Springfield-based author David Harrison’s latest book goes on sale

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Springfield-based author David Harrison’s latest book goes on sale

The year was 1998 or 1999, according to Springfield-based author David Harrison’s best recollection.

Harrison, author of scores of children’s books, many of them focused on poetry and the wonders of the living planet, was making his first foray into a completely different type of writing. He was at work on a reading textbook that teachers and students could use in the classroom.

His co-author was Bernice E. Cullinan, a prominent professor at New York University who served as head of the International Literacy Association, remembered five years after her death as a “tireless advocate” for reading education.

“She was a force in the field, at a time when I decided I would like to begin to get my name in the classroom a little bit more,” Harrison told the News-Leader in a Tuesday interview.

And the two literary forces did not see eye to eye. An editorial meeting at Scholastic Books looked like something out of a divorce battle: Around a massive boardroom conference table; Harrison was seated at one end with Cullinan at the other, flanked by two of her students. Their editor was stuck in the middle, playing peacemaker.

“Bee was delightful,” Harrison remembered, using the professor’s nickname. “We just had a serious disagreement among friends.”

The nature of their beef was over whether a textbook to help young school children should contain lessons about free verse, an open form of poetry that doesn’t use rhyming words.

“I refuse to have my name on a book with free verse in it,” Harrison recalled Cullinan as saying. In his telling, she thought free verse was too much for little kids to handle.

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