Week 6: Here Comes the Garbage Barge

Book summary: In 1987, a barge full of garbage departed Islip, New York, on a journey that would last six months and cover six thousand miles. Eventually a judge ordered that Brooklyn would incinerate the garbage, but Islip would be responsible for burial. Since then, the residents of Islip (and other places around the country) have started paying closer attention to the problem of full landfills, too much trash, and how to prevent another fiasco. Jonah Winter takes some liberties with the story, telling it in a way that is accessible to young readers, but the gist of the story is clear.

My impressions: I’ll be honest, my first impression of this book was to wonder why anyone would write it! It seemed like such a strange topic for a picture book. Most of the historical fiction you find, especially for young readers, tends to center around significant events or people. However, I really liked the book. The illustrations are actually photos taken of sculptures created from trash; not only is that medium relevant to the moral of the story, but they are incredibly visually stimulating as well. I would suggest this book for older elementary students, and I hope that they (like me) would be inspired to find out more about the story, and more about the art.

Citation: Winter, J. (2010). Here comes the garbage barge! New York, NY: Schwartz & Wade Books.

Professional review:

Winter, whose You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?! (2009) was graced by some of the year’s most dazzling artwork, returns with another uniquely illustrated picture book. He takes the story from a 1987 incident in which a Long Island town decided to send more than 3,000 tons of trash down to North Carolina. In Winter’s fictionalized account, Cap’m Duffy of the tugboat Break of Dawn is saddled with hauling the garbage down south but gets turned away from port after port, all the way down to Belize. While Winter’s folksy, storyteller’s voice captures the scruffy spirit of the adventure with plenty of humor, the artwork by Red Nose Studio steals this show. Photographs of polymer-clay models and found materials (including, you guessed it, piles of trash) have the same uncanny-but-fun allure of Claymation videos, and if it’s not exactly endearing, that’s fine a book about a stinky pile of garbage has no business being prettied up. Just in case the moral isn’t clear, a buoy helpfully spells it out, Don’t make so much garbage!!! –Chipman, Ian Copyright 2010 Booklist

Chipman, I. (2010). Here Comes the Garbage Barge. Booklist106(12), 89.

Library uses: I would have such a fun Earth Day using this book! I would put it in the front of the display, as I think the art is so beautiful. Also, we would have crafts using found objects, a recycling challenge, and perhaps even a clean up. As a backdrop, I would have blown up photos of things that weigh as much as the garbage – an elephant, a whale, a Mac truck.

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