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
In Iceland, you can stand with one foot in North America and one foot in Europe. No need to be a colossus. Just cross the Bridge Between Continents, spanning the North Atlantic and Eurasian continental plates.
As these plates jostle, slide and collide, they set off earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. In fact, magma spewing from a seam between these plates, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, formed Iceland.
Iceland’s igneous origin is on display at Reynisfjara Beach, where the cinder-colored sand formed from eroded lava. Off shore, breakers batter the Reynisdrangar Sea Cliffs, also created from cooled lava.
According to Icelandic legend, the cliffs formed one night as two trolls tried to drag a ship to shore. Dawn broke before they completed their task–a fatal mistake for trolls, who must not be exposed to daylight. Consequently, the trolls remain forever petrified.
Another imposing feature along Reynisfjara Beach is Reynisfjall Mountain–a 340 meter (1115 foot) tower. At its base are balsaltic columns. Their honeycombed shape formed as lava cooled and contracted.
The coastal cliffs are fascinating geology exhibits that also showcase bustling bird colonies.
Resembling Pixar characters, puffins prance and pinwheel around Latrabjarg Cliffs. Undersea, their whirring wings become feathered flippers–useful for catching tiny fishes.
Puffins take their human admirers in stride, nonchalant despite people’s curious proximity.
Like puffins, arctic terns nest near coastal waters. They’re journeyed to these ancestral breeding grounds from Antarctica–25,000 miles away! Unlike puffins, they are intolerant of people’s approach. Get too close and they swoop and swerve above you, angling to peck at your head.
Greylag geese prefer to nest in Iceland’s marshes. These birds are believed to be the wild ancestors of today’s domesticated geese.
Rivers and lakes are the preferred habitat of the golden plover. When this wading bird returns each spring, it is always nationwide news. Schoolchildren welcome it in song: “The plover is come to bid farewell to the snow.” According to Iceland Magazine, no bird is loved as dearly. This is understandable when Iceland’s winters bestow only five hours of daylight.
After two weeks in Iceland we were looking forward to a New England spring. As we headed home, our plane swept over frosty Greenland. Maybe next year?
I look forward to meeting you in the classroom.
Keep reading and writing!
This summer, my husband and I visited Iceland,
a country with sprawling glaciers and sputtering geysers.
One of the most spectacular sites was Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon–
formed from the meltwaters of Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier.
As the glacier shrinks, the lagoon grows.
We sped past icebergs that have split off from the melting glacier.
This ice is over 1000 years old!
Melting glacials mean waterfalls–and they are abundant!
You can walk behind Seljalandsfoss, but be ready to get wet.
Gljufrabui Waterfall or “canyon dweller’ is a short walk from Seljalandsfoss. We found it hidden in a cave. But first we had to navigate a path of slippery rocks.
One drizzly day, we visited Faxi Waterfall.
The purple Lupine decorating its banks is a member of the pea family.
There are more than 700 geothermal areas in Iceland.
Beautifully colored bacteria live in hot springs,
where underground heat brings the water to its boiling point.
We bought some geothermal apple bread that had been baked in the warm ground.
Geothermal energy provides more than 80%
of Iceland’s heat and hot water.
In Reykjavík, sidewalks stay snow-free–
heated by underground hot springs.
In a few weeks I will post Part II of our Icelandic adventure.
Meanwhile, I look forward to the new school year
and to meeting you in the classroom.
Keep reading and writing!