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."
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 thanks to this seemingly unpleasant concoction; 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."
An extra-long portrait format 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, and a bibliography provides curious readers with resources for further exploration. 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. --Jen Forbus, freelancer