The Ballad of Tubs Marshfield

HarperCollins/Harper. Nov. 2020. 208p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062865472.
Gr 3-5–Tubs the frog lives for music. His ancestors have been singing their songs for 265 million years. In the Louisiana swamp, crawfish, salamanders, dragonflies, and swallows live harmoniously among the ferns and cattails. But something has changed. The inhabitants of the swamp are getting sick: Gloria is losing her feathers and Tubs has developed a rash. Lila, Tubs’s cousin, is a scientist and physician who scrambles to figure out what’s making the swamp creatures ill. Leaving home for New Orleans to realize his dream as a musician, Tubs inadvertently discovers what’s wrong with his home. Can Tubs and Lila rally the creatures and stop the factory from spewing poisonous chemicals into the wetland? Hoffman has created in Tubs the voice of personal and collective responsibility for the protection of animal habitats that is sure to appeal to young activists; Tubs’s protest songs become a call to action. Pointing vividly to the interconnectedness of humans and the denizens of the swamp, Lila suggests that if the creatures get sick, it won’t be long before the factory workers will too. Some of the animals turn away from science, believing in magic and unsubstantiated rumor. Hoffman effectively builds suspense, as the story moves to its climax and the cause of the water contamination.
VERDICT Hoffman paints a powerful sense of place, and the language sparkles with the color, sounds, and smells of the teeming life of the swamp. A timely purchase for all collections about collective environmental responsibility.

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