Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Review - Charlie's Dirt Day

Charlie's Dirt Day
by Andrew Larsen
illustrated by Jacqueline Hudon-Verrelli
Date: 2015
Publisher: Fitzhenry & Whiteside
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: hardcover
Source: borrowed

Charlie learned about the life cycle of butterflies in Bye, Bye, Butterflies! and now is back for another Tell Me More Storybook adventure. When Charlie and his dad follow a parade of their neighbours through the local park they discover everyone is walking towards a big pile of dirt! But this isn't just any pile of dirt - this is compost. Charlie learns from his neighbors about the gardens they have and the delicious vegetables they grow in them. Mr Martino is growing tomatoes while Mrs Lee has onions and Mr Singh has herbs. Charlie is determined to become a gardener as well - and come up with something special to add to his neighbour's plans to make the best spaghetti sauce ever!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

There's been a copy of this book (and its companion, Bye, Bye, Butterflies!) sitting on the bookshelf for years. I only just got around to reading Charlie's Dirt Day. While it's a decent picture book with a non-fiction twist, I didn't enjoy this book about dirt as much as I enjoyed the one about butterflies.

Charlie's standing on the balcony when he notices a line of people walking below. Curious, he and his dad join the parade, only to find out that it's Dirt Day, and all their neighbours are headed to the park to pick up some free compost for their gardens. Charlie learns that one can grow all sorts of things in compost, even if it's just in a pot on the balcony. He's given a cherry tomato plant, which bears its fruit just in time for him to help Mr. Martino make his spaghetti sauce.

I found the plot of this book to be a little weaker than that of Bye, Bye, Butterflies! It's just people going to pick up compost. And while urban gardening is a worthy endeavour, I'm not sure that basic idea is enough to carry a story, especially the way it's presented here. The non-fiction information at the back kind of confuses the issue, too. The title of the book is Charlie's Dirt Day, and the story does refer to "dirt"... but the non-fiction notes at the end make things a bit confusing by differentiating between dirt, soil, and compost. What the book is actually talking about is soil or compost, not dirt. I'm not sure what kids are supposed to do with this contradictory message.

The illustrations are charming and unique, done in the same style as that of the companion book, but I wasn't quite as enthralled with them here. There seems to be less collage work and more straight drawing. Hudon's women are quite funny (the breasts--especially on the old woman--are kind of hilarious). There's plenty of diversity among the characters on Charlie's street; somehow, despite the faces being so stylized, Hudon is able to render different ethnicities without resorting to stereotypes. I do like the illustrations here... just not as much as I liked them in Bye, Bye, Butterflies!

Overall, this is a nice picture book with a non-fiction twist. If you can get past the semantic confusion about dirt/soil/compost, it might be a good book to add to a collection of environmental-themed picture books.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 5/5

Enjoyment: 4/5 

Overall: 4 out of 5

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