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Saturday, May 18, 2019

Carl and the Meaning of Life, written and illustrated by Deborah Freedman. Viking, Penguin Random House. 2019. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"A fox appeared.
Carl turned to the fox.
"Why do I do what I do?"
asked Carl.
"Who do I do it for?"

"For whom," replied the fox.
"Alas, my meal awaits. I am
here for the hunt."

But Carl did not want to hunt."

There are times when one question changes the course of a life. In Carl's case, it happens when a field mouse asks him why he spends his days doing what he does: "burrowing, tunneling, digesting dead leaves,, feasting and casting,  turning hard dirt into fluffy soil ..."

You may have guessed that Carl is an earthworm, and has never considered an answer to the mouse's question. Upon doing so, he finds he has no answer. Leaving the mouse behind in his search for that answer, Carl sets off on a journey of discovery. Along the way, he meets a rabbit, a fox, a squirrel and more. As he moves forward trying to find his answer, things around him begin the change.

The ground begins to change. The forest animals leave the area:

"... the birds had flown off to find grasses and fluff ...
the bear trundled away to look for berries ...
soon there was nobody to talk to."

Carl is left to wander alone. A tiny squeak from a nearby beetle has Carl noticing what has happened while he's been on his quest. He suddenly realizes what he must do next ... and he does it! In doing so, he finds meaning in his life.

Using pencil, watercolor, and bits of colored pencil to create Photoshop images that share the natural world and a worm's-eye view of Carl's work will delight and inform young readers. There are many little discoveries to be made, beyond the main forest speakers. An author's note is engaging.


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