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Harriet’s Hungry Worms

Harriet’s Hungry Worms
Samantha Smith (author) and Melissa Johns (illustrator)

EK Books $24.99

There’s a world of delicious detail and wordplay in Harriet’s Hungry Worms – a new picture book from Samantha Smith (author) and Melissa Johns (illustrator) for readers aged 4 to 8.

Harriet’s slimy, hungry, relaxed, shiny and healthy compost worms crunch, scoff, feast and snack. They munch on muesli on Monday, wild weeds on Wednesday and Fred’s fruit on Friday.

But Harriet wants something more exciting to happen. She’s happy to keep feeding them – after all it’s her responsibility in the family to do so – but she wonders why the worms are so boring.

Eventually, she discovers that from all that munching and crunching they produce worm wee, which has the magical power (once diluted) to make her vegetables grow large and juicy. She’s overjoyed to find the worms have a purpose and that feeding them puts the family’s kitchen food scraps to good use.

Melbourne-based author Samantha Smith said, “I wanted to write an eco-book that wasn’t didactic – instead sparking children’s interest in worm farming in a fun way and showing them how simple it is for them to try at home.

“I wrote the first draft with my three children – Tom, Ben and Evie – who are just as excited about bringing Harriet’s Hungry Worms to life and sharing it with their friends.

“[I also loved] seeing the story come to life through Melissa’s beautiful illustrations using recycled materials. I particularly loved discovering the worm having a snooze on an old tea bag!”

Artist, illustrator and upcycler Melissa Johns produces artworks mainly made of recycled materials that lend her work a uniquely whimsical quality as demonstrated in this latest book and also in Growing Pains and Tabitha and the Raincloud.

“Recycled papers are the predominant media used; recycled teabags are used in all my artworks and illustrations, added to these are the outside of coffee cups, wrapping paper, gift bags and serviettes,” she said.

“For Harriet, her family, and their dog I have added recycled wools and cottons for the first time. Once all of the recycled pieces have been collaged in place, I then add all of the finer details using paint and inks.”

Harriet provides some easy to absorb facts about composting worms and what to feed them at the end of the book – including the fact that worms have been on our planet for 500 million years!

The Teacher Notes also provide some great activities, along with this explanation of why composting is good for the planet: “When organic waste ends up in a landfill, it decomposes without oxygen and produces methane – a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Composting, on the other hand, allows organic waste to break down with oxygen and produces a nutrient-rich soil. Using an organic / green bin at school or at home is a way to help divert organic waste from landfill.”

Harriet’s Hungry Worms was released on May 3, just in time for International Compost Awareness Week Australia (ICAW) from May 7 to 13. ICAW Australia is an initiative of the Centre for Organic Research & Education (CORE), a not-for-profit organisation conducting year round organic research, education and awareness activities. Adults intrigued by Harriet but wanting to know more to know more detailed information about the benefits of composting could augment their understanding here.

Harriet’s Hungry Worms broaches composting, sustainability and recycling and would be an excellent addition to any library or classroom. It introduces children to composting and worm farms in an accessible, light-hearted and intriguing way that should inspire children to give it a go.

It is a smart book with a bright heart that encourages the best kinds of environmental responsibility and behavioural change in Aussie kids.


Harriet’s Hungry Worms is out on May 3, 2023.

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