Home stretch

Hi everyone,

The pictures today have nothing to do with the subject. I ran across them yesterday when looking for something else and loved seeing them again. In 2013, my book, CAVE DETECTIVES, UNRAVELLING THE SECRETS OF AN ICE AGE CAVE, was selected to be included in a 100-year time capsule that was buried in Phelps Grove Park in Springfield, Missouri.

Today I’ll send three poems for 5th graders to Laura Robb so she and Tim Rasinski can do their work with them. Next I’ll work on three poems for 4th grade students and will try to get those done this week. After that I have a series of short texts (500 words each) on a variety of topics scattered over grades 3, 4, and 5. I don’t expect to get much done on them before the end of the year but I need to at choose my subjects and start reading and taking notes. That will help get me down the home stretch after the first of the year. My deadline is the end of January. I’d like to complete the book before then but will be content to finish on time.

As I’ve said, this has been the year dedicated solely to working on books for classroom teachers. I have so many trade book ideas stored up that I know I’ll be buried in them once I get back into the mode.

Phelps Grove Park, named for John Smith Phelps, is a 100-acre park in central Springfield and is more than a century old. In the beginning it had a zoo and a lake. The zoo was later relocated, expanded, and renamed Dickerson Park Zoo. It’s a serene place where my parents used to take me to play and picnic when I was little. Daddy would throw horseshoes with other men. Mommy and I would amuse ourselves with the swings and teeter-totters until it was time for our basket lunch spread on a cloth placed on one of the concrete tables on the grounds or in the pavilion. And now I have a book buried there. CAVE DETECTIVES is about Riverbluff Cave in Springfield. I love the ties of life.

Unravelling the mystery

Hi everyone,

Recently I was asked by Susan Wade, Public Relations Manager for Springfield, Missouri, Convention & Visitors Bureau, if I’ve ever written a book specifically about Springfield. Turns out I have. CAVE DETECTIVES, UNRAVELLING THE MYSTERY OF AN ICE AGE CAVE, is all about the discovery of Riverbluff Cave, located on Cox Road South here in my hometown.

At Susan’s invitation I wrote a short piece to be posted on the Convention & Visitors Bureau site. It goes up today so I hope you’ll have a look. https://www.springfieldmo.org/articles


Other ways of reaching kids?

Hi everyone,

With all the cancellations of children’s literature festivals, we might want to think about alternative ways to reach kids when they cannot attend an event in person. In 2007 I had written CAVE DETECTIVES, UNRAVELING THE MYSTERIES OF AN ICE AGE CAVE, and was looking for ways to introduce young people to the world of caves — Riverbluff Cave in Springfield specifically.

Thanks to my visionary friend, Annie Busch, who was then head of the Springfield-Greene County Library District, I was introduced to Bill Giddings, at MOREnet, the state’s provider of Internet connectivity to educational organizations. A collaboration was formed to get a fiber optic cable system run into the cave. It involved the cooperation of the library district, Ozarks Technical Community College, Missouri State University, Greene County Commission, the City of Springfield, and the Springfield-Greene County Parks Department.

The evening of the event Matt Forir, the paleontologist who led the explorations of Riverbluff Cave, was positioned inside the cave. These pictures show a group of us after spending eight hours in the cave. I moderated the program from an auditorium in The Library Center. Viewers could see and hear us both as we visited back and forth and Matt answered questions I passed along to him as they were emailed in.

That evening we had viewers in North Dakota, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and South Dakota over 200 separate video-streaming connections. I’ve forgotten how many students were involved but it was a big number. As the library’s Community Relations Director Jeanne Duffey reported in her column afterward, “Students were able to ask questions and experience the excitement of getting as close as you can to being there without placing a foot in the fragile cave.”

Technology may have moved a few light years beyond what it was in 2007. So how now, when the chips are down, do we reach out to kids wherever they may be and involve them in fun activities like the one we had in 2007?

I have a feeling I’m about to get an education from some of you. So bring it on.

An unexpected use of my work

Hi everyone,

CAVE DETECTIVES is the true story of how a cave that came to be called Riverbluff Cave was discovered by a road crew on September 11, 2001. The cave contains the oldest ice age fossils ever found on the North American continent. When the book was published, it became a Junior Library Guild Selection. In 2013 it was selected by the Springfield Missouri Park Board to be one of the items most representative of the Ozark region to be placed in a 100-year time capsule as part of the Centennial Celebration of park system.

Yesterday I received a query seeking permission to reprint a passage from one of my nonfiction books, CAVE DETECTIVES. If we can agree on terms, the excerpt will appear in a free online resource called “Text Dependent Analysis Sampler,” which would be available to all educators and students throughout that particular state. The purpose of a TDA is to pose questions that require students to “synthesize answers based on specific evidence within a reading passage and demonstrate their ability to interpret the meaning behind that evidence.” I’m delighted to be asked. This would be the second state to use something from the book in this way.

Passages from CAVE DETECTIVES have also been used twice before in a third state for 5th grade editions of school assessment tests. The most recent use in that capacity involved 139,000 copies in print and 4,500 copies online.

Apparently this is kind of use isn’t something you seek. They find you. One of my contacts said he wasn’t sure how they found me, my work, or this particular book. I hope “they” keep finding me in other states!

Cave Detectives in e-book

BULLETIN: By coincidence, this morning’s News-Leader features Matt Forir, the paleontologist in charge of researching Riverbluff Cave, which is the subject of CAVE DETECTIVES. Matt and a team of volunteers recently returned from Wyoming where they dug up the fossil remains of a large bull triceratops. The ancient creature, estimated by Matt to be about 67 million years old, will be reassembled here and mounted for display at the Natural History Museum. I worked on the board that helped create the museum and was on it while working on CAVE DETECTIVES. Way to go Matt.

Hi everyone,

I haven’t been checking on the status of CAVE DETECTIVES, UNRAVELING THE MYSTERY OF AN ICE AGE CAVE, since it went digital in February.Cave Detectives
I just did and it’s holding its own,
8th in science, 32nd in archaeology, and 34th in prehistoric. Here’s the link if you’re interested.


My thanks to Marla Wuench for inviting me to visit Truman Elementary School yesterday. I had a fine time with 150 1st and 2nd grade students. I told them I’m 200 years old. Some looked stunned but didn’t challenge it. I received a wonderful book of poems from the kids in Mrs. Darnell’s First Grade Room and an enormous poster signed by dozens of kids. My thanks to all.