Module 6: Here Comes the Garbage Barge!


Book Summary: This beautifully illustrated book tells a somewhat fictionalized version of the true events of 1987 when a town in Long Island needed to get rid of thousands of tons of garbage. A barge was sent to carry it to be dumped in North Carolina, but when he got there, the locals refused to let the barge captain leave other people’s unwanted waste. The captain then travels all over the country to different city ports, but gets turned away as he goes — New Orleans, Belize, Mexico, etc. Plus, the media reports on his journey so people all over the country know about this unwanted trash looking for a place to go. Eventually, the garbage barge ends up back in New York and an incinerator in Brooklyn burns all the trash.

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

Impressions: I was most struck by the visual appeal of the book. The reader gets a great sense of the sights and smells of the journey through Red Nose Studio’s stunning 3D illustrations. But, then the oddness of the story revealed itself, and I was hooked. It’s a (mostly) true story of the appalling nature of trash dumping in the country. In the 1980s people were obviously not as concerned with environmental issues as we are today, so this trash barge really caught the imagination of the country (hence the media covered its every move). The story is engaging and the illustrations are unlike any children’s book I have seen — I loved it.

Professional Review:  Chipman, I. (2010). Here comes the garbage barge! The Booklist, 106(12), 89.

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!!!”

Library Uses: This book is an excellent opportunity to begin a project or unit about environmental issues. It could be used as a read-aloud to inspire students to find out what happens to the trash from their own school, and then plan a way they can reduce trash at school.