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From the Writer’s Desk

By April Pulley Sayre

When I was a little girl, we used to play a finger-snapping game called “Categories.” The game ran as long as people could come up with examples and could say them to the rhythm of the finger snaps. The category game is about brainstorming and flexible thinking; no wonder I loved it. Even now, I like to play with educators and their students to stretch their thinking about categories.

Take, for instance, this category: Animals That Hop. Preschoolers can explore a few examples in Katie Davis’s classic, Who Hops?

But in my personal photo database, the category search goes a bit wild.

Rabbits? Of course. Here’s one that hopped across our lawn.


Frogs?  Of course. Jeff and I photographed this dime-sized beauty one steamy day in the Peruvian Amazon.


Squirrels? Most definitely. They fill the view out every window of our house. Squirrels jumping on the ground and across gaps in the tree canopy.


Yet what came most to my mind were birds that hop. Yes, birds. Birds flap. They fly. But they also hop from branch to branch. This bluejay hopped down from the upper level of our feeder to the lower level.


This toucan was hopping around in a Cecropia tree when we were in Panama.


Sandhill cranes rest, feed, and carry out elaborate dances. They gather by the thousands in November in Indiana. They hop up and down, and toss sticks and mud over their heads in fancy dances.


So many insects hop that there are entire groups with hopping in their name. Leafhoppers. Treehoppers. Thornhoppers. Grasshoppers. Here’s a hopping insect from our garden.


And what about ocean creatures? Do you have to push off the ground to hop? Whales and dolphins spy hop. This photo often fools students. It looks like a dolphin. But it’s really a sea lion I photographed in Galapagos.


Of course, humans are animals, too. We hop, given the chance. Our legs and knees can do the job well. But we use skis, ramps, trampolines, diving boards, and vaults to propel us even higher. I can only hope that writing about all this hopping will “jump start” some physical activity for preschool and Kindergarten students.

In college, I studied some serious hoppers—lemurs. In Madagascar’s rainforest, we helped study sifakas, some of the most fabulous vertical clingers and leapers of all time. They cling to a tree, then push off with strong legs and leap to the next one. Check out these videos, showing how some sifakas travel on the ground and in trees.

If you and a few students are embracing hoppiness, I encourage you to read Robin Page and Steve Jenkins’ book Move. Then, why not make an origami frog, too?

Or, hop out the door and enjoy the happy, hoppy possibilities with your own two legs.


In case you’re wondering exactly how to play the game, here is what I recall:

Everyone, in unison, would slap their knees twice, clap their hands twice, then snap one finger and say “Cate-” and then snap the other to say, “-gories.” Then one snap for “such” and another for “as.” Then someone would throw in a category and we’d start riffing. We’d all have to come up with things that fit into that category and say them out loud, to the rhythm of the snaps.

If You're Hoppy GreenwillowApril Pulley Sayre is the author of If You’re Hoppy, which goes on sale next week! She has written more than fifty books for children, many related to science and nature.


  1. Tania says:

    “If You’re Hoppy” looks so adorable! I love bunnies!! And those videos are amazing to watch. Thank you. I’m wondering though,if the frog from the Peruvian Amazon is poisonous? My family and I took an adventurous vacation to Costa Rica where we were warned to keep a keen eye out for poison dart frogs,(amoung many other HOPPY things) while “WE” hopped from the platforms, zip lining above the rainforest! We were very hoppy NOT to have encountered any.

  2. Tania, yes, I believe this one is poisonous. Bright coloring certainly hints that it is. We were advised to wash our hands (and not lick them!) after touching poison dart frogs. I chose not to handle them at all, just to be safe and minimize stress for the frogs, too. I’ve seen some strawberry-colored ones in Costa Rica. Perhaps what you saw. Zip line sounds fun!

  3. Tania says:

    Thanks! And it was fun! But also a little scary! And having to be so cautious of the things you touch, made it a little more uneasy. Even the bark of certain trees is poisonous. Good luck with your book! (And I meant AMONG, oh I hate it when that happens!)

  4. […] Boing, boing, bounce!  For a storytime/funtime, check out my article and photos of hopping animals, plus links to hopping animal video and a craft on the Under the Green Willow blog. […]

  5. […] We photographed this poison dart frog in Peru. It’s tiny, not much larger than a dime. For more hoppy animals, see my article on the Under the Greenwillow blog. […]

  6. […] April Pulley Sayre‘s book, If You’re Hoppy, turned out to be a great vehicle for this new style. It’s a silly, wild romp. It’s all movement and rhythm.  […]

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