One Plastic Bag by Miranda Paul

One Plastic Bag61EOyyzSCzLOne Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia

Miranda Paul, Author

Elizabeth Zunon, Illustrator

Millbrook Press, Nonfiction, Feb. 1, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Isatou Ceesay, Gambia, West Africa, Plastic bags, Pollution, Recycling

Opening: Isatou walks with her chin frozen. Fat raindrops pelt her bare arms. Her face hides in the shadow of  a palm-leaf basket, and her neck stings with every step.

Synopsis: As a girl, Isatou watches the people of her village carry items in plastic bags. When the bags tear, they toss them in the dirt.  The bags accumulate in heaps. They become a breeding ground for mosquitoes and disease. They impact the crops.  Goats rummage through the smelly bags for food. When her grandmother’s goats die from eating bags, Isatou knows she must do something. Now a woman, she begins to collect the dirty bags, washes them with omo soap and hangs them on a line to dry. Some of her friends begin to help. Others mock her. She comes up with an idea to recycle the bags into something useful. She and her friends crochet them into plastic purses, sell them in the market for a profit and help their community.

Why I like this book:

  • Miranda Paul skillfully captures this inspiring and true story of Isatou Ceesay and the women of Njau, Gambia, who are on a mission to recycle discarded and dangerous plastic bags to save their village.
  • The text is simple and lyrical. The story is character driven. The West African setting is realistic and the plot completely engaging for children. Children will grasp the importance of recycling and be intrigued by Ceesay’s solution.
  • It carries a strong message for children about how one person can see a problem, find a solution and make a difference in their community.
  • The story also shows how a group of women can create a product, make a profit, improve their own lives and help their village.
  • This is an excellent book for classrooms and youth groups, especially with Earth Day on April 22.
  • Elizabeth Zunon’s illustrations are warm and richly textured with cut-outs that form a collage of beauty. She also creates a colorful collage of plastic bags for the end papers of the book. Visit Zunon at her website.

Resources: There is a very informative Author’s Note from Miranda Paul, a timeline of events, a glossary of words, and suggested reading. Visit the One Plastic Bag website for worksheets and a teacher’s guide. There is a special 2015 Earth Day Contest for kids Pre-K through 8th grade. Entries must be received by May 7, 2015. The contest is now open.

Miranda Paul has traveled to Gambia as a volunteer teacher, a fair-trade and literacy advocate, and freelance journalist.  She has another book, Water is Water, due out in May 2015.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.