INK authors and editors wishing you a joyous romp into a new season. We'll be posting our next set of Minutes on Saturday, April 7, 2018
When I take a big bite into a hamburger, I am taking part in a food chain. When energy moves from one living organism (hamburger) to the next (me), scientists call this path or chain the Food Chain. Every living thing needs food. Food provides energy for plants and animals to live.
Food chains begin with plants using sunlight, water and nutrients to make energy in a process called photosynthesis. There are lots of different kinds of food chains— some simple, some complex. An example of a simple food chain is when a rabbit eats grass and then a fox eats the rabbit. I think food chains are so interesting, I’ve written some poems about them.
A Shark is the Sun
Shark eats tuna,
Tuna eats mackerel,
Mackerel eats sardine,
Sardine eats zooplankton,
Zooplankton eats phytoplankton,
Phytoplankton eats sun.
So...shark eats sun.
In every food chain there are producers, consumers and decomposers. Plants make their own food so they are producers. Animals are consumers because they consume plants or animals. Decomposers have the final say as they break down and decompose plants or animals and release nutrients back to the earth. Animals can be herbivores (plant eater), carnivores (meat eater) or omnivores (plant and meat eater). What are you?
Why Can’t I Be On The Top?
I don’t like the bottom,
I want to be at the top.
I’m tired of being crushed and stomped
and chewed into slop.
Why can’t I be the tiger
with claws as sharp as shears,
With a roar as loud as thunder
To threaten trembling ears?
Who designed this food chain?
Is there a chance I can opt out?
At least I’m not a plankton
Floating all about.
I hope you are happy with your place in the food chain. If not, you might want to sing along with the Food Chain Blues.
Food Chain Blues
Mama said be careful,
It’s a risky world outside,
Dangers lurking everywhere,
Hardly a place to hide.
She said some of us get eaten,
And some of us survive.
Count yourself quite lucky,
If you make it out alive.
We’re stuck in this cruel cycle,
Nature’s red teeth and claws.
You wanna do your best,
To stay clear of someone’s jaws.
I got the food chain blues
I got the food chain blues
Someone’s gonna eat me.
I got the food chain blues!
For more of Steve's poems about creatures check out Ocean Soup. It even has its own web page here.
Steve Swinburne is a member of iNK's Authors on Call and is available for classroom programs through Field Trip Zoom, a terrific technology that requires only a computer, wifi, and a webcam. Click here to find out more.
MLA 8 Citation
Swinburne, Stephen. "Food Chain Poems." Nonfiction Minute, iNK Think Tank, 8
Mar. 2018, www.nonfictionminute.org/the-nonfiction-minute/Food-Chain-Poems.
Nonfiction is the new black
Though Dr. Seuss died in 1991, new works continue to be published. Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories, four brief stories in Redbook magazine during the 1950s, appeared last year. Last July, a picture book entitled What Pet Should I Get? was released. It features the brother and sister originally in One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, published in 1960. It’s likely that he wrote this new book at about the same time, then set it aside. It was recently unearthed when his widow cleared out his former office. Reportedly there will be at least two more books.
Dr. Seuss’s real name was Theodor Geisel. Born in 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts, he became a cartoonist after graduating from Dartmouth College. For years, most of his work involved illustrations for advertisements. Returning on an ocean liner from a European trip in 1936, Geisel was fascinated by the continual throbbing of the ship’s engines. That throbbing gave him the rhythm he needed for his first children’s book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. Marco’s father asks him what he saw one day. Marco only saw a horse and wagon. But he wants to impress his father, so he spins an elaborate story.
It was hardly an instant success. Twenty-seven publishers turned it down. In fact, Geisel was ready to give up.
A chance encounter changed everything. Walking home one day, “He bumped into a friend…who had just become an editor at a publishing house,” explains Guy McLain, director of the Springfield Museum. The publishing house was Vanguard Press, and it accepted the book. Geisel used the pen name of Dr. Seuss, his middle name.
The rest is history. As Dr. Seuss, he wrote more than 40 books, including Green Eggs and Ham, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Horton Hears a Who. He’s probably the best-known children’s writer ever, with several books made into popular films. His birthdate of March 2 is the annual National Read Across America Day.
If you’re ever in Springfield, check out the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden. His stepdaughter Lark Grey Dimond-Cates created four bronze sculpture groupings that include his most memorable creatures.
And all of this was the result of a long-ago decision that Dr. Seuss probably made without even thinking about. “If I had been going down the other side of Madison Avenue, I’d be in the dry-cleaning business today,” he said.
From humble beginnings, Charles Schulz developed a love of comics and a strong desire to draw cartoons. His only training in art came from a correspondence course he took shortly before World War II. When he was 28, in 1950, United Feature Syndicate picked up his comic strip with Charlie Brown and decided the strip would be called "Peanuts." Seven newspapers carried that first cartoon and Schulz was paid $90 for it. Over the next fifty-plus years, Charlie Brown and Snoopy became icons in the comic world. And when their author died on February 12, 2000, millions of fans mourned. Jim Whiting tells the story of a man nicknamed "Sparky" and the lovable characters he created. For more information, click here.
MLA 8 Citation
Whiting, Jim. "Dr. Seuss Lives!" Nonfiction Minute, iNK Think Tank, 2 Mar. 2018,
When she was a girl in Scotland, Frances or “Fanny” Wright fell in love with America, a new nation “consecrated to freedom.” On September 3, 1818, the 22-year-old writer set foot on that actual land of her dreams. She and her little sister Camilla, a pair of wealthy orphans, spent the next two years touring the young U.S. Young females did NOT go traveling without a man in those days, but Fanny believed that freedom should apply to women too!
Her 1821 book about her travels won her the friendship of another freedom fan, the Marquis de Lafayette, who’d helped free America from the British Empire. In 1824, the old Frenchman made sure Fanny met his friend, 81-year-old Thomas Jefferson and his friend, 73-year-old James Madison.
But wait – maybe you already see a fly in the soup. To Fanny, “slavery was revolting everywhere.” Slaves in the Land of Liberty was sickening! As much as she admired the two former presidents, she hated that they lived in slave-built mansions, waited on by people who had no choice but to do so. But slavery really did trouble them, too. Slavery trapped everyone in its evilness. With so much money tied up in costly human property, owners couldn’t afford to let them go. Could blacks support themselves, after lifetimes of being fed, housed, and denied education? Madison and Jefferson thought no; emancipation had to be gradual. Really, centuries of racial division had them and their countrymen thinking that the races could never live together. Surely blacks must go back to Africa! (In fact, many had already been sent there, to Monrovia, but that’s another story for another day.)
So Fanny planned farms where blacks could learn while they earned their freedom money. It was her way of freeing her beloved America from the curse of slavery. She published her idea and tried to make it work on Nashoba, her own farm in Tennessee, but her experiment failed. Then, in the late 1820s, she went around the eastern US, making speeches about all of her freethinking ideas and shocking the daylights out of people. A public-speaking woman was unheard of! Going around, talking about abolition, day care for working mothers, the rights of women and factory workers? SHOCKING! That’s the thing to know about Fanny Wright: She was one stubborn radical, WAY ahead of her time, imagining freedoms she never lived to see.
Cheryl Harness has written (and illustrated) short, spirited profiles of twenty women who impacted life in America by speaking out against injustice and fighting for social improvements. The book spans over two hundred years of American history and includes time lines for such important social movements as abolition, woman suffrage, labor, and civil rights. Readers inspired by these fiery women can use the civil action tips and resources in the back of the book to do some of their own rabble-rousing. For more information, click here.
MLA 8 Citation
Harness, Cheryl. "Shocking Fanny Wright." Nonfiction Minute, iNK Think Tank, 1
Mar. 2018, www.nonfictionminute.org/the-nonfiction-minute/