The “opposite birds”

This big chunk of amber (fossilized tree sap) was found in the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar, or Burma. It contains traces of a bird that died after becoming stuck in the sap almost 100 million years ago. This is one of the best fossils ever found of the “opposite birds”–a group of birds that lived at the same time as the ancestors of our modern birds, but later became extinct. Who knows what other amazing fossils are waiting to be found?

Read more about it here.

Fun books for young writers

Is grammar a dirty word to you? It shouldn’t be. It may sometimes seem hard to grasp, but it can be easier than you think. It can even be . . . fun.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing these two books. They are part of a series called Why Do We Say That?, and they are written for kids who want to step up their writing skills–or just find answers to some puzzling questions about the English language and how we use it.

Me, Myself, and I answers questions such as “How do I know when to say I instead of me?” and “Is it okay to start a sentence with ‘But’?”

How Is a Simile Similar to a Metaphor? zooms in on figures of speech, powerful ingredients that can spice up your writing–or go horribly wrong if you  lose control of them.

Both books, and the rest of the series, will be available in August from Capstone.

 

 

New fossil finds of an ancient relative

Suppose there were two different species of humans alive at the same time? It happened more than once in the past.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/new-evidence-of-mysterious-homo-naledi-raises-questions-about-how-humans-evolved/

In a southern African cave called Rising Star, scientists have discovered many fossils of a species of human relative called Homo naledi. The skulls and skeletons of this extinct human relative are a strange mix of primitive features and more advanced ones. Many questions remain, and much research waits to be done, but the Rising Star fossils promise to tell us more about how our family tree evolved. One fascinating thing about Homo naledi is that the newly discovered fossils appear to be only about 300,000 years old. That’s a very short time in the history of our species! Homo naledi probably roamed the African plains at the same time, and in the same areas, as our own ancestors several hundred thousand years ago.

Choosing Space

Have you ever read a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book? One where you have to decide what your character will do in various situations, with many different possible endings to the story?

I haven’t written a book for the CYOA brand, but I DID write a book with lots of choices and endings built into it. It’s called Space Race, and it’s part of a history series called You Choose, in which readers have to guide their characters through events that really happened.

Space Race tells the stories of three characters I invented–an American engineer, an American woman pilot, and a Russian cosmonaut–at the dawn of space exploration, when two superpowers were racing to be the first in space, first in Earth orbit, and first on the Moon. Each of these characters dreams of exploring the new frontier of outer space, and each faces challenges and life-changing decisions.

The events of Space Race really happened. Only my characters are fictional. It was a blast to research the early years of space exploration and find ways to place my invented characters inside that thrilling world–and also to make the giant diagram I needed to keep the many decisions and endings sorted out! If you read Space Race, let me know what you think.

Studying Darwin and Darwin’s Study

 

Study at Down House

 

I’m working on a young people’s version of Charles Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species. I feel a great sense of responsibility. The Origin introduced the world to Darwin’s insights about how species of plants and animals evolve and change over time, giving rise to new species. Since Darwin’s time, scientists have learned much, much more about evolution, species, and biology in general. Still, the Origin is one of the most important and influential books ever written. I am striving to offer the best possible adaptation of it to readers both young and old.

I’m also thinking about treating myself to something special when the book is finished. I’d love to visit Down House, the home in England where Darwin lived with his family for forty years. Although Darwin had begun to develop his ideas about evolution before he moved to Down House, it was in this study that he wrote the Origin and his later works. I’d love to enter this room and try for a moment to see the world as he saw it.

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