Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Leaf Litter Critters

Leaf Litter Critters

Leslie Bulion
Illustrator:  Robert Meganck 
Poetry Book
For ages 7 to 10
Peachtree Publishers, 2018   ISBN: 978-1561459506

Many of the ecosystems that we come into contact with are beautiful and even awe-inspiring. There are also some ecosystems that are not so obvious but they are full of remarkable creatures that serve a very important purpose. The leaf litter layer is just such an ecosystem. It lies beneath our feet and is made up of fallen leaves, branches, and other organic matter. When the leaf litter decomposes it becomes a part of the soil, making it healthier and more fertile.

The leaf litter layer is full of organisms that help with the decomposing process, and they also mix the organic material with the inorganic material by tunneling their way up and down, this way and that. Some of the life forms in this “brown food web,” are microscopic, while others, like beetles and centipedes, can be quite large.

In this fascinating, and cleverly funny book, we meet a few of the organisms that play a role in the brown food web. We begin with bacteria, which tell us, in their own words, what they do in the “root-o-sphere.” We find out how the bacteria partner up with plants, and how their “colonies / decomposing already dead / plants/ animals/ fungi.”

Mushrooms come next. Though they may look ornamental to our eyes, these organisms do a lot of hard work underground, spreading their root like filaments unto the soil. There the filaments release enzymes and acids that decompose even the toughest of nature’s substances. They are the “true superheroes of / litter decay.”

Later in the book we get aquatinted with springtails and nematodes, mites and centipedes. Worms of various kinds also appear, including the earthworm that is so dear to gardeners. Though a worm might not look like much this “ecosystem engineer” digs and tunnels, eating as it goes.

With humor, the author of this book tells the story of some of the unsung heroes in the natural world. Each poem in the book is accompanied by a “Science Note” that provides readers with further information about the organism that they are reading about.

At the back of the book the author tells us about the poetry forms that she used in her poems. Here she also offers readers information about how they might investigate the critters who live in the leaf litter layer.