Here Comes the Garbage Barge by Jonah Winter

garbage-bargeCindy: Who knew garbage could be so much fun? If you’re looking for a different spin on “green” literature, try Here Comes the Garbage Barge! (Random / Schwartz & Wade, 2010). Before I even read the story I was sidetracked by the cover tease telling me to look inside the book jacket to learn how the art was created. Readers of all ages will be fascinated by the photos of the behind the scenes process of the Red Nose Studio’s creation of the barge, the expressive characters, and the rotting garbage. As a teen in the 70s I used to make and sell realistic food out of clay for the dollhouse/miniatures craze and this book with its carefully modeled and photographed scenery brought back lots of those memories. But I digress. I was so pleased when I saw the final hardcover copy and was reassured to find this treat included on the back of the jacket there, too, and not just in the advanced review copy. Now if libraries can find a way to process the book that allows for this to still be viewed.

Now, on to the book. Jonah Winter regales us with a lively fictionalized retelling of the adventure of the garbage barge that left Long Island in March 1987 filled with almost 3200 tons of garbage with the idea of hauling it by water to a cheaper dumping ground in the South. Denied at every port, the barge ended up making a six-month, six-thousand-mile trek through the hot summer months looking for a home for the garbage. I can’t imagine the smell! This book will be a great addition to elementary school Earth Day celebrations, but it could also make a great middle school reader’s theater…and adults who will remember this summer of stink are going to want to take a peek, too. It’s sure to make us all think a little more carefully about just how much garbage we produce.

Lynn: The twins and I had a lot of fun with this book. 3000 tons of stinky garbage is a totally gross topic – what could be more riveting for small boys? They loved the pictures and descriptions on the back of the cover about how the book was created too. Rotting banana peels – ewwww!

The school librarian part of me loved this book too because of its many fascinating possibilities for use. It’s a hoot to read aloud with the diverse locations and accents and would be terrific, as Cindy says, for speech and theater classes. It’s a natural for art and photography classes. For science classes and as a research starter, this is a total gem. The real barge, the Mobro 4000, is credited by many for spurring national interest in recycling. Ask students to discover if our propensity for producing garbage has improved since 1987. How much garbage do we produce and incinerate and how much do we recycle? Fascinating, eye-opening stuff, including this article from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and it will lead to passionate classroom discussions for kids of all ages.

And one more thing – at the end of the book there is a moral. It was a perfect illustration of that term for young readers and the boys and I had fun assigning morals to other favorite books. Hmmm – libraries may need multiple copies of this versatile book ūüėČ

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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