Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Marty McGuire Digs Worms!

Marty's back! You have to hand it to a third-grader who has no qualms about shredding her collection of princess paper dolls (unwanted gifts from a well-meaning but clueless grandmother) in order to recycle paper. In this second book of the series the students in Marty's school are on a mission to save the earth. A visiting environmentalist challenges the students to come up with projects to help the environment. When the glop of paper dolls fails to materialize into paper (and breaks the food processor to boot), Marty chooses a new project. With the help of Grandma Barb, her cool non-paper-doll-giving grandmother, Marty and her best friend Annie create a worm compost farm that will turn the leftovers from the school cafeteria into fertilizer.

Worms and third-graders make for an explosive mix, especially in the hands of Kate Messner. After the kids overfeed their slimy charges, the worms escape and Marty and Annie have to capture them. Patience isn't Marty's strong point, but over the course of the story she learns to wait for her worms to slowly process trash into compost. On the big day, the environmentalist returns to judge the projects. Will Marty's worms win or won't they? Messner cleverly keeps readers at the edge of their seats as the winners are announced and brought on stage.

Marty is an engaging character, one whom kids will be sure to root for. And the environmentalist message, while prevalent, is rarely heavy handed. The students at Orchard Street Elementary genuinely care about saving the environment. One girl, whose father sometimes throws soda cans in the regular trash and not the recycling bin, sets up a metal detector that will buzz if aluminum goes in. As she explains, "I really wanted to set it up so he'd get zapped with a shock, too, like those electric dog fences, but my mom said I couldn't." The story is heavily sprinkled with such humorous tidbits, making it an enjoyable read. Brian Floca's light-hearted illustrations add to the fun.

Marty McGuire Digs Worms!
by Kate Messner
illustrations by Brian Floca
Scholastic Press, 176 pages
Published: April 2012

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