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Rotten!: Vultures, Beetles, Slime, and Nature’s Other Decomposers

Review

Rotten!: Vultures, Beetles, Slime, and Nature’s Other Decomposers

written by Anita Sanchez with illustrations by Gilbert Ford

You would be forgiven for thinking that a book about rot and decomposition would stink, but in the case of ROTTEN!: Vultures, Beetles, Slime, and Nature’s Other Decomposers by author Anita Sanchez and illustrator Gilbert Ford you would be wrong --- one could even say you would be dead and rotting wrong! Although the topic of decomposition might seem boring, gross or even unnecessary, Sanchez shows readers the importance of decomposition as well as its many different forms in engaging and humorous text; her passion and knowledge of the topic is evident throughout the book’s 80 pages.

"Sanchez shows readers the importance of decomposition as well as its many different forms in engaging and humorous text; her passion and knowledge of the topic is evident throughout..."

In the introduction to the book, Sanchez writes that, “Revolting as it seems, rot isn’t necessarily bad. What would happen if nothing ever decomposed?...Decomposition is part of nature. Decomposing seems like the last stop on the food chain—a dead end. But nature doesn’t move in a straight line; it turns in a circle. After decomposition comes new life” (p. 1). In the eight short chapters after the introduction, Sanchez takes readers on a trip along nature’s circular and winding path and decomposition’s important role in this cycle. Chapter topics include: dung beetles, scavengers, fungus, earthworms and rotting logs. The last three chapters of the book bring decomposition closer to home: Chapter 6: “What’s Rotting at Your House?,” Chapter 7: “A Tale of Two Sandwich Crusts,” and, Chapter 8: “Rotten People.” And for those looking for nonfiction books that include nonfiction text features, ROTTEN has you covered as it includes: a table of contents, glossary, notes, index and bibliography.

Illustrator Gilbert Ford pairs his humorous mixed media illustrations with Sanchez’ informative and engaging text to complete the appealing, or is it unappealing, package of ROTTEN!: Vultures, Beetles, Slime, and Nature’s Other Decomposers. Ford’s illustrations are a bit messy and imperfect with undefined edges, defined, messy strokes of paint or ink and blurred colors; however, the style fits perfectly with the subject matter as it too is often messy, undefined and blurry, both in its process and results. Many of Ford’s illustrations are funny, such as on page 50, in Chapter 6: “What’s Rotting at Your House?,” where he draws different cheeses with faces and a variety of facial expressions to pair with Sanchez’ text about the process of decomposition and fermentation to create different flavors and types of cheese. However, the humorous illustrations shouldn’t be assumed to be inaccurate as that is certainly not the case. In fact, just a few pages later on page 56 Ford has drawn a picture of what the bacteria Lactobacilli acidophilus looks like.

Although something may be rotten in the state of Denmark, there is nothing rotten or bad about ROTTEN!: Vultures, Beetles, Slime, and Nature’s Other Decomposers by Anita Sanchez and illustrated by Gilbert Ford, well, maybe except for its entire subject and contents! However, that shouldn’t prevent you from rushing out (be careful not the slip in that dog vomit slime mold (p. 34) on your way) and procuring a copy for yourself, your library, your classroom and anyone or anywhere else that you might like to spoil rotten!

Reviewed by Aimee Rogers on February 26, 2019

Rotten!: Vultures, Beetles, Slime, and Nature’s Other Decomposers
written by Anita Sanchez with illustrations by Gilbert Ford