THE EARTH MOVED by Amy Stewart


On the Remarkable Acheivements of Earthworms
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An admirable portrait of that tireless ploughman: the earthworm.

In the detritusphere (the soil’s leaf litter layer) and below ground, the busy earthworm makes dirt and more, “folding the ruins of a city, a farm, or a society into the lower strata of the earth,” writes Stewart (From the Ground Up, 2001), who raises earthworms on her porch. She finds them endlessly fascinating, and they command her affection: “When I get home from a trip, the first thing I do is go outside and check on the worms.” As a gardener, she’s awed by the actions of these spineless wonders as they substantially alter the earth’s composition, increasing its capacity to absorb and hold water, bringing about an increase in nutrients and microorganisms. Stewart keeps the information digestible and poses all the questions we might have been afraid to ask. For instance, what are earthworms’ favorite human foods? Summer fruits, especially melon: “My worms eat a strictly vegan diet.” Stewart gives readers the benefit of her research, referring frequently to the copy of Darwin’s The Formation of Vegetable Mold, Through the Action of Worms she keeps close by her side and staying in touch with a hardy band of oligochaetologists who give her ideas to chew on, including the possible use of earthworms to process sewage and to reclaim polluted soil. The neatest trick in the earthworm’s bag is regeneration, its ability to grow replacements for amputated parts—even if it sometimes dooms itself by mistakenly growing a second head. Not that the earthworm is all beneficence, for just as it kills off harmful bacteria and fungus, it can also spread them, and worms can become detrimental to certain ecosystems, as when they were introduced to the forest understory and proceeded to displace local flora and fauna.

A nifty piece of natural history. Earthworms of the world can stand a little taller.

Pub Date: Jan. 23rd, 2004
ISBN: 1-56512-337-9
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2003

Kirkus Interview
Amy Stewart
September 8, 2015

In her first novel Girl Waits With Gun, Amy Stewart, who’s well-known for her nonfiction, crafts a solid, absorbing novel based on real-life events—though they’re unusual enough to seem invented. Constance Kopp and her sisters, Norma and Fleurette, are driving into Paterson, New Jersey, on a summer day in 1914 when a motor car rams them, splintering their buggy and mildly injuring all three women and their horse. Drunken lout Henry Kaufman thinks that owning a local silk manufacturer entitles him to ignore Constance’s reasonable request that he pay for the damages, but he’s misjudged his opponent. As Constance’s first-person narrative unfolds, we see that she’s a bold woman unafraid to defy convention, determined to see justice done and to protect her family. “More adventures involving gutsy Constance, quietly determined Sheriff Heath, and a lively cast of supporting characters would be most welcome,” our reviewer writes in a starred review. View video >


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