Carl and the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman (9780451474988)
When a mouse asks Carl, an earthworm, why he digs in the dirt all day, Carl doesn’t have a good answer. So he sets off to find one. He asks all sorts of animals in the meadow “Why?” Some of them answer with their own reasons for why they do what they do. Rabbit does things to take care of her babies. Fox does things to hunt. Squirrel plants trees by hiding nuts in the ground in order to have homes in the future. But why does an earthworm dig in the dirt? Carl doesn’t get any good answers. He finally finds himself on a hard patch of dirt where a beetle complains that he can’t find any grubs to eat. Suddenly, Carl understands what he does and why and begins to turn the hard earth into soft dirt. As he works, the area transforms back into green grass, planted seeds, and plenty of wildlife.
Freedman takes one worm’s curiosity about why he does things and cleverly transforms it into a look at the interconnected roles of animals and worms on the habitat they live in. The story here is tightly written, following a structure of questioning neighbors and coming to a conclusion that is familiar in children’s literature.
The illustrations really show exactly the impact of an earthworm and move from lushness to a dry landscape back to the beauty of new growth and then lushness once more. As always, Freedman’s watercolors are filled with color, even transforming the brown dirt into a fertile and fascinating space on the page.
Another winner from a master book creator. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Viking Books for Young Readers.