After a school program, an excited second grader named Mateo came up to me and asked, “Have you written any books about conquistadors?”
I hadn’t, I told him. Then I suggested, “If you are interested, you could do some research and write about them yourself.”
Eight years later, Mateo e-mailed to tell me that he had done just that.
Intrigued by Mateo and his writing project, I had a conversation with him. Here are some snippets:
1. After eight years, what propelled you to begin researching and writing about conquistadors?
During Quarantine I had a lot of time to reflect, and so I made a list of things to accomplish. I had made a promise to begin this project, and I always keep my promises.
2. What did you enjoy most about this work?
When I was a kid I always wanted to learn more about the conquistadors, so accomplishing this long time goal of mine was a grand reward in the sense of making “childhood me” happy.
3. Is there anything about conquistadors that especially surprised you?
I think the thing that really surprised me was the exceeding amount of mutiny and betrayal found among them.
4. What aroused your curiosity about conquistadors?
I really think that my curiosity was originally sparked by Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated (my favorite show at the time). The show’s main mystery was the disappearance of the conquistadors, the founders of their town Crystal Cove. Back then, I really couldn’t tell the difference between fact and fiction.
5. You told me that Real-Life Sea Monsters changed your feelings about reading. How so?
Before your book I hated reading. But your book changed my view. The incredible artwork grabbed my attention. And when you turned fiction to fact that really amazed me and made me enjoy reading more and more every day. It showed me something that I had not previously seen. Now I realize how much we can truly learn from books.
6. What are your favorite types of books?
I love history, fiction, science fiction, biographies, mysteries, adventure, monster horror, dystopian, survival, and science.
Thank you for reaching out to me, Mateo. We often do not know what influence our books have. You are an inspiring person!
Alligators may be scaly, but they’re warm and fuzzy mothers.
One lucky day in the Everglades, my husband and I discovered a mother alligator with two hatchlings. One baby was snoozing on her snout. The other was napping nearby on a log. Before you could say, Alligator mississippiensis, excited hikers crowded around, oooohing, ahhhhing, and clicking countless photos.
Her peaceful outing foiled, the mother–with baby aboard–drifted into the brush. But she didn’t forget her other hatchling.
Nudging the floating log with her nose, she pushed it away like a stroller!
Although alligators have a ferocious reputation, they are attentive mothers.
They guard their nest for three months and protect their young for up to three years.
Fish, birds, mammals, and even large alligators, enjoy snacking on eggs and hatchlings.
Despite their mother’s devotion, only about one in ten alligator hatchlings will survive to adulthood.
For further exploration of crocodilians . . .
I look forward to meeting some of you in the classroom.
Keep reading and writing!
and assembled a model with his sister Emily’s assistance.
After many hours of research and work . . . Ta da! A bristly beauty!
Matthew’s porcupine was ingeniously assembled with:
1. Styrofoam balls for the head and body
2. A large pine cone tail
3. Pipe cleaners for the hairs
4. Skewers for the body quills
5. Toothpicks for the face quills
6. A big button for the nose
7. Paper towel rolls for the legs
8. Styrofoam for the paws
9. A googly eye
Matthew also built a terrific tri-fold with photos, facts, and an author biography!
And here is his grade. Congratulations, Matthew!
Thank you Valeska, for these photos and for allowing me to post your son’s inspiring work! Judith