Category Archives: Reef Animals

Student Art Inspired by “Sea Horse, run!”


Mrs. Daniel’s 4th grade class at Nolan Elementary in Signal Mountain, Tennessee gave me a wonderful set of pictures based on my books. Here is a sample of their work from “Sea Horse, run!”.

Keegan drew the above picture of Sea Horse. His question on the back of the picture reads: “How did sea horse hear coral, a plant, singing to him?”

Great question, Keegan! Coral is not a plant. Coral looks like a plant, but she is actually a group of tiny animals. A choir or chorus is an organized group of singers, and since Coral is an organized cluster of tiny animals, I thought she ought to sing like a choir.

Learn more about why Coral sings in the story by reading Coral as Greek Chorus or click on a question below to learn more about corals:

What is a coral polyp?
How do polyps eat?
How are corals named?
Why are corals important to sea horses?
Do coral polyps have eyes?

Preslee likes my jellyfish. I like Preslee’s jellies (above), too!

Nick also drew jellies (above). Nick asks, “Why did you pick jellyfish for the dedication page?”

Jellyfish are a symbol for acceptance, so the appearance of jellyfish before the story even begins foreshadows or predicts that acceptance will be an important theme in the story. The poor Sea Dragon is misunderstood! Sea Horse learns to ignore gossip and accept Sea Dragon for who he really is.

The Amazing Sea Horse Life Cycle

Sea Horse Life Cycle

From page 28 of "Sea Horse, run!" ©2011 by Tammy Carter Bronson

The sea horse has an amazing life cycle that begins with the courtship dance. Once the courtship is complete, the female fills the male’s brood pouch with eggs. Baby sea horses grow in the male’s brood pouch, and as you can see in my illustration above, the male sea horse gives birth. Depending on the species, one birth can produce about 1,500 babies. What a fascinating fish!

Sea Horse Courtship Dance at the Monterey Bay Aquarium:


More Blog Posts About Sea Horses:

Fun Facts About Sea Horses

This post answers basic questions such as…

  • Where do sea horses live?
  • Why do they hide?
  • How do they move?
  • What do sea horses eat?
  • What is the largest and smallest sea horse?

Why are corals important to sea horses?

Sea Horses in London

Draw Sea Horse with the Dot-to-Dot Activity.

Label and color the Sea Horse Diagram.

Recommended books and resources are on my Teacher/Student page.

Wildlife Update : From the tropics to the Thames: Seahorses discovered in London


Wildlife Update : From the tropics to the Thames: Seahorses discovered in London.

River Thames and the London Eye, London, England.

Image via Wikipedia

London is one of my favorite cities, and when a sea horse was discovered in the River Thames earlier this month, I planned to write about it on my blog. Instead, I’m recommending this wonderful article posted on Henricus Peters’ LEARN FROM NATURE blog.  

The course of the River Thames.

Image via Wikipedia

The Not So Mysterious Violet Snail


Nearly every picture book I’ve created has a snail hidden inside as a tribute to my first picture book, Tiny Snail. As I researched sea snails for “Sea Horse, run!”  I had to include the Violet Snail (Janthina janthina) because it loves to surf.

Art for pages 14 and 15 of "SEA HORSE, RUN!".

Violet Snails are rather small. They only grow as large as 1.2 inches, but they like to live near the top of reefs so they can quickly hitch a ride with a wave. This amazing little snail surfs with bubbles. In fact, the Violet Snail can build a “raft” out of bubbles, and by clinging to his bubble raft, a Violet Snail can float to the surface of the water and travel for hundreds of miles from one reef to the next. Surely this makes the Violet Snail the most widely-traveled snail in the world.

In “Sea Horse, run!” the Violet Snail is seen on page 15 hitching a ride a with a wave in order to flee the approaching Sea Dragon. Although the Violet Snail only appears on two pages in my book, he is making many appearances lately in the news due to some groundbreaking work by scientists. A team of researchers led by University of Michigan graduate student Celia Churchill reported their findings October 11th in the journal Current Biology. The Violet Snail is featured on the journal’s cover, and Celia Churchill says the bubble raft (which has the consistency of bubble wrap) is actually a modified version of an egg packet.

Art ©2011 by Tammy Carter Bronson

My favorite article is “Snails Ship Out On Scrambled Eggs” at Science NOW online.

Additional news with great photos is on-line at MSNBC News October 10, 2011.
The same article (“Snails Sail Through Life on Mucus Bubbles”) is published at

NPR did a 30 second news snippet this morning entitled: Biologists Solve Surfing Snails Mystery.

Rafting Snails Float Around On Bubbles (, Oct 11)

Current Biology October 11, 2011

National Geographic October 19, 2011

October 10, 2011 University of Michigan News Service: “In bubble-rafting snails, the eggs came first”.

Even the UK’s Daily Mail picked up the article on October 11, 2011.

Here is an older article about Violet Snails…

October 20, 2008, National Geographic: How Snails Walk on Water is a Small Miracle

Fun Facts About Sea Horses


Sea horses are classified in the family Syngnathidae (pronounced sin-NATH-ih-dee). Every animal in this family is a fish. Syngnathdae is Greek for ‘fused jaws’ because the mouths of fish in this family do not open or close. About 330 species of Syngnathidae have been classified. Thirty-seven of these species are sea horses, three are sea dragons (Leafy, Weedy, and Ribboned), and the rest are pipehorses or pipefishes.*

Where do sea horses live?
Most sea horses live in shallow ocean water near land. Sea horses may be found in estuaries, mangrove swamps, sea grass meadows, or reefs around the world.

Why do sea horses hide?
Larger fish like tuna or red snapper eat sea horses. Sea turtles, sting rays, sharks and even penguins munch on sea horses, too. Sea horses hide from these predators by changing color to match their environment.

How do sea horses move?
Sea horses move slowly by means of fins that beat as fast as 70 times per second! The dorsal fin propels the sea horse forwards. Sea horses have two, small pectoral fins (one behind each gill) that allow the sea horse to hover or change direction.

Sea Horse Diagram

Sea Horse Diagram by Tammy Carter Bronson

What do sea horses eat?
Sea horses do not have teeth, so they swallow their food whole. Sea horses suck food into their long, narrow snout, but the food must be tiny to fit through their mouth. Sea horses eat zooplankton, little shrimp, and the larvae of fish, crab, or worms. Sea horses do not have stomachs either. Without a stomach, sea horses cannot digest food well, so they have to eat large amounts in order to survive. Sea horses may eat for up to 10 hours per day, and they may swallow 50 to 300 tiny animals per hour!

What is the largest sea horse?
The Big-Bellied Sea Horse (Hippocampus abdominalis) is the largest species. These sea horses may reach fourteen inches in length!

What is the smallest sea horse?
Hippocampus denise is a pygmy sea horse that measures about half an inch in length.

More About Sea Horses…

Sea Horses and Corals

Sea Horse Diagram for the Classroom

Draw and Color a Sea Horse with a Dot-to-Dot Activity

*My Favorite References…

Seahorses, Pipefishes and Their Relatives: A Comprehensive Guide to Syngnathiformes. 
Author Rudie H. Kuiter. TMC Publishing, Chorleywood, UK. Revised 2003.

Poseidon’s Steed: The Story of Seahorses, From Myth to Reality. 
Author Helen Scales, Ph.D. Gothan Books, New York, NY, USA.  ©2009.

Project Seahorse.
Author Pamela S. Turner. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, New York, NY, USA. ©2010.

Visit Project Sea Horse Online.

An Overview of My Reading at the Blair Library


So many of my best ideas come from research that at every school I visit, I introduce myself by by describing the library where my research begins: the Blair Library (a.k.a. the Fayetteville Public Library) in my hometown, Fayetteville, Arkansas.

The Fayetteville Public Library was the recipient of Library Journal's 2005 Library of the Year Award. Photo by me!

Today I read “Sea Horse, run!” at 10:30 am in the Walker Community Room at my favorite library. A wonderful audience filled with children, parents, and educators heard my dramatic reading (yes, I sang Coral’s part!), then I launched into how I created my new, award-winning picture book. I’ve written a few blog articles about some of the topics I discussed such as…

Rewriting the end of “Sea Horse, run!”. (Spoiler Alert!!!) This post includes the video I showed during my presentation. You’ll see step by step how I research and draw characters for the book.

The Power of Three. The number “3” defines story structure and is an important number in children’s stories.



One thing I forgot to discuss during my presentation is why Coral sings in the story. Read Coral as Greek Chorus to find out.

I brought markers, boxes of crayons, and copies of activities for the kids. Several children came up the stage and colored the pictures while I read the book.

Activity for SEA HORSE, RUN!         Activity for SEA HORSE, RUN!     Dot-to-Dot Activity

You can check out a copy of “Sea Horse, run!” at the Blair Library (a.k.a. the Fayetteville Public Library), or purchase a hardcover in Fayetteville at Nightbird Books on Dickson Street, French Quarters Antiques on Block Street, or Barnes & Noble across from the Northwest Arkansas Mall.

Fayetteville's Blair Library.

Blair Library became the first building in Arkansas to register with the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification program. The library received its LEED silver certification from the USGBC in December 2006. Read more or visit  Fayetteville’s Blair Library online at:

Want to learn more about me (Tammy Carter Bronson)? Visit my personal blog or read a recent post that sums up 2011 so far: “Summer 2011 in Review.”

A Character Study: Coral as Greek Chorus in “Sea Horse, run!”


Students always ask, “Where do you get your ideas?” My answer is, “The library.” Every book, play, and poem I have ever read contributes to my creative process. In the case of “Sea Horse, run!”, ancient Greek plays inspired one of my favorite characters: Coral.

Greek Theater

The Greek Theatre at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Photo by me!

Why does Coral sing in “Sea Horse, run!”?

The Oedipus plays and Antigone are only a few examples of ancient Greek dramas studied by older students in junior high or high school. In Greek theatre the chorus was one of the most important components of the play. The chorus narrated and would collectively comment on the dramatic action. If the hero had hidden fears, the chorus expressed those fears to the audience usually by communicating in song.

Sea Horse & CoralIn “Sea Horse, run!”, Coral is my chorus. Coral sings, and her collective song serves the same function as the Greek chorus in ancient theatre.


Coral sings, but only the hero (Sea Horse) and the audience (the reader) can hear her song.

Sea Horse does not express his fear, but Coral projects fear by singing, “Sea Horse, run far, far away!” and “Sea Horse, run! Sea Horse, run!”

Coral also comments on the action by stating the obvious. In the end, she sings, “Three little dragons,” underscoring that three different sea dragons are on the reef.

Coral sings, “I see, I see!” She “sees” the sea dragon before Sea Horse, a poignant image considering Coral polyps do not have eyes; but of course, the all-knowing prophet in Greek literature is generally blind making Coral more than a chorus. She’s also a “seer.”

How did I come up with idea for Coral as a chorus?

A coral is a colony or group of many polyps, so I imagined if a coral living on the reef could talk, it would have many voices speaking as one just like a chorus!  It’s also fun to note that in the English language the words ‘coral’ (c-o-r-a-l) and ‘choral’ (c-h-o-r-a-l describing the music sung by a chorus or choir) share the same pronunciation.

Soft Coral Polyps    Corals    Hard Coral Polyps

Picture books are not just for small children, preschool-2nd grade. Older readers and writers can learn much by studying the structure and content of a story in miniature. In “Sea Horse, run!”the complexity of Coral’s character adds another layer of enjoyment directed specifically at older readers.

Name That Fish Activity


All of my fish in “Sea Horse, run!” are drawn with graphite pencil then painted with watercolor, but my fish are not drawn to scale which means their sizes are not true to life. Some appear smaller or larger than the real fish. See if you can match the fish in the picture with name below.

How to play:

Draw a line from the letter to the name of the fish, or write the letter next to the name of the fish, or fill in the blanks.

A.  __________________

B.  __________________

C.  __________________

D.  __________________

E.  __________________

F.  __________________

G.  __________________

H. __________________

I.  __________________

J.  __________________

Click Here

to view 

the answers!

Giant Pacific Octopus


Art © 2011 by Tammy Carter Bronson

The giant Pacific octopus is a mollusk that lives in coastal waters of the Pacific Ocean. This octopus has two large eyes that can watch for predators by turning backward or forward. Since the octopus does not have any bones, it can squeeze into tiny spaces to hide from predators. If its hiding place is found, the octopus will squirt black ink so the predator will not see them make a quick escape. Predators of the giant octopus include eels, seals, dolphins, sharks and whales.

This giant likes to feed on other mollusks like clams and snails. Crabs are another favorite food, but a crab can snap off the end of the octopus’s tentacle. No worries! The giant Pacific octopus has the ability to regenerate or regrow a lost limb. This is even more astonishing when you consider how complex their limbs are. Each tentacle has two rows of tiny suckers that can hold, taste, and manipulate objects, and a tentacle may have as many as 280 suckers. That means the number of suckers on all eight tentacles can total 2,240!

The female giant octopus will lay as many as 50,000 eggs all at once. She does not eat or sleep while she guards her eggs, and when the eggs hatch, she dies.


The largest giant Pacific octopus ever found lived in the North Pacific and had tentacles 33 feet long!

Like the sea horse and leafy sea dragon, an octopus can change the color and texture of its skin in order to blend perfectly with its environment. This camouflage helps protect them from predators.

“Sea Horse, run!” BOOK NOTES:

Featured on the cover and found on pages 12, 26, and 31 of the book.

Royal British Columbia Museum, 2004


Monterey Bay Aquarium
This page has a great video of the giant Pacific octopus in action.

Royal British Columbia Museum
I visited this museum during a trip from Seattle to Victoria, BC in May of 2004. Yes, that is me squinting at the camera while standing beside a very “Egyptian” killer whale.


Gentle Giant Octopus Text ©1998 by Karen Wallace, Illustrations ©1998 by Mike Bostock
Published by Candlewick Press, Somerville, Massachusetts.

Bubble Coral


Photo by Tammy Carter Bronson, October 2010

The common name ‘Bubble Coral’ may bring to mind an image of a soft, pliable animal, but bubble coral is actually a reef-builder known as a true, hard coral. The polyps or tiny animals that make up this colony have twelve or more legs. Bubble corals are often found in deep water near the base of a reef which is why specimens in aquariums require a gentle water current and low light. The coral skeleton is protected during the day by the inflatable ‘bubbles.’ At night the bubbles retract allowing the tentacles to emerge and hunt for food. This coral can be aggressive. If threatened by another coral, the tentacles will sting and kill its rival. Bubble corals are native to the Indo-Pacific region including the waters around Australia, the Indian Ocean, and Red Sea. Captive specimens are fairly hardy and relatively easy to care for. Combine this with it’s intriguing appearance, and its no wonder bubble corals are popular in aquariums.

More Information:

How to Keep Bubble Coral

Bubble Coral

Art © 2011 by Tammy Carter Bronson

Click on a question or link below to learn more about corals:

What is a coral polyp?

How do polyps eat?

Do coral polyps have eyes?

Why are corals important to sea horses?

How are corals named?
This page includes a complete chart of every coral in “Sea Horse, run!”. The chart shows how corals are classified in relation to one another. An individual coral may have more than one common name.

Additional Names for Bubble Coral include Grape Coral and Pearl Coral.