Today we are celebrating Earth Day 2011 with a visit behind the making of Compost Stew: An A-to-Z Recipe for the Earth, by Mary McKenna Siddals, illustrated by Ashley Wolff. It’s the perfect book to share — and not just for its timely ecological theme. The artwork — beautifully composed collages created from recycled materials — really walks the earth-walk with cheer.
To set the groundwork for a visual narrative, illustrator Ashley Wolff opens with the setting — an outdoor homestead featuring 6 recurring characters (2 girls, 2 boys, a dalmatian, and a goose), all busily enlisted to carry out culling together the ingredients for making compost in a huge caldron-like bin.
You can see all six characters in the final version (below). Make sure to click directly on the image to check out the red-haired girl’s attire. . . .
Here’s the source for the storyline: The real compost stew.
Author Mary McKenna Siddals lively rhyming text instructions for cooking up dark, crumbly, rich, earth-friendly compost begins by calling out ingredients alphabetically.
Preliminaries are begun with a thumbnail storyboard.
Compost is layered. The same goes for assembling recycled papers and other assorted bits and pieces for each character.
Here is an early character study. Note customized tailoring of the dress.
We follow all 6 characters as they team up on their endeavor. As we get to know them, we look out for them on each page.
By the end, they celebrate their success, against the background of a vast vegetable field. And when they check their compost caldron, it’s filled with rich, crumbly compost, and happily wiggling worms!
Here’s G, as in Grass clippings; and H, as in Hair snippings, plus “… an Insect or two…”
Check out the dog, writhing in the grass. And the goose — its wings are edged with marbleized paper!
It’s clear that Ashley developed an organized system for categorizing her recycled materials by color, texture, pattern — exactly the same way any artist would store their paints.
This would serve her well in maintaining a consistent appearance between each character. For example, the red-headed cover girl wears the same green striped dress and newsprint apron (with dates and type patterns varied in delightful ways) throughout most of the narrative, and the other characters are handled the same way.
Hmmm. Doesn’t the red-headed heroine look like Ashley?
Published by Tricycle Press, Compost Stew came out right at the time the company was subsequently acquired by Random House. While its original acquiring editor, Joanne Meivi Taylor, is no longer on board, the book is gradually gaining traction.
Spread the word to friends and colleagues about composting (and ingenious art creation through recycling) with Compost Stew!
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