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Caves: Mysteries Beneath Our Feet

Not only did the Chicken Spaghetti family visit our first caverns last summer, but we also discovered David L. Harrison's picture book  Caves: Mysteries Beneath Our Feet  at the library. Hurrah for spelunking, and for science in easy-to-understand terms.

Harrison starts Caves with a little detective work: a farmer's cows linger in the bright sun in one particular place in the pasture. It turns out that there's cool air coming from a little hole in the ground, providing cow air-conditioning. But what lies beneath? A cave! But how did it get there?

"The answer involves raindrops," Harrison writes. His prose carries a sense of forward momentum, and the Caves vocabulary connotes both action and playfulness in explaining the formation of caves: the drops of water splash, splatter, plop, and plink. Harrison is also a poet and obviously skilled at choosing  just the right words. The reader finds out about animal life in and near caves, too.

Cheryl Nathan's cheerful pictures convey the fun of learning about caves. Vivid and distinctive color enhances a reader's understanding, as well, and the illustrations work in harmony with the text. You will not wonder about the difference between stalagmites and stalactites after reading the book!

Nathan creates the "textures" of her work by hand and then scans them onto a Macinotsh computer. She then paints the pictures using Adobe Photoshop.

Caves: Mysteries Beneath Our Feet is a wonderful book for the early elementary grades, and a preschool 4's class would likely be intrigued, too. If your school library does not own this book, encourage the librarian to order it. Otherwise, children are missing out.

Harrison and Nathan have collaborated on a number of other  Boyds Mills books in the Earthworks series (Rivers, Oceans, Volcanoes);  I will look for the rest. Harrison also wrote the funny picture book When Cows Come Home, among some 70 other works.

Harrison's hometown newspaper recently featured an interview with the author, who has been interested in caves since he was a boy.
Caves: Mysteries Beneath Our Feet, by David L. Harrison. Illustrated by Cheryl Nathan. Boyds Mills Press, 2001.


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