Tag Archives: South Carolina

The Library Lizard

1 Jul

The Library Lizard

Billy emptied the scoop of rabbit food into the library bunny’s dish. Velvet lived in the reading garden outside, but sometimes got to hop around the Media Center on special occasions. Alana wasn’t sure why Billy volunteered to help in the Media Center. All he ever wanted to do was go on the computer, and she wasn’t sure he’d ever read a book. Alana loved to read and knew the Dewey Decimal System better than Ms. Hudson, the teacher-librarian. Claire, helper number three, was late again. She was probably in the bathroom putting on lip gloss. Claire spent most of her time in the library talking with her friends and reading magazines. Alana, Billy and Claire were Lincoln Intermediate School’s library helpers.

Alana was looking at the library fish, Thesaurus, when she saw something wiggling along the floorboards behind the aquarium.

“Billy, what’s that?” she said pointing to the brownish, blackish, smallish critter.

She and Billy rushed over, crouching on the floor as the panicked creature tried to climb up the wall, helplessly sliding back to the floor every time.

“It’s a lizard,” Billy exclaimed.

“No, it’s a gecko,” said Alana.

Claire came around the corner, “What is that?”

“We don’t know,” they both said.

Ms. Hudson followed close behind Claire. “What don’t you know?” she asked.

“We don’t know what this is,” Alana said pointing to the creature.

Ms. Hudson looked at the trio, and lizard, “Well, how are you going to find out?”

The ABC team all began talking at once.

“I’ll ask my Uncle Ed. He works for the Department of Natural Resources,” said Alana.

“I think we should look on the Internet,” said Billy.

Claire rolled her eyes. “Billy you want to do everything on the computer. Why don’t we look in a book? We’re in the library….duh.”

All three looked back at Ms. Hudson to see who was right. She was the librarian after all. Surely she knew the best way to find out about the critter.

Ms. Hudson replied, “Those all sound like great ideas, but maybe we need to catch the little guy and then we can get a good look at him.”

Claire squealed while Billy and Alana picked up the critter using a piece of notebook paper and carefully placed it in a glass jar on Ms. Hudson’s desk.

“We’ve got it Claire…girls,” Billy groaned, rolling his eyes.

“I’ll put some holes in the lid so he can breathe, but I don’t have the foggiest idea what this little guy or girl eats or needs to live,” said Ms. Hudson.

“We’ll find out,” the ABC team answered in unison.

“What do we need to know?” asked Claire.

“Let’s come up with a plan,” said Billy.

The ABC team sat around the table to work on their plan while Ms. Hudson put the creature under the document camera so everyone could see him enlarged on the big screen.

“OK, Claire, you have a good handwriting. Will you be our note taker? What do we need to know?” asked Billy.

“Well, first of all, we need to know what it is,” said Alana.

Claire wrote in big letters at the top of the page, What is it?

“Then, we need to find out what it eats. Is it poisonous? How big will it get?”  [add illustration – student note]

Ms. Hudson called from her desk, “What kind of habitat does it need? If this is going to be a proper zoobrary, I need a good place for him to live.”

Now they had the questions, but what next? The trio agreed to look in different places and see what they found. Now their plan included what they needed to find out and where they would begin looking. Brrring.  Brrring. The bell rang and they packed up for their next class.

“Let’s meet back here during recess and get to work. We need answers fast if we’re going to keep this little guy in our library,” said Claire.

After gobbling her lunch, Alana logged into her e-mail account. Ms. Hudson sent her a digital photograph of the critter. Yes! She could send a copy to her uncle.

Billy began surfing the Internet. Since he didn’t know what the critter was called, he googled “lizard.” 3, 987,000 hits! WOW! Then he tried, “gecko.” 3,427,000 hits. Oh my. He began looking at images, and found three different gecko species that looked a lot like the critter they found. He narrowed it down to a Leopard Gecko, a Common Gecko and a Mediterranean House Gecko. He clicked on the links and found care information. All of the geckos needed a warm environment, water and tiny insects to eat.

Billy jumped up.  “I’m going outside. Tell Ms. Hudson I’ll be back with lunch.”

“Didn’t he just eat,” Alana thought as she typed her e-mail.

Dear Uncle Ed,

I have a mystery I need your help with. Attached is a photograph of a lizard we found in our library. My librarian says we can keep it if we can figure out what it is and how to take care of it. Can you help?

Your favorite niece,


(P.S. Ms. Hudson says you are an expert – don’t let me down )

Claire went to the online card catalog. She wrote the call numbers for three books in the Media Center. She crossed out Amazing Lizards though; it was checked out. That left two other books, and Alana helped her find them. They were looking through the books when Billy came back into the Media Center with a paper cup.

[add illustration – call numbers on scrap paper] – Lizard and Gecko books: 639.395  Bjo   Lizards,  597.95    Smi     Amazing Lizards, 597.95 Vos     The Leopard Gecko Manual

“I still don’t know what it is, but I narrowed the search down to three geckos. All of them eat small insects so I caught these sand gnats outside,” said Billy as he opened the jar and tapped the sides. A half-dozen tiny gnats fell to the bottom of the jar. One landed right on the gecko’s nose, and a bumpy, pink tongue snapped out and back in; the gnat was gone.

“Gross,” said Claire.

“Cool,” said Alana, “that was so fast.”

The bell rang and the three merged into the river of other 5th graders in the hall. At least the mystery lizard had lunch. They’d see if Alana’s uncle had replied to their e-mail and Claire had the books she needed too. They would have their answers today – or so they hoped.

Ms. Hudson was closing the jar lid when the ABC team rushed through the library doors again. They flung their gigantic backpacks onto the floor by the round table.

“Is the little guy alright?” Alana asked.

“Yes, honey. I just put this bottle cap full of water in so he could get a drink. I’m afraid he’d drown if I give him a big dish.”

The two looked as the lizard as it crept to the water and put its face near the surface.

“Great idea, Ms. Hudson. We gave it the gnats at lunch, but I forgot about water. Everything needs water — duh,” said Billy.

“The gnats were a great idea. Looks like you have one question checked off of your list,” Ms. Hudson motioned to Claire’s list, “Now what?”

Alana called from the computer. “Yes! Uncle Ed replied to my email. I hope we have an answer to our BIG question very soon.”

“And I have narrowed it down to the Mediterranean House Gecko or Leopard Gecko using the books I got earlier,” said Claire.

“I think it’s a common gecko. It must have been a pet that got out,” said Billy, looking at the web pages he’d printed. “Once again, the Internet is the best source of information.”

Just then, Alana exclaimed, “Wow,” as she reread Uncle Ed’s reply. “Well as usual, Billy took the fast way and he was wrong! Uncle Ed says it is a Mediterranean House Gecko, a non-native species that hitches a ride on ships coming from the Mediterranean Sea.”

Ms. Hudson brought the globe over to the team. “That is on the other side of the world. That’s amazing.”

Claire looked at her Lizards book. “It says here their range is the countries around the Mediterranean Sea and the east coast of the United States and Texas. These little guys have sure gotten all over the place. They’re spreading all over the coast of the United States.”

The ABC team and Ms. Hudson all leaned their chairs back and looked at their. . . gecko. “WOW,” they all thought. Finally, Ms. Hudson exclaimed, “Mystery solved team! Now what?”

“Uncle Ed says they are not poisonous and they are not invasive – that means bad for other local species like anoles,” said Alana. “He’ll only be 3 inches long when he is grown.”

“Great, so we can keep him, I think, if we can take care of him,” said Ms. Hudson.

“Uncle Ed didn’t tell me about that. Sorry guys.” said Alana.

“That’s okay, I’ve got that. Every gecko website I found said they need a heat source and a temperature of about 85 degrees, but some need it a little cooler at night,” said Billy.

Claire nodded her head in agreement, “That is what I found too, and I also found that you can buy flightless gnats for them to eat. That way the library doesn’t fill up with flying gnats.”

Ms. Hudson nodded her head to that. She did not want to add gnats to her zoobrary. “Claire, why don’t you update your question list? Your team has a lot of good information, but we have to organize this into a shopping list before I leave here today. I don’t think an old pickle jar next to a lamp is the best habitat. I’d like to get his home set up.” [add illustration – student notes, with answers added]

Billy said, “I thought that the gecko smelled like pickles. I was kind of worried. I’m glad it was the jar.” Claire started giggling while writing down the answers to the questions.  Alana copied the drawing of a terrarium from Billy’s printouts.

[Illustration: drawing/diagram – terrarium with reptile sand or Calcisand (fine), house with small spaces for hiding in, 10 gallon aquarium, vented mesh lid, thermometer on side.]

“This should help with the shopping,” Claire passed the notes to Ms. Hudson and they all walked outside together. Billy was starting to like the way Library Lizard sounded, but he couldn’t think of a good name for a Gecko.

Ms. Hudson returned to school the next day with the new terrarium, lamp, a stacked rock house and best of all, a can of flightless gnats. The ABC team arrived right after her and helped set up the terrarium. Claire looked at the shopping list and drawing they’d made and began checking off the list: warming rock, check; hiding space, check; disgusting, flightless gnats, check.

Great, this Library Li… Gecko was going to have a great place to live, but Claire still wanted to call it Library Lizard. She’d have to start thinking of a good name for it.

Ms. Hudson began to tell them about a, “new, exciting opportunity.” Billy eyed her suspiciously; new opportunity usually meant work. But when Mrs. Hudson explained about the article for the school paper, he and Claire were excited.

Claire exclaimed, “We have all of the notes. We just need to put it together and then we’ll have a happy ending to our story.”

They agreed they would come up with a name, and divided the work for the article. Claire helped organize the article for the paper using the printouts, books, the e-mail from Uncle Ed and their notes. She also interviewed Ms. Hudson. “You followed the four steps we’ve studied all year long. You planned (writing your questions), acted (found the information from 3 places, an expert, the Internet and books), organized (made our shopping list and diagrams), and reviewed (writing the article and setting up the terrarium). You followed the research steps I’ve taught you.”

“We did?” the team said in unison.

“You sure did. I couldn’t have planned a better research project if I tried. I wish I could have a mystery lizard every week,” Ms. Hudson said. “Now what did you decide for a name.”

Billy, Claire and Alana looked at each other, hoping someone had an idea. They all admitted they couldn’t think of anything that worked. They looked at the gecko as his tongue flicked out at the tiny gnat crawling in front of him.

The next week, the ABC team came to the media center to find a copy of the school paper. A picture of the gecko was on the cover, with small pictures of each of them. The headline and article made them all laugh, and they were glad to see the Library Lizard’s new name. [Insert Illustration – student newspaper with article below]

Can you solve the mystery of the Library Lizard?

Three fifth-grade students, Alana, Billy and Claire discovered an unknown type of lizard in the Media Center last week. In honor of their discovery, Ms. Hudson has named the lizard ABC, but she needs your help to figure out what it is? Do you know? If you’d like to help solve the mystery, see Ms. Hudson after lunch today. Ms. Hudson says she needs a really good team of students to work on this special project. “If this is going to be a proper zoobrary, I need help finding out about the Library Lizard, I mean ABC.”

As Billy leaned back in his chair reading the other articles in the school paper, three fourth-graders tiptoed into the media center holding the school paper and whispering to one another. They zoomed over to the terrarium, pointing at ABC in his new terrarium. Ms. Hudson came out of her office and asked if she could help them.

“Yes,” Jake, the red-haired boy said, “we want to help you with your lizard.”

“Great,” replied Ms. Hudson. “How do you think we should start?”

The fourth-graders all began talking at once, interrupted by the Brrring, Brrring of the bell. As they grabbed their backpacks to go, Ms. Hudson called out to them, “Come back tomorrow so you can help me with our mystery.” Billy, Claire and Alana stared at Ms. Hudson as she pushed her glasses back up her nose, winking just a little to them.

“I wonder how many mystery lizards Ms. Hudson has found in our school, before we found this one? I think there may be many more in the future,” Claire whispered as Billy and Alana nodded their heads.


My Two Grandmas

27 Dec

I live in South Carolina, just like my daddy did when he was growing up. My mama lived in New York City, but she had a cousin in South Carolina she used to visit in the summers. That is how she met my daddy. They got married and moved to South Carolina, and now we all live in the town where my daddy grew up. My mom’s mom is Grandma Good, and my daddy’s mom is Grandma Peggy.

Grandma Peggy lives a mile away from me in a brick house. The house has a long front porch with two porch swings and rose bushes growing at the end of the porch. My daddy helped build the brick house, and he told me about living in it before the carpet was down or the walls were finished. On cold nights, the whole family slept around a kerosene heater in the living room.

Grandma Good lives in an apartment in New York City. It has an elevator and little mailboxes downstairs. The mailman puts every person’s mail in their tiny boxes, and my grandmother looks in her box every day to check her mail. My mama lived in the same apartment when she was growing up. She shared a room with her sister and they would walk on the sidewalk to the park every day to “get some air.”

Grandma Peggy makes delicious spaghetti casserole in a giant silver pot with a lid. I always hope we’ll eat with her when I smell spaghetti casserole. She also makes coconut cake, but I am only allowed to get the cookies out of the kids’ cookie jar, and I can’t get coconut cake unless Grandma offers me a piece. Staring at the cake with “cow eyes” is also a no-no.

Grandma Good doesn’t cook a lot in her kitchen. But she always has a coffee cake in a white box that she shares with us. I love coffee cake. I don’t know if Grandma Peggy knows that you can buy coffee cake. She makes really good cakes, but she would like the coffee cake in the white box. It doesn’t taste like coffee at all. Coffee is gross, but coffee cake is yummy.

Sometimes I spend the night with my Grandma Peggy, like when my parents want to go to a grown-up party with no kids (yuck) or when my mom has a baby. Grandma always makes sure I get a bath and she washes my hair. She scrubs it with her fingernails and it feels good. I guess she is getting my head ready for the ponytails. She pulls them so tight; I can’t close my eyes all the way. No matter how short my mama cuts my hair, like when my baby sister got gum in it that time, Grandma Peggy can always pull it into ponytails.

This Christmas, we stayed at my Grandma Good’s apartment. My family saw the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. We got all dressed up, and my brother wore a tie.  We saw a giant Christmas tree at Rockafeller Center and rode in a taxi cab back to Grandma’s apartment. I fell asleep on my dad’s lap, and he carried me in the elevator and tucked me in on the sofa bed. I was so tired, but I couldn’t fall back to sleep. I could hear cars and people on the street. I could even hear the traffic light; I didn’t know a traffic light makes noise, but it click click clicks a lot.

Grandma Peggy gives us jars of pear preserves she makes from the pears in her backyard. I get to help her pick the pears because I am not scared of the yellow jackets that buzz around the tree when the pears are ripe. Pear preserves taste great on Grandma Peggy’s homemade biscuits. I like eating the preserves best at her house because of her biscuits. My mom’s biscuits aren’t the same as Grandma’s.

When we catch roly polies and lightning bugs in Grandma Peggy’s yard, we can’t use any of the jars she keeps in the closet (and she has about a million of them). She saves them so she’ll have enough for making preserves.

Grandma Good visits us sometimes and we can’t wait until she finally opens her suitcase. She brings my brother, sister and I special presents from her travels. She gave me a stool once that had a leather top and camels painted on it. I love that stool. Mama says I have to be very careful with it because it is from Egypt. Grandma gave my brother a hat from Vietnam.

Sometimes Grandma Peggy calls me by my whole name in a very loud, angry voice, “Kathleen Elizabeth, you know not to get into my nail polish.” Sometimes she calls me Booger too. At the Piggly Wiggly one time, my grandma Peggy gave me a bag of M&Ms to eat in the shopping cart so I wouldn’t “run around like I have no sense.” When we were in line, she looked at me and said, “I can’t take you anywhere you little booger.” I guess I got some chocolate on my nose.

Grandma Good calls me Pumpkin. When I was only four, we visited Grandma and went to Central Park. We fed the pigeons that were everywhere. Grandma says I chased them around and said, “here, chicken, chicken, chicken,” like I’ve heard my Daddy say to our chickens. I don’t remember that, but I remember Grandma saying, “Those are pigeons, Pumpkin.” Grandma Good says I am her special little Southern pumpkin.

My mom says Pumpkin and Booger mean the same thing. I don’t know about that.

My grandmas have the same birthday. This year, my Grandma Good is visiting and we’re going to the beach where we rent a beach house for a week every year. We are having a grandma birthday party at the beach house, and Grandma Peggy is going to come spend the night for her birthday.

This morning, we all went to the beach. Grandma Good loves to go to the ocean and she wears her swimming cap to protect her hairdo. It is white with pink, orange and blue flowers that stand out all over it. No one else wears a swimming cap, so I can always see her flowers bouncing when she goes for a swim.

Grandma Good was walking in from her swim when a gigantic wave knocked her down. I saw the swimming cap go sideways and Grandma tumbled over. Mama helped her up, but Grandma said she thought she broke something, so she hobbled back to the beach house. I was worried about Grandma. She had her foot up on a chair with ice on it and she was very quiet.

That’s when we heard the screen door smack closed and I smelled spaghetti casserole. Grandma Peggy was here! She put the casserole on the counter and looked at Grandma’s foot. Before we even asked, Grandma pulled her phone out of her gigantic purse and I heard her talking, “Billy, this is Peggy. I’m right down the street from you and my friend Emma hurt her foot at the beach. Would you be a peach and come take a look at it. I’ve brought your favorite coconut cake.” Mama and Grandma Good looked at each other as Grandma Peggy hung up the phone. “Dr. Massey is on his way over. He’s a good doctor, so he’ll fix you up Emma.”

I saw my Mama looking around at the sandy floor, the wet towels draped over every chair and the cards and half-done puzzle on the coffee table. “A doctor is coming here. Everyone, we need to straighten up.” Mama was a cleaning tornado, and I tried to stay out of the way, but she threw towels at me and told me to put them in the laundry room. Soon, we heard a knock at the door, and Dr. Massey looked at Grandma Good’s foot. He felt it and moved it around and then wrapped it in a brown bandage. “It’s just a sprain,” but you’ll need to skip the beach for a few days Mrs. Good.” He gave Grandma Good some medicine, and he had some coconut cake with us before dinner!

We had a special birthday breakfast the next morning. I made my grandmas a picture frame with seashells from the beach. In one frame I placed a picture of me and Grandma Peggy picking pears out of her tree. The other picture was of me and Grandma Good standing in front of the tree at Rockefeller Center. They both said they loved the pictures and cried a little. They both cry a little sometimes when they are really happy. On the back of Grandma Peggy’s picture, I wrote, “Happy Birthday. Love, Booger.”  I wrote, “Happy Birthday. Love, Pumpkin” on Grandma Good’s.

We also had coffee cake for breakfast; Grandma Good had the coffee cake in her suitcase. Grandma Peggy brought biscuits and preserves.  I loved the biscuits and the coffee cake. Grandma Good told Grandma Peggy, “These biscuits are just like Mama’s. They melt in your mouth.” Grandma Peggy also loved the coffee cake in the white box and asked Grandma Good if she thought she could buy them in South Carolina.

On Saturday, Grandma Peggy and Grandma Good stayed at the beach house while all of the kids went to the beach. Grandma Peggy painted Grandma Good’s finger nails and had a “girls’ morning.”  I heard them both calling to me from the porch when I walked to the beach: “Be careful in the waves, Pumpkin,” and “Don’t get too sunburnt, Booger.” I hope one day I’ll have a grand-daughter. I wonder if I’ll call her Pumpkin or Booger.