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Teachers & Homeschoolers

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The Pack, The Dare & The Draugar is a work of fiction.

However, it’s sprinkled throughout with bits of biology, ecological science, and California history facts. If you’d like to discuss some of the biology and history mentioned in the story, here are some resources:


California Coastal Redwoods

The Save the Redwoods League, based in San Francisco, has a wonderful website full of facts about California's coastal and mountain redwood forests and their ecosystems. Their Redwoods Forest Facts page offers plenty of photos and kid-friendly descriptions of the animals, birds and plants you'll find in the redwoods.

Their site also offers plenty of redwoods resource materials for teachers, as well as a section for students that includes a booklist, book videos, coloring and creativity printouts for kids, games, and more.

You can also find  a list of state parks and other locations great for field trips.

Plus, the Save the Redwoods YouTube Channel is full of great videos, some of them interviews with kids.


I could spend hours on their website. So far, I have been unable to find any evidence that the League operates any summer camps that are actually screening tools designed to find apprentices for a secret magical order dedicated to protecting forests and the magic places of the world -- but you can bet I'll keep looking for it.

Talking Trees

Fascinating thing: Forest trees actually do communicate. When forests are dense enough, their trees are connected by the roots. A large, tangled web of roots that can reach across meadows -- as long as the meadows don't get to hot and there's plenty of water to draw on. In dense, healthy forests, microscopic strands of tree root fiber can connect to mushroom fungus root strands, which then connect to other trees, forming a sort of living tree internet.


The trees can transfer nutrients along the network of microscopic fibers to aid other trees. There is some evidence that trees under attack by beetles or other pest threats emit high-frequency sound waves (screams?) possibly to alert other trees of the threat. You can read all about it in this great book: The Hidden Life of Trees. The vocabulary and explanations are simple; if your students can read newspapers they can read this book.


Genetic Memory Theory

It really is a theory.
Scientific American has a great blog on it. The article focuses on medical cases of people who suffered brain trauma and woke with abilities they didn't have before -- like playing music at a symphony level or being fluent in a language that they never studied. The author raised the possibility of genetic memory as the cause.

 UC Santa Cruz researchers did a study showing that environmental stress can cause changes in the way DNA is packaged inside cells, and those packaging changes can be passed along to future generations. That's called epigenic memoryUniversity of Michigan researchers found that Tibetan chickens brought back to their ancestral place of origin in China showed interesting changes in DNA packaging and lots of other areas. One allowed for better body processing of oxygen at hight altitudes.


Right now, there's a full-on hot scientific debate over whether instinct is genetic memory, or whether genetic memory is really a thing, or bunk.


It's true: dogs really can smell what you're feeling. (For a great article on that, check out this piece in "Psychology Today.") Dogs possess up to 300 million olfactory receptors -- "smell cells" -- in their noses, compared to about six million in humans. Yup. The part of a dog's brain that's devoted to analyzing smells is (proportionally) 40 times bigger than in humans.

St. Guinefort was a French dogIn the Middle Ages, he was venerated as a local saint after he died.  People placed flowers, candles and other offerings on his grave. He's not an "official" saint; he's a "folk" saint.


Folklore has it that Guinefort was a greyhound who gave his life after protecting his humans' baby from an attacking snake. His grave became a place to leave offerings and pray for the health of babies.

There's no paperwork from the Pope saying a St. Guinefort the Dog existed. But people in France still know who he is and celebrate his saint's day -- or at least they did all the way up to 1900.

I figured he was a great saint to name a summer camp for. 

The tale of Guinefort is similar to the Welsh folktale of Gelert. Both of them are faithful  hounds who save their master's baby from a predator. In the tale of Gelert, the predator is a wolf. Gelert's name is easier to say, and apparently there is a Welsh St. Gelert. Hmmm...maybe I'll have to change Camp Coho's early 1900s name in a future edition.



The Northern Pomo


The coast redwood forests of Mendocino County in California were home to the northern-most bands of the Pomo Tribe. California coast redwood forests north of Mendocino County were home to other tribes with different languages.

National Geographic researcher
Roberta Estes has a wonderful 2012 blog post about the Pomo, including photos. The Dry Creek Rancheria website has a great pdf full of Pomo words and pronunciations. It was a huge treat for me to find the Northern Pomo Language Tools website and its talking dictionary. The dictionary includes sound clips of Pomo elders speaking Pomo words.

*A side note: the ghost story about the jah-diwell in the book is not in any way an actual Pomo story. I made all of it up. The inspiration was wandering around in the talking dictionary and finding out that the Pomo have a word for
"ghost." (ja'diwel)


The Northern California Indian Development Council has a great online map of the names and lands of the state's Native Americans as they existed before colonizers arrived.

Railroads & Logging in the Redwoods: 1800s - Early 1900s


The Mendocino Coast Model Railroad & Historical Society has a great website with a ton of information on the Pomo, logging and railroad history, in the county's redwood forest, and much more. This is another site worth wandering around in if you love history. It's full of photos and maps and language and stories and gives you a real picture of what life was like for non-Native Americans in the area in the 1800s and early 1900s in. It's an older site, so be sure to look to the left for links to more sub-pages if you click on any of the links above.


The command words and spells in the book are real words from a variety of languages. To find them I used Google Translate, which has an amazing number of languages available. (Click the down arrow button in the bar with all the language choices to see the full list.)

I apologize in advance for any wrong word choices I made. I tried to check them by typing in a word in English first, and requesting the corresponding word in a foreign language. Then I took the foreign word and typed it in and requested the corresponding word in English. If they didn't match, I knew I had to find a better translation.

(I'm a native English speaker with four years of high school Spanish learning and six weeks immersion in Japanese. I can order food and beverages, explain who I am and where I am from, exchange pleasantries and ask where the bathroom is in all three languages.)


Mr. Magnussen speaks Norwegian and Latin. Ms. Makinde speaks Yoruba and Igbo. Mrs. Fiorella speaks Latin. Radjic speaks Serbian. Harmony speaks Scotts-Gaelic.





The stories of my ancestors! There are many more Celtic mythical creatures besides leprechauns. I find The Fae fascinating. (Yes, this is a link to a Wikipedia page, but it's extremely well-sourced. Check out the source links at bottom.) The Tuatha Dé Danann may have been their predecessors, ancient high kings and queens of Ireland who had magic powers, or pre-Christian Celtic gods and goddesses. Their stories were written down by their conquerers; I prefer the latter two options: magic royals or pre-Christian gods and goddesses. 

When MacUmba talks about being a noble Irish wolfhound "Of the Line of Cullen," it's a reference to one of the stories about an ancient Celtic/Irish warrior, Cú Chulainn.  One of the many tales about him is that he raised a fierce guard dog from a pup.


Mr. Silva brings up the Kodama as a supernatural creature possibly similar to The Fae, but notes they are really tree or forest spirits. He notes the Yōsei may be more like the Fae. The Japan Society has a great article on Japanese folk/mythlore creatures, but it's definitely written for teachers, not teens. For a wonderful student immersion in Japanese forest creatures and Shinto beliefs about nature and the environment, watch Princess Mononoke. The 1997 animated tale is from legendary Japanese storyteller and animated filmmaker Hayao Miyazake. It's suitable for the entire family, but children younger than first or second grade may have trouble sitting through and following the whole movie. It runs 133 minutes. But it's wonderful.


Latin American 

The names of the various Native American and Latin American "little people" cited by Mr. Silva in the book are actual mythical creatures of those cultures. The Joghah are from the stories of the North American Iriquois tribes, and the Alux or Cheneque are from the Mayans (Alux) and Aztecs (Chaneque).


- T.J. Hendrix


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