The Boy with a Drum is marching still

Hi everyone,

Yesterday was the last day of school for kids in a Colorado school where my friend SU HUTCHENS teaches. As a fun activity and to burn a little energy, Su had her 4th grade students make some props and costumes and perform the first book I ever had published, THE BOY WITH A DRUM (1969).

When the actors were rehearsed and in their places, Su called at the appointed time. SANDY and I sat on a sofa in the living room and the show began. We laughed and applauded and marveled at the ingenuity of teacher and flock as the familiar story came to life on the tiny screen on my phone.

Su and Dan Hutchens, great friends

The story ends with these words: “And if they haven’t stopped marching, they’ll be marching still.” I think those kids, lucky enough to have a wonderful teacher, are going to be marching still, all the way to a bright future.

I have a delightful picture of Su’s beautiful class, but I won’t post it. I don’t have permission to show the kids, plus with today’s great sadness across the nation, protecting our children and their teachers is much on our minds.

The Little Boy’s Secret

Hi everyone,

I’ve been queried about granting rights to an Afrikaans translation of “The Little Boy’s Secret,” the first of three stories in THE BOOK OF GIANT STORIES. Afrikaans is spoken in South AfricaNamibia, and, to a lesser extent, BotswanaZambia, and Zimbabwe. It will appear in an educational book for 4th grade students, if I have it right. Initial printing is to be 50,000 copies. I’ve had other work published by the company, which is based in Cape Town. I’ll provide a few more details when I’m free to. The request is for nonexclusive rights to use the story for ten years.

I’m so pleased to see work from this book still finding its way to children in the United States and abroad. It was first published in 1972 in the U.S. by American Heritage Press and co-published in England. The next year was when it won a Christopher Medal. In 2001, Boyds Mills Press republished it. And now, on its half-century birthday, a new audience of kids in Africa will meet the boy with a secret and learn what it is. I don’t know how many times stories and limericks from THE BOOK OF GIANT STORIES have been anthologized. Many. I hope to reach an agreement soon on this most recent request.

Starting a new book

Hi everyone,

Next week I intend to start a nonfiction book that will take quite a bit of work over time. I don’t have a publisher yet, only one or two editors who have signaled an interest in seeing where I might go with the project. I’ll be working with a good friend and learned colleague with whom I worked on MAMMOTH BONES AND BROKEN STONES (2010), archaeologist NEAL LOPINOT. Of that one a reviewer said, “I applaud Harrison for having written a book that compares various theories of who may have been the first people in North America and making it clearly understandable for young readers. This is always tricky when explaining science to children that they must consider all possible explanations for a phenomenon even if the explanations fly in the face of commonly held (or taught) beliefs. On page 27, Harrison writes “This is how science works. No one has all the answers, but many people working on the same problem slowly add to what we know.” At the end of the book, he even finishes with a section titled “More Questions than Answers.”

MAMMOTH BONES AND BROKEN STONES was nominated by the State Archaeologist, NH Division of Historical Resources for the Society for American Archaeology’s 2010 Book of the Year for “a book that is written for the general public and presents the results of archaeological research to a broader audience”

It was also recommended by National Science Teachers Association, 2011

Neal and I are both busy so I don’t expect the work on this new book to move very quickly. At some point we’ll bear down on finding an editor but for now I need to get more deeply into the research, decide on an approach to the story, work up an outline, and write two or three chapters. I may have another book or two to announce soon but for now I need to start something new.

I wish you bright paint

Hi everyone,

Another day in National Poetry Month, another poem from the files. This one comes from CONNECTING DOTS, POEMS OF MY JOURNEY, my autobiographical collection published by Boyds Mills Press in 2004. It begins with one of my earliest memories, when I was four and got bitten by a dog, and ends with a poem about my parting wish for others.

The collection was an experiment in a couple of ways. At that time it was a bit unorthodox to place a brief description about each poem at the top of the page, and it was against traditional wisdom to write a book for young readers that spanned the life of the poet from age four to sixty-five. My editor for Connecting Dots, WENDY MURRAY, said then, and I think still believes, it’s the best book I’ve ever done. The cover photo is me at age four, the year I memorized the Gettysburg Address and recited it from memory on a stage at Grace Methodist Church, the place where I would marry SANDRA SUE KENNON eighteen years later.

Here's the final poem in the book, "I Wish You Bright Paint."

I’m 65. I sit here at my desk holding this poem -- the last dot in my picture -- and I wonder who will read it. To you, whoever you are, thank you. I wish you well.


WISHING YOU BRIGHT PAINT

Sometimes I feel --
I don’t know --
squeezed out
like a tube of toothpaste toward the end
rolled up tight against the cap
for a few last brushings.

But if I say the tube is paint
used in pictures of my life,
that makes me feel
I’ve accomplished something,
used the squeezes
to make things happen.
I like that better

So as we go on, you and I,
you to your life, me to mine,
I wish you tubes of bright paint
for all the pictures of your life.
Take off their caps,
squeeze them well,
keep painting.

(c) 2004 David L. Harrison
from CONNECTING DOTS, 2004

It’s still National Poetry Month

Hi everyone,

Here’s another poem to help celebrate the month. This one appeared originally in THE PURHASE OF SMALL SECRETS and was written with SANDY’S dad, RALPH KENNON, in mind. He was an avid gardener who loved to see his family enjoying the results of his labors. The growing season is approaching and one of these days gardens large and small all over America will once again produce their treasures to grace tables of those who toil in the earth and those lucky recipients of their efforts.

HOME-GROWN

Tenderly,
fingers lingering
over wondrous gifts,
peeling
paring
slicing,
he contemplates with satisfaction
the completed act.

“Nothing beats home-grown,”
he says.
“You won’t find corn this sweet
in any store.”

Another platter,
meaty red slabs
surprisingly heavy
on white china.
“Try these tomatoes,
tell me these aren’t
the best you ever tasted.”

Sweet onions
served with garden talk,
language of the soil,
wisdom of grandfathers.

Golden ears dripping butter,
spinach wrinkly tender,
delicately green,
cauliflower better than expected,
green beans
demanding to be bragged on . . . 

“You won’t find these
in any store,” he says
to heads bobbing
over full plates.

He nods,
agreeing with himself.
I smile and think,
“Nothing beats home-grown.”

© 1998 David L. Harrison,
from THE PURCHASE OF SMALL SECRETS