From bacteria to beetles, countless organisms survive and thrive at the junction of soil and the decaying matter lying on its surface.
Bulion, who celebrated ocean critters in At the Seashore Cafe (2011), turns landward to look at those who inhabit the leaf-litter layer called duff. In 19 poems she introduces decomposers and aerators such as fungi, tardigrades, springtails, and even earthworms. Many of these creatures are microscopic or near-microscopic; most will be unfamiliar. But each poem is accompanied by a clear description of the creature and its ecosystem role. Set in a smaller font, this exposition will be challenging but helpful to her readers. The poems are expertly crafted in a variety of forms (identified in the backmatter). The language is lively and the imagery appropriate. With alliteration, internal rhymes, and careful rhythm, these will be a delight to read aloud and learn. The culminating “A Few Favorite Brown Food Web Kings,” if sung to the tune of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things,” is both irresistible and a solid learning aid, grouping these once-unfamiliar creatures by their jobs in the leaf litter. Meganck’s engaging digital drawings give each creature pop-eyes and attitude. He concludes with a comparison image showing their sizes relative to a straight pin. The backmatter also includes instructions for litter-critter investigations and further resources.
A delightful, memorable introduction to an unsung ecosystem. (Informational poetry. 7-12)