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Reviewed by:
  • Carl and the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman
  • Deborah Stevenson, Editor
Freedman, Deborah Carl and the Meaning of Life; written and illus. by Deborah Freedman. Viking, 2019 [40p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-451-47498-8 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-698-19258-4 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R 5-8 yrs

Who gets overlooked in song, story, and simple daily awareness? The lowly earthworm, that’s who. That may be why Carl, our earthworm protagonist, who spends his days “turning hard dirt into fluffy soil,” is asked by a puzzled field mouse, “Why? . . . Why do you do that?” Carl himself is stumped, so he goes off in search of an answer, asking a rabbit, a squirrel, and so on only to be met with bemusement. As he seeks his answer, though, the ground grows hard and inhospitable without its worm worker, and the animals begin to leave; when Carl encounters a hungry beetle who can’t find a single grub, he realizes what’s happened to the soil, understands why he does what he does, and goes back to work. Freedman adds the occasional sly touch of humor to this little ecological fable; the folkloric structure gives it movement, and the dialogue provides opportunity for entertaining characterization. The visuals bring further life to the story, with digitally assembled watercolor touched with colored pencil creating limpid green landscapes, and vermiform text tracing Carl’s underground journey through the rich brown soil. The environmental message here is made nicely concrete through squirmy little Carl, and this would fit well into an Earth Day or other environmental curriculum, as well as any day when you need to generate a little more respect for the humble worm. [End Page 296]



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