Ruby the Red Worm's Dirty Job Make-A-School Project. Pictured here are the student illustrators standing in the shape of a worm and the message, "We love worms.".
Ruby the Red Worms Dirty Job book cover title screen
Ruby the Red Worms Dirty Job. Illustrated by elementary students.

Ruby the Red Worm’s Dirty Job

A story about composting and over-coming bullying in favor of the bigger picture.

As featured in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Ruby The Red Worm's Dirty Job. A story about composting and over-coming bullying in favor of the bigger picture. By Scott Stoll.

Synopsis: Ruby the Red Worm is a humorous and educational introduction to composting and the essential role worms serve in the ecosystem. More importantly, it is a story about living a life of passion despite life’s bullies — even if it means eating dirt.

Note: This is an inspirational and educational introduction to composting with some life lessons. It is not a book about how to raise worms though we hope it inspires you to do so. The reading level is between a children’s picture book and a children’s chapter book; however, we design our books to be interesting for all ages. We want the parents to enjoy reading it just as much as the children enjoy listening.

UPDATE: Over a thousand people came to the ice cream social celebration and had their book signed by the student illustrators.

Ruby the red worm sock puppet
Ruby the red worm sock puppet. It is super easy to make. Buy any red sock and googly eyes. Young kids think being read the story by the sock puppet is absolutely hysterical. I mean that. I’ve never seen kids laugh so hard.

More about this book: This children’s chapter book is full of rich, conceptual drawings that complement a story that grew and grew as the students continued to inspire me to write new pages to match their wonderful drawings. It is a particularly important book, as it is the first book not about me, but something much more important — worms! I’m glad to see that being green is a topic that finally has finally reached critical mass in the mainstream consciousness. And Ruby the Red Worm illustrates many subjects from composting and recycling to a passion for living a harmonious life. The book also includes a page of challenges to help kids find hidden surprises in the story. During the first draft of the story, Ruby the Red Worm was known as Redford.

“The mission of the STEM Academy is to engage, inspire, and empower a community of learners in thinking, collaborating, innovating, and creating for the future.” Therefore this project gave the students the opportunity to apply these principals to their learning and everyday life—literally creating a dream and turning it into a reality. This project also sowed a lot of collateral creations, such as: name-that-bug contest, worm farms, musical theme songs for the characters in the book, the class photo pictured above, illustrator book signing, media exposure, and much more.

Educational and Inspirational

Every book in the Make-A-Book project has two main themes: it’s both educational and inspirational. You can see a little of both in the pages below.

A picture of Ruby living in a fallen apple.
A picture of Ruby living in a fallen apple. In another version of this drawing, Ruby says, “I live in the Big Apple,” which is a nickname for New York City. We always get so many great drawings that we just can’t use them all.
Illustration reads: Step 1) Worm eats dead flower. 2) Worm poops. 3) Poop turns into soil. 4) Seed sprouts in fertile soil. 5) Flower blooms. Repeat.
A picture of the compost cycle. This student thought of the idea of illustrating this as the circle of life from the point of view of the worm which starts with decay rather than life. It couldn’t be any better. This is one of many pages about the educational theme of learning about composting.
Ruby is crying and the flowers are drooping
In this book, there is a big theme of bullying. That’s why it’s called “Ruby the Red Worm’s Dirty Job.” This has a double entendre. It is a dirty job because Ruby lives and works and eats dirt, but also the other bugs think of it as a gross job that no one would want to do. But of course, it is a very important job that creates fertilizer for flowers.
Ruby is admiring beautiful flowers that she helped create. "I *heart* flowers."
Spoiler alert: At the end of this story, we realize that Ruby doesn’t have a “dirty job.” She sees the big picture, she’s not just eating dirt, she’s making food for flowers.

Acknowledgments: Thanks to the 490 students and their parents. Thanks to the staff of the Waukesha STEM Academy; in particular, principal Ryan Krohn for his vision, student resource teacher Kate Krzysik for her magical ability to make things happen, and the art teacher Melissa Nagan for her neverending inspirational smile.

Please support the Make-A-Book Project

We give every child a free book. Your support helps us keep going.

Author: Scott Stoll
Publisher: The Argonauts 
ISBN-13: 978-0982784228 
Publication: First edition. © May 10, 2011
Language: English 
Pages: 102

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More stories about the making of this book

A colorful sign with bugs and a voting box and ballots.

Name that bug contest

One fun idea to get the students more involved in the production of the book was to have them name the characters in the story. So I, along with my self-appointed fan club, made this ballot box.

Ruby the Red Worms Dirty Job book cover title screen

Cover Design Challenges

The new book, Ruby the Red Worm, is finally here! Perhaps no one is more surprised how beautiful it is then me, especially the cover!

In the studio with Larry Meiller of Wisconsin Public Radio.

Wisconsin Public Radio Interviews #1 & 2

I had another great interview on WPR’s Larry Meiller program. We talked a little about my trip around the world on a bicycle, and a lot about working on the new school book project.

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