Compost Stew Review for International Compost Awareness Week

COMPOST STEW:
AN A TO Z RECIPE FOR THE EARTH
Written by Mary McKenna Siddals
Illustrated by Ashley Wolff
(Tricycle Press/Random House Children’s Books;
$15.99 Hardcover, $7.99 Paperback, Ages 3 and up)

 

Compost Stew book cover illustration

 

For International Compost Awareness Week I wanted to check out Mary McKenna Siddals’ popular picture book, Compost Stew, because it’s always recommended for Earth Day as well as when a well-crafted “green-themed” book is needed to share its important content. It turns out that while I had’t read it before, it felt so familiar because my daughter, around age five or six, used to make her own variation of compost stew although quite unintentionally! Who knew then that it would have helped our garden grow or that we were accidental environmentalists?

 

Interior artwork from Compost Stew

Interior spread from Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth written by Mary McKenna Siddals and illustrated by Ashley Wolff, Tricycle Press/Random House BYR ©2010/2014

 

Earth’s resources are not infinite so it’s important for children to learn early on to treat our planet with respect, and how. In Compost Stew readers will be treated to a recipe for outdoor fun from A to Z beginning with “apple cores” and “bananas, bruised” all the way through to “yellow pine shavings” and “Zinnia heads.” But the best part is reading about what other ingredients get added to the environmentally friend concoction. Adding to the appeal of this story are illustrator Ashley Wolff’s “collage illustrations using recycled and found materials.” Not only do they pair perfectly together with Sidall’s prose, but looking at the newspaper and other items Wolff has incorporated into the artwork may yield some surprises like the stew itself.

 

 

Interior artwork from Compost Stew

Interior spread from Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth written by Mary McKenna Siddals and illustrated by Ashley Wolff, Tricycle Press/Random House BYR ©2010/2014

 

Siddals’ story, though eight years old, feels as fresh and appropriate today as it would have when first published. And caring for our planet never goes out of style! Having reviewed several of Siddals’ other picture books (Bringing the Outside In and Shivery Shades of Halloween) I should have known there would be catchy, clever rhyme involved bringing a bonus to this already engaging and educational story.

 

Final int spread from Compost Stew

Interior spread from Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth written by Mary McKenna Siddals and illustrated by Ashley Wolff, Tricycle Press/Random House BYR ©2010/2014

 

A helpful “Chef’s Note” is included as back matter so that youngsters will know what truly constitutes compost and what does not.

Grass clippings
Hair snippping
and an Insect or two

Just add to the pot
and let it all rot
into Compost Stew.

For example, egg shells are okay but not meat or dairy. Siddals also smartly advises readers to check with authorities for local regulations. Keeping that in mind, it’s time to start looking around to see what might go into your very first compost stew. Happy cooking!

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

Behind-the-scenes with illustrator Ashley Wolff on the making of Compost Stew:
https://gotstorycountdown.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/earth-day/

Illustrator Ashley Wolff on the creation of Compost Stew:
https://dulemba.blogspot.ca/2015/04/ashley-wolffs-compost-stew.html

Author’s Website: www.siddals.com
Illustrator’s Website: www.ashleywolff.com
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/CompostStew
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Bringing the Outside In (Random House)
Shivery Shades of Halloween (Random House)
Compost Stew (Tricycle/Random House)
Millions of Snowflakes (Clarion/Scholastic)
Tell Me a Season (Clarion)
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http://www.facebook.com/BringingTheOutsideInBook
http://www.facebook.com/ShiveryShadesOfHalloween
http://www.facebook.com/CompostStew

Bringing The Outside In by Mary McKenna Siddals

BRINGING THE OUTSIDE IN
Written by Mary McKenna Siddals
Illustrated by Patrice Barton
(Random House BYR; $17.99, Ages 3-7)

 

Bringing The Outside In cover image

 

The essence of childhood play is beautifully conveyed in Mary McKenna Siddals’ sing songy picture book, Bringing the Outside In. In this ode to outdoor pleasures, four pals spend carefree time galavanting in nature and their joy is contagious. Siddals’ rhymes and Barton’s seasonal artwork make every page loads of fun to read aloud and look at any time of year.

 

Interior artwork of children playing outdoors from Bringing The Outside In

Interior spread from Bringing The Outside In by Mary McKenna Siddals with illustrations by Patrice Barton, Random House Books for Young Readers ©2016.

 

I must add here that even if there were no lovely, action-filled illustrations by Patrice Barton, you could still imagine the scene easily: kids dashing about with rain jackets and umbrellas, splishing and sploshing to their hearts’ content. Whether in the garden or at the beach, in the rain or in the snow, the children always find something to do outside. Then, when they’re inside, they can delight in the memory of having been together by looking at photos.

 

Interior image of children playing at beach from Bringing The Outside In

Interior spread from Bringing The Outside In by Mary McKenna Siddals with illustrations by Patrice Barton, Random House Books for Young Readers ©2016.

 

Siddals has included simple yet catchy repetition to engage the youngest of readers who’ll want to have the story read over and over. Bringing the Outside In is a great book to encourage outdoor play with the promise of wonderful treasures of nature to discover everywhere.

 

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

Shivery Shades of Halloween by Mary McKenna Siddals

Mary McKenna SiddalsShivery Shades of Halloween: A Spooky Book of Colors (Random House Books for Young Readers, $12.99, Ages 3-7) with illustrations by Jimmy Pickering is such a great idea for a picture book!

shivery-shades-of-halloween

 

REVIEW:

I liked Shivery Shades of Halloween: A Spooky Book of Colors so much that I want to read more books like it, a series perhaps: The Tasty Tones of Thanksgiving or maybe the The Crimson Colors of Christmas! Okay, so those titles need some work, but after you read this clever new picture book and hear the hardy laughter of your kids, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s very, very catchy and it couldn’t hurt to have others in the queue for our favorite holidays.

Best of all, it may be called “A Spooky Book of Colors,” but Shivery Shades of Halloween isn’t scary in the least! In fact it’s funny, clever and educational. Siddals’ picture book will get your children thinking not only about all the different colors presented (green, purple, white, gray, blue, yellow, brown, black, red and of course, orange), but all the different words used to describe those colors in excellent internal rhyme …

HALLOWEEN IS WHITE
… Stony-bony, pearly-swirly, mostly ghostly
Wisp of white.

… in addition to the synonyms used for the word “color” – had to look that one up and it’s not easy, but Siddals pulls it off perfectly. There’s tinge of green, stain of red, glint of yellow … pigment anyone?

Pickering has designed an adorable (well, the sharp teeth aren’t SO adorable) bat-like creature (see lower right hand corner of cover above) who is colored all the shivery shades of Halloween and changes hues to match each scene it’s in. The youngest readers are bound to get a kick out of seeing when and where it turns up. The entertaining artwork features a bandaged-up red devil, a yellow cheese ball moon and a caped black cat. Pickering’s imaginative illustrations reminded me of Phineas And Ferb, one of my cartoon faves, meaning they’re never creepy and actually quite inviting.

Frankly, good Halloween picture books are hard to find. It’s why we see older titles turning up on lists and book shop displays again and again. So when a cute, creative new one like Shivery Shades of Halloween comes along, it’s worth noting. No newcomer to children’s books, Siddals gift of rhythm and rhyme is evident on every page promising to make Shivery Shades of Halloween a read-aloud request this holiday.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

GUEST POST: 
Mary McKenna Siddals – children’s author

GRWR: How did you come up with the idea for the book?

MMS: The idea for SHIVERY SHADES OF HALLOWEEN began with asking myself the question that opens the book: What color is Halloween? While musing about how black and orange predominate as the colors typically associated with this holiday, it occurred to me that Halloween is not only brimming with other colors, but that every color actually takes on its own distinctive spooky tone.

I began brainstorming the images that came to mind for each color, playing with the adjectives that might be used to describe them… and before I knew it, a manuscript was beginning to take shape. Of course, there was lots more tinkering involved… establishing a framework with rhythm and rhyme… giving the text a direction that implied a journey through the spectrum of the night… and plenty of wordplay to make it all work… but in the end… BOOyah! What emerged was the spirited text for SHIVERY SHADES OF HALLOWEEN: A Spooky Book of Colors.

Find Shivery Shades of Halloween on Facebook here.

Follow Jimmy Pickering on Facebook here.

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