New review of my book with Laura Robb

Hi everyone,

I’m glad and grateful for the positive review by Jennifer Wirtz of our book, GUIDED PRACTICE FOR READING GROWTH, Graded 4-8, which was released last fall by Corwin Publishing. Here’s the link.

Review: Building reading fluency and comprehension among middle graders

Laura and I created this book to help teachers work with students who are at least two grades behind in their reading level. My job was to write poems and texts to capture students’ interest at their intellectual/developmental level while using language accessible to them at their current reading level. Laura created wonderful plans and activities to encourage and reinforce efforts to reach for growth in reading. An earlier review included this: “One of the hardest parts of helping developing readers can be finding texts that support them.  In this compendium of intermediate and middle grade reading lessons, Laura and David suggest one great text after another, making offering readers the practice they need to become stronger, more proficient readers even easier!”

New books suffered when they were introduced during the thick of the pandemic, and ours came out last September. Corwin is essentially reintroducing the book now. All the more reason why we appreciate Jennifer’s review and hope for additional reviews to come. The Amazon ratings so far are all 5 stars so we’re encouraged to think we’ll continue to find more and more teachers who can put our book to use. If you are in a position to pass this along to teacher and/or administrator friends, we will be in your debt. Thank you.

Kathy Temean features THE DIRT BOOK

Hi everyone,

I’m grateful to Kathy Temean for featuring THE DIRT BOOK on her blog today. Here’s the link. Give it a look and get a chance to win a free copy. The book will start shipping on June 8.

Kate Cosgrove illustrated THE DIRT BOOK beautifully, just as she did on AND THE BULLFROGS SING. Kate, it’s good so see you on Kathy’s feature today. I want to say again how much I love your work and hope we get a chance to partner again one of these days soon.


Hi everyone,

I hope to complete a 1,000-word essay today about poetry that will appear in Laura and Evan Robb’s blog — The Robb Review — later this month. Coincidentally, yesterday while I was working on it, Laura received an advance copy of a new review of our book, GUIDED PRACTICE FOR READING GROWTH, that will come out shortly in MiddleWeb. It was a pleasure to work with Laura on this book that is even more timely now as so many struggling readers worldwide work to regain skills lost by the effects of the pandemic. I’m happy to post a bit of the review here today.

Title: Guided Practice for Reading Growth Texts and Lessons to Improve Fluency, Comprehension, and Vocabulary
Authors: Laura Robb and David L. Harrison
Publisher: Corwin Literacy (CL), 2021

Review by Jennifer Wirtz

In GUIDED PRACTICE FOR READING GROWTH, the authors Laura Robb and David L. Harrison bring guided practice to life with lessons and examples that can be used by educators in the real-world classroom.

At the heart of this text and its lessons, is the fact that after years of not reading proficiently, students can take on characteristics that actually prevent growth. Things like: lacking self-confidence, feeling embarrassed, having difficulty decoding, and having learned the art of fake reading (so others think they can read).

The Appendix proves to be a great resource as well, including suggested ELA schedules, self-evaluation questions/prompts, lists of books for read-alouds, and guidelines for preplanning/planning discussion lessons.

Overall, GUIDED PRACTICE FOR READING GROWTH looks like it will be a great resource for years to come.

So pleased about early reviews of THE DIRT BOOK

Hi everyone,

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.