Category Archives: Nature

An Octet of Octopus Facts and Friends!

We continue to wrap our long, flexible arms around Ann Braden’s THE BENEFITS OF BEING AN OCTOPUS in a giant, celebratory, Emu hug.

For my contribution to her launch festivities, I’ve pulled together an octet of informational tidbits about the cephalopodic creature that adorns Ann’s gorgeous cover.

1. Let’s talk about the OCTOPUS. That’s the catch-all name for one of about 300 species of soft-bodied, eight-limbed molluscs, order Octopoda, from the Greek for “eight foot.”

2. The PLURAL FORM of octopus is and always has been—brace yourselves—”octopuses” Say it with me three times fast: Octopuses! Octopuses! Octopuses!

Voilà!

Aren’t they beautiful? Aren’t they majestic?

What’s that? You can’t see them? Of course you can’t, because the next captivating cephalopodic characteristic is:

3. COMPLETELY CONFUSING CAMOUFLAGE!

Octopuses and other cephalopods have specialized cells called chromatophores beneath the surface of their skin. These cells contain sacs of liquid color, like ink-filled water balloons. As the cells expand or contract, the animal’s skin changes color. Specialized muscles under their skin—similar to ours that cause goosebumps—alter the animal’s texture. Chromatophores and specialized musculature make it possible for cephalopods to adapt their appearance, mirroring and mottling until they blend into their surroundings. Poof!

4. FREAKY-SMART INTELLIGENCE! (maybe don’t think about it too much)

 Octopuses have more neurons in their arms than they do in their brains. This means they think—independently of their brain—with their arms. They feel with their arms, sure, but they also taste with their arms. To some extent, scientist believe they even see with their arms. On a whole-body level, they are exquisitely sensitive, problem-solving, interactive creatures.

In fact, due to their intelligence, octopuses are listed in the U.K. and other countries as experimental animals, which means surgery may not be performed on them without anesthesia, a protection is usually limited to vertebrates.

5. OCEANIC BEEN THERE, DONE THAT!

Every ocean is home to the octopus. The habitats each prefers vary from shallow tidal pools to deep-ocean abyssal plains. Their preferred water temperatures range from hydrothermal vent-hot to icy-cold. Sadly, no octopuses inhabit fresh water.

6. 7. & 8. CHECK OUT THESE THREE PARTICULARLY SPECTACULAR CEPHALOPODS:

ABDOPUS (like octopus…with great abs) ACUEATUS, also known as “algae octopus,” the only “land” octopus. It lives on intertidal beaches and crawls along the sand from tide pool to tide pool in search of food. You have to see it to believe it, and remember, once you see it, you can’t unsee it.

 

 

GRIMPOTEUTHISa type of pelagic umbrella octopus, is more commonly known as the Dumbo octopus. I like the name “Grimpoteuthis” far better than “Dumbo,” but I get why this critter got it’s Disney-ish name. It flaps ear-like fins to propel itself, flying underwater like an animated elephant. It also has bright baby-blue eyes, just like—you guessed it!—Dumbo. 

 

 

8. The TREMOCTOPUS, or the blanket octopus, sports rippling sheets of webbing stretched between its arms.  The blanket octopus is immune to the viciously venomous sting of the Portuguese man-o-war. Since the female blanket octopus is 4000 times larger than the male, she’s the one who collects and brandishes the marine hydrozoan’s whip-like tentacles, Scientists believe the octopuses employ the tentacles for offense and defense. Look out, Aquaman!

Now you know  THE BENEFITS OF BEING AN OCTOPUS. They’re capable, curious, color-transforming, consistency-copying, and altogether cool!  

 

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I write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My picture book BABYMOON, dreamily illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, celebrates the birth of a new family and will be published April 2, 2019 by Candlewick Press. WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW, a narrative nonfiction picture book, is coming in fall 2019 from Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books and will be illustrated by Diana Sudyka. GIRL VS. SQUIRREL, a funny STEM-based picture book illustrated by Renée Andriani, is coming from Margaret Ferguson Books/Holiday House in spring 2020. I’m represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

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Filed under Book Launch, Celebrations, Happiness, Launch, middle grade, Nature, nonfiction, Uncategorized

Let Nature Nurture You, and Wash Your Spirit Clean

Readers of Terry Pierce’s cozy MAMA LOVES YOU SO will encounter many poetic images of nature nurturing the young, reminding us that nature has room to nurture us at any age.  mama-loves-you-so-coverTerry will be giving away a signed copy of MAMA LOVES YOU SO as part of her book launch week. Enter by leaving a comment below, and she will enter your name into the giveaway (up to one comment per day.) Read on to see how nature nurtures Terry and some of her fellow kidlit writers.

Terry has always found solace in nature, going back to her childhood. “For hours, I could sit cradled in the branches of a tree, or perched on a rock watching the woods. Anytime I’m feeling restless, worried, or at a breaking point, if I can get out in nature I’m instantly calmed and can put things in perspective. And I love writing in the woods! I carry a waterproof journal and pencil in my backpack because my muse often appears in nature. In fact, I wrote MAMA LOVES YOU SO outside, inspired by the grandeur of the mountains.

 

TerryLyingonRock

The place in nature that nurtures me the most are the Sierra Nevada mountains. Whether I’m sunning on a boulder, climbing, hiking, listening to a stream, or watching wildlife (hopefully with a camera in hand), I’m at peace in the mountains. I once spent five weeks hiking from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney, one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

John Muir, one of my favorite writers, once wrote, ‘Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. So true! My hope is that MAMA LOVES YOU SO will inspire parents to take their little ones outdoors so they can learn to love nature and feel its benefits, too.”

 

Author Debbi Michiko Florence finds, “Whenever my mind gets too busy or I feel overwhelmed by my Things To Do list, all I need to do is step outside. I have two ducks (Darcy and Lizzy) and at least twice a day I have ‘duck time.’

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I let them out of their coop to wander the yard and I sit there, watching them, listening to bird song (and duck quacks), breathe the fresh air and watch the clouds roll by. My mind settles and I get present with what is. Duck time is meditative for me and nurtures me like nothing else.”

 

 

Author Hayely Barrett appreciates animals too. “As much as I love people, I’m deeply thankful that humans aren’t the only creatures on this planet. Life on Earth is spectacularly varied, and whether I watch a video of a jaguar slinking through the rainforest or spot a fisher slinking through my yard, I am cheered.

Me and Munchkin

Hayley and Munchkin, fully themselves

I enjoy the company of non-humans, horses and dogs especially. They are fully themselves—unchanging and at peace—and spending time with them helps me to remember who I am too.”

 

 

 

 

Author Katie Slivensky shares,

bluejoyNature calms me by giving me something to focus on that is external. I was stuck on some summary work during a snow day in February, and then a paused and spent an hour taking pictures of blue jays outside. That took my mind away from my book troubles, and when I came back around to work on those summaries later, I had a much easier time.”

 

Author Megan Lloyd’s debut picture book celebrates kids in nature, and she finds support there herself. “When I find myself getting anxious, with my heart racing and my thoughts swirling, going outside for a walk, or just taking a minute to sit in the sunshine, centers me. It helps me let go of my problems and instead feel absorbed in the beauty around me. And then I’m ready to take a deep breath…and return to my challenges (writing and otherwise), with a renewed sense of perspective and focus.”

Author and agent Ammi-Joan Paquette knows where writers can find an ever-present boost beyond their writing chair, saying, “Nature is nurturing because it is always accepting, always peaceful, always there. It’s like a personal magic kingdom that lies in wait for whenever you need it.”

And wherever any of us are in the writing and publishing process, there’s not one of us who couldn’t use plenty of that.

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Filed under Book Launch, Inspiration, Nature, Thankfulness, Uncategorized, Writing and Life