Bea & Flea and the Compost Caper
Bea & Flea and the Compost Caper
They soon arrived at the gooey brown banana peel.
“Rodney the Rotifer!” Flea cried. “Long time no see.”
Even with her magic glasses, Bee had to squint to find Rodney. The rotifer was a clear worm like Mr. Potworm, but smaller, blobbier – and without the bow tie.
“I’m here for an official statement,” Flea told Rodney, who was floating in a thin slime of ooze that clung to the peel. “We’d like to know how this all began.”
“Right,” Bee chimed in. “Like why are the bugs eating each other and pooping everywhere and just going BANANAS?”
When Bee, a busy pollinator who is bored with her job, meets Flea, a sassy “professional parasite” and sole agent of F.L.E.A. (Fenced-in-area Law Enforcement Agency), a memorably comedic environmental sleuthing duo is formed. Alerted to a disturbance at the compost heap via the Cricket Communication Network, the pair investigates.
Arriving at the compost bin, Bee skids on oozing, withered lettuce leaves and wonders if this is a crime scene or merely a grime scene. Flea immediately springs into action, issuing fines and tickets to mud wrestling pincered critters and eight-legged bugs for “Reckless running. Disruptive digging”. Equipped with special glasses to observe the microscopic mayhem, Bee employs the scientific method and makes notes on all the activity in progress, including “Critter Chaos, Bug Battles, Greedy Gobbling, Pooping, Pooping, Feasting on Family, Plenty More Pooping”. As Bee and Flea discover, there is a reason for this mighty (and mitey) hullabaloo and apparent arachnid anarchy. The pot worms, nematodes, rotifers, mites and bacteria are not breaking the rules; they are doing important work to help the garden.
This easy-to-read, engaging exploration of the composting process provides lots of scientific facts. The pun-filled narrative offers up the right dose of gross: “houseflies upchuck in their food to soften it before they eat it.” Witty banter flies between Bee and Flea and contains pithy information (Bee’s antennae “which she used to smell – were extra sensitive”), funny jokes (“did you hear about the amoeba that called a restaurant to make a reservation? … He said, “Table for one, please. It’s just amoeba myself”), and even pronunciation tips (“Rodney’s part of the Pseudocoelomate family” …. “Soo-doe-SEE-lo-mate”).
Mike Deas’ detailed pen-and-ink illustrations appear throughout the 11 short chapters, adding another layer of humour. Flamboyant, wisecracking Flea wears horn-rimmed glasses and has a seemingly bottomless fanny pack that contains a telescope, safety vest, and kazoo, to name but a few proffered items. Roly-poly Bee carries a clipboard and jots notes wherever she finds herself, including being stuck in a wormhole.
Teamwork and inquisitiveness are main ingredients in this entertaining and informative compost caper. Bee and Flea gain new friends and an understanding of ecosystems: “big, small, or teeny-tiny – we all depend on one another.” A quiz at the end invites readers to become an official F.L.E.A. agent. Bea & Flea and the Compost Caper is a buzz-worthy beginning chapter book that is heaps of fun.
Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, Ontario.