An Earth-Bot’s Solution to Plastic Pollution by Russell Ayto. Kids Can Press, 2021. 9781525305382
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or starred review) 3
Genre: Picture books
What did you like about the book? Neo loves playing a video game that helps save the planet by chucking cabbages at invading aliens. He’s missing an opportunity to help out the planet in the real world, however. You see, plastic pollution is a huge problem, in Neo’s room and in the ocean outside his house. Striking illustrations of plastic bottles filling the entire ocean and being swallowed by ocean animals can be seen throughout the book. The illustrations are cute and simple, including illustrations of the video game that Neo is obsessed with — I’ve never seen cuter space centipedes! A penguin and a turtle interrupt his game to insist Neo pay attention to the problem right outside his window. Neo is shocked to see that the ocean is an even bigger mess than his room! Can Neo change his ways and help make a plastic pollution difference? Solutions at the end of the book include a plan to reduce plastic use, focus on reusing materials, and recycle if you can. I think this book could be a good starting point to a conversation about plastic pollution, but savvy teachers will need to add content to give complete information to young readers.
Anything you did not like about the book? While simplification of the plastic issue is necessary for a children’s book, I take issue with any picture book that promotes plastic recycling given that only 9% of plastic is ever recycled and most of it is downcycled. I am also concerned about any book that puts the problem back on the consumer to clean up the problem rather than taking issue with why so much plastic is produced in the first place. It’s actually a dangerous message to suggest that we can solve the problem on our own by cleaning up as the book states: “Because if everyone joins in and helps in a small way…it can add up to something extraordinarily BIG.” There is only brief mention at the end of the suggestion to focus on reusables and there isn’t enough emphasis overall on reducing plastic use (and no mention of extended producer responsibility). I also think that any book in 2021 that talks about plastic should mention where plastic comes from (fossil fuels). I don’t think children are too young to learn that plastic creation is intrinsically tied to the climate crisis.
To whom would you recommend this book? Libraries with large collections that address sustainability.
Who should buy this book? Some elementary and public libraries
Where would you shelve it? Picture books
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Laura Gardner, Dartmouth Middle School, Dartmouth, MA
Date of review: December 6, 2021