Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The 4-1-1 On The Muscles Book

It's been a while since my last blog about my books in THE SUM OF OUR PARTS series.  What better way to move back into sampling the series than to feature the third book in the series:  "Muscles Make Us Move".

From the title, if you guessed the book is about the muscles in the human body, you would be right.  In fact, there are over 630 muscles which keep things moving, from the biggest muscles that let us run, jump, throw and do other large physical movements, to the tiniest muscle that moves the smallest bone inside our ear.

Without any muscles
You'd be in a fix---
With just skin and bones,
You couldn't do tricks,

Like jumping high hurdles
Or swimming a race;
Or squinting both eyes
Or running in place.

Like the other books in the series, "Muscles Make Us Move" is written in rhyme.  At times coming up with the rhyming sets and word sequences to maintain the rhythm in the book were a bit of a challenge.  As with the other books in the series, working the anatomical terminology into the verses created some interesting and quirky sentence structure.  Here's a warm up to get you started using the muscle "tibialis anterior", a term which is not too hard and it has a decent rhythm when you say all by itself:

Tibialis anterior,
On the front by the shin,
Lifts the toes with each step
So you won't scrape your chin.

But let's face it, "sternocleidomastoid", which is a muscle up in your neck, isn't exactly your ordinary, every day noun.  And when a single word can have as many syllables as an entire line of verse, sometimes you just have to cross your fingers and jump into the meter with both feet.  Here's how working that muscle into the verse came out:

Turn your head to the left,
Check your neck on the right.
Is there in plain sight.

OK.  That should give you a flavor of the rhyming content.  As for the sequencing of the verses, the human body is very cooperative.  For both the Bones book and the Muscles book, I simply started with the feet and moved up.  There are a couple detours when you get into the upper body, especially with the arms and hands that are just sort of hanging out there.  But otherwise, the content sequencing wasn't much of a stretch---sorry, couldn't resist.... 

In addition to the rhyming verses, which were great fun to write, the book is packed with lots of interesting facts about the muscles and what they do for us.  Let's take a look at a few of what are called "FACTOIDS" in the book:
  • Believe it or not, the strongest muscles in the body is most often thought to be a muscle in the jaw by the name of the masseter, which is used for chewing.
  • The longest muscle in the body (the sartorius muscle) stretches from the top of the hip to below the knee....  The sartorius muscle is the one you use to help to cross the leg, just like a tailor would do when he is sewing.  So, it is also often referred to as the "tailor's muscle".
  • There are about 30 facial muscles in your face which allow you to make different expressions or "faces".  So, whenever you look surprised, happy, mad or sad, you are using your facial muscles.
This should give you an idea about what you can find in "Muscles Make Us Move".  It's written at a level that is appropriate for younger children just beginning to learn about the muscles and how they work.  Yet it can also work well as a learning tool for older middle school students digging into the technical Latin and Greek based terminology for the first time in 7th Grade science class. 

Sometimes memorizing unusual sounding terms and new words can be a bit of a drag.  Placing the terminology in the context of form and function using quirky verses, may help it stick.  To purchase the book or for additional information about it, check out the book page on the Guardian Angel Publishing website at . 

Now, for a little something extra, although this book doesn't happen to have a "Bonus Rhyme", here is a rhyme that could easily fit the "muscle" theme.  So, let's get busy.

The Exercise Of Exercise
By Bill Kirk

Exercise is easy
To write down on a chart.
The hard part is the doing;
The first step is to start.

Writing lists is helpful,
If that’s not all you do.
You’ve got to take that first step
And after that, take two.

Three steps, then another—
You’d better grab your cap.
Soon ten leads to a hundred;
Four hundred make a lap.

And each four laps repeated
Will make an even mile.
In twenty minutes, you’ll be done.
Do I detect a smile?

That’s exactly what I’m sayin’!
Now give yourself a shout!
You overcame the challenge.
That’s what it’s all about!

Friday, October 5, 2012

"The Skin We're In"---A Little Something Extra

In most of my anatomical picture books, I have included a Bonus Rhyme on the general topic covered by the book.  The latest (Book 6) in the series follows suit with a rhyme about melanin, which is the pigment in our skin.  Even more to the point, the rhyme is about those little dots of melanin some of us have on our skin that make us unique.  Isn't it rather curious and amazing just how inconsequential the visual differences are between our individual physical selves?  Vive la difference!

To learn more about what is the largest organ in our bodies, check out "The Skin We're In", Book 6 in THE SUM OF OUR PARTS series, available for purchase through the Guardian Angel Publishing website at .

Giggles Of Melanin
By Bill Kirk

I woke up this morning
And what did I see?
This weird, stretchy stuff,
Was all over me.

It was skin, skin, skin, skin,
From elbows to knees
Like the bark in a forest
Of small and tall trees.

My fingers were wrapped in it.
So were my toes.
And where did I get
All those dots on my nose?

Mom said, “They’re just freckles.
Don’t worry my son—
They’re giggles of melanin
That popped out for fun.”

There were spots on my arms,
My legs and my chin.
I pinched ‘em. I poked ‘em.
I started to grin—

Then, I started to giggle
And laugh right out loud.
I’m glad I’ve got freckles.
Why, I’m downright proud.

I guess mom was right.
‘Cause lots of my pals
Have lots of those spots,
Whether guys, whether gals.

Not everyone likes ‘em.
Some will and some won’t.
But it’s fine if you have ‘em,
And it’s fine if you don’t.

So, don’t go start teasin’,
Or causing kids pain,
Whether dotted or spotted
Or speckled or plain.

For they’ve just got freckles.
All a-glow in the sun—
Small giggles of melanin,
That popped out for fun.

Monday, October 1, 2012

"The Skin We're In" Released Nationally

"The Skin We're In"Written by Bill Kirk
with illustrations by Eugene Ruble

Sacramento author Bill Kirk's children's picture book, "THE SKIN WE'RE IN", was released nationally in September 2012. The book was published by Guardian Angel Publishing in Saint Louis, MO under their Health and Academic Wings imprint, which is ideally suited for children in "read alone" ages 8 - 13.

"THE SKIN WE'RE IN" will be released simultaneously in e-book and hardcopy print form. The e-books will be distributed by Follett, the largest distributor of ebooks to schools and libraries, as well as through the Guardian Angel Publishing website.

The print version will be available for sale from most online retailers, such as Amazon, Google,, Border Books and Barnes and Noble. It can also be ordered through your local brick and mortar bookstores, including Barnes and Noble and Borders Books.

Book's Blurb: "THE SKIN WE'RE IN" is the sixth book in a series of anatomical rhymes by children's author Bill Kirk. The series, which is called THE SUM OF OUR PARTS, covers several anatomical systems including the skeleton, muscles, skin, circulation, the nervous system and many others. The entire collection will be "kid-friendly" with just the right balance of technical content, humorous verses and anatomical factoids, brought to life through the playful illustrations of artist Eugene Ruble.

Just think of all the surprising things that our skin does for us. This book is a fun way to help you learn about the different tissues that make up your skin and how skin works to keep you healthy. Get ready to learn the real skinny about skin.

Author's Bio: Kirk's writing has been influenced by his travels on five continents and the every day inspiration from his grandchildren. In addition to stories written in rhyme, Kirk writes fiction and satire for local and national publications. Kirk also wrote news and features for two Sacramento newspapers in the mid-1990s, The Suttertown News and The Old City Guardian. His children's stories have appeared in Boys' Quest, Fun For Kidz, Grandparents, Wee Ones and Saplings magazines. His poems have also been published by North Dakota Horizons, Absolute Write, The Baseball Almanac and the University of South Carolina Gamecock Health newsletter.

Kirk says his goal for his children's stories is to challenge the imagination of his readers, young and old, by exploring everyday life, simply and profoundly, and having fun in the process. Bill and his wife, Rita (a clinical psychologist), married since 1969, have made Sacramento their home since 1985.

Title: The Skin We're In
Author: Bill Kirk (
Illustrator: Eugene Ruble
ISBN (e-Book) 13: 978-1-616332-97-6
ISBN (print) 13: 978-1-616332-96-9
Library of Congress Control Number: 2012948748
Publication Date: September 2012
Number of Pages: 24
Price: Ebook $5.00, CD-Rom $10.95 (+$5.95 s&h), Print: $10.95 (+$6.95 s&h)
Available at most online booksellers or from: Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.