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I have so much admiration for people who compost in apartment buildings. I never did, and I was not even aware of at-home pick-up services for organic waste. But now, since I moved to a house with a yard, I try not to miss a single opportunity to make compost from my own organic waste. It gives me so much joy to see that I can use vegetables for family meals and save the scraps for the compost… compost that will be used to enrich and fertilize the garden soil, a soil that will provide vegetables for our table, and so on.


Somehow, when I make a strawberry cake and I have it with tea or coffee, and when I save the strawberries’ leaves and stems, the egg shells, the tea bags or the coffee grounds for the compost bin, it’s like I share my dessert with nature. Composting creates a concrete positive connection with the environment, one that is as important as understanding the abstract environmental benefits of composting, such as soil conditioning or reducing landfill waste.


That’s why I like Compost Stew, a picture book by Mary McKenna Siddals. In it, composting is a way of showing care to the environment by preparing a fresh and healthy stew for earth.


Ashley Wolff used a collage of collected materials to illustrate the picture book, which is a clever way to reinforce the message of recycling.


Compost Stew is also rich in useful information about what goes and what doesn’t go into a compost pile, as well as why it’s important to create a balance of “green” organic materials (which contain large amounts of nitrogen, such as apple cores) and “brown” organic materials (with large amounts of carbon, such as dry leaves).


Composting might seem like a new trend, but it’s really an age-old process of nature. As leaves and plants fall to the ground, they decompose, giving nutrients back to the land.


Compost Stew also teaches the alphabet through rhymes, which reminds me of the alphabet soup of garbage from another excellent picture book, I Stink! by Kate and Jim McMullan.


The McMullans write about a garbage truck that describes his job and his important role of keeping the city clean… in a kind of gross but cool way. I always wish the truck wouldn’t mix organic, recyclable, and other waste in one place.

alphabet soup

But, in the end, it’s not the garbage truck’s fault – he just carries whatever we decide to fill him with.