Review of One Little Bag: An Amazing Journey

One Little Bag: An Amazing Journey
by Henry Cole; illus. by the author
Primary    Scholastic    48 pp.    g
4/20    978-1-338-35997-8    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-338-59929-9    $11.99

This wordless story follows a family and a paper bag through the generations. A tree becomes a log that gets hauled to a paper mill, turned into a brown bag, boxed, and delivered to a market, where a parent and child acquire it. Only at this point does a bold double-page spread broadcast the book’s title with cinematic flair. As time progresses, the child grows and the family expands, using the bag in myriad creative ways: as a lovingly packed lunch sack, as part of a night-light, as a holder for wedding-flower petals, and in a baby’s mobile. When a bulky armchair sits empty, suggesting that the parent from the beginning of the story (now a grandparent) has passed away, the bag stores trinkets offering comfort and closure; finally, a seedling is grown in the tattered bag as the family uses it one last time to plant a new tree, continuing the cycle and signaling future promise. Inky crosshatched sketches are gentle and warm, with environmental motifs (on signage at the store, labels on products, etc.) adding atmosphere. A light wash of color spotlights the bag (or its materials) on each page, but the focus remains on the characters, positioning the family’s experiences and relationships as paramount. In an author’s note, Cole shares the childhood story that inspired the book and urges readers to ponder the “lives” behind their products and the value of reusing and recycling.

From the May/June 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Elisa Gall

Elisa Gall is a teacher-librarian at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. 

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