Total Garbage: A Messy Dive into Trash, Waste, and Our World

Holt. Mar. 2023. 160p. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781250760388.
Gr 4-8–Donnelly explores where trash comes from, who is responsible for it, the environmental and health implications and consequences of garbage, and how we can cut down on it. Our dependence on synthetic, mass-produced materials like plastic and stainless steel is presented in stark contrast to the trash accumulated hundreds of years ago when garbage came from discarded handmade, organic materials. The existence of rag-and-doll men, waste pickers, and mud larks, gave trash a second life while helping those less fortunate make a living pre–Industrial Revolution. Presently, Americans throw out almost 300 tons of garbage a year, but even though it’s out of sight out of mind for many, waste does not disappear. The author’s accessible text is informative and straightforward but never judgmental. The matter-of-fact narrative makes a seemingly nasty subject fascinating and even palatable. Terms like municipal solid waste, planned obsolescence, and compost and anaerobic digestion are explained in a kid-friendly way. Hendrix’s humorous and genuine line drawings add levity to the subject but keep things accurate. The design includes chapter openers and teal font and illustrations, which will instantly draw in reluctant readers. An index is included; other back matter was not seen at the time of review.
VERDICT Incredibly, this book makes garbage fun to read about and is a great choice for browsable nonfiction shelves and curricular tie-ins.

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