Thursday, February 26, 2009

More Guam

You have just received photos from Sandy Liberty in Guam. Sandy had told you that among the creatures that wander through her back yard are monitor lizards, and she has now sent photos of one she came across, but wisely did not get too close to. Some reach 6 feet in length.

While in Guam you also saw a coconut crab, the largest land-living arthropod in the world. Here’s one on a garbage can. That’s not trick photography. That’s a real crab. They also wander around in back yards.

Mr. Bill says, “Yeah? So what? Back in the day I wandered around entire continents!”

Saturday, February 21, 2009


After not being able to find any dust mites, you began to wonder what you could see with your microscope. For some strange reason you decided to take some dust from under your bed and put it in a jar of water and see what happened.

A few weeks later, when you looked at a sample of the water under the microscope, little single-celled organisms were swimming around. This led you to believe that there must have been something dormant in the dust under your bed that came to life in water (not a particularly reassuring thought).

Then you went down to the pond nearby and brought back some pond water. There were lots of single-celled organisms in that water, including some mad crazy ones spinning like tops. Next, you collected some saltwater from a marsh near the summer home of the parents of a special friend and looked at that. More mad crazy single- and multi-celled critters were racing around. Their lives resembled bumper cars (Uh, actually, come to think of it, so does yours).

Then you read about micrometeorites -- tiny particles of cosmic dust that make it through the atmosphere and land on Earth. Lots of these itsy bitsy things fall everyday, but they’re much too small to see with The Naked Eye (See The Tardy Boys for more information regarding naked eyes).

Many micrometeorites are metallic so you took a magnet to the beach and swept it over the sand, and didn’t find a single one. Then you read that a good place to find them was at the bottoms of downspouts next to houses. This made sense, since houses have roofs where micrometeorites might land and then rain might wash them into gutters and down downspouts.

You collected debris at the bottom of the downspout of that special friend and studied it under the microscope. Low and behold, amid a lot of other junk, you found micrometeorites!!!

Mr. Bill says, “Zzzzzzzzzzzz. Huh? Don't wake me up until he writes about something interesting.”

Monday, February 16, 2009

Glow-in-the-Dark Bunnies

You had written two Tardy Boys books and needed to come up with a third. Your publisher asked that the third book take place in the fall and have something to do with either Thanksgiving or Halloween. A turkey seemed like the obvious choice for the next animal co-star (an animal usually co-stars in these books). But a turkey also felt a little too obvious and overdone.

You were discussing this problem with a special friend and her children one evening. Was there an animal that could be associated with Halloween? You asked. Her 12-year-old son said, “How about a glow-in-the-dark bunny?”

You said you’d rather write about a real animal. He insisted that glow-in-the-dark bunnies were real. And then he showed you the glow-in-the-dark bunny website:

The real glow-in-the-dark bunny is named Alba. They call her a fluorescent bunny. The man who “invented” Alba says that she’s a work of art. All you know is that she was created by mixing glow-in-the-dark jellyfish DNA with cute white bunny rabbit DNA.

You live near Long Island Sound. Sometimes at night in July or August, an oar pulled through the water will reveal dozens of small, round greenish glow-in-the-dark jelly fish.

And so Is That A Glow-In-The-Dark Bunny in Your Pillowcase was born.

You have since heard that there are glow-in-the-dark cats

And glow-in-the-dark pigs

Mr. Bill says, “Must have been something I ate.”

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Another review for IF I GROW UP

Another review has come in for IF I GROW UP. This one from Booklist:

“In Strasser’s tough, authentic work, tragedy is always just a gunshot away, and temptation all too often upsets the best-laid plans. Strasser loads the book with startling true statistics, and the final pages are both hopeful and heartbreaking.”

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Unlucky Leprechaun

You did a school visit in Upper Saddle River this past week and worked with about 150 of the nicest and sweetest 7th graders ever. What a delight these kids were, all full of fun and interest. They nicknamed you the Stassinator.

While you were in one of the classrooms you noticed that your latest Tardy Boys book, Is That An Unlucky Leprechaun in Your Lunch? is being featured in the March offering from Scholastic’s Arrow book club (and inside, Help! I’m Trapped in Obedience School is being bundled with funny books from two other authors).

You think it might be instructive, or even interesting, for readers to see how a book cover evolves.

First, of course, it begins with the book. Scholastic had asked for a Tardy Boys book that could be set in March, so St. Patrick’s Day seemed like a logical holiday to focus on. Not that every Tardy Boys book focuses on a holiday, but you seem to recall that there was some reason why they wanted this one to be.

You were out in Ohio at the time, (or maybe it was Rochester, NY) and mentioned this to several librarians. One suggested Unlucky Leprechaun, which sounded like fun, especially since you knew absolutely nothing about Irish mythology.

Then, through the spring and early summer, you wrote the book while learning about the origins of leprechauns, sleeping giants, dullahans, and other strange stuff from Irish Myhtology (boy, do the Irish have a lot of mythology!). You also got to learn about silver iodide, cloud seeding, and photochemical smog.

In addition, you were able to include an amusing hand washing sign you found in a lavatory in a school in Rochester, NY (or maybe it was Ohio). Has anyone ever stopped to wonder why we hate and fear bacteria (germs) as much as we do? Could it have something to do with certain large companies’ need to sell us every possible kind of soap, detergent, deodorant, cleaner, and anti-bacterial evertything imaginable?

Anyway, it was not the easiest Tardy Boys book you ever wrote. There were lots of false starts, detours, wrong turns, and flat tires. But finally, with the aide of freshly-washed toe notes, and the help of some well-known Greek and British philosopher-baseball players, you found your way.
Shortly after you finished the manuscript, two sketches arrived with a note from your editor:

Todd - Attached are two cover sketches for Unlucky Leprechaun. We like the first one, in which the boy and Leprechaun are facing forward. In the e-mail below are my notes to the illustrator. I think it looks great!

Here are your comments in an e-mail back to your editor: Thanks for the look. I agree on the first one. I agree that the Leprechaun should have smaller ears. He looks like a donkey. His ears should stand up. Perhaps through holes in the brim of his hat? Please give him a pointy beard. I'm sending you some art.

Here’s the art you sent (Your idea of what a Leprechaun should look like even without the pointy beard).

I think your next book should be, Is That A Handsome Minotaur Driving Your Bentley?