Tag Archives: Seahorse

The Amazing Sea Horse Life Cycle

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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:

[youtube http://youtu.be/zvGRVWGpdNg]

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.

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

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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

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.

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!!!

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

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!