Being a farmer’s daughter, I am a fan of dirt and nature in all of its gritty wonderfullness.
I also love how poetry helps kids understand science concepts, because they often engage with poems in a different way than if it’s just straight prose.
That said, the text on the first spread is written in prose, setting the stage for dirt in relatable ways.
This book is about dirt.
We get dirt on our pants.
Under our fingernails.
In our hair….
…If we could ride
a magic elevator straight down
into the world beneath our feet,
what do you think we’d see?…
The book’s vertical spreads are nearly impossible to do justice in a photo, but I will try.
Every gorgeous vertical illustration that follows is accompanied by a poem, the first describing (in rhyme) how dirt is made in the form of a Dirt Recipe, the second about how roots intertwine in the soil, and the remaining poems about individual animals and their places in the dirt underworld. The last poem in the book recaps (also in rhyme) what readers have learned in the previous pages, and assembles this information into a cohesive description (also in rhyme) of how animals and soil interact.
Sometimes funny, always engaging and surprising, these poems cover critters like bumblebees, yellow jackets, trapdoor spiders, etc….along with the furry ones we tend to think of like mice, moles, and voles. I’ve got to say that the trapdoor spider illustration is amazing (and scary if I were a cricket).
Each poem is titled after the critter it features, but it also often contains a subtitle that adds information about their importance or an unusual feature.
Back matter provides an additional paragraph of information about each animal.
This is a lovely introduction to why the dirt around us that we take for granted is important, the critters that exist in the great outdoors, and how they’re all part of ecosystems. And the illustrations, with their highly unusual vertical presentation gives the illustrator lots of space to work with as we tunnel below the surface of the earth. Truly beautiful in their stylized details.
Take a nature walk in the woods or a park, and see if you can find any of the animals in this book. Try not to disturb their homes in the process.
Title: The Dirt Book: Poems About Animals That Live Beneath Our Feet
Author: David L. Harrison
Illustrator: Kate Cosgrove
Publisher: Holiday House, 2021
Themes: dirt, animals, ecosystems
For many more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s website.