Illustrated by Denise Fleming
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About The Book

Discover the down and dirty secrets of underground creatures in this vibrant picture book from a Caldecott Honor medalist.

What young child doesn’t love playing in the dirt? And who hasn’t wondered what goes on in the lives of all the creatures who live underground?
     Celebrated Caldecott Honor medalist Denise Fleming applies her signature bold and bright pulp-paper-collage style to a universal childhood topic in this dynamic, rhythmic book that’s just right for reading aloud—and comes complete with a detailed glossary.

About The Author

Photograph courtesy of the author

Denise Fleming has written and illustrated numerous celebrated books, including 5 Little Ducks; Go, Shapes, Go!; underGROUND; SHOUT!; Sleepy, Oh So Sleepy; Time to Sleep; The Everything Book; Alphabet Under Construction; Count!; In the Tall, Tall Grass; In the Small, Small Pond, which received a Caldecott Honor; and This Is the Nest That Robin Built. She lives in Toledo, Ohio, with her husband, David Powers, with whom she often collaborates.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Beach Lane Books (September 2012)
  • Length: 40 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781442458826
  • Grades: P - 3
  • Ages: 4 - 8

Raves and Reviews

“The earth beneath children’s feet is teeming with activity if only they look. In this engaging backyard exploration, the art provides a narrative frame: A boy and his dog are planting a tree. Brief, rhythmic text invites youngsters to examine the labyrinth “[l]ow down. / Way down. / Under ground.” Fleming’s pulp-painting technique is used to best advantage to capture the textures of coarse dirt, pebbles, roots and tunnels, and every page-turn offers full-spread cutaway views…. Children who look closely will also find those lost treasures that are always so much fun to dig up—a key, a coin, a toy car and more…. A spread entitled Creature Identification provides more information about each of the critters, completing the book. Validation for every kid who's ever picked up a trowel to explore the wonders underground.”

—Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2012

“Bursting with her signature bold color and textured pulp paintings, Fleming’s latest tour de force affords an immersion into the backyard world below our feet. Economical and descriptive, the rhythmic text pairs with cross-section illustrations of the myriad creatures that burrow, dig, and funnel their way underneath the earth’s surface. Revealed amid the nests and tunnels, too, are other (and oft amusing) forms of subterranean deposits: seeds, root vegetables, old tools, keys, dog bones. Young readers will spot a connecting narrative arc in the artwork as a young boy helps plant and water a new cherry tree. An illustrated “Creature Identification” index is appended, offering concise information about the underground habits of the wildlife. A first-rate picture book on every level and made-to-order for group sharing, this title reveals the fascinating “squirm-ways and worm-ways” found in the natural world.”

School Library Journal, August 2012

“Fleming invites youngsters to observe underground creatures, large and small, as well as their tunnels, burrows, food sources, and activities…while the few words on the pages may compel readers to flip quickly through the book, the gorgeous images invite lingering contemplation. Fleming’s pulp-painting collage illustrations are rich with texture and color: soft green leaves, fuzzy white roots, and grainy brown soil. The pages hum with life and activity…. Kids who spend time with this book will want to get their hands dirty to investigate for themselves what life is like for these fascinating underground creatures.”

Horn Book Magazine, September/October 2012

“In this evocative ode to nature, Fleming returns to the backyard turf of In the Tall, Tall Grass and In the Small, Small Pond, but digs deeper—literally—to explore the teeming life found “Low down./ Way down./ Under ground.”… Fleming’s scenes simultaneously depict what’s underneath and just above the ground; created via her trademark “pulp painting” process, the spreads have a marbled texture, and are rendered in bright sky blues, vibrant grassy greens, and the warm brown-reds of soil…. Fleming’s luminous scenes invite close inspection and creature-spotting, and a key at book’s end contains facts on more than 20 featured animals.”

– Publishers Weekly, August 13, 2012

"It's not every illustrator who can depict bunnies, moles, and grubs with an almost equal charm, but so Fleming does in this winning, factual look at life down under.... Simple rhyming text invites readers into the often-ignored realm.... Full-spread illustrations in Fleming's pulp-painting style bring the insects and animals of the subterranean world—and the occasional lost tool or toy—to the fore.... A "Creature Identification" page adds further value by detailing all of the subsurface critters in the illustrations."

– Booklist, December 2012

"Spare poetic text describes the multitude of activities that can be found taking place beneath the soil.... A rhyming refrain (“Low down./ Way down./ Underground”) opens and closes this introduction to animal life under the dirt, and a closing spread helpfully names and describes the various creatures that are depicted throughout the book. The information presented in this end matter is brief and concise in accordance with its youthful audience, and the thumbnail illustrations will prove immensely useful to readers...a very serviceable and age-appropriate introduction to studies of underground fauna, and a fine book to share before going outside to dig in the dirt."

– Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November 2012

"Basic cross-section illustrations highlight how critters and creatures go underground to eat, sleep, and grow.... Life cycle information about parenting and physical development, as well as broader descriptions including the animals’ diets and how they live and navigate their habitat, is included.... Illustrations boast Fleming’s signature style, using paper pulp paintings to create texture and add depth to the pictures. The subject of this book dovetails nicely with science lessons focusing on animal adaptations and habitats.... This book lends itself well to creating literacy activities for readings with younger elementary students. Like many of Fleming’s picture books, the text, illustrations, and curriculum connections for this title make it a great choice for libraries."

– Library Media Connection, March/April 2013, Recommended

Awards and Honors

  • Keystone to Reading Book Award Master List (PA)
  • Charlotte Zolotrow Highly Commended

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images

More books from this author: Denise Fleming