Writer’s Live: Tiffany Midge, Madeleine Henry & Jennifer Bardsley

The great virtual programs just keep coming here at the library. There are so many in fact that we wanted to point out two author talks you can attend next week so you wouldn’t miss out. The presentations are part of our Writer’s Live series, which is dedicated to highlighting talented writers and their works. Both programs are free, open to the public, and you can register to attend on our Crowdcast channel. Read on to find out more. 

Tiffany Midge on Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021 @ 6:00 PM  

Why is there no Native woman David Sedaris? Or Native Anne Lamott? Humor categories in publishing are packed with books by funny women and humorous sociocultural-political commentary—but no Native women. Well, it’s time to meet Tiffany Midge, the author of Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s

Midge’s book is a smart and funny collection of essays on life, politics and identity as a Native woman in America. Spend an evening laughing, thinking, and talking about anything and everything—from politics to pumpkin spice—as Midge shares stories and insights from her book. 

Madeleine Henry in conversation with Jennifer Bardsley 

Saturday, March 6, 2021 @ 5:00 PM 

Madeleine Henry is the author of two novels, The Love Proof and Breathe In, Cash Out. She has appeared on NBC, WABC, The Jenny McCarthy Show, and Inspire Living. She has been featured in the New York Post, Parade, and Observer Media. Previously, she worked at Goldman Sachs and in investment management after graduating from Yale.  

Madeleine will be joined by Jennifer Bardsley for a conversation about The Love Proof. Spanning decades, The Love Proof is an unusual love story about lasting connection, time, and intuition. It explores the course that perfect love can take between imperfect people, and urges us to listen to our hearts rather than our heads. 

Jennifer Bardsley lives in Edmonds, Wash., and her newest book, Sweet Bliss, will be published by Montlake Romance in 2021. Jennifer also writes under the pen name Louise Cypress. Jennifer has written the “I Brake for Moms” column for The Everett Herald since 2012. 

Did You Know? (Newt Edition)

That all newts are salamanders but not all salamanders are newts?

I found this information on the Facts About Newts page from the Live Science website.

Tree Frogs, Mud Puppies and other Amphibians by Daniel Gilpin is a good book for beginners interested in amphibians. It has a lot of very detailed pictures and fun ‘gross’ information.

The California newt and the rough-skinned newt excrete a toxin from their skin that can be deadly to humans or other animals. The toxin excreted by the California newt (Taricha torosa) is known as tetrodotoxin (TTX), the same neurotoxin found in pufferfish.

Pufferfish, also called blowfish, live in tropical waters. They are prepared as a delicacy called fugu in Japan. You need to have a special permit and training to prepare this potentially deadly dish. It is also illegal to serve to the Emperor of Japan, as one fish has enough poison to kill 30 adults. The Puffer Fish by Alicia Z. Klepeis tells us there are about 120 different kinds of pufferfish.

There are many other animals that can be toxic: spiders, snakes, jellyfish, bees, wasps, scorpions and even the platypus!  They can use their teeth, fangs, stingers, spines or spurs to introduce their venom into you. The book Venom by Marilyn Singer tells all about them.

Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, Adder’s Fork and Lizard’s Leg by Marty Crump gives the lore and mythology of amphibians and reptiles. One well known example is the snake in the garden of Eden. Other examples would be the rod of Asclepius (the snake on a rod) used to represent the Western medical profession and the Caduceus (2 snakes entwined on a staff with wings) for commerce and negotiation and also used by the U.S. Army and some other medical organizations. For the play Macbeth Shakespeare wrote of three witches around a cauldron using animal parts as ingredients (see the title of this book) which spurred the world’s imagination.

If eye of newt and toe of frog are basic ingredients for witch’s brew, it makes me wonder where they get their ingredients? And what do they do with the rest of the newt? We have spell books at the library, to help you find out: Spells for Peace of Mind: How to Conjure Calm and Overcome Stress, Worry, and Anxiety by Cerridwen Greenleafor and The Big Book of Practical Spells: Everyday Magic that Works by Judika Illes use ingredients such as salt, candles, crystals, and a whole list of herbs.

Of course, stories about witches and wizards make for popular fiction reading as well. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is a prime example of that!  Another fun series is Bella Broomstick by Lou Kuenzler.

Newts make me think of Newton. Isaac Newton discovered the first law of motion: an object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion. Isaac Newton and Physics for Kids by Kerry Logan Hollihan tells about Isaac Newtons’ life and discoveries with twenty-one science experiments kids can recreate. We have many other books about him such as Isaac Newton: The Asshole who Reinvented the Universe by Florian Freistetter who tells us that Newton wasn’t always a nice guy.

And while we are talking about Newton, THAT reminds me of Fig Newtons! They are a favorite “healthy” cookie. I mean, they have fruit, right? How bad can they be for you? A Fistful of Fig Newtons by Jean Shepherd – best known for his story/movie A Christmas Story where Ralphie Parker wants a BB gun – is a collection of short stories based on his life…. Like the cookies, just one won’t be enough. You’ll want to read the whole book!

Random Acts of Kindness

Several years ago I learned about Random Acts of Kindness Day (celebrated yearly on Feb. 17th), and incorporated it yearly into our library arts and crafts classes. The projects we did allowed our crafters to make small items to hand out to people randomly, just to show appreciate or encouragement. I love the idea, and right now we could all use a little extra kindness.

A couple of months ago the library hosted Donna Cameron, along with Garret Hunt, to talk about Cameron’s book A Year of Living Kindly. All of our virtual programs, through the platform Crowdcast, are recorded and can be viewed later. Check out that conversation here.

In the book, Cameron shares her experience of committing to 365 days of practicing kindness. She explains the health benefits and feelings of well-being that come with being kind to others. The book includes tips on what we can do to practice kindness, even when it is not easy, and how when we do, we help change the world.

The library has other recent books on kindness. Check out these titles, and take a look at our catalog to find more on the subject.

Deep kindness : a revolutionary guide for the way we think, talk, and act in kindness by Houston Craft

Craft started an organization called Random Acts of Kindness, Etc. in college to create a more connected, compassionate campus. Deep Kindness examines how kindness can help heal divisions between people and improve anxiety that is so prevalent today. Kindness can and should be a part of our daily lives and Kraft shares ways in which we can practice being kind.

The war for kindness : building empathy in a fractured world by Jamil Zaki

Zaki, a Stanford psychologist, presents the argument that empathy is not a trait we are born with, but that it can, and must, be cultivated. By developing empathy we can overcome feelings of isolation, and work to prevent divisiveness between groups. With many stories of people who are doing this work, this book is an inspirational call to action.

Radical kindness : the life-changing power of giving and receiving by Angela C. Santomero; foreword by Deepak Chopra

Santomero, writer of children’s educational shows, calls kindness a radical power, and through her study with mentor Fred Rogers, has spent her life teaching empathy and compassion through her programs.

The kindness method : change your habits for good using self-compassion and understanding
by Shahroo Izadi

While we are learning to be kind to others, we also need to be kind to ourselves. Practicing self-compassion is the only way to make lasting change in your life, Izadi explains, and using personal and professional experience, she guides the reader to strengthen willpower and understanding of themselves.


If you’re more inclined to share kindness through creative expression, and want to show appreciation to your grocery clerk, doctor, teacher, or random people at the bus stop for Random Acts of Kindness Day, try out this easy art project suitable for kids and adults alike.


So go forth and practice the radical act of kindness, on Random Acts of Kindness Day, and all year round. It may not always be easy, but it will be worth it.

Life After the Afterlife

One recent rainy Sunday, bored and scrolling through Netflix, I landed on a six-part documentary series examining death and what comes after. It sounded like a sure-fire opportunity to watch an obvious bunch of hooey, so I settled in. As I later learned, the series is based on the nonfiction book Surviving Death: a Journalist Investigates Evidence for an Afterlife by Leslie Kean .

The approach in the series turned out to be more scientific and historical than I expected, although Kirkus Reviews said of the book:

Those given to believe in ghosts, heaven, and white lights will find this a fine example of confirmation bias, while those who are not will not be swayed.

While I haven’t read it, reviews seem to suggest the book doesn’t lean on a believer-centric foundation and does a better job presenting evidence to suggest that consciousness survives death. 

As part of episode one of the Netflix series, viewers are whisked off to a Seattle meeting of IANDS (International Association for Near-Death Studies), an open support group for those who’ve had near-death experiences (NDE) and others who wonder about loved ones who have died. Both types come together–now meeting online–to hear the NDEs directly. The series explores other paranormal phenomena including apparitions, contemporary mediums and reincarnation. 

Compelling case studies involving unlikely, level-headed persons (a spine surgeon, and an Oklahoma law enforcement officer, to list two). A historic look at many aspects of the unworldly–including fakers, debunkers, cheerleaders, medical doctors, academics and organizations–makes for an entertaining binge watch. Who knew the case to continue research to lift the veil between life and the afterlife could be mysterious and informative? Netflix did.

One I wouldn’t have guessed to be interested in parapsychology was William James, known as the father of American Psychology and the first to offer a psychology class in the U.S. He co-founded the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) in 1884, the oldest psychical research organization in the United States dedicated to parapsychology.

Check out Kean’s book now. The Netflix series, which launched in January, is not available on DVD at this time. If it becomes available, the library will purchase it.

If you liked Surviving Death, you might want to read The Hairbrush and the Shoe : A True Ghost Story by Jeanne Stanton. When a workman in her home is pushed, Stanton takes action. The former Harvard Business School case writer embarks upon a rigorous search to learn what is happening, which makes for an absorbing, creepy and sometimes funny read.

Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter Pilot by Bruce and Andrea Leininger. This story details how the authors finally accepted that their young son was the reincarnated WWII fighter pilot, James Huston. This account is also featured in the reincarnation episode of the Netflix documentary series.

Life with the Afterlife : 13 Truths I Learned about Ghosts by Amy Bruni. In this autobiography, Bruni, co-star of the popular paranormal show, Kindred Spirits, discusses what she has gleaned from ghosts, her unique approach to paranormal investigations, and tips for amateur ghost hunters. 

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach. Science writer Mary Roach–Everett Reads! author a few years back–moves on from the cadavers in her book Stiff to what happens after death. From Kirkus reviews: “Truly deft handling of the (mostly) daft.”

Whether it’s buying and demolishing what he believed was a ‘demon house,’ hanging out at his popular haunted museum in Las Vegas or starring in the widely popular Ghost Adventures on cable, Zak Bagans knows how to stay in the spotlight. He’s done it for a long time. Last year, for instance, he released his third book, Ghost-hunting, part of the For Dummies series, and turns out it could be just the guidebook you need if you have a hankering to investigate spooky stuff. He also relays an assortment of unearthly experiences, much of it one of a kind.

Life After Life by Raymond Moody. Originally published in 1975, this remains essential reading. Moody, considered the grandfather of the Near Death Experience (NDE) movement, introduced the world to the phenomenon.

Also worth a check out: 

Between Two Worlds: Lessons from the Other Side by Tyler Henry

Near-death Experiences: Understanding our Visions of the Afterlife by John Martin Fischer

To find more information and materials all about this subject, try searching the catalog using these keywords and phrases: 

Near-death experiences.

Parapsychology — Investigation.

Ghosts.

Haunted places.

Ghosts — History.

Haunted places — History.

Parapsychology — Investigation — History.

Mediums — United States — Biography.

Clairvoyants — United States — Biography.

Did You Know? (Brick Edition)

That the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway is nicknamed the Brickyard?

The Speedway was originally paved with more than 3 million bricks in 1909. I found this in the DK Smithsonian book Drive on page 63. It says on the cover “the definitive history of driving,” and that pretty much says it all. There are pictures of every car imaginable, the making and racing of automobiles, early advertisements and even renditions of possible future cars. We even learn that the first speed limit was 4 mph, and some of the first vehicles had a whopping 12hp engine!

Assuming the bricks were 6-inch in length, 3,000,000 million bricks laid end to end would reach 284.09 miles or the equivalent of the distance from Newark, NJ to Buffalo, NY. With the Indianapolis speedway being 2.5 miles long, this would be about 113 ½ laps altogether.

Nowadays, when you say ‘bricks’ the first thing people think of is Lego bricks. The eBook A Million Little Bricks by Sarah Herman talks about the Lego company’s history and the phenomenon of this amazing and popular toy. She reminisces about old Lego sets and talks about the new sets available. Beautiful Lego by Mike Doyle has some of the most amazing Lego figures, buildings and characters I have ever seen! This is definitely art, and worth checking out just to see the creativity.

The Taj Mahal is a building complex that is truly artistic. Construction started in 1632 and was completed over an 11-year period. They used white and black marble (bricks and blocks) with inlays of precious stones and intricately carved marble flowers. The book The Taj Mahal by Lesley Dutemple is part of the series Great Building Feats that shows a variety of different structures and the building techniques used to make them.

The feature film The Last Brickmaker in America shows what the art of brickmaking used to be. In this heartwarming movie, starring Sidney Poitier, he teaches a young troubled boy his craft, and the pride of making something worthwhile. You don’t have to make your own bricks, but you can do your own building with bricks with the assistance of the book Masonry Homeowner Survival Guide. It shows how to prep an area, measure what supplies you need, and shows the techniques that will make you look like a master.

Lastly, one thing I always think of when thinking ‘bricks’ is the Pink Floyd song “Brick in the wall”. We have this on CD so “brick on!” OK, that doesn’t have the same ring to it as “rock on”, but you get the idea.

Testing Testing 1,2,3

While we love to emphasize all of the fun and enjoyable things we have here at the library, sometimes you just gotta get serious. It would be great if we could all just read a great book, watch the latest TV series, or play a cool video game all day, every day. Sadly the adult world always comes knocking.  

And nothing is more adult than taking a crucial test, or learning a new skill in order to advance a real world career. While you might not think of the library as the first place to look when it comes to test prep and skill learning, we actually have a lot of great resources to help you: even in this mostly online world. Read on to learn about four of them, and make sure to check out our Job, Career & Test Prep page for even more. 

Learning Express 

This excellent and comprehensive database has lots of targeted practice guides that can help you do well on specific exams in several fields. The High School Equivalency Center covers the GED (in both English and Spanish), HiSet and TASC exams. The College Admissions Test Center has test prep for the ACT, SAT, PSAT, AP, TOEFL and many more. The Career Preparation Center has tons of test prep in many career areas including Cosmetology, the CDL license, Military, Nursing, and Teaching to name but a few. Be sure to check out the Welcome page for even more resources.  

GCF Learn Free 

This resource is all about improving your computer and technology skills through tutorials both specific and general. Specific tutorials to make you proficient in programs such as Microsoft Office, including Excel and Word, web browsers, email and computers in general are included. In addition there are tutorials on core math, reading and work skills to get you up to speed. 

Khan Academy 

The Khan Academy does provide great resources for studying for specific tests but really shines in providing full blown courses and in depth skill building on a wide range of topics. These are all very detailed but allow you to study and complete them at your own pace. Just click on the Courses button on the top left to see the huge diversity of topics and subject areas, from basic to in depth. 

Driving Tests 

While it would be nice if public transportation could get us everywhere we needed to go, being able to drive is actually a crucial skill when it comes to getting and keeping a job in Washington State. Finding good study materials for the driving test, however, can be difficult. This database fills in the gap with extensive study material and test prep for getting your driver’s license. It also has study material for a CDL license and all is available in both English and Spanish. 

Did You Know? Roller Skate Edition

Roller skates were invented in 1760 by John Joseph Merlin (a young Belgian) who put wheels on his shoes to impress people at a masquerade party? Ice skates had already been around for quite a while, so watching people glide along on the ice probably gave Melin the idea.

I found this information in the Worldbook Encyclopedia 2020 edition entry on roller skates. It also tells us that there are three kinds of roller skates: quad skates with 4 wheels, in-line skates with the 4 wheels in a line, and clamp-on skates which were the original type. Competitive roller skating is common in the areas of artistic skating, speed skating and roller hockey.

One type of speed skating is roller derby, which definitely has its own artistic flair! Rollergirls: the Story of Flat Track Derby by Felicia Graham, Melissa Joulwan and Dennis Darling is all about the making of a new roller derby league: The Texas Rollergirls. The story is told mostly in photographs, but it is plain to see their passion and determination.

Adding edges to ice skates was invented by the Dutch in the 13th or 14th century. Ice skates then cut into the ice instead of gliding on top of it. These ice skates were made of steel, with sharpened edges on the bottom to aid movement. The earliest ice skating happened in southern Finland more than 4,000 years ago. This was done to save time and energy during winter journeys.

The fundamental construction of modern ice skates has stayed largely the same since then, although differing greatly in the details: particularly in the method of binding and the shape and construction of the steel blades. In the Netherlands, ice skating was considered proper for all classes of people, as shown in many paintings from the time.

The book Ice Skating School by Naia Bray-Moffatt gives excellent directions and photographs of many of the basic skating techniques. A lot of the directions could be used for roller skating as well, especially if using rollerblades.

BUT – there is a fourth kind of skate! You can see these at an aquarium. They are members of the Chondrichthyan family which include more than 70 species of stingrays. The Stingray by Miriam J Gross has detailed information about these mysterious creatures.

Now, back to that masquerade party – – Imagine the surprise on people’s faces as our John Joseph Merlin rolled in and the spectacle that his outfit must have made! I imagine that was exactly what he wanted to happen.

Someone else that always set out to make a statement was Wladziu Valentino Liberace. The book Liberace Extravaganza by Connie Solomon and Jan Jewell shows you full color photographs of a lot of the costumes he wore, with close-up photos of the beaded work on them. Some of these suits were worth $24,000 or more.

We have a wide selection of books that will make it easy for you to plan your next costume for a masquerade ball or other fancy dress occasion. Start planning now and you can make a grand entrance as well!

Keeping it Local

With the current restrictions on social gatherings, as well as the return of the November rainy season, you might find yourself spending a lot of time indoors and at home. If, like me, you have caught yourself analyzing the animal residents of your backyard or scrutinizing the behavior of your beloved pet, it may be time to just lean into the situation. Why not declare your immediate home environment a new obsession and give your curiosity free reign?  

Luckily, the library has a lot of great new books to help you investigate your local surroundings and find out what makes its inhabitants tick. Here are a few excellent examples. 

Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy by Zazie Todd

Whether you dog follows you around all day, barks at a leaf falling on the roof, or likes to take 8 hour power naps, spending so much time with them begs the question: Are they happy? Zazie Todd sets out to not only answer that question, but to also find out ways to make their lives markedly better. She interviews a broad range of experts, including veterinarians, behaviorists, shelter managers and trainers to gain insight into the dog mindset. Equally important, she asks the reader to examine their own expectations when it comes to living with, or even getting, a canine companion. 

Decoding Your Cat: the Ultimate Experts Explain Common Cat Behaviors and Reveal How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones

Ah the inscrutable feline. Even with extra hours of observation at home, is it possible to understand what makes yours tick? This book, from the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists no less, believes you can understand your feline companion and learn to cohabitate better. They even provide a handy chart of common behavioral cues, like the set of their ears, to help you interpret your cat’s changing temperament. This book is also full of practical advice (cats like to observe from above so providing a perch to view all the human action below is ideal) and DIY cat toy ideas. 

Peterson Guide to Bird Behavior by John Kricher

Birds, aka avian dinosaurs, are another set of creatures you have probably had more time to observe lately. While your backyard feathered friends might not belong to any unusual species, their behaviors are definitely exotic and fascinating. This Peterson guide is not about bird identification but instead delves into the many aspects of bird behaviors: social interaction, nesting, migration, feeding and many more that you can observe. Best of all, this guide is written in an easy to understand style, which ditches obscure and technical jargon in favor of ease of understanding.  

A Cloud a Day by Gavin Pretor-Pinney

Even if you don’t have a pet or local fauna to observe, there is one sure fire way to connect with your local surroundings: simply look up. Clouds are easily taken for granted, but are actually pretty amazing, and come in a dazzling array of shapes and sizes. Put together by the Cloud Appreciation Society (yes, it is a real organization) this book provides you with 365 cloud formations to contemplate and appreciate. Each entry is gorgeous in its own way, with photographs and famous illustrations of each formation. A detailed, but easy to understand, scientific explanation of each cloud is provided as well. 

So get out of your headspace and observe some of the fascinating, complex and beautiful creatures and phenomena that surround you. Library books included.  

New Craft Books

New books are arriving in droves right now at the library because we are at the end of our purchasing year, and those on the topic of arts and crafts are no exception.

Since we are definitely moving into that time of year when we are stuck indoors more often than not, how about learning a new art technique or craft to keep you busy during the long fall and winter months?

Some of the new arts and crafts books available on the shelves at the Main Library.

There are many different titles to choose from, so in an attempt to show the variety, I grabbed eight new books off the shelf to check them out. Take a look, and place some holds to pick up through curbside service!

Drawing with Fire : a Beginner’s Guide to Woodburning Beautiful Hand-lettered Projects and Other Easy Artwork by Aney Carver, starts off with this quote that I truly believe – we all can be creative.

“Millions of people spend their spare time watching television day in and day out, and most feel unsatisfied. Why? I’m convinced that everyone is hardwired to create and be creative in their own way, despite how they may feel about their creative aptitude. It all starts with a moment of inspiration that encourages us to think, I can do that; I can be creative! Of course you can! Now get up and let’s do it.”

Drawing with Fire has projects that are mostly focused on lettered signs, which would be a good way to learn the techniques and develop control.
Templates are provided in the back of the book and can be enlarged to fit your project.

Check it out and see if you aren’t a little tempted to try woodburning. I know I am, especially the eagle project.

Beginner’s Guide to Screen 
Printing : 12 Beautiful Printing 
Projects with Templates by Erin Lacy, explains screen printing at it’s simplest. Card stock can even be used as a stencil for the most basic designs. Information on screens, paints and inks, and fixing your design after printing are covered, and then the projects begin, which involve surfaces of clothing, fabric, and paper.
Templates are provided at the end of the book.

Garden Mosaics : 19 Beautiful 
Projects to Make for Your Garden
by Emma Biggs and Tessa Hunkin has some gorgeous designs and projects to offer. The authors cover the direct and indirect methods of creating a design and explain surfaces and tesserae (the pieces of glass or tile used to create a mosaic design). While most of the projects employ the use of square and other simple shaped pieces, the designs are striking and professional looking.

Creative Alcohol Inks : a Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving Amazing Effects by Ashley Mahlberg showcases the fascinating effects that can be achieved with this medium whether the surface being painted is tile, glass ornaments, special papers, or wood panels.

If you’ve never explored alcohol inks, check out this book and try one of the projects. You’ll probably soon be buying more inks and supplies than you can ever use.

The Woven Home : Easy Frame 
Loom Projects to Spruce Up Your Living Space by Rainie Owen features large and small projects ranging from camera straps to string bags to wall hangings.

There’s a section on how to make your own loom, and the projects are all pleasing to look at; in fact the whole book is beautifully photographed. Weaving can be a peaceful meditative pastime for these stressful times.

50 Knitted Wraps and Shawls by Marisa Noldeke features a real spread of wonderful, warm looking yet not too bulky creations. Instructions and charts are provided for each project.
The author states there are projects that are suited to those learning to knit up to more complex designs, and there are illustrations of both knit and crochet techniques in the front.
Not being a knitter, all I can say is I want them all, and may beg my coworker who is a knit and crochet whiz to make me one!

Macramé : Techniques and 
Projects for the Compete 
Beginner by Tansy Wilson and Sian Hamilton
Macramé comes and goes in style, and clearly it’s back in again. This book is full of a variety of projects; one of the most simple yet beautiful is a dip-dyed wall hanging attached to a driftwood branch. The authors seem to excel at using color to add depth to their works.
Other macramé artists and their works are featured as well.
This is another craft that you can lose yourself in and free your mind.

Crocheted Dogs by Vanessa Mooncie features patterns for ten different dog breeds to choose from: Dachshund, Border Terrier, French Bulldog, Labrador, Chihuahua, Dalmation, Spaniel, Yorkie, German Shepherd, and Poodle.
Each set of instructions is thorough and fills several pages. Materials, and stitches are explained in the back of the book, as is stuffing and sewing. Check it out and try creating your own miniature dog!

If you are yearning to create but don’t know where to start, remember the library and all the books waiting patiently to be checked out. Give us a call at 425-257-8000 if you need more help finding books on any subject – we will be glad to pull some for you and place them on hold for curbside pickup.

Did You Know? (Owl and Snake Edition)

Eastern Screech Owls will keep blind snakes in their nests to ‘babysit’ while parents are away gathering food?

The owls in these nests with snakes seem to be healthier than owls from non-snake nests; it is believed this is because the snakes eat insects in the nest that may harm the babies. I found this information on page 88 of North American Owls by Paul A. Johnsgard. What a highly detailed book! It tells about the many different kinds of owls, their sizes, territories, nesting habits, where to find them and on and on.

There are two families of blind snakes: the Leptotyphlops with about 80 species that have teeth only on the lower jaw and have un-toothed maxillary bones fused solidly to their head, and the Typhlopidae with maxillary bones that are toothed and not fused to the skull with about 160 species. I doubt the owls care which of the families of snakes they have. Guide and Reference to the Snakes of Western North America by R. D. Bartlett and Patricia P. Bartlett has pictures of many of these blind snakes. They spend most of their time underground and look remarkably like worms.

This type of mutually beneficial interaction is called a symbiotic relationship. There are many types of these relationships. Mycorrhizal Planet by Michael Phillips tells how plants have photosynthate sugars to offer mycorrhizal fungi, which can’t access carbon. The fungi in turn assists the plant by facilitating the uptake of mineral nutrients and water.

Weird Friends: Unlikely Allies in the Animal Kingdom by Jose Aruego and Arianne Dewey is an excellent book for children explaining symbiosis and has many examples of different animals helping each other. Natural Attraction: a Field Guide to Friends, Frenemies, and Other Symbiotic Animal Relationships by Iris Gottlieb goes one step further and shows not only symbiosis, but parasitism and commensalism as well. This book has nice pictures of animal pairs along with explanations of who is gaining what in each relationship.

The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear is not about a symbiotic relationship, but true love! They sail away together and get married on a tropical beach. It was originally published in 1871. It is truly an example of how love stories never go out of style. We have many other book series with pairs of animals. A few of them are The Elephant and Piggy books, Hondo and Fabian and Frog and Toad series. While symbiosis is a mutual benefit, friendship is probably the best benefit anyone can ever have!