Gr 1-3-This simply written introduction focuses on the organisms that cause decay or rot. Ring briefly describes how various bacteria, fungi, mosses, lichen, birds, mammals, insects, and other invertebrates feed upon and break down plant and animal material until it becomes part of the soil, enriching it with important nutrients. The author presents useful insights on the importance of biodegradation in nature. The text is clearly written; however, the organization of some information is awkward. Most scientific terms, presented in italics, are not defined when they first appear, but are in an appendix in smaller print. Likewise, little material on the characteristics of the plants, animals, and insects involved in decay is given in the main text-it appears in the appendix. One to three sharp, full-color photographs illustrate every page. A number of the shots are fascinating, e.g., those showing a pumpkin, apple, and daffodil before and after putrefaction takes hold. Vicki Cobb's Lots of Rot (Lippincott, 1981; o.p.) offers more detailed information on the characteristics of mold and bacteria and tells how to conduct simple experiments on their growth patterns. Its cartoonlike drawings, however, are unappealing. Bianca Lavies's Compost Critters (Dutton, 1993) provides a bit more information on some, but not all, of the same decomposers (e.g., earthworms, insects, fungi), and is illustrated with marvelous, full-color close-up photos of the creatures in action.-Karey Wehner, San Francisco Public Library
nger for reading aloud. With an eye-catching cover showing a rotten jack-o'-lantern with new pumpkin plants sprouting inside, this combines a topic of keen interest to children with spectacular photographs. Using a sprightly tone ("Now the pumpkin wears a weird grin" ), Ring talks about the ways that fruits, flowers, and leaves decompose and discusses some of nature's "rotters," such as bacteria and beetles. Following the decay of a log, she describes a variety of molds, fungi, mosses, insects, and animals that help the decomposition process along. The explanations are clear, and Ring includes a glossary that provides additional information without burdening the main text. Crisp, colorful, and thoughtfully selected close-up photographs taken by Dwight Kuhn add interesting, sometimes funny touches throughout. Appealing to kids and an invaluable resource for primary-grade teachers doing units on composting.