Friday, March 4, 2016

Dig In! Blog Tour & Author Interview

Before we dig in to today's book, a reminder: There's still time to enter for a chance to win a copy of Shmulik Paints the Town. Just leave a comment here.

Today I'm chompin' at the bit to get out and do some gardening. 

Dig In!
by Cindy Jenson-Elliott; illus. by Mary Peterson
40 pages; ages 4-8
Beach Lane Books, 2016

theme: gardens, dirt

I dig in the dirt...
    and find a worm.
         Worm wiggles.

This is a perfect book for kids who love to play in the dirt.

What I Like About this Book: its simplicity. In fewer than 100 words author Cindy Jenson-Elliott takes us into the world of dirt, rocks, pill bugs and spiders. And she does it in style. A very particular style. Each dirt-under-the-fingernails observation begins, "I dig in the dirt...." followed by "and find a (worm, bug, seed.....) and ending with a noun-verb combination. "Worm wiggles."

Beyond the Book: get down and dirty!
  • Get the dirt on your dirt. Scoop some onto a white plate and take a close look. Use a magnifier to get an "up close & personal" view. Do you see angular grains? Splinters of wood? Dark organic matter that clumps together? Compare the dirt in your yard to some in a forest or a roadside. Collect dirt from other places and see how they're different.
  • Make some mud and use it to paint a picture. If you collect dirt from different areas, you might notice that there are some color variations. Some might be rust-colored, some dark brown, some greenish, some more yellow. 
  • What do you find when you "dig in"? Use your hands to dig through the top layer of soil in a garden or bare place in your yard. What do you find? A rock? A worm? A beetle? Plant roots? Draw pictures of the things you find in your dirt.

This book is so fun that I just had to ask Cindy Three Questions. Which she graciously answered.

Sally: Dig In is so fun, and has so few words (about 100) - what inspired the writing?

Cindy: At the time I wrote it, I was teaching reading and gardening to elementary school children. Then in February, our chapter of SCBWI held a local conference with "first page" readings. The first page could be up to 100 words long, and I thought - just for fun - that I would try to see how short I could make a complete manuscript about gardening. Could I keep it to a single page?

I thought about what my youngest students loved about gardening. It was the simple things - Digging. Discovering. Celebrating. I wanted to write a book my students could read independently, one that celebrated their own experience in the garden. 

Sally:  Most gardeners talk about "soil". Why do you like the word "dirt"? 

Cindy:   When I write, I try to tap into my own deep love for the subject I'm writing about. My natural writing voice seems to be lyrical, and the words that come out have a lyrical quality. I like how "dig in the dirt" sounds, and I'm a dirt kind of gal. When I was a kid, I mucked around in the dirt and mud. I haven't changed much, but now it's mostly my hands that are dirty from digging around.

The other thing about the word dirt is that it's small scale, personal and informal. Children experience our planet on such a small, intimate scale. I remember camping with our young children (4 months and 5 years) and after spending half an hour getting ready to hike we ended up going 100 yards up the Tuolumne River. There was so much to see in that 100 yards!

Dirt is like that. There's so much to see in a square foot of soil if we get friendly with it.

Sally: You always have something going on. What's next?

Cindy: A biography about Ansel Adams (due out this coming September). He was an "antsy" kid, until his father took him out of school and let him run around in nature. I'll talk more about him when we do that blog tour. 

To help celebrate Dig In! Cindy started a twitter campaign at #100HandsDigIn. She invites parents, teachers, and classes to post photos of children's hands digging in the dirt, and what they find. You can find out more about Cindy at her website.
And check out this review of her previous book, Weeds Find a Way.  

Today is PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. And although this isn't your typical "science book, Sally's sharing it with the folks over at the STEM Friday roundupReview copy provided by the publisher. 


  1. I like dirt too! Sounds like a fun book!

    1. I think we never grow out of liking to mess around with dirt.

  2. I have never stopped loving dirt either! I miss my garden.

  3. I like that the book is so short, is shown through artwork and lets children read on their own. Kids love to play in the dirt. Enjoyed the interview with Cindy.

  4. Love this book, Sue...I just read Down in the reminded me of this a bit. Kids will enjoy the illustrations and story so much, they won't even realize all the info they are learning. ;)

  5. Thanks for sharing this one. Almost digging time here!

  6. I've always been a fan of digging in the dirt! Will be sure to look this one up!

  7. Can't wait to read this either! I'm also dying to get back in my garden. Read Kate Messner's Up in the Garden, Down in the Dirt this week and was super inspired. Come on spring!

  8. Talk about economy od words. I must check this out. Enjoy books that showcase the environment to kids.

  9. Talk about economy od words. I must check this out. Enjoy books that showcase the environment to kids.

  10. I love gardening, and I love dirt! So does my son. I am so impressed with the slim word count, that I may have to try a similar challenge. Tis the season for thinking about gardens. Have you read "Dirty Gert"? It's quite quirky and funny. You might enjoy it. Cheers to rain and springtime! Oh, and I'm looking forward to that book on Ansel Adams. He's one of my heroes!

  11. 100 words. Awesome. I will definitely be checking this one out. Thanks for the post.

  12. This is the perfect time of year for this book. Here in California it feels like spring already (though people tell me it's going to get cold again). Thanks Sue!

  13. So nice to hear from so many dirt fans! Tweet photos of your hands in the dirt and what you discover at #1000HandsDigIn
    Your friend, waiting for rain to make mud,

  14. Cindy, it is raining now in San Diego, so there will be plenty of mud. Having read several of your books, I agree that your writing voice is lyrical. I enjoy reading everything you write.