An unexpected use of my work

Hi everyone,

CAVE DETECTIVES is the true story of how a cave that came to be called Riverbluff Cave was discovered by a road crew on September 11, 2001. The cave contains the oldest ice age fossils ever found on the North American continent. When the book was published, it became a Junior Library Guild Selection. In 2013 it was selected by the Springfield Missouri Park Board to be one of the items most representative of the Ozark region to be placed in a 100-year time capsule as part of the Centennial Celebration of park system.

Yesterday I received a query seeking permission to reprint a passage from one of my nonfiction books, CAVE DETECTIVES. If we can agree on terms, the excerpt will appear in a free online resource called “Text Dependent Analysis Sampler,” which would be available to all educators and students throughout that particular state. The purpose of a TDA is to pose questions that require students to “synthesize answers based on specific evidence within a reading passage and demonstrate their ability to interpret the meaning behind that evidence.” I’m delighted to be asked. This would be the second state to use something from the book in this way.

Passages from CAVE DETECTIVES have also been used twice before in a third state for 5th grade editions of school assessment tests. The most recent use in that capacity involved 139,000 copies in print and 4,500 copies online.

Apparently this is kind of use isn’t something you seek. They find you. One of my contacts said he wasn’t sure how they found me, my work, or this particular book. I hope “they” keep finding me in other states!

Let’s hear you roar

Hi everyone,
The prompt for today (one day only) is BEAR. Here are three of mine, the first from CAVE DETECTIVES (2007), the second from THE BOY WHO COUNTED STARS (1994), the third from WILD COUNTRY (1999).

The Bear

She pads on silent paws
into the cave,
into the dark,
moving slowly,
sniffing the air but unworried.

At a wall she stands erect,
stretches high,
wags her massive head,
slashes the clay
to mark her territory.

She turns to her task,
scooping out a hollow nest
for twins that will come.

Like an afterthought she lifts her head,
crushing jaws agape,
tongue like a red warning flag
flicking between her teeth,
and roars.

Echoes like shockwaves
roll down black halls.
She roars and roars
and roars.

(c) by David L. Harrison, all rights reserved

Hare on the Stair

A bear with no hair
Met a hare on the stair.
“Dear Hare,” said the bear who was bare,
“I have nothing to wear.”

The hare only stared
At the bear who was bare.
“Stay there,” said the hare with a glare,
“You cannot wear my hair.”

The bear took the hare
With the hair up the stair,
And when they were finished up there,
‘Twas the hare who was bare.

(c) by David L. Harrison, all rights reserved

Mama Bear

Down the valley
where the willows grow
and paintbrush paints
the meadow yellow,
you bring your cubs to breakfast.

The berries are ripe!
Take your time.
Red strawberries
reward the tongue
with sticky sweet jelly.

It’s a fine sunny day
to stroll with your cubs,
the sort of day
to lick your lips.
Have another berry.

(c) by David L. Harrison, all rights reserved.

Back to bear basics

Hi everyone,

Yesterday I drove out to Missouri Institute of Natural Science, which is located on Cox Road South, a few hundred yards from Riverbluff Cave. The cave was discovered September 11, 2001 and has yielded fossil evidence of dozens of extinct animals dating back 1.5 million years. I wrote a book about the cave and its discovery called CAVE DETECTIVES, UNRAVELING THE MYSTERY OF AN ICE AGE CAVE, and served on the board during the years when the Missouri Institute of Natural Science and museum were going from dream to reality.

I also loaned my own bear skull to the museum. It’s the skull I found with a boyfriend in a small cave in southeast Springfield when we were twelve or so. I’ve been told it’s a black bear skull but somewhat different from today’s species. I haven’t had anyone study it but suppose it could be a subspecies and perhaps even an extinct one.

My reason for driving out to retrieve the skull is that I’m featuring it and its discovery in a new story I’m developing and I needed to have it beside me so I can describe it better.

Now it’s resting on my desk with replicas of a short-faced bear (the largest bear of all time) and a saber-tooth cat. My bear is dwarfed by both of those ancient, extinct carnivores. I thought you might like to see the contrast.

The short-faced bear

Hi everyone,

Last weekend we drove south past Branson to the home of Big Cedar Lodge and The Wilderness Club, properties of Bass Pro Shops. A third attraction is called Top of the Rock. This was formerly the home of Graham Clark, first president of College of the Ozarks. The hilltop view of Tablerock Lake and the rolling Ozark country is unsurpassed in the region.

Later the site was turned into a restaurant. Nine years ago it burned and has only recently reopened after major expansions that include a golf course (recent host to the Legends of Golf Tournament), two restaurants, a gift store, a chapel, a wine tasting bar, an indoor/outdoor pub, and more.
One of the things that caught my eye coming in was a display of ice age animals including the short-faced bear, American lion, and woolly mammoth. A wall reference mentions Riverbluff Cave in Springfield, home to the oldest known ice age fossils found anywhere on the North American continent (the last I knew).IMAG1605

My book, CAVE DETECTIVES, is written about the discovery, preservation, early explorations, and mysteries uncovered in Riverbluff. Standing there before a replica of the enormous short-face bear, mounted as though emerging from a cave, brought back memories. Here is how my book begins.
“A short-faced bear moves along a stream. He is a giant compared to any other bear that will ever live. He is mostly a carnivore, a meat eater. Whether he brings down his own prey, steals from smaller predators, or chases buzzards off a carcass, he is always hungry for meat.

“The stream loops through scattered clusters of pine trees and crosses a clearing. It comes to the base of a hill and disappears into the mouth of a cave. The bear knows this cave. It is cool in summer, a good place to nap through cold winters, and a safe hideaway to nurture newborn cubs. Rolling his massive head, the bear enters the cave and vanishes into the darkness.

“Sometime later a band of peccaries pauses outside the cave. The peccaries are about the size of pigs; they look much like pigs, too. For a while the peccaries mill around the entrance, snorting indecisively. When the leader heads inside, the others follow. Snuffling and grunting, the peccaries jostle one another down the black tunnel.

“Somewhere beyond the light, the bear rises up from a deep pit. Without warning he strikes, his great claws slashing at the clay bank as he lunges toward the snuffling and grunting above him. Squealing peccaries flee in terror, but there is no escape. Even in the dark, the bear is deadly. He catches a peccary and bites off its foot. In a short time the killing ends. Silence returns to the darkness.”IMAG1608

I’m glad to say that CAVE DETECTIVES has recently been made available from Chronicle Books in digital form. Anyone interested can order it online.

And that’s how I spent part of my weekend!


Poetry workshop

Cave DetectivesANNOUNCEMENT: CAVE DETECTIVES, my nonfiction book about the ice age cave discovered in Springfield, Missouri on 9/11, has just been released as an e-book. I’m delighted to have this book available again. It became a Junior Library Guild Selection when it was released in print in 2007. The cave contains the oldest known ice age fossils discovered so far on the North American continent. I hope you’ll check it out. Here’s the B&N link: and here’s the Amazon link:

Hi everyone,

I’m still away from my office but now and then I have a chance to get online for a while. I want to remind anyone who is considering my Highlights Foundation poetry workshop this fall (September 29 – October 2) to start the process of registering. Last year the event was filled by March and I hope to see that happen again for 2014.

Contact Jo Lloyd ( ) for the details. Here’s the link to the workshop.

My special guests this year include poetry editor Rebecca Davis and Skype appearances by Jane Yolen and U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate Kenn Nesbitt. I hope to see you there.