Review of Total Garbage

Total GarbageTotal Garbage
by Rebecca Donnelly; illus. by John Hendrix
Intermediate, Middle School    Holt    160 pp.
3/23    9781250760388    $21.99
e-book ed.  9781250760395    $11.99

In this accessible overview of garbage, Donnelly’s trash talk supports an appealing conversational narrative. She asks readers to examine five questions, each addressed in its own chapter: “What is garbage, where does it come from, where does it go, why do we make so much of it, and how can we do better?” Rather than assuming the tone of an all-knowing narrator, Donnelly uses the first-person-plural we (e.g., “We make a lot of trash”) and direct address, inviting readers to be partners in understanding and seeking solutions to this global issue. Hendrix’s occasional spot art emphasizes the light tone, accentuating but never undermining the narrative. Donnelly presents pertinent comparisons; for example, in 2018 Americans produced 292 million tons of trash—or what 5,600 Titanic-sized ships would weigh. And she reminds us that when we throw something away, it really doesn’t go away. This thorough and thoughtful treatment allows readers to understand the many complicated issues and possibly generate their own individual solutions. Here, Donnelly has turned trash into treasure. Appended with an author’s note, a waste management timeline, print and electronic resources, and an (unseen) index.

From the July/August 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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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