13 minute read

David L(ee) Harrison (1937-) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Work in Progress, Sidelights

(Arthur Kennon Graham, Kennon Graham)


Born 1937, in Springfield, MO; Education: Drury College, A.B., 1959; Emory University, M.S., 1960; Evansville University, graduate studies, 1960-63.


Office—928 South Glenstone, Springfield, MO 65802.


Mead Johnson Co., Evansville, IN, pharmacologist, 1960-63; Hallmark Cards, Kansas City, MO, editorial manager, 1963-73; Glenstone Block Co. (manufacturer and supply house of building materials), Springfield, MO, president and owner, 1973—. President and member of Springfield Board of Education, 1983-88; member of board, Springfield Public Schools Foundation, 1988-96; member of board of trustees, Ozarks Technical Community College, 1992-94; member of advisory board, Springfield Parent magazine, 1994-97. Has been a professional musician, music teacher, and principal trombonist in the Springfield Symphony. Active in various activities supporting literacy, 1982—; presenter and speaker at workshops and conferences.


Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Missouri Writers Guild.

Honors Awards

Christopher Award, Christopher Foundation, 1973, for The Book of Giant Stories; award for Outstanding Contributions to Children's Literature, Central State University, 1978; Distinguished Alumni Award, Drury College, 1981; Kentucky Blue Grass Award nominee, Kentucky State Reading Association, 1993, for Somebody Catch My Homework; Celebrate Literacy Award, Springfield Council of the International Reading Association (IRA), 1994 and 2002; Celebrate Literacy Award, Missouri State Reading Association, 1994; Friend of Education Award, Missouri State Teachers Association, 1994 and 2002; Children's Choice Award, IRA/Children's Book Council, 1994, for Somebody Catch My Homework, 1995, for When Cows Come Home, and 1997, for A Thousand Cousins; inclusion on Recommended Reading List, Kansas State Reading Association, 1995, and Master List of Virginia Young Readers Program, Virginia State Reading Association, 1996-97, both for When Cows Come Home; IRA Local Council Community Service Award, 2001, for "Sky High on Reading" literacy project; Missouri Governor's Humanities Award, 2001.


The Boy with a Drum, Golden Press (Racine, WI), 1969.

Little Turtle's Big Adventure, Random House (New York, NY), 1969.

The Little Boy in the Forest, Whitman Publishing (Racine, WI), 1969.

About Me, Childcraft Education Corp., 1969.

The World of American Caves, Reilly & Lee, 1970.

The Case of Og the Missing Frog, Rand McNally (Chicago, IL), 1972.

(With Mary Loberg) The Backyard Zoo, Hallmark Books (Shelby, OH), 1972.

(With Mary Loberg) The Kingdom of the Sea, Hallmark Books (Shelby, OH), 1972.

(With Mary Loberg) The World of Horses, Hallmark Books (Shelby, OH), 1972.

(With Mary Loberg) The Terrible Lizards, Hallmark Books (Shelby, OH), 1972.

The Book of Giant Stories, illustrated by Philippe Fix, McGraw, 1972.

The Little Boy and the Giant, Golden Press (Racine, WI), 1973.

Let's Go Trucks!, Golden Press (Racine, WI), 1973.

Children Everywhere, Rand McNally (Chicago, IL), 1973.

Piggy Wiglet and the Great Adventure, Golden Press (Racine, WI), 1973.

The Huffin Puff Express, Whitman Publishing (Racine, WI), 1974.

The Love Bug: Herbie's Special Friend, Golden Press (Racine, WI), 1974.

The Busy Body Book, Whitman Publishing (Racine, WI), 1975.

Monster! Monster!, Golden Press (Racine, WI), 1975.

The Pink Panther in Z-Land, Whitman Publishing (Racine, WI), 1976.

The Circus Is in Town, Golden Press (Racine, WI), 1978.

Detective Bob and the Great Ape Escape, illustrated by Ned Delaney, Parents Magazine Press (New York, NY), 1980.

My Funny Bunny Phone Book, illustrated by Lyn McClure Butrick, Golden Press (Racine, WI), 1980.

What Do You Know!: Mind-Boggling Questions, Astonishing Answers, illustrated by Rod Ruth, Rand McNally (Chicago, IL), 1981.

The Snoring Monster, illustrated by Richard Walz, Golden Press (Racine, WI), 1985.

Busy Machines, illustrated by Richard Walz, Golden Press (Racine, WI), 1985.

Wake up, Sun!, illustrated by Hans Wilhelm, Random House (New York, NY), 1986, reprinted, 2003.

Little Boy Soup, Ladybird Books (England), 1989.

Somebody Catch My Homework: Poems, illustrated by Betsy Lewin, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1993.

When Cows Come Home, illustrated by Chris L. Demarest, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1994.

The Boy Who Counted Stars: Poems, illustrated by Betsy Lewin, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1994.

A Thousand Cousins: Poems of Family Life, illustrated by Betsy Lewin, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1996.

The Animals' Song, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1997.

The Purchase of Small Secrets: Poems, Wordsong (Honesdale, PA), 1998.

Wild Country: Outdoor Poems for Young People, Word-song (Honesdale, PA), 1999.

(With Bernice E. Cullinan) Easy Poetry Lessons That Dazzle and Delight, Scholastic Professional Books (New York, NY), 1999.

Farmer's Garden: Rhymes for Two Voices, illustrated by Arden Johnson-Petrov, Wordsong (Honesdale, PA), 2000.

(Adaptor) The Big Sleepover (based on "Clifford the Big Red Dog" series), Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.

(Adaptor) The Big Surprise (based on "Clifford the Big Red Dog" series), Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.

(Adaptor) Dogs and Cats (based on "Clifford the Big Red Dog" series), Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.

Caves: Mysteries beneath Our Feet, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2001.

Johnny Appleseed: My Story, Random House (New York, NY), 2001.

(Adaptor) The Doggy Detectives (based on "Clifford the Big Red Dog" series), Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.

Rivers: Nature's Wondrous Waterways, illustrated by Cheryl Nathan, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2002.

Volcanoes: Nature's Incredible Fireworks, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2002.

Dylan, the Eagle-hearted Chicken, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2002.

The Alligator in the Closet: And Other Poems around the House, illustrated by Jane Kendall, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2003.

The Mouse Was Out at Recess, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2003.


Smokey Bear Saves the Forest, Whitman Publishing (Racine, WI), 1971.

Lassie and the Big Clean-up Day, Golden Press (Racine, WI), 1971.

Eloise and the Old Blue Truck, Whitman Publishing (Racine, WI), 1971.

Lassie and the Secret Friend, Golden Press (Racine, WI), 1972.

My Little Book of Cars and Trucks, Whitman Publishing (Racine, WI), 1973.

Woodsy Owl and the Trail Bikers, Golden Press (Racine, WI), 1974.

Land of the Lost: Surprise Guests, Golden Press (Racine, WI), 1975.

The Pink Panther in the Haunted House, Golden Press (Racine, WI), 1975.

The Pink Panther Rides Again, Whitman Publishing (Racine, WI), 1976.

My Little Book about Flying, Whitman Publishing (Racine, WI), 1978.

Bugs Bunny in Escape from Noddington Castle, illustrated by Darrell Baker, Golden Press (Racine, WI), 1979.


Peter Pan, Hallmark Books (Shelby, OH), 1964.

Cinderella, Hallmark Books (Shelby, OH), 1964.

Pinocchio, Hallmark Books (Shelby, OH), 1964.

The Adventures of Doctor Dolittle, Hallmark Books (Shelby, OH), 1965.

A Christmas Carol, Hallmark Books (Shelby, OH), 1965.

The Three Pigs, Hallmark Books (Shelby, OH), 1966.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Hallmark Books (Shelby, OH), 1966.

Contributor of stories and poems to anthologies. Contributor of short stories, under pseudonyms Arthur Kennon Graham and Kennon Graham, to The Witch Book, edited by Dorothy F. Haas, Rand McNally (Chicago, IL), 1976.

Contributor to periodicals, including Highlights for Children, Family Circle, Journal of Reading, Creative Classroom, Hello Reader!, Senior Living, and Springfield News-Leader. Articles and interviews have appeared in Reading Today and state IRS reading journals.

Many of Harrison's books have been translated into more than twelve languages.


Harrison's works have been adapted for audiocassette and for production on television and radio throughout the world. Somebody Catch My Homework was produced on CD-ROM, Discis, 1994. In 2002 Sandy Asher used Harrison's poetry as inspiration for the play Somebody Catch My Homework.

Work in Progress

Using the Power of Poetry to Teach Math, Science, Social Studies, and More, with Kathy Holderith, "to encourage the use of poetry as a teaching tool"; How to Write Stories, a book to help fourth-through-sixth graders develop story-writing skills; Bits and Pieces: A Life in Poetry, "a collection of autobiographical poems meant to touch emotions"; Earthquakes: When the Earth Shudders, the fifth in the nonfiction Earth-science series "Earthworks."


Although he has authored dozens of books for young people, David L. Harrison has not limited himself to the field of children's literature. He once commented: "By the time I was twenty-one I had worked in a pet shop, done yard work, taught music, dug ditches, unloaded boxcars, played in dance bands, poured concrete, worked in the entomology department at a university, mined uranium, and explored caves. I had also begun to write seriously, but it took nearly six more years before my first story was accepted for publication." Using his wide and varied experiences as inspiration, Harrison has produced award-winning children's stories, poetry, and retellings of classic tales.

Harrison's 1972 work The Book of Giant Stories blends limericks and stories together to create a world where giants live among men. In Harrison's fantasy tale, one young boy escapes from the hands of giants by telling them a secret; another clever lad calms a temperamental giant by teaching him to whistle; and a third boy helps a sorry giant who has been cursed by a wicked witch. A reviewer in Publishers Weekly described Harrison's book as "farfetched and funny," while Evelyn Stewart noted in Library Journal that the "believable fantasy is perfect for reading aloud" to younger readers. Wake up, Sun!, an easy-to-read book published in 1986, chronicles the humorous attempts of barnyard animals to awaken the sun when they arise one morning before daybreak.

In his 1994 picture book When Cows Come Home, Harrison reveals what really happens on the farm when the farmer's back is turned. As soon as the farmer tends to other business, all of his cows explode in silly and whimsical stunts, including square dancing, riding bicycles, and playing tag. A Kirkus Reviews critic complimented Harrison's "skillful versifying," while in School Library Journal Mary Lou Budd admired "the motion in the rhythmic and evocative text." A Publishers Weekly reviewer described When Cows Come Home as "a bright, appealing volume with a mischievous nature."

Harrison's 2002 picture book Dylan, the Eagle-hearted Chicken takes the nature-versus-nurture theory down to a child's level. After Ethel the chicken decides to take a break from sitting on her egg, it is snatched away by an eagle. The thief deposits the egg in her own nest, and when hatching time comes all are surprised when a small yellow chick suddenly appears. The story continues as Dylan searches for his real mother while his eagle "siblings" contemplate eating him for lunch. A Kirkus Reviews writer thought that Harrison's story has a "droll wit that bespeaks the silliness of the situation."

In 2001 Harrison began writing the "Earthwork" series beginning with a book introducing young readers to cave formation. Caves: Mysteries beneath Our Feet offers scientific information in the form of a story. When Farmer Howe's cow leaves the pasture to stand in front of the entrance to a cave, the curious farmer discovers that breezes from the underground caves are keeping the cow cool. The book also describes how caves evolve and what is inside them. Kelly Milner Halls in Booklist called Caves "science with grace." Rivers: Nature's Wondrous Waterways discusses the water cycle, ecology, geology, and environmental awareness, while focusing mainly on rivers. The information is conveyed in verse, which Shelley Townsend-Hudson described in Booklist as "awkward." However, School Library Journal contributor Lynn Dye thought that Harrison's explanation of how a river forms is written in "clear, poetic prose." Volcanoes: Nature's Incredible Fireworks explains how volcanoes form, where they can be found, and what happens when they erupt. Although a critic for Kirkus Reviews felt that Harrison leaves many questions unanswered in this book, Carolyn Phelan in Booklist praised Volcanoes for its "surprisingly graceful text."

In addition to picture books, Harrison has authored a number of poetry collections for young readers. Somebody Catch My Homework features a variety of poems addressing the trials and tribulations children often have about school. Missing-homework excuses, asking timely permission for restroom privileges, and complaints about playground bullies are set to verse with a sense of humor that is accessible to children. According to School Library Journal contributor Lee Bock, Somebody Catch My Homework is "reminiscent of the styles of [Jack] Prelutsky and [Shel] Silverstein." Writing in Booklist, Hazel Rochman applauded the book's "immediacy and slapstick," while a Kirkus reviewer described Somebody Catch My Homework as "all recognizable, neatly scanned, and genuinely funny" and labeled it "a winner—to read aloud, pass around, and chortle over again."

Harrison's collection A Thousand Cousins: Poems of Family Life provides a light-hearted look at family situations which often confuse and confound children. The poet explores the relationships between siblings and extended family members and makes light of situations common to many children, such as fathers snoring loudly and mothers incessantly reminding their kids to keep clean. A critic in Kirkus Reviews observed that most of the poems "have punchy endings; each revolves around some gimmick." School Library Journal contributor Marjorie Lewis asserted that these poems will "elicit giggles from young readers and listeners." A similar topical familiarity informs The Alligator in the Closet: And Other Poems around the House. The verses in this collection look at such commonplace household moments as the disruption posed by a new baby, a barking dog, a pesky spider, or the lack of toilet paper in the bathroom. Booklist correspondent Carolyn Phelan felt that the "familiar, homely topics and straightforward approach" make The Alligator in the Closet a good choice for reading out loud.

The Purchase of Small Secrets is a compilation of thirty-eight free-verse poems about a boy growing up in the country, while Wild Country: Outdoor Poems for Young People collects several short poems about Harrison's observations in the wild. Wild Country is separated into four sections: "Mountains," "High Country," "Forest," and "Sea." The Animals' Song is a book-length nonsense rhyme that includes children playing instruments and animals making their respective noises.

About his work as a children's writer and poet, Harrison once said: "I've always maintained two careers. First I worked in a pharmacology lab by day and wrote at night. Then came editing greeting cards by day and writing by night, followed by managing a business by day and writing at night. That used to seem normal to me. Now I'm not as sure. Years ago I'd come home from my day job and work on some manuscript until late at night. Late comes earlier than it once did. That's why I write in the mornings.

"Something else that's changed is the way folks react if you tell them you write for young people. They used to say something like, 'Oh?' beneath arched eyebrows, signifying that it was a darned pity you couldn't make it as a real writer. Thanks to our nation's well-founded concerns about educating and developing our newest generations, writing for young people is now recognized as a worthy goal. Writers have always known that they must grow with their work. What could be a better strategy for success than to choose an audience that also must keep growing?"

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, December 1, 1986, p. 583; January 15, 1993, p. 914; May 1, 1994, p. 1608; April 1, 1997, Hazel Rochman, review of The Animals' Song, p. 1337; November 15, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of Wild Country: Outdoor Poems for Young People, p. 620; September 1, 2000, Ellen Mandel, review of A Farmer's Garden: Rhymes for Two Voices, p. 122; September 15, 2001, Kelly Milner Halls, review of Caves: Mysteries beneath Our Feet, p. 228; February 1, 2002, Carolyn Phelan, review of Johnny Appleseed: My Story, p. 949; April 1, 2002, Shelley Townsend-Hudson, review of Rivers: Nature's Wondrous Waterways, p. 1330; July, 2002, Carolyn Phelan, review of Vocanoes: Nature's Incredible Fireworks, p. 1851; April 1, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Alligator in the Closet: And Other Poems around the House, p. 1408.

Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 1992, p. 1573; January 1, 1994, p. 68; December 15, 1995, p. 1770; March 15, 2002, review of Rivers, p. 412; August 1, 2002, review of Volcanoes, p. 1131; August 15, 2002, review of Dylan, the Eagle-hearted Chicken, p. 1225.

Library Journal, January 15, 1973, Evelyn Stewart, review of The Book of Giant Stories, p. 253.

Publishers Weekly, December 11, 1972, p. 36; November 29, 1993, p. 64; December 17, 2001, review of The Book of Giant Stories, p. 94.

Reading Teacher, October, 1994.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 5, 1994.

School Library Journal, December, 1986, pp. 122-123; January, 1993, p. 92; February, 1994, p. 86; November, 1994, p. 98; March, 1996, p. 209; March, 1997, Patricia Pearl Doyle, review of The Animals' Song, p. 160; November 1, 1998, Angela J. Reynolds, review of The Purchase of Small Secrets, p. 136; December, 1999, Carolyn Angus, review of Wild Country, p. 151; November, 2000, Susan Scheps, review of Farmer's Garden, p. 122; October, 2001, Catherine Threadgill, review of Mysteries beneath Our Feet, p. 140; May, 2002, Lynn Dye, review of Rivers, p. 138; August, 2002, Gay Lynn Van Vleck, review of Dylan, the Eagle-hearted Chicken, p. 156; March, 2003, Nancy Palmer, review of The Alligator in the Closet, p. 218; September, 2003, John Peters, review of The Mouse Was Out at Recess, p. 199.*

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Bob Graham (1942-) Biography - Awards to Francis Hendy Biography - Born to Sew