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

paul_one plastic bagOne Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia
by Miranda Paul; illus. by Elizabeth Zunon
Primary   Millbrook   32 pp.
2/15   Library ed. 978-1-4677-1608-6   $19.99
e-book ed. 978-1-4677-6299-1   $19.99

In the 1980s in the cities of the Gambia, a switch from using baskets made of natural materials to non-biodegradable plastic bags led to a problem: roadsides began to be choked by ever-growing piles of plastic bags. Then the problem spread to the villages. In Njau, Gambia, a young woman named Isatou Ceesay became concerned; when she learned that these non-biodegradable objects, discarded after breakage and tears made them no longer usable, were attracting disease-bearing insects and that domestic animals often died after eating the bags, she decided to do something about it. Author Paul has written a clear and sensitive account of Ceesay and her fellow activists’ ingenious solution to the plastic bag problem (they wash them, cut the bags into strips, and crochet the strips into small purses to sell in the city). Zunon’s collages, with their vivid colors, elegant patterns, and varied textures — especially those from actual plastic bags — provide a beautiful and authentic entry into the story. An informative author’s note, glossary, timeline, and suggestions for further reading accompany the story. This handsome presentation of grassroots environmental activism is certain to inspire young readers.

From the January/February 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Monica Edinger

Monica Edinger, a fourth-grade teacher at the Dalton School in New York City, blogs at Educating Alice and the Huffington Post. She is the author of Africa Is My Home: A Child of the Amistad (Candlewick), illustrated by Robert Byrd.



  1. Felicia Ballard says:

    This book sounds well suited for this summer’s reading theme “Every hero has a story.”

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