Compost Stew


“Environmental chefs, / here’s a recipe for you / . . . to mix a batch / of Compost Stew.” This cheerful title uses the alphabet to introduce children to ingredients that make great compost, from apple cores to zinnias “whose blooming days are through.” The text includes some creative solutions for typically challenging letters (“Xmas tree needles”), and kids will have fun chanting along with the refrain: “Just add to the pot / and let it all rot / into Compost Stew.” A short supplementary note about what compost is and why it is beneficial is included, along with an explanation for a few obscure ingredients, such as “quarry dust.” This title highlights a subject rarely covered in youth books and provides a lighthearted introduction to an earth- and kid-friendly activity. The brightly patterned collage artwork featuring a cast of multicultural kids working together will easily draw a young audience.

An easy recipe for soil enrichment. Well written in rhyming text, the descriptive phrases are as engaging as a list of, well, garbage might be: “Dirt clods, crumbled/Eggshells crushed/Fruit pulp left behind, all mushed/Grass clippings/Hair snippings/and an Insect or two/Just add to the pot/and let it all rot/into Compost Stew.” Collage illustrations, also made of recycled ingredients, reinforce the theme of reusing materials to create something new. As colorful and charming as the compositions are, the human and animal figures are flat and uninspiring. Student environmental groups might use this recipe to expand school recycling efforts and create compost for vegetable and flower gardens, or to give away to community members. Using cafeteria scraps, recycled paper, and grass clippings would teach students how to make this rich, robust stew work for their own school gardens and, literally and figuratively, improve the earth.
~School Library Journal
“An imaginative and engaging introduction to the concept of composting.”
~CM Magazine

“This wonderful rhyming picture book will show children how easy, and how fun, composting can be.”
~Through the Looking Glass

“Bouncy rhymes and busy collage art zip along as everything from apple cores to zinnia heads gets tossed into a rich and rotting soil-bound mix. A potentially heavy-handed message is delivered with a light touch so that you want to start your own waste heap right away. Mission accomplished!”
~San Francisco Chronicle:“When it comes to promoting environmentalism, there’s no harm in starting young….Ashley Wolff’s collage-style illustrations, made from newspaper, tea bags and other recycled materials, echo writer Mary McKenna Siddals’s message of reducing waste.”
~Washington Post:Compost Stew is beautiful, poetic, evocative—and educational. It provides such vital, important information for children (and adults) to understand and embrace, and to put into practice! This book greatly respects its readers, and I hope it will become as widely read and popular as it deserves.
~Mollie Katzen, author of Moosewood Cookbook and Pretend Soup

Bright pictures in collage created with recycled and found items are not only well-executed but recall the texture of the materials and tactile experience of the characters in the book. Wolff features a diverse cast of people of all ages collecting, saving, hauling and tossing ingredients to “just add to the pot /and let it all rot / into Compost Stew.”


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