Thirsty Thirsty Elephants

Thirsty Thirsty Elephants
LOOK WHAT'S COMING SOON! Click on this photo to find out about my school visits on SANDRA MARKLE SPEAKS!

Monday, August 8, 2016


It's back to school time. 
Let's make this a colorful year!

How perfect that for the very first time ever August has been declared NATIONAL CRAYON COLLECTION MONTH. 
The idea launched by Sheila Morovati, President and Founder of Crayon Collection is to help insure every child going back to school has a supply of crayons to fuel their creativity. The source of this valuable resource is all of those local restaurants who provide crayons for children to color while waiting for dinner. I think it's brilliant for three reasons:
1. Children get crayons to make their school life colorful.
2. Teachers who spend their own money adding supplies to what's provided in their classrooms save money, which they'll probably spend on other things for their classrooms. Teachers do that I know from personal experience. :-)
3. Ever wonder where all the old restaurant crayons go? To landfills! So this helps the environment.

So if you take this challenge, here are some restaurants to contact to collect crayons. Of course, you'll need to make the commitment to visit monthly for a few months and collect what they save for you.
For some great ideas (divided into grade level groups) for putting those crayons to use check out this site Crayon Collection Curriculum. You can share photos of your crayon collections and crayon art by using #GotCrayons on social media to encourage others to participate and to show how simply you can gain access to thousands of crayons. 
Kid Friendly Restaurants
IHOP                                          Denny’s
Applebees                                  BJ’s
Cracker Barrel                            Olive Garden
California Pizza Kitchen            Outback
Island’s Restaurants                   Buffalo Wild Wings
Bubba Gump
And, of course, being National Crayon Collection Month, August is the perfect time to share several of my favorite children's books that star crayons.

Red: A Crayon's Story (Michael Hall/Greenwillow Books, 2015)

Red has a bright red label, but he is, in fact, blue. His teacher tries to help him be red (let's draw strawberries!), his mother tries to help him be red by sending him out on a playdate with a yellow classmate (go draw a nice orange!), and the scissors try to help him be red by snipping his label so that he has room to breathe. But Red is miserable. He just can't be red, no matter how hard he tries! Finally, a brand-new friend offers a brand-new perspective, and Red discovers what readers have known all along. He's blue! This funny, heartwarming, colorful picture book about finding the courage to be true to your inner self can be read on multiple levels, and it offers something for everyone.

The Day The Crayons Quit (Drew Daywalt/Philomela Books, 2013)

Poor Duncan just wants to color. But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing: His crayons have had enough! They quit! Beige Crayon is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown Crayon. Black wants to be used for more than just outlining. Blue needs a break from coloring all those bodies of water. And Orange and Yellow are no longer speaking—each believes he is the true color of the sun.

What can Duncan possibly do to appease all of the crayons and get them back to doing what they do best?

Plus there's lots more ways kids can be creative with crayons. Check out these websites.

Whatever you do with all of those recycled crayons is bound to make this new school year super colorful!

Sunday, July 10, 2016


Summer is bat season. While you're trying to avoid those buzzing insects, some kinds of bats are busy catching and eating insects. HOORAY FOR BATS!

And while you're appreciating bats find out why some bats are in trouble--plus how scientists are working to help bats survive.

Mother and Pup Reunion

Mother Mexican free-tail bats leave their babies behind in a nursery cave. When they return, they always find their baby. How do they do it?  Play this game to find out.

Cut a sheet of paper into twenty pieces.  On each of ten slips, write the name of a sound, such as tweet or click. Copy the name of each sound onto a second slip of paper.  Next, have a group of twenty people gather together.  Pass out one set of sound slips. Those players are now the “Mother bats”.  Have them leave the room. Or they can go to one wall and turn their backs on the others.  Next, pass out the other set of sound slips.  These players are now the “Bat Pups”.   Have these bats stand close together.

Tell the Mother Bats that their job will be to find their baby, the Bat Pup making their same sound. On your signal have the pups start making their sounds.  Also have the Mother Bats move toward the pups while making their own sounds. Give the Mother bats just ten seconds to find their Bat Pups. Any Pup without a Mother dies.  How many of the Pups were lost?

Just Like Bats

You could say bats did it first. They make noises and listen to the echoes to find their way through the dark.  Now, human inventors are copying them to help people who are blind.

What they invented is called the “UltraCane”.

To build it, scientists first studied the way bats make ultrasonic (super high-pitched) sounds and listen for echoes.  Hearing these echoes alerts bats to things they might run into. It even lets them “see” when its pitch dark.  Then scientists made a cane that puts out ultrasonic sounds and picks up the echoes.   It has a short range mode that picks up things that are about 6 feet (about 2 meters) away.  It also has a long range mode. That picks up any object about 13 feet (4 meters) away.  This way it senses things a blind person might run into.

Then two buttons on the handle—one for things that are close and one for things far away—vibrate.  Being warned what’s coming up lets the person have time to change directions.

 Like a flying bat, they can move freely through their environment. The UltraCane limits the risk of bumping into things.

Can you think of anything you might invent based on what’s special about bats? Think about these things:

  • Backward facing knees to make it easy to hang upside down. Also help steer in flight.
  • Funnel-like ears for sharp hearing.
  • Leather wings can wrap up in to stay warm and protect against rainy weather.
  • Wings that let a bat flip and turn easily in flight.

Brainstorm to think what you might invent that mimics bats and would help people.

Visit My Cave

What's it like to live like a bat?  

Cover a table on three sides with a blanket or paper to create a cave.  Have your family or a group of friends crawl inside your pretend cave with you.  While you're there with this group, think about these questions.

  1. Why is a cave a good home for small bats, like Mexican Free-tailed Bats? 
  2. Why do you think big bats, like Grey-Headed Flying Foxes, camp in the open in trees instead?
  3. What are some problems to sharing a cave with other bats?

What Good Are Bats?

Check out the hand-like structure of a bat's wings.

Try this to find out.  

Take a large bowl of popcorn kernels to the gym or outdoors to a paved area of the playground.  Work with friends to scatter 50 popped kernels on the floor or ground.  Count to ten. Then have people place two more popcorn kernels next to each original kernel.  This is as if the insect pests have multiplied.  

Now pretend you are an insect-hunting bat. Have four others pretend they are too.  While someone counts to five, have each “bat” pick up all of the insects they can carry.  Then have other children place two popcorn kernels next to each remaining kernel.  

Repeat these steps two more times, having “bats” collect “insects”.   Then have any remaining “insects” multiply.  

Now look at the results.
  • How much of an affect did the “bats” have on the “insect” population?
  • What limited how much of an effect the bats could have on the insects? 
  • What do you think would happen to populations of insect pests if there weren’t any bats?

My Favorite Bat

Decide which of the bats you read about in Bats: Biggest! Littlest! is your favorite.  Tell why you like it best.  Read the section about that bat again. Also Go on-line to learn more.  Then write a short story about the life of your favorite bat. Be sure your story answers the following questions: 

  • Where does it live?
  • What does it eat?
  • How is this bat different from other kinds of bats?
  • How does it care of its babies?
  • Does it have any enemies?  If so, what must it watch out for?

Bats for Good Measure

Again, here's a good chance to see the arm and hand-like structure of a bat's wing.

The wingspan of the largest flying foxes can be up to 6 feet (about 2 meters).  Take string that length. Find at least 5 things about the same length.  What are they?  

Now, measure each of these things.  Find out how longer or shorter each is compared to a large flying fox’s wingspan. 

  • The teacher’s desk
  • The class’s two shortest students lying head to feet on the floor.
  • The classes two tallest students lying head to feet on the floor.
  • Your teacher’s armspan (from fingertip to fingertip with both arms stretched out)

The wingspan of the Bumblebee bat is 6 inches (15 centimeters).  Take a piece of string that length.  Find at least 5 things about the same length.  What are they?

Now, measure each of these things.  Find out how much longer or shorter each is compared to a Bumblebee Bat’s wingspan.

  • The smallest book in the classroom
  • Your pencil
  • The shoe of the student with the littlest foot
  • Your right hand span (from thumb to little finger with your hand spread wide).  Draw around your hand span on a piece of paper. Then compare to your bat wing measuring string.
So now what do you think about bats?!

Thursday, June 23, 2016


The Scholastic Summer Reading Road Trip is fabulous! 

See me? I'm right under the giraffe's head!

I’m having a wonderful time joining in the fun and meeting fans. 

The Vero Beach Book Center in Vero Beach, Florida was such a special store--more like a journey to a magical country.

The store manager estimated the turnout was between 200 and 300 people. I know I signed books non-stop for the whole two hours. 

What's your favorite animal teeth?

If you could have any animal's feet, which would you choose?

At the Vero Beach stop, I also had a special treat--I was asked to sign the table in the Summer Reading Road Trip RV. Now maybe that doesn't sound like a big deal to you. But I remember reading how J.K. Rowling signed the desk in her hotel room when she finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. So I've always wanted to do that. However, I've never had the nerve to whip out my pen and scrawl my name on any of my furniture. 

This fulfilled my dream. And, if you ever get a chance to see that table, I added a little face to make my autograph stand out. SMILE!

I also loved visiting the Scholastic Book Fairs Headquarters in Lake Mary, Florida. The atmosphere there is amazing. Everyone clearly loves the books that go out to the Book Fairs. I mean just take a look at the rug at the building's entrance.

I had to remind them that writing for Scholastic took me all the way to the South Pole. In 1996, I did some of the very first reporting to schools from a remote location for Scholastic. And the South Pole is about as far as any book can take you here on Earth. 

And what a great crowd turned out for that event. 

Though the temperature was pushing 90F, people lined up to meet me. Such a treat to say talk to everyone and sign a copy of my newest WHAT IF YOU HAD!? book.

And I whispered the title of the book coming out next--
but don't tell!!!

And the fun went on.  I never stopped autographing WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL EARS!? for over two hours. In fact, I ran one brand new pen dry and had to pull out another. 


Before the day was over I also had a chance to chat with one of my favorite book characters. 

And I joined in celebrating kids all over the country logging in a record-breaking number of minutes reading for the Scholastic On-Line Reading Challenge
That number is the total number of minutes kids have logged in as reading so far--and the summer isn't over!

So, of course, I had to take that reading challenge too by reading my cat, Beau, his favorite book WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL TEETH!?.

And the Scholastic Summer Reading Road Trip isn't over. Friday, July 22nd it will be at the Marietta Public Library in Marietta, Georgia. Saturday, July 23rd it will be at the Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Georgia. I'm still on board so, if you live close, come visit. Don't miss it. 

Can you guess which animal ears are my favorite in my newest book WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL EARS!? Come meet me and ask me. I can't wait to meet you--and show you the page with my favorite animal ears!!

Friday, June 17, 2016


A young child is smaller than a lot of the people and even other animals and things in their world. So books that focus on what it means to be among the smallest animal in a big wild place can be special discovery experiences for them. Can even give them tools for living in their own BIG world.

Jump into investigating two of the smallest monkeys in the world: golden lion tamarins and pygmy marmosets. Both live in forests in South America.

Author Sandra Markle (Millbrook/Lerner 2015)

Author Sarah L. Thomson (Boyds Mills Press 2016)


First, discover just how small these monkeys are. An adult golden lion tamarin's body is squirrel-sized--about 8 inches long. 

An adult pygmy marmoset's body is about house mouse-sized--about 6 inches long.  

Have children make two paper strips: one 8 inches long (tamarin-sized) and one 9 inches long (pygmy marmoset-sized).  Next have them measure their handspan. To do that, they need to spread their fingers wide and trace around their hand on a sheet of paper. Their handspan is the distance between their thumb and stretched out little finger. Now have them lay each of the paper strips across the outline of their handspan.

Which would fit best in your hand: 
a golden lion tamarin or a pygmy marmoset?

This is a pygmy marmoset.

This is a golden lion tamarin.

Now, have children think about the monkey they're holding. Its long tail would hang down their arm. Use a piece of string or yarn tacked onto the child's palm with masking tape so they can feel what that would be like. 

If they chose to hold a pygmy marmoset, they'll need a  9 inch long piece of string. An adult pygmy marmoset's tail is about 9 inches long. If they decided they would try to hold a golden lion tamarin, they'll need a 10 inch long pice of string. An adult golden lion tamarins's tail is about 10 inches long.

By the way, in case you're wondering just how small a baby is. A baby pygmy marmoset is smaller than a baby golden lion tamarin. In fact a newborn baby pygmy marmoset is the size of an average adult human's thumb. 

To Talk About: 
Twin baby golden lion tamarins.

Both pygmy marmosets and golden lion tamarins usually give birth to twins. Then the father and  older brothers and sisters take turn carrying the babies. 

Twin baby pygmy marmosets.

The mother usually saves her energy to produce milk and only takes the babies while they nurse. But while the family travels in search of food, water, or shelter, the babies have to hang on to the adult's back. What could be two reasons it's good these monkeys have thick, furry coats?

Clue: At night, the family huddles together to stay warm.


Golden lion tamarin leaping.

Being so little means there are lots of big dangers in their forest home. Something both kinds of monkey have in common is they react fast to danger.  As quick as they spot a bird hunting over head or a climbing hunter prowling the branches, they drop, flying between branches or even trees with their very long tail to help them balance. So challenge children to test their reaction time with this game.

1    Have a partner hold a ruler with the zero end down.

Now grab that ruler. Hold it so your thumb is close to the zero.

Open your grip so your fingers no longer touch the ruler.
Pygmy marmoset hanging on tight.

Get ready!

Have your partner decide when to let go.

Grab the falling ruler fast.

Next, see which number is under your thumb. The lower the number, the faster you were able to react.

Repeat two more times.

Do you get faster with practice? From the time it's a baby, a pygmy marmoset and a golden lion tamarin practice reacting fast to escape danger.

Talk About It: 
Both of pygmy marmosets and tamarins have sharp claws instead of flat fingernails like some other monkeys. How could that help them when they make a fast flying escape in the treetops?


Golden Lion Tamarin Family 

Pygmy Marmoset Family 

Both pygmy marmosets and golden lion tamarins live in family groups. 

They have special calls to communicate. Both use high-pitched trills to say "I'm here? Is anybody there?" These can be heard over a mile away. Such calls can be extra important if a youngster gets separated from the family group. Try it. 

Assign children to groups of four to form family groups.  Have each group choose a sound to be their family's call, such as TWEET-Peep-Peep or CHEEEEEP-Click-Click .  Next, have the group members mix together and form one big circle. Then tell everyone to  look down at the floor.

Upon a start signal, have each person start making their family sound and, without looking up, move slowly toward other family members.  

Can every family group reunite?

Talk About It:  How hard was it for family members to find each other?  How would living in the treetops in a forest make this even harder?

Now take one last look at these two little monkeys together. What are four words you would use to tell about Golden Lion Tamarins and Pygmy Marmosets?

Golden lion tamarin on left. Pygmy Marmoset on right. This pygmy marmoset clearly isn't pleased about sharing a meal.

Imagine being as small as one of these monkeys. Make up a story about a day you spent being as small as the monkey you chose.