Category Archives: Tammy C. Bronson

Fun Facts About Sea Horses

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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.

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An Overview of My Reading at the Blair Library

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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: www.faylib.org.

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.”

Rewriting the End in “Sea Horse, run!”

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Someone asked me today, “How do you know when you are finished rewriting?” A great question! I’ve found that just when I think my story can’t possibly be any better, someone will give me a nudge in a different direction and, “Voilà!” A better book is born.

The key to knowing whether or not you are finished rewriting is to test your story with your audience. Of course a picture book should be tested on children, but usually every child will like your story. In addition to kids, seek out a dozen or more teachers, librarians, and parents. Ask your adult readers to give you feedback. Granted, sometimes it’s hard to get an honest response. Most readers want to say, “That’s great! I love your story,” or “Good job!”  That isn’t necessarily what you want to hear. You want readers to be as critical as possible. If there are major flaws with your story, you have to know BEFORE you publish it. That’s why you test it with so many people. Out of a dozen readers, one or two will be brutally honest, but their feedback could mean the difference between an “okay” book or a “great” book.

I speak from experience. My new picture book, “Sea Horse, run!”, went through eighteen rewrites over the course of a year. I thought the story was finished, but when I was looking for feedback on the art (only weeks before the book went to press), one librarian spoke up and said,

“I don’t like the end of your story.”

Ribbon

In that version (the 18th draft), Sea Horse, Coral and Sea Dragon laugh at the Shark, Eel and Octopus for not realizing the “Sea Dragon” was only a harmless, Leafy Dragon. This concerned parent/librarian pointed out how inappropriate my ending was for children. I listened and realized that I needed another revision. I was mortified. At least a dozen other people had told me they liked the book. Should I really rewrite it AGAIN based on the feedback of one person? The answer is, “Absolutely!” Why not write it one more time? After all, as a writer, you can always go back to the old version. It never hurts to write your story from a different angle or with an alternate ending. You may like the new version better. That’s exactly what happened for “Sea Horse, run!”.  With only a few weeks left before the book went to the printer, I took the story apart, piece by piece, desperately seeking the perfect finale.


The ending came to me as I studied the art. Since the book takes place on a coral reef, I drew a variety of fish for the background. One fish was the ribboned sea dragon. I asked myself, “Why is Leafy Dragon coming to the reef in the first place?” Answer: “To visit his cousin, Ribbon.” I not only revised the story, I revised ALL of the art by hiding Ribbon in every picture so that in the end, Sea Horse realizes that a sea dragon lived on the reef all along. The new ending increased the story to 849 words, a real drawback since I was committed to keeping it under 800, but the story improved so much, I decided not to worry about the length.

The revelation that there were three sea dragons instead of one made for a better ending, and it was far more appropriate for children. The new ending also allowed me to put three sets of “three” in the book, a nice touch since the number three is so important in children’s literature. (Read my previous blog post, “The Power of Three in Children’s Books.”) Although it was an enormous challenge to revise my “final” draft,” the extra effort was well worth it. When I tested the book on readers again, they were more enthusiastic than ever. I knew the 19th version would be the last, and a character that began as just another fish in the background took on a much larger role. In retrospect, I’m fairly certain that final revision helped transform “Sea Horse, run!” into an award-winning book.

Want to know more about ribboned sea dragons? Read my blog post entitled, “Ribbon,” or watch the video below. Remember: Don’t be afraid to REVISE!!!

The Power of Three in Children’s Books

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Three is a special number in literature, especially in children’s stories. For example…

The Three Bears, Three Blind Mice, The Three Little Pigs, The Three Musketeers, and don’t forget to make three wishes! The list goes on and on, so I thought, “Why not use the number three in my next picture book?”

In “Sea Horse, run!” I use the number three, three times:

1) Sea Horse turns three colors: red, yellow, and blue. I chose these colors because they are primary colors, but I also associate each color with Sea Horse’s emotions. Red is a symbol of courage and sacrifice. Sea Horse is willing to sacrifice himself to save his best friend, Coral, so red is Sea Horse’s predominate color in the book. Sea Horse is yellow when he is feeling surprised or scared. When Sea Horse is parted from Coral, he turns blue because he is sad to be away from from his friend.

2) Three predators give Sea Horse advice: the Shark, Eel, and Octopus. Moving from the not-so-clever Shark to the very intelligent Octopus, each animal is terrified by the thought of a much larger predator, the sea dragon. They all tell Sea Horse to “run” or swim away.

          

3) In the end, three sea dragons are on the reef. The ribboned sea dragon (Ribbon) was there all along. The leafy sea dragon (Leafy) arrives to visit Ribbon, and on the last page the weedy sea dragon (Weedy) is seen in the distance.

     

Weedy Sea Dragon

In the end Coral sings, “Three little dragons! Three little dragons!” That sounds like a great title for my next book.

Three Little Dragons, a sequel to “Sea Horse, run!”.

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

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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.

Examples:

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.

Aquarium Gift Shops Love “Sea Horse, run!”

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Two Leafies

Pair of Leafy Sea Dragons at the Dallas World Aquarium. Picture by Tammy Carter Bronson (2010)

Updated 3/31/12:

So far, seven aquariums have ordered “SEA HORSE, RUN!”. Here is the list of aquarium gift shops with copies of the book:

Tennessee Aquarium
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Purchase Online

Aquarium of the Pacific
Long Beach, California

Columbus Zoo & Aquarium
Powell, Ohio

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
San Pedro, California

Dallas World Aquarium
Dallas, Texas
Book of the Month in the Winter 2011 Dallas World Aquarium Newsletter

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
New Orleans, Louisiana

SeaWorld
San Diego, CA
San Antonio, TX
Orlando, FL

Name That Fish Activity

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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

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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.

MORE AMAZING FACTS:

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

FIND THIS OCTOPUS AT THE…

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.

RECOMMENDED READING:

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

Old Schoolhouse Review

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Karen Yuen with The Old Schoolhouse Magazine posted an outstanding review for “Sea Horse, run!” on the magazine’s website today.

Here’s an excerpt:

“I highly recommend this book for its amazing artwork and educational value. This should be a must-read for every elementary student studying oceanography. You’ll be glad you read this book, especially in preparation for an aquarium visit!” (Read the full review.)

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine (TOS) reaches out to homeschoolers across the country through their website and 30,000 print issues produced each quarter. Each issue is packed with tips, information, and resources for homeschoolers.

Thank you, Karen, for the wonderful review!

Press Release 22 August 2011

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Book Deal Signed With Mariposa Press: Bookaroos’ Books Now In France

22 August 2011, Fayetteville, AR, USA

Thanks to recent exposure of “Sea Horse, run!” at American trade shows, Bookaroos Publishing has signed a deal with Mariposa Press for distribution of Bookaroos’ books in France.

“Sea Horse, run!” was listed as the picture book winner in the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards catalog which was distributed at Book Expo America (“BEA”) in New York (May 24-26, 2011). “Sea Horse, run!” was also on display in a cooperative booth staffed by members of the Independent Book Publisher’s Association (“IBPA”) at BEA and the American Library Association in New Orleans (ALA 2011, June 23-28). The national exposure for Bookaoos’ new title paid off when “Sea Horse, run!” caught the attention of Mariposa Press, a distributor of English language titles to bookstores throughout France. The company’s President, Laurie Blum Guest, requested samples of every book published by Bookaroos.

Bookaroos Publishing has four children’s picture books in print: Tiny Snail, The Kaleidonotes & the Mixed-Up Orchestra, Polliwog, and the award-winning “Sea Horse, run!”. Tammy Carter Bronson, President of Bookaroos Publishing, says, “We feel our picture books have a timeless, universal quality, and we are thrilled that Mariposa Press has chosen to represent all of our books for distribution in France.”

"Sea Horse, run!" at Book Expo America 2011

All four books will be highlighted in the Mariposa Press Fall/Winter children’s catalogue which will be distributed to bookstores and to potential buyers at France’s children’s book fair, the Salon du Livre et de la Presse Jeunesse (Nov 30-Dec 5, 2011 à Montreuil) and at the French Book-Expo in Paris, Salon du Livre, March 16-19, 2012.

Mariposa Press has been in existence since 1981. Prior to taking over Mariposa, company president Laurie Blum Guest worked in New York as both a book packager and editor with Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, and Henry Holt. She also created her own series of books with 63 titles, sold several million copies, and has been a regular guest on CNN television.

For additional information, or to schedule an interview with Tammy Carter Bronson, e-mail books@bookaroos.com, or visit the Bookaroos Publishing website at: http://www.bookaroos.com.

QS? Contact: Matthew Shane Bronson, Publicity Department
Bookaroos Publishing, Inc., P. O. Box 8518, Fayetteville, AR 72703
Phone/Fax 479-443-0339 or 479-443-6789

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