April 19, 2015

Charlie's Dirt Day

by Andrew Larsen
Illustrated by Jacqueline Hudon-Verrelli
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
32 pp.
Ages 4+
January, 2015

Charlie's Dirt Day may sound like another story of messy play, but it's actually one for the onset of spring and the coming of Earth Day and could be so useful in teaching the value of composting and joys of gardening to little ones!

Charlie may think the "nannies and grannies and moms and dads and boys and girls and cats and dogs and wagons and wheelbarrows and buckets and bowls and babies" are the start of a parade but, when his dad–who bears an uncanny resemblance to author Andrew Larsen–and Charlie follow, the procession leads them to a big pile of dirt, resting in the middle of the park beneath a banner announcing "Dirt Day!"  Not just dirt, as a man in green overalls corrects, but "the richest, dirtiest dirt you'll ever see."

Though Mr. Martino has plans for the compost, including sharing it with Mrs. Lee and Mr. Patel, Charlie has no garden and is disappointed that he won't be able to share in this experience.  But Andrew Larsen allows Charlie, and all readers, to learn about growing cherry tomatoes from seed and the satisfaction of coming together to do something good for Mother Earth and enjoying the fruits of one's labour (pun fully intended!) as a community. The pleasure in the faces of Jacqueline Hudon-Verrelli's characters, especially that of young Charlie as he cradles his first potted seed, is wide and encompassing and joyous.  Bravo and yum too!

The activities and information included in Charlie's Dirt Day, as always appended to the story in Fitzhenry & Whiteside's Tell Me More Storybook series, includes differentiation between dirt, soil and compost; how nature composts; growing cherry tomatoes from seed; and making compost in a cup, a perfect hands-on activity for children.

Here's my only question:  where's the recipe for Martino's Marvellous Spaghetti Sauce?!  Tell me more!

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