As we go about our daily routines, we fill trash bags with empty milk cartons and coffee cans, worn clothing, toothpaste tubes squeezed flat, crumpled junk mail, fish bones, cardboard boxes and apple cores. Once we fill a trash bag, close it up and set it out for garbage collectors, that's the end of it, right? Not at all. For some of earth's creatures, a trash bag—in this case, one that falls out when a pick-up truck hits a bump—is just the beginning. Lackner's picture book starts out with a pair of raccoons who spread the refuse—"Chew, toss, tear, splatter, smash, squish, munch crunch." They are soon satisfied; off they go. Now who will take over? Earthworms. Powers' lively, colorful illustrations show these refuse recyclers as they tunnel, nibble and turn while above ground the natural cycle of life goes on—a tree falls, fungus grows on rotting wood, lightning sparks a fire, winter comes and goes, a robin appears and hunts for worms. Finally, a boy and girl come along. They take away discarded clothing to make a scarecrow. "Seasons pass, flowers bloom, trees tower and tumble. Everything returns to the earth. Toil, worms, toil." Only a boot remains where garbage was spread. The book's final pages are full of information about worms, recycling and how people can help worms. Toil in the Soil would be handy to have during a kindergarten or preschool "Earth Day," when worms are in the classroom or on a field trip to a recycling center. But the text is lackluster and not nearly as engaging as the pictures. 2001, The Millbrook Press, $21.90. Ages 2 to 6. Reviewer: Judy Crowder
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2-Worms are introduced as nature's composters in this brief picture book. Each turn of the page reveals a full-bleed double-page spread with a brown text box filled with three phrases and an admonition to the worms: "Sun shines, earth/warms, robin spies;/Hide, worms, hide!" The illustrations generally illuminate the text, although no worms appear to be grabbing anything on the page where they're told to "Grab, worms, grab," and it's unclear what is turning or being turned when the text advises "Turn, worms, turn." The watercolor illustrations themselves are a puzzling mixture of graceful, natural underground scenes of worms and dirt under brightly colored aboveground panoramas including Disneylike animals, a quaint curved-roof house, and cookie-cutter evergreens. Notes at the end explain the workings of worms and suggest ways to help them. An additional purchase to supplement Bobbi Kalman and Janine Schaub's more informative Squirmy Wormy Composters (Crabtree, 1992) and Theresa Greenaway's Worms (RSVP, 1999).-Ellen Heath, Orchard School, Ridgewood, NJ Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.