October 4 – World Animal Day and Q&A with Author Jess Keating


About the Holiday

We love animals, but do we take care of them the way we should? Today’s holiday was established in 1931 to promote global awareness of animals and the issues surrounding their welfare. From pets to domesticated animals to wild creatures, humans must protect and advocate for their companions and fellow travelers on this earth. Issues such as pollution, habitat destruction, and poaching threaten the world’s wide variety of species, while closer to home spaying and neutering controls the population of feral animals that often suffer from a lack of resources.

The wildlife kingdom is majestic and awe-inspiring. Today celebrate the world’s animals by taking a trip to a zoo, aquarium, or animal preserve, consider adopting a shelter animal, or donating your time or talents to your favorite animal cause.

Pink is for Blob Fish: Discovering the World’s Perfectly Pink Animals

Written by Jess Keating | Illustrated by David DeGrand


Pink is sweet like cotton candy, right? Pink is pretty like a rose, isn’t it? Pink is quiet like twightlight, don’t cha think? Well…yes, and…maybe not so much. You’d be pardoned for squirming in the presence of a pinktoe tarantula which is found in the rain forests of Matinique and Guadeloupe and can defeat predators with their spiky hairs, and if you can’t make heads or tails of the Pink Fairy Armadillo, which looks like a cross between a lobster tail and a shag rug, no one will blame you.


Text copyright Jess Keating, illustration copyright David DeGrand, courtesy of Penguin Random House

But the world is full of pink, and for each of these grimace-inducing bubble-gum-hued creatures there are plenty who simply take your breath away with their beauty. Imagine watching a duo-toned light-and-dark-pink Roseate Spoonbill take off and soar over marshland along America’s Gulf Coast or a river in South America or the West Indies like a valentine on the wind. You will likewise marvel when you see the delicate form of the Orchid Mantis. This variety of praying mantis found in the rain forests of Indonesia and Malaysia is so identical to real orchids that other insects can’t tell the difference and often land in the grasp of their tricky predator.


Text copyright Jess Keating, illustration copyright David DeGrand, courtesy of Penguin Random House

Seas and rivers also teem with pink wildlife. Pygmy Seahorses swimming in the waters of the South Pacific blend in to their coral surroundings like a spiky ball among hedgehogs. With white-and-pinkish bodies dotted with strawberry-colored knobs, these seahorses are perfectly camouflaged against predators. The rose-colored Amazon River Dolphin hunts for piranhas, crustaceans and bottom dwelling fish with its long snout in the freshwater rivers of South America. The rivers, lakes, and swamps of sub-Sahara Africa are home to Hippopotamuses, which “ooze thick pink oil all over their skin. This pink ‘sweat’ acts like an antibiotic sunscreen, so hippos can stay out in the sun all day without getting burned.” Imagine if you could do that!

Of course, there is also the Blobfish, recently voted as the world’s ugliest animal. But isn’t this little glob of gelatinous goo really so ugly it’s cute? Found in deep waters off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand, this fish survives where others cannot by simply opening its mouth and gobbling down whatever floats by.

With many more examples of pink wildlife in this captivating book, it’s guaranteed that after flipping through the pages of Pink is for Blobfish you will never look at pink the same way again! 


Text copyright Jess Keating, illustration copyright David DeGrand, courtesy of Penguin Random House

Jess Keating highlights a host of fascinating pink animals in this volume that is sure to delight kids and get them excited about the world less seen. The first in the World of Weird Animals series, Pink is for Blobfish is loaded with scientific facts, remarkable trivia, and humorous asides to pique the interest of readers’ inner zoologist. Each two-page spread provides a spectacular up-close photograph of the animal, insect, or fish described as well as its common name, species name, size, diet, habitat, and predators or threats. Keating also taps into her audience’s love of the unique and even the bizarre with conversational paragraphs that reveal unusual habits, traits, survival mechanisms, and more for each creature featured.

David DeGrand lends his unique illustration style to the pages with funny cartoon portrayals of the creatures and one of their signature traits. These humorous depictions will not only make kids and adults laugh but will promote better understanding of each unique animal.

Pink is for Blobfish is a perfect addition to personal libraries for budding environmental scientists or anyone interested in the wider, wilder animal world and is an exciting title for school libraries and classrooms, where it could inspire scientific study.

Ages 5 – 10

Knopf Books for Young Readers, Penguin/Random House, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553512274

You’ll discover books, videos, creature features, resources, and lots more on Jess Keating’s website!

You will find the world of David DeGrand‘s art and comics on his website!

Pink is for book trailers—at least this one!

World Animal Day Activity


Play the Wonderful Wildlife Board Game! Animal tokens images copyright Conor Carroll

Wonderful Wildlife Board Game


Fascinating animals are found in every part of the world. Play this fun printable Wonderful Wildlife Board Game to match each animal to the area where it lives.



  1. Print a World Map for each player
  2. Print one set of 16 Wildlife Tokens for each player
  3. Print two copies of the 8-sided die, fold, and tape together
  4. If you would like, color the map and tokens
  5. Choose a player to go first
  6. Each player rolls both dice and places an animal on their map according to these corresponding sums of the dice below
  7. The first player to fill their map is the winner!
  • 1 = Flamingo – South America
  • 2 = Emperor Penguin – Antarctica (Southern Ocean)
  • 3 = Giraffe – Africa
  • 4 = Bald Eagle – North America
  • 5 = Ibex – Europe
  • 6 = Kangaroo – Australia
  • 7 = Panda – Asia
  • 8 = Orca – Antarctica (Southern Ocean)
  • 9 = Toucan – South America
  • 10 = Buffalo – North America
  • 11 = Koala – Australia
  • 12 = Lion – Africa
  • 13 = Etruscan Shrew – Europe
  • 14 = Manta Ray – Pacific Ocean
  • 15 = Sea Turtle – Atlantic Ocean
  • 16 = Tiger – Asia

Q&A with Author Jess Keating


Today I’m tickled pink to talk to Jess Keating about her work as a zoologist and an author, her favorite animals, and a very cool holiday tradition.

In your work, your books, and your online presence, you bring kids and adults closer to the animal kingdom. What in your early years inspired you to become a zoologist?

I wish there was one poignant answer to this question! The truth is, all my life I’ve been enamored with animals. A physicist I admire once said this: The world is beautiful to look at, but it’s even more beautiful to understand. To me, that sums it all up perfectly.

As a kid, animals sparked my curiosity, my imagination, and even my creativity. The diversity they represent is so amazing to me—they all live their lives so differently, with different senses, abilities, and environments, yet it works perfectly for them. I instantly felt a kinship with them, and as a kid, I wanted to know everything about them.

As I got older and was able to really get into zoology, my goal shifted. The world of animals is so endlessly fascinating, and I now I want to take every opportunity to share it with others, especially young readers.  

All animals are amazing, but do you have a soft spot for one particular animal or species? If so, why?

Now this is such a hard question! My favorite animal has always been the wolf. I was lucky enough to see one in the wild once, and it’s pretty hard to come away from that experience without believing in magic!

Lately, I also have a soft spot for nudibranchs! I included one (the Hopkins’ rose nudibranch) in my last book, but there are so many other species that we know so little about! As I mentioned above, it’s the diversity that takes my breath away. Some of them look like bunnies:


Image courtesy of crawl_ray on flickr.com

Some even look like pizzas!


Image courtesy of Arthur Anker on flickr.com

You do such a great job of reaching out to kids through videos, KeatingCreature on Twitter, your YouTube Channel: Animals for Smart People, personal appearances, and Skype visits. Can you describe a funny or favorite anecdote from one of your events?

Thank you for the Youtube shout out! I really hope teachers find my videos useful! As for a favorite event, when you mix animals and kids, the results are often hilarious. Usually, my visits involve a lot of dead things. I bring a collection of skulls, animal bones, and animal track castings with me. Every so often, we get lucky with some live specimens.

One of my favorite events was a library visit that involved a 10+ foot python. I had her resting on my shoulders (as you do), and I remember laughing because almost all of the adults in the room were skittish, backing off toward the door.

When I asked who else wanted to hold this lovely python, every adult shook their head. There was no way they were going near it! But then, a tiny six year old girl rushed up to the front, with a massive smile on her face. She wasn’t afraid at all as she held that snake—and I’m pretty sure that her big moment meant as much to me as it did to her!   

What inspired you to write Pink is for Blobfish?

 Pink is for Blobfish is a book so close to my heart! I know that sounds strange, because it’s essentially a book filled with weirdos!

As you can probably guess, I’ve been reading animal books my whole life. I loved them all, but what I really wanted was to write something that says as much about us as it does about the wild animals on each page. A book that not only shares amazing animals with kids, but also gets them thinking critically about how they view the world, especially regarding their assumptions and judgments. Pink is for Blobfish is my way of getting readers to look at gender expectations, while (hopefully) instilling them with a little wonder about the natural world.

There’s so much humor in your writing and videos. How does your love of comedy help you connect to readers?

The short answer is, I’m just a big ham and love making people laugh. There’s also the added bonus with nonfiction: we’re much more likely to remember something if we connect with it emotionally. My way of accomplishing that is to be funny and get kids laughing. Fiction or nonfiction, one of the easiest ways for me to reach readers is through a well-timed joke.

But, you can also get a little deeper with it. I once heard that Jim Carrey doesn’t think of his job as “making people laugh.” Instead, he views it as “freeing people from concern.” The minute I heard that, it resonated with me. For those few moments, when you’ve got a reader laughing, they’re free from any concern in their lives. It’s a reprieve, a bright moment. It’s true for us as adults too—it’s pretty much impossible to be stressed out when you’re reading about a pigeon that wants to drive a bus!

Now, when I approach my writing, I look for those moments. If I can make myself laugh, that’s half the battle.

What’s the best part about writing books for kids?

For both fiction and nonfiction, my favorite part is seeing the look on a kid’s face when you open a door for them into a whole new world. Sometimes, it’s the ridiculously colorful world of nudibranchs. And sometimes, it’s helping them to the realization that they aren’t alone, no matter how weird they feel.

What’s up next for you?

I’m so glad you asked! I just received F&Gs of the second book in the World of Weird Animals series! I can’t give away the title just yet, but I can say we are going to look at MONSTERS. This isn’t just going to be a book of creepy creatures. We’re going to dig into why we see certain animals as monsters, and how those judgments and assumptions affect how we think of them. I was blown away with the discussions that Pink is for Blobfish prompted with kids, and I can’t wait to see how they respond to this book!

I also have my first picture book biography, SHARK LADY, coming out next year! I’ve always been a fan of sharks, and I was thrilled to tell the story of Eugenie Clark, one of the world’s first female shark scientists. Eugenie is one of those incredible women that changed the world just by being her fearless self, and I am so eager to share this book with everyone. Look for it around June!

I can’t let you get away without asking you a few holiday-themed questions, so…

You told me that World Animal Day is one of your favorite holidays. Can you talk a little about that?

What could be better than a day devoted to animals!? World Animal Day is a day to chat about animals all over the world, and how we can best protect them and their futures. A funny thing happens when you start talking about animals in the global sense—you can’t help them without also helping us. Education and awareness can accomplish so much!

Do you have an anecdote from any holiday that you’d like to share?

I have one that ties in really well here! When I was a teen, I had a really cool Christmas tradition that I highly recommend to parents of animal lovers. On Christmas morning (or any special holiday morning for you!) I would go to my local humane society, bring treats, and walk the dogs. Usually, these centers have lots of volunteers, but busy holidays are often pretty slow for them and there’s not a lot of help. I guarantee the dogs will love the company, and you’ll get to spend an hour surrounded by wagging tails! You can’t lose.

Has a holiday ever influenced your work?

Yes! A very savvy bookstore (DDG Books!) organized a “Valentine for Blobfish” event when Pink is for Blobfish came out. So many young readers felt bad that the blobfish was voted the world’s “Ugliest Animal” (true story!) and they wanted to send him valentine cards to make him feel better!

You can see more about it here in this video:


And read some blobfish poetry here. Or, you can see some of the adorable cards on my blog.

Thank you so much for chatting with me today!

Thank you, Jess! It’s been so much fun! I wish you all the best with all of your books and your other ventures!

Learn more about Jess Keating!

As a zoologist turned middle grade and picture book author, Jess Keating has been sprayed by skunks, bitten by crocodiles, and been a victim to the dreaded paper cut. Her MY LIFE IS A ZOO series earned two Kirkus stars, a Red Maple nomination, a Rocky Mountain Book Award nomination, and a spot on the LA Times Summer Book Pick List. 

Her quirky nonfiction picture book series kicked off with PINK IS FOR BLOBFISH, with a sequel to follow in 2017. Her first picture book biography, SHARK LADY, will also be published in 2017. 

Jess is also the creator, writer and host of Animals for Smart People, a Youtube series about animals, science, and nature. Subscribe today and bring Jess into your classroom!

Connect with Jess Keating:

You can  find Jess on Twitter @Jess_Keating and on Facebook @JessKeatingBooks!

Pink is for Blobfish can be found at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndigoIndieBound | PenguinRandom House

Picture Book Review


October 3 – World Architecture Day


About the Holiday

Originally observed on July 1, World Architecture Day was moved to the first Monday in October to coincide with the United Nations World Habitat Day. Today we take time to consider the importance of architecture in our lives and the impact architects have in making our cities, towns, homes, and other buildings comfortable and functional. A focus on sustainability gives architects new challenges and goals for a brighter future. To celebrate today take a walk around your town or city and study the buildings and how they fit into the vision for your area or research a famous building – there are so many to choose from!

Roberto the Insect Architect

By Nina Laden


Even as a little bugger Roberto the termite “went against the grain.” While he liked the usual meal fare of oak, maple, and pine, Roberto would be more likely to play with his food than eat it, building tall towers on his plate. The other termites didn’t understand and laughed at him. Roberto knew that if he wanted to build the life he wanted, he would have to leave town.


Image and text copyright Nina Laden, courtesy of Chronicle Books

Roberto moved to the city, dreaming of using his talents and being accepted, “but hope didn’t come cheap in the big city. Neither did a place to live. Roberto had no choice but to rent a room in a flea-bag hotel run by a nervous tick.” The next day he hit the pavement looking for a job. He talked to Hank Floyd Mite, who was only interested in what buildings Roberto had already designed. Fleas Van Der Rohe dismissed Roberto, saying “‘There are no termites in my houses’” and Antonia Gaudi rudely “blurted out, ‘Don’t bug me!’”

As Roberto dejectedly headed home, he was swarmed by other bugs with bigger problems than his: a fly had no home, a carpenter ant was trying in vain to fix his ramshackle shed, roaches were fleeing a diner, and “a frantic ladybug flew into his arms crying, ‘My house is on fire and my children are gone!’” Roberto wanted to help them all, “but what could one termite do? ‘A lot of damage,’ Fleas Van Der Rohe had told him.”


Image and text copyright Nina Laden, courtesy of Chronicle Books

Roberto vowed to show Fleas and all the others what he could do. He drew up blue prints for a one-of-a-kind neighborhood then went in search for the perfect location. When he found a block of abandoned buildings, Roberto got to work. He built day and night and “transformed the block of junk into a street of extraordinary homes, each one unique and a work of art.” Roberto anonymously sent the keys to the homes to the insects he had met earlier.

Each home perfectly matched the need of its owner. Soon the city was abuzz with the news of these amazing homes, and everyone from Barbara Waterbugs to Steve Shieldbug wanted to tell the architect’s story—but who was it? Bounty-hunting butterflies, paper wasps, and bold weevils went in search of the builder’s identity. Finally, “a click beetle got the shot.” The next morning Roberto was all over the news. He became a celebrity with job offers, book offers, offers of love, and parties galore. A statue in his honor was even placed in the city park.

With all the acclaim he had attracted, Roberto established his own company. He became more than a famous architect, he became a role model for other aspiring little mites. Now when they “play with their food,” their parents encourage them: “‘Be creative!’ Maybe someday you’ll grow up to be just like Roberto.’”


Employing a perfect swarm of insect puns, plays on words, and riffs on insect habits, Nina Laden swats it out of the park in her laugh-out-loud termite-out-of-woodwork story. The straight narration of Roberto’s quest for architectural greatness is tinged with the tones of noir private-eye novels, and his encounters with “famous” architects and insects in need give Laden the perfect palette for her visual and literary humor.

Laden’s mixed-media illustrations are layered with allusions to classic art, the world’s great cities, and products from the past. It all adds up to a stunning visual feast, whether you have two eyes or eight. Kids will love discovering all the hidden jokes on each page, and adults will appreciate the nods toward celebrities as well as the fads of their childhood.

Newly published in paperback, Roberto the Insect Architect offers a fresh take on the idea that you should follow your dreams and your heart. The book would make a fun addition to a child’s library and could jumpstart a study of architecture and its designers as well as an entomology unit in school classrooms.

Ages 5 – 9

Chronicle Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1452156460

To view a gallery full of books by Nina Laden, visit her website!

World Architecture Day Activity


World Monuments Word Scramble


Use the clues to unscramble the names of 16 world-famous buildings and landmarks in this printable World Monuments Word Scramble Puzzle! Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

June 16 – Dump the Pump Day


About the Holiday

There’s no better time than early summer to consider “dumping the pump” and traveling by foot, bicycle, scooter, skates, skateboard…there are so many options! Leaving the car at home saves on gas costs, is better for the environment, and leads to a great exercise workout. Today, grab your walking or tennis shoes and with a friend or alone, take an example from the subject of today’s book and enjoy the pleasure of traversing the outside world!

Good Trick, Walking Stick!

Written by Sheri Mabry Bestor | Illustrated by Jonny Lambert


The walking stick is one insect that knows a thing or two about tricks. Even before it’s born wile plays a part in its survival. A mother walking stick drops her eggs where they will be buried by autumn leaves—and found by ants that think they are delicious seeds to eat. Why would a mother purposefully do this?! She knows that the ants will take the eggs to their colony, where they will eat only the tops leaving the baby walking sticks undisturbed. The ants will then drag the remains of the “seeds” to their garbage dump area, where they will spend a warm winter safe from predators until spring.


In the spring a baby hatches. It look like a tiny twig—a twig that can walk! The baby searches for food and munch, munch, munches the leaves it finds. As it becomes bigger it molts, shedding its old skin and growing a new one. The walking stick looks just like the branches that it lives on. It is perfectly camouflaged! “Good trick, walking stick!”

But a bird with keen eyesight swoops down and in an instant grabs the walking stick in its beak. Quickly, the walking stick squirts out a bad-smelling juice. The bird spits it out, but has gained a snack while the walking stick has lost a leg! It’s okay, though; the walking stick will just grow a new one! “Good trick, walking stick!”

The walking stick finds a tree with others of her kind hidden in its branches. The leaves make delicious meals. During the day the walking stick can change color to blend in with the sunlit bark of the tree and stay cooler. At night the walking stick becomes darker to hide in the shadows and stay warm. “Good trick, walking stick!”

When a squirrel brushes past, looking for a meal, the walking stick “pulls in her legs and drops to the forest floor, just like a stick falling off a larger branch. The stick insect is safe.” All day the insect lies on the ground, not moving, pretending to be just another cutting. At nightfall the walking stick climbs back into the tree. The squirrels and birds are resting now, so the stick insects “Munch munch. Crunch. Munch.”


With the onset of fall stick insects begin looking for mates. The females “spritz their perfume into the cooling air.” Males find them. Even if a walking stick does not have a mate, she can still produce eggs which will all develop into females. The eggs settle into the fallen leaves, ready to begin their unique life. “Good trick, walking stick!”

Stick insects are some of the most unusual creatures in the world. Measuring from an inch or two to 21 inches (53 centimeters), they can be found in forests, parks, even your own backyard! Sheri Mabry Bestor’s story of a year in a walking stick’s life is filled with action, suspense, and the clever ploys stick insects use to survive. Bestor’s enthusiastic, conversational tone and evocative language will engage kids over a wide range of ages. Each page also contains fascinating scientific sidebars that expand on the events in the story.

Jonny Lambert’s collage-style illustrations are a perfect match for the text. The mottled hues and textures of nature are beautifully represented in the vibrantly colored two-page spreads. The scientific details of the stick insect’s life are clearly and organically depicted, making it easy for kids to understand and enjoy the concepts: on one page ants carry away eggs with missing tops while on the next baby walking sticks emerge from the same images. Illustrations of the stick insect’s camouflage are particularly effective, and the cyclical quality of the story and the insect’s life are well portrayed.

For teachers and for kids who love the natural world and are curious about its unique creatures, Good Trick, Walking Stick is a wonderful addition to their school or personal library.

Ages 5 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1585369430

Dump the Pump Day Activity


Take a Stroll Puzzle


You can see so many amazing things when you take a walk! But can you spot the 15 differences between the two pictures in this printable Take a Stroll puzzle?