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Review of All That Trash: The Story of the 1987 Garbage 

Barge and Our Problem with Stuff

All That Trash: The Story of the 1987 Garbage 

Barge and Our Problem with Stuff
by Meghan McCarthy; 

illus. by the author
Primary    Wiseman/Simon    48 pp.
2/18    978-1-4814-7752-9    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4814-7753-6    $10.99

McCarthy sets her historical scene 
with three iconic 1980s images: a “speedy white car,” “boxy-looking computers,” and “big hair,” all depicted in McCarthy’s caricature-ish bug-eyed illustrations. She then introduces the situation: in 1987 Lowell Harrelson, a visionary businessman, commissions 
a barge loaded with 3,186 tons of garbage to take off from New York, head for North Carolina, and turn the garbage into energy, a process shown in a double-page diagram. When the press gets wind of the situation, public outcry at numerous ports of call denies the barge permission to land. As the barge travels from North Carolina to Alabama to Louisiana to Mexico the same refrain — “the garbage was not 
welcome” — emphasizes the futility of the plan. The contents are finally burned (although McCarthy does not specify where in the text), which reduces the bulk to four hundred tons of ash; but as one person’s trash may become another’s treasure, the episode wakens a national consciousness about reuse and recycling, further explored in an entertaining and informative back-matter discussion. An extensive bibliography is appended.

From the May/June 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Betty Carter

Betty Carter, an independent consultant, is professor emerita of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University.

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