Selected Works

Middle Grade Fiction
Jack + parents + new get-rich-quick scheme = Jack homesteading on a deserted Caribbean island.
Jack + parents + they talked him into another scheme = Jack alone in the Masai Mara of Kenya.
Jack + parents + he fell for it again! = Jack must find his way out of a remote region of Nepal.

Quick Links

Fun Links and Things to Know

From The Alarming Career of Sir Richard Blackstone:

One of the mysteries that Henry must unravel is the nature of the powder from the Lupuna Tree. But does such a tree exist and does it have magical powers? Find out for yourself here! The legend of the lupuna tree

Exactly how big can a tarantula get? Big enough to eat a bird, unfortunately. Check out this beauty

Why is the golden poison dart frog so brightly colored? To warn off predators, which I find very polite. Instead of going ahead and killing everything in sight, it gives passerby the chance to get away. PS - if you are a mouse passing by, you should keep in mind that this frog can kill you and another 9999 mice at the same time.

There are not many plants that can be classified as creepy. However, the sundew can. After it traps an insect, it spends about fifteen minutes killing it. That is just barbaric.

Sir Richard invented the parchment clip, but who invented the paper clip? Well, a lot of people in different countries. In the late 1800's there were people all over the place inventing different types, as if suddenly everybody woke up and shouted, "We have GOT to figure out how to attach papers together!"


From Jack the Castaway:

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would be the three things you would want with you and why? My picks: 1. The Harry Potter Series. (Those are going to be some long days with no cable TV) 2. A genie in a bottle with three wishes. (Obviously, my first wish would be for infinity wishes.) 3. A water supply in case the genie tricks me and I end up living there for years with no wishes.

Another Question:
What was the one thing Jack didn't have that would have solved all his problems? I know, do you? See the answer below.

Interesting things to be seen near coral reefs:

Whale Shark Some excellent shots of whale sharks in this YouTube video – you can see how small a diver looks next to them and see inside their mammoth mouths!

Octopus – I was once diving in a shallow channel and came upon a virtual graveyard of overturned conch shells. There were a couple of conchs still alive, desperately trying to make their way through. (A conch's idea of desperate is to make a little hop with their foot) Then I spotted the mass murderer – an octopus that was picking them off as they went by. They are SO clever.

Snapping shrimp This video explains why the snapping shrimp’s ‘snap’ is so loud. Which I can confirm that it is. But really, all you need to know is that if it snaps on your finger it really hurts and there is a small amount of blood that looks really impressive, and green, underwater.

Parrotfish Is it a boy? A girl? A girl changing into a boy? The parrotfish gets to decide. If you listen, you can hear them chomping on coral.


Puffer fish Clever, clever evolution. Live in the ocean, but can’t swim very well? No problem! Just incorporate the ability to inflate. And also be poisonous. It’s best that divers don’t try to scare a puffer into inflating – it takes a lot of energy. Sort of like how you’d feel if one of your siblings decided to hide in your closet in the middle of the night and make scratching noises.


Nudi branch There are some very small creatures divers get VERY excited about. This is one of them.

Spotted Drum Spotted Drums grow into their dorsal fin - check out this photo of an adult and the inset picture of a juvenile.

Barracuda Many a diver and snorkeler have been followed by a barracuda. In general, when you are being followed by a fish that appears to have fangs, it is unsettling. However, they keep their distance and are no cause for alarm. (But really, it would be best not to wear dangling silver jewelry that could look like a small fish – every barracuda makes mistakes here and there. Who doesn't?)

Squid The ballet dancers of the ocean.

Blue Tang They are a member of the Surgeon Fish family for a reason. That yellow mark near their tail fin is actually a small knife-like weapon that extends to fend off predators. Here’s a picture of a school of tang that can be downloaded as wallpaper.

Garden Eel You need sharp eyes to spot garden eels. These shy little creatures pull into the sand when you get too close.

Moray Eel There’s the moray, peeking out of its hidey-hole. And you think, “He’s funny looking. Why don’t I wave my fingers in front of its face.” And he thinks, “Is it a hot dog? Fingers? I don’t know, but I’ll find out!” So…don’t do that. (They have pretty bad eyesight and bacteria-laden teeth.)

Hawksbill Turtle On a night dive, I was gliding up over some coral when a turtle was doing the exact same from the other direction. We came nose to beak and we were both pretty freaked out. I imagine he’s forgotten all about it by now…

Eagle Ray I have often seen them gliding along the reef wall in pairs and once saw one jump over the bow of my boat.

Brain Coral A great close-up of one of my favorite corals.

Help the Reef! How you can help save the coral reefs:

Grand Cayman Live webcam on Grand Cayman:

What Jack didn't have that would have solved all his problems - a marine radio! It was very irresponsible for Richard and Claire Berenson to take their son out on a boat with no communication system. (Never mind have him drive it) But, it's the Berensons - that's how they roll.

From Jack and the Wildlife:

Interesting things to know about Kenya:

Kenya is home to the Maasai - a regal-looking and respected people known for its fierce warriors.

The Masai Mara is the site of the great migration. Millions of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle push forward on a never-ending quest for food and water. Predators trot close behind them, on a never-ending quest to kill the wildebeest, zebra and gazelle.

People going on safari want to see The Big Five - Elephant, Buffalo, Rhinoceros, Lion and Leopard.

Elephant - elephants are one of those things in life that you have to see in person to believe. Male elephants go into periods of musth, which make them extremely dangerous. Clues that an elephant is in musth include a black secretion running down the sides of its face and it is trying to kill you.

Buffalo - A bad attitude paired with thousands of pounds of muscle, topped off with horns, is generally known as "a catastrophe."

Rhinoceros - These animals look prehistoric, like something you would see in a museum, not running by you in the wilderness. If being chased by a rhinoceros, leap into a body of water. Always keeping in mind that if the water is filled with crocodiles, chances of survival plummet accordingly.

Lion - These big cats hunt in prides, so a person stalked by a lion should wonder where the rest of the lions are hiding. The person should also wonder how he or she came to be walking around alone in lion country.

Leopard. A person stalked by a leopard should avoid climbing a tree. As a leopard will prefer to drag its kill up a tree, it would be too ironic if the person has already done half the work.

So that's a lot to see on safari, but it's just the beginning. There are a lot of other things to see, or hope not to see, depending on your viewpoint.

The honey badger is unafraid of anybody of any size at any time for any reason. It will happily launch itself into a hive of bees or attack venomous snakes. A person encountering an incensed honey badger should preferably be in a vehicle, driving away.

Giraffe seem harmless enough, but don't get on their nerves - their kick is powerful and their legs are long.

Hippopotamus - A person should not be fooled by this animal’s docile appearance. Hippos will happily drown you, crush you, or bite you in half. Or in the alternative, bite you in half while crushing and drowning you. If being eyed by a hippo, climb a tree and hope there is not a leopard in it.

Hyenas work in packs to hunt down prey with powerful jaws. Most disturbing, they laugh about it later.

Cheetahs - these sleek animals are not generally associated with attacks on humans. However, since cheetahs can run seventy miles an hour, if they decided to try it, it would happen fast.

The black mamba can grow to eight feet in length. This snake carries enough venom to kill twelve people at the same time. Or one unlucky person twelve times.

Crocodiles have survived for millions of years by keeping it simple. Grab, roll, drown. No fancy moves.

The assasin bug covers itself with the dead body of the last thing it killed as a diabolical disguise to ambush more victims.

Siafu ants travel in hordes of millions. A person swarmed by millions of siafu ants will probably die by choking on them. Or die of horror.

I once went by myself on a walking safari (actually I had a bike, but there was too much sand for it to be much good) in a small game park in northern Kenya. This seemed like a fine idea until I got turned around and couldn't find the guard gate out of the place. Then a jeep swept by me, a fellow in the back shouting, "Have you seen the leopard?" Anyway, nothing like counting on dumb luck and a lazy leopard to keep you alive.

From Jack at the Helm:

Poor Jack, he doesn't understand backpackers at all! Do you?
Ever have the idea that it would be fun to drop over the side of the world for awhile? It may seem like hardly anybody does this, but it's not true! Check out the Lonely Planet traveling forum to see what backpackers are up to. For example, Genoveses is a guy from Spain who is looking for somebody to drive around Namibia with him.

What was that thing Jack and Harry saw in the forest? A Yeti?
Of course Harry would think it was a Yeti, as he firmly believes they exist. But no, what they saw was a Melursus ursinus, aka sloth bear. These bears have shaggy coats, a long snout and long curved claws. They make a lot of noise when they are nosing around for insects and can be heard over three hundred feet away. Oh, and Wikipedia notes that: "Captain Williamson in his Oriental Field Sports wrote of how sloth bears rarely killed their human victims outright, but would suck and chew on their limbs till they were reduced to bloody pulps." So, that's nice!

When Jack gets stuck on the other side of the river with only a rope to help him across, what knot does he tie to keep himself over the water, instead of in it?
The bowline. Favorite of sailors and taught to Jack by Zack's dad, Jack has a dim memory of how it goes. Most kids are taught the rabbit story to remember how to tie a bowline - the rabbit comes up the hole and around the tree and back down the hole. You, however, can learn how to tie a bowline through this animated rope.

Jack and Harry decide to raft on the river. What could go wrong? Right?
Actually, a lot could go wrong, as they discovered. Rapids are unpredictable and greatly depend on the season. When learning to raft on whitewater, it is essential to go with a person who can teach you how to do it. The river is calm one minute, then an explosion of waves the next. Basically, there are a lot of ways to drown.

Was it realistic that Jack's bus stopped and threw everybody off because of a strike that closed all the roads?
Yes, it was. Very realistic. Strikes are almost an art form in Nepal. However, should you find yourself in Nepal during a strike, here's a handy website to help you cope. (Do not, under any circumstances, buy a raft from Mr. Shrestha.)

Crocodiles in Nepal
There is more than one type of crocodile in Nepal. There's the not so scary-looking Gharial, with it's long and thin snout. And then there's the Mugger, your more scary option.

After Jack and Harry escaped from the crocodiles, Jack worried about what else was under the water, especially piranhas.
Silly Jack! He should have been worried about a man-eating catfish called the Goonch.

And finally, when traveling it is essential to understand the candy situation.
A person would not want to wander around a foreign country without knowing what sugar is available. In Nepal, your best bet is Titaura. Just be careful not to accidently buy the spicy ones!