If you are between 8 and 108 years old and like to read middle grade books, then you are especially welcome here!

Bird brains

Posted: August 23rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: T Writes | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »
Bully hummingbird photo by Dan True

Bully hummingbird photo by Dan True

A few summers ago I installed a hummingbird feeder out by my front door, and from the day it showed up, it’s been a busy spot indeed. Just like at the playground and the workplace, however, there’s a bully who wants to run the whole show. Whenever other hummers come to sip at the feeder, this tiny tyrant swoops in out of nowhere and threatens to poke out their eyes with his needle-sharp beak.

The other hummingbirds aren’t letting him get away with this obnoxious behavior, thankfully. They’ve worked out a system to outsmart him.

First, one of them moves in as a decoy, and while he is busy chasing that one away, another one visits the feeder and sips like there’s no tomorrow. Then the others switch places until they’ve all had a turn. It doesn’t work every time, but it is successful enough that at the end of the day all the hummingbirds get a drink of sweet, sweet nectar.

It’s group cooperation at its finest, and it just goes to show that there’s always a way to get the best of a bully, if you try hard enough.

Blast from the past

Posted: August 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Letters to T | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Marianne from Palo Alto, CA writes:

Dear T,

I was the naughtiest child you could ever imagine. My goodness, did I ever get into mischief! I nearly drove my poor parents crazy. I haven’t a clue as to why I was so naughty. Misbehaving certainly didn’t make me happy. No, it was quite the opposite. It made me feel absolutely miserable. But I was a child possessed and couldn’t stop myself from breaking every rule I came across.

Fortunately, when I was eight or nine years old, I came across a book that changed my life for the better. It was the charming story of a brother and two sisters who share exciting adventures while helping their mother after their father mysteriously disappears. They move from their home in the city to a cottage in the country, and save a train filled with passengers from a landslide, and rescue a baby from a fire, among other heroic deeds.

This book taught me that there are nobler and more fulfilling pursuits in life than breaking every rule there is, and now that I am a grandmother with four naughty grandchildren, I would like to introduce them to this wonderful tale. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the title for the life of me! Can you help?

T replies:

Welcome, Marianne! I’m pretty sure that the book you’re describing is The Railway Children by E. Nesbit. As it was written more than a hundred years ago, it had already been kicking around some by the time you read it at eight or nine years old. Although it takes place long ago in England — which means American readers must exercise their brains a little in order to understand the curious things about another time and place — the adventure is every bit as gripping as it was in 1905, the jokes are just as funny, and the children in it still show bravery, generosity, perseverance, and how to be good without being a total suck-up. I’m certain your grandchildren will enjoy it as much as you did. It’s a favorite of mine, too.

This is the 100th Anniversary edition of The Railway Children by E. Nesbit, with a jacket illustration by Caldecott medalist Paul O. Zelinsky.

This is the 100th Anniversary edition of The Railway Children by E. Nesbit, with a jacket illustration by Caldecott medalist Paul O. Zelinsky.

A rad arachnid

Posted: August 12th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Letters to T | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Dan from Tallahassee, FL writes:

Salutations, T!

Today my mom went into the bathroom to take a shower like she does every morning, and two minutes later my dad and I heard her scream bloody murder. He and I went running to see what was the matter, and she showed us the cause of all the fuss. Here’s a hint: It had six more legs than I do! Trapped in the tub was the biggest, hairiest spider we had ever seen. At first, Mom wanted Dad to smash it, but then she cooled down and let me capture it in a jar and release it in the garden. Before I set it free, I did a drawing of it. Dad and I got online and looked at pictures of the different kinds of spiders that live in Florida, and we’re pretty sure it was a Giant Lichen Orbweaver. Here’s a jpeg of my drawing. I’m going to write a report about the Giant Lichen Orbweaver on my own and turn it in for extra credit in Biology class next year.

Giant Lichen Orbweaver drawing by Dan

Giant Lichen Orbweaver drawing by Dan

T replies:

Wow, Dan, the spider in your drawing is so scary I nearly jumped out of my skin! I can see why your mom screamed bloody murder when she encountered the real thing in the bathtub. You captured the hairiness of this arachnid specimen especially well. And I appreciate your use of “salutations” in your greeting. I don’t see or hear that very often!