Toco Toucans

My Book of the Week

Toco Toucans by Anastasia Suen
A National Science Teacher’s Association Recommended book

Toco toucans have a surprising way of protecting themselves from predators. These birds have multicolored feathers and big, reddish-orange beaks that should make them easy to spot—or so you would think. The brilliant colors actually provide the perfect camouflage among the bright foliage of the tropical rain forest. The toucans can stay safe by hiding in plain sight!

  • Copyright: 2010
  • Dewey: 598
  • Guided Reading level: I
  • ATOS Level: 4
  • Lexile level: 900
  • Recovery Reading Level: 16
  • Hardcover and hosted e-book: 24 pages
  • Publisher: Bearport

Book Activities:

Print this simple crossword puzzle – or solve it online.

See and hear toucans in the wild and at the San Diego Zoo.

Hear more toucan sounds.

Use these simple science lessons.

Color the toucan from abcteach.


Picture Book of the Day

Hans My Hedgehog: A Tale from the Brothers Grimm
by Kate Coombs (Adapter), Brothers Grimm (Author), John Nickle (Illustrator)

Booktalk: This retelling of the classic Grimm’s tale, paired with lush, detailed illustrations, reminds us of the power of music, the importance of belonging, and the transformative effect of love.


The couple so longed for a child
that one day the man cried,
“I want a son even if he’s half a hedgehog!”

Th next spring the farmer’s wife gave birth
to a child who was exactly that–
a boy from the waist down
and a hedgehog from the waist up.

For the final stop on the Hans blog tour, Kate Coomb answers just 3 questions…

Q. When did you start writing?

A. I wrote plays and stories and poems as a child. I remember writing a Nancy Drew knockoff in about 4th grade for school (a long short story), and I recall being very proud of myself for writing a sonnet in middle school. In my grade school plays, I would cast myself as the Glorious Queen and my little sister as the Quiet Servant Girl. As a teen and in college, I mostly wrote poetry.

Q. Describe your writing process.

A. I brainstorm until I come up with an idea that appeals to me. If it’s for a picture book, I just start writing. This usually tells me whether the idea will work out. If it continues to seem promising, I revisit the story every day or so for weeks, playing with the manuscript and its possibilities. If the story works, I fine-tune it over and over. At times I step away for a week or two and come back to the story with fresh eyes.

For a middle grade novel, I brainstorm, as well, and pick an idea. Then I write several pages of story development notes, often questions and answers, e.g., “If they don’t catch the dragon, why not?” I also write random scenes that pop into my head–especially a scene that will come near the end of the book and show the direction I’ll be heading throughout. After a few days or weeks of this, I simply start writing with chapter one and go in order (unless a later scene makes itself known along the way, which does happen).

My best writing time is early in the morning, but I have been known to write on scraps of paper while in line at the post office. Sometimes I get an idea while I’m driving and pull over to write it down.

Q. Tell us about your latest book.

A. Retelling Hans My Hedgehog was actually illustrator John Nickle’s idea. It’s a less well-known Grimms’ fairy tale for a reason: the original is darker than some of the other tales and has a few narrative troubles. My goal, of course, was to keep the spirit and overall plot of the original while brightening the tale and smoothing out those bumps. Basically, Hans My Hedgehog is the story of a boy who is born a human from the waist down and a hedgehog from the waist up. He learns to play the fiddle and herd pigs, but the village boys and girls shun him. Riding on a rooster, Hans takes his pigs and goes off to live in the woods. There his music and magic grow, and Hans helps two kings in exchange for two promises. The question is, will a princess marry a youth who is half hedgehog?

Plus I have another book coming out in March, a collection of ocean poems called Water Sings Blue. This spring is a pretty happy time for me!

Thanks for stopping by, Kate! I look forward to seeing the new book in March…


Chapter Book of the Day

The Silence of Murder
by Dandi Daley Mackall (Author)
336 pages

Booktalk: Seventeen-year-old Hope Long’s life revolves around her brother Jeremy. So when Jeremy is accused of killing the town’s beloved baseball coach, Hope’s world begins to unravel. Everyone is convinced Jeremy did it, and since he hasn’t spoken a word in 9 years, he’s unable to defend himself. Their lawyer instructs Hope to convince the jury that Jeremy is insane, but all her life Hope has known that Jeremy’s just different than other people—better, even. As she works to prove his innocence—joined by her best friend T.J. and the sheriff’s son, Chase—Hope uncovers secrets about the murder, the townspeople, her family, and herself. She knows her brother isn’t the murderer. But as she comes closer to the truth, she’s terrified to find out who is.

Snippet: The first time Jeremy heard God sing, we were in the old Ford, rocking back and forth with the wind. Snow pounded at the window to get inside, where it wasn’t much better than out there. I guess he was nine. I was seven, but I’ve always felt like the older sister, even though Jeremy was bigger.

I snuggled closer under his arm while we waited for Rita. She made us call her ‘Rita’ and not ‘Mom’ or ‘Mommy’ or ‘Mother,’ and that was fine with Jeremy and me. Pretty much anything that was fine with Jeremy was fine with me.

We’d been in the backseat long enough for frost to make a curtain on the car windshield and for Rita’s half-drunk paper cup of coffee to ice some in its holder up front.

Jeremy had grown so still that I thought he might be asleep, or half frozen, either one being better than the teeth-chattering bone-chilling I had going on.

Then came the sound.

*This book is a Young Adult Edgar Nominee!

Literary Links

The February writing workshops begin online tomorrow!

Marc Aronson booktalks his forthcoming book at Nonfiction Book Blast.

Jane Yolen Announces A New Grant For Mid-List Authors (via @leewind)


Site Meter My NEW chapter book is Save the Best for Last, Abby (All-Star Cheerleaders)

Copyright © 2012 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

One thought on “Toco Toucans

  1. I know about Hans and look forward to it, but the book The Silence of Murder sounds like another good mystery for young students. The quote you shared is ‘chilling’ – really!


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