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Handful of Dirt

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Soil may not be alive, but amazingly, multitudes of microscopic creatures live there, battling it out in an eat-or-be-eaten world. These tiny creatures, invisible to our eyes, provide food for the insects that in turn feed the reptiles and mammals that live in and above the soil. You'll never look at the ground you walk on in the same way after Raymond Bial, an award-winning photo essayist, takes you on this eye-opening, down-and-dirty tour of ...

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Soil may not be alive, but amazingly, multitudes of microscopic creatures live there, battling it out in an eat-or-be-eaten world. These tiny creatures, invisible to our eyes, provide food for the insects that in turn feed the reptiles and mammals that live in and above the soil. You'll never look at the ground you walk on in the same way after Raymond Bial, an award-winning photo essayist, takes you on this eye-opening, down-and-dirty tour of one of the earth's most precious resources.

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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
Mr. Bial passes on the reverence for the soil and growing things he learned from his grandfather to the next generation of gardeners. The basic theme is the need to care for and enrich the soil. Beautiful photos accompany the text, illustrating soil composition, the plants and animals important for healthy soil, and complete gardens. (My favorites are the mole and the prairie dog pictures.) The electron micrographs of soil minerals and microorganisms are great, and your bug lover will enjoy the worm and insect photos. This is not intended to be a reference book for reports, but rather an inspiration for young gardeners learning to care for and love their land. 2000, Walker and Company, $16.95. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: J. Cook SOURCE: Parent Council Volume 8
Children's Literature
This thoughtful and dramatic examination of soil, commonly called "dirt," is accompanied by colorful photographs showing creatures that live in the soil, ingredients that make up soil, and living things that require soil to grow. As Bial says, "Without soil, there would be no life on earth." Discussing the process by which soil is created, he writes, "Like a science fiction thriller, the surface of the soil is the battleground for the most vicious, bloodthirsty creatures on Earth." He emphasizes the "cycle of life, death, and decay" that continuously forms and rejuvenates soil, and concludes with instructions for creating a compost pile. This book is a good choice for elementary school children exploring life cycles, ecology, and the growth of plants, and is especially valuable because it directs attention to fascinating details of something that is all around and readily available for children to experience, but that is frequently taken for granted. A bibliography and index are included. 2000, Walker, Ages 7 to 10, $16.95. Reviewer: Linnea Hendrickson
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802786982
  • Publisher: Walker & Company
  • Publication date: 1/1/2001
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 431,025
  • Age range: 7 - 10 Years
  • Lexile: 1190L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.10 (w) x 8.74 (h) x 0.38 (d)

Meet the Author

Raymond Bial recently retired from his position as a college library director at the University of Illinois. He continues to create the beautiful photo-essays that have garnered him awards and high praise. His Amish Home was an ALA Notable Book, and, in a starred review, Booklist called his Tenement: Immigrant Life on the Lower East Side “an excellent example of how books can bring the past into the present.” Raymond lives in Urbana, Illinois, with his wife and two younger children, Sarah and Luke. His oldest daughter, Anna, is a fashion designer in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 1 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2000

    A Handful of Dirt: A Critical Reflection

    S. Oliver Eng 385.05 Dr. Martin Raymond Bial, A Handful of Dirt. New York, New York: Walker & Company, 2000 A Handful of Dirt is a book about a family legacy, gardening, and science. The author¿s father had been a lifelong gardener specializing in the making of soil. The author grew up learning the ways of nature at his grandfather¿s side learning to love and respect nature deeply. When his grandfather dies at the beginning of the book, he inherits the tools his grandfather had used for years: shovel, sharpshooter, hoe, and hard tined rake. The author is honored and vows to carry on the tradition. This book is the keeping of that promise. In these pages, the author reaches out to all children who care to learn the magic of composting, the importance of good soil in gardening, and what lives in the soil from fungi and microbes to snakes and moles. Beautiful photos that children will love support the text. There are pictures of the components of soil, raw materials for composting, the beautiful garden one can build by enriching the soil, and wonderful pictures of the fungi, microbes, and animals that inhabit the soil. He gives a simple but accurate lesson on the food chain. The author describes beneficial insects and pesty insects. He demonstrates the role death plays in replenishing the soil of Earth, including dead leaves and animals that have perished. Through image and word, the author conveys in a matter of fact way how all of this is simply a part of the balance of nature. The book is an excellent teaching tool, if presented in the proper way to the proper child. The text portions, as well as some of the pictures may not be suitable for very young children. The subject matter is complex, but Bial does a wonderful job of simplifying without patronizing the child or sacrificing the material. He is working with some concepts that are rather abstract: the love and respect of the Earth, love of Nature, the long-term goals and objectives involved in composting, microscopic organisms, and the rawness of death in the wild. A Handful of Dirt is just the right book for just the right child. I learned about gardening, nature, and the earth at my mother¿s side from the time I could walk, just as the author did. I still love it today. Because of those experiences, I have embraced some truths that were mirrored in this book. It is my wish that many children will read this book and internalize messages such as: it is vital that we teach our children to nurture the environment, practice the principals of integrated pest management, and carry on the rich and rewarding legacies our families have bequeathed us.

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