I hope you’ll understand my excitement about the approaching pub date for THE DIRT BOOK. It was seven years in the making and that’s a long time to wait. When the reviews start coming in and you finally get a chance to see what others have to say about what you’ve done, well, the ego can be a fragile thing and is quick to celebrate a few kind words. This review came in yesterday. Kate Cosgrove, who illustrated the book so handsomely, posted a picture of herself opening the box of her sample copies that had just arrived, and I posted a picture of me holding my own first copies. Preorders spiked enough to place THE DIRT BOOK in the #1 New Book for Science category for a few hours.
Today’s edition of Shelf Awareness Pro includes a review for THE DIRT BOOK!
|The Dirt Book: Poems about Animals That Live Beneath Our Feet by David L. Harrison, illus. by Kate Cosgrove (Holiday House, $18.99 hardcover, 40p., ages 5-9, 9780823438617, June 8, 2021)|
Author David L. Harrison and illustrator Kate Cosgrove join forces again (And the Bullfrogs Sing) to celebrate dirt in this lyrical nonfiction picture book. Cheerful images bursting with color accompany 15 playful poems that explore the mysterious activities happening “below the roots where green grass grows,/ …/ where boulders rest and tree roots drink.” Plants, insects and animals all join in the festivities, making The Dirt Book a lively picture book party.
Harrison invites his audience to imagine riding a magic elevator down below the surface–an elevator Cosgrove ingeniously depicts as a tree, burrowing into the earth. On this trip, the book’s creators explain that dirt is made with a mixture of rock, root, dead things, insects, fungi and “at least a billion germs.” A biosphere of life carries on (unbeknownst to most humans) thanks to this seemingly unpleasant concoction. Insects like doodlebugs, spiders, earthworms and grubs make their homes here. Harrison’s lively rhymes and Cosgrove’s playful drawings make the insects appealing and fascinating: “Earthworm squiggles,/ earthworm squirms,/ earthworm dines on/ dirt and germs.” The work of mice, chipmunks, tortoises and toads is described as, “Ridges, mounds, tunnels, holes–/ handiwork of tiny trolls,/ furry demons on patrol,/ working where it’s black as coal.” Learning about life in the dirt has never been quite so entertaining.
An extra-long portrait format contributes an additional element of pizzazz to this enjoyable nonfiction selection. The exaggerated view emphasizes the below-ground setting and supplies Cosgrove with an ample canvas to tell each poem’s story in her detailed colored pencil and digital illustrations. There is a plethora of knowledge to absorb from Cosgrove’s art, including such varied information as the patterns on the tortoise shell and the delicate webbing on the bumblebee’s wings.
The Dirt Book includes back matter that offers additional details about the various life forms featured in the book’s poems, and a bibliography provides curious readers with resources for further exploration. Harrison points out in his final poem, “And now we’ve learned a lot, although/ there’s more to dirt than we might think.” This charming picture book is a splendid way to encourage an understanding and appreciation for nature and the often-unseen life that inhabits the planet alongside humans. The illustrations are rich and elaborate and the delightful poems keep the audience cheerfully bopping along to the rhythm of… dirt. –Jen Forbus, freelancer
Shelf Talker: David L. Harrison and Kate Cosgrove renew their partnership poetically to extol the wonders of dirt in a fascinating nonfiction picture book of 15 poems.