graders from Cape Elizabeth, Maine. They were so fun and enthusiastic, and I loved the way they sat right up close to ask questions. It felt like they were sitting in my office with me. We talked about writing, and revising, and new books, and favorite books. Thanks to Ms. Karlonas for arranging the visit.

And the best part is, I will get a chance to meet some of them in person, as I’ll be attending the Cape Elizabeth Author Festival on April … Read more

Abandoned Ships


Part of what makes the mystery of flight MH370—the Malaysian airplane that disappeared—so haunting is the horror we all feel, wondering if there were people alive and conscious aboard the plane, and if so, if they were aware that the plane was doomed, flying on autopilot for hours, with the crew dead or incapacitated. Or perhaps everyone aboard was mercifully dead or unconscious when it kept flying—a so-called “ghost plane.”

The idea of a “ghost ship” has haunted people for centuries.

Painting of the Flying Dutchman by Charles Temple Dix (1838-1873)
 … Read more

Proud Plaids

PGL 276

The Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759 – 1796) gave us a word that rhymes with purple. Sadly, children’s picture book writers probably can’t use it in their rhyming books about colors, because the word “curple” means “butt.” Here’s the stanza Burns wrote in a letter to a fellow poet (which I found in Molly Oldfield’s book, The Secret Museum*):
I’d be mair vauntie o’ my hap,
Douce hingin’ owre my curple
Than ony ermine ever lap,
Or proud … Read more

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