Desert Baths

October 3, 2012

Darcy Pattison is a guest blogger for today’s book, Desert Baths. Read on to to discover the fascinating way this fun nonfiction book about ways desert animals stay cleam came about.

Desert Baths started when I read an article about anting. Anting is when birds walk onto an ant mound and spread their wings, allowing the ants to crawl over their wings and clean off parasites. Alternately, some birds will pick up an ant in their beaks, crush the ant and then use the ant like a washcloth to brush parasites off their wings. Scientists believe the formic acid from the ant functions as an antiseptic.

After reading about this remarkable method of hygiene, I started searching for other ways that animals take a bath, however odd: spit, rolling in something like dirt or grass, and using dew or mud wallows. The Western Gecko, with its long tongue darting out to lick its eyeball, was just the sort of odd fact that turned up. Slowly, I started to focus on desert animals because the contrast between deserts with no water and the expectation of a water bath was funny.

One problem I faced in writing this was balancing the types of animals. Mammals and birds used a variety of ways to bathe, but reptiles, amphibians and arachnids rarely do what we would call a bath because their skin doesn’t need the same sort of regular hygiene. I wanted to include a tarantula in the book, but they just molt their exoskeleton—not exactly a bath. Instead, the illustrator Kathleen Rietz  kindly included this desert dweller in the illustrations. I squeezed in a diamondback rattler shedding his skin and a desert tortoise looking at a sky empty of cloud. But mostly, the animals had to be mammals and birds.

I also needed to find a variety of animals, from nocturnal to diurnal, or those awake at night and those awake during the day. That would allow me to use a 24-hour day to structure the story.

After I decided to balance nocturnal – diurnal and mammal/bird/reptile/amphibian, it was simply a matter of research, looking for the best possible combination of desert animals. I talked to scientists and studied scientific journals. Finally, I wrote, this time, paying attention to the sounds of the words, to the literary aspects of the story. I always work hard to create stories that are easy to read-aloud.

Desert Baths is a companion book to last year’s Prairie Storms, a book about how prairie animals survive a year of storms. Sylvan Dell Publishing has 50+ page teacher/parent guides available as an pdf download on its site for Desert Baths and Prairie Storms. Desert Baths is also available in Spanish, Las duchas en el desierto.

See all Darcy Pattison’s books here.

Activity 1

Do one of the activities in the book. Compare your answers with a friend.

Activity 2

Do the “Food For Thought” activity. Write a paragraph to demonstrate your knowledge.

National Science Standard: organisms and their environment

Book provided by author.

Desert Seasons

May 2, 2012

The Swimmer Writer is hosting Nonfiction Monday. See more good nonfiction there.

Desert Seasons

By Layne deMarin

Capstone (Wonder Readers)

ISBN #9781429686358

Grades PreK-2

“The Sonoran Desert is in the southwest corner of the United States. It stretches across parts of Arizona and California. It is a place of remarkable beauty.”

For a long time, I’ve thought about how seasons vary in different parts of the United States. I always felt disappointed as a child when school began in Texas, with the cheerful falling leaves on the bulletin boards, and it was still 95 degrees and green leaves covered our trees.

This book addresses the seasons in the desert, specifically the Sonoran Desert, a beautiful place. The information reveals the warm temperatures for most of the year and traces the seasonal changes that do take place in each season. It covers the ecology and life in those seasons in a controlled vocabulary and brings the cycle of the seasons full circle at the end. The book shows the relationships of plants, animals, and the weather, making it a great introduction to food chains and ecology of specific biomes.

The bright photos support the vocabulary and show the results of the changing seasons. The small size of the book makes it just right to attract young readers while allowing them to stretch their comprehension while reading. Back matter includes a glossary, a website for more information, and an index. It also suggests a comparison activity that would work well with any region of the country. Desert Seasons fits well within the Common Core Standards for reading information texts and specific use of photos and back matter, as well as reading with purpose and understanding.


Look up information about other deserts in the U.S. They include, besides the Sonoran, the Great Basin, Mohave, and Chihuahuan. Choose one of them and create a seasons chart that shows the plant and animal life and the weather for each season in that desert. Draw pictures to illustrate the life and weather for each season in that desert.

This Google site has pictures for images the readers can use to create their own.

See more about the Sonoran Desert here.

The Desert Museum has good desert information for many of them. (I love the Desert Museum!)

Read about more desert information here.

The Growing with Science blog has wonderful desert information with lots of pictures of plants and animals. Search it for specific information.

National Science Standard: interdependent relationships in ecosystems

Book provided by publisher


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