FICTION

Carl and the Meaning of Life

illus. by Deborah Freedman. 48p. Viking. Apr. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780451474988.
COPY ISBN
RedReviewStarPreS-Gr 2—Carl is an earthworm who spends his day tunneling through the soil. When a field mouse asks him why he does what he does, Carl realizes that he does not know—but he is determined to find out. Carl visits with Bear, Rabbit, Fox, and others who are aware of their own purposes, but not Carl's. It takes a tiny ground beetle to enlighten him. Nature-inspired watercolor illustrations are gentle and inviting. The text appears in a simple black font, complementing the artwork. When Carl is busy at his job, the text is white against the brown earth and meanders across the pages, following Carl's tunneling track. Tiny black eyes and communicative postures express the attitudes of Carl and the other animals. But on the last page, when Carl finally learns his raison d'etre, readers also see a hint of his satisfied smile.
VERDICT This book is a poignant example of the important contributions of even the smallest creature, but it's better than that—it's a science lesson as well. Freedman subtly explains the delicate balance of nature and each creature's role in maintaining it. Carl is an endearing protagonist.

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