One Plastic Bag

Isatou Ceesay 

and the Recycling Women
of the Gambia

This post joins other
kidlit bloggers at
Nonfiction Monday Roundup
and also joins It's Monday!
What are you reading?

Millbrook Press (Lerner)
(pub.2.1.2015) 32 pages

A True Tale with 
A Cherry On Top

A uthor: Miranda Paul
           and Illustrator: Elizabeth Zunon
C haracter: Isatou Ceesay

O verview from the jacket flap: 

    "Plastic bags are cheap and easy to use. But what happens when a bag breaks or is no longer needed? In Njau, Gambia, people simply dropped the bags and went on their way. One  plastic bag became two. Then ten. Then a hundred.

The bags accumulated in ugly heaps alongside roads. Water pooled in them, bringing mosquitoes and disease. Some bags were burned, leaving behind a terrible smell. Some were buried, but they strangled gardens. They killed livestock that tried to eat them Something had to change.

Isatou Ceesay was that change. She found a way to recycle the bags and transform her community. This inspirational true story shows how one person's actions really can make a difference in our world."

T antalizing taste:      
      "Something silky dances past her eyes, softening her anger. It moves like a flag, flapping in the wind, and settles under a tamarind tree. Isatou slides the strange fabric through her fingers and discovers it can carry things inside. She gathers her fruits in the bag."

and something more:  Liz Zunon's collage illustrations in One Plastic Bag are stunning! She's the amazing illustrator of the picture book I wrote, My Hands Sing the Blues about the artist, Romare Bearden -- it's always exciting to see one of her new books! 

Liz kindly shared with me some thoughts about working on this book: 

"I was so happy to work on another book about an African success story.In One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the GambiaIsatou notices the problems caused by discarded plastic bags in her village of Njau, Gambia. Goats eat the bags and get sick, dirty water pools in them and attracts mosquitoes that breed there, and people burn these bags in their trash heaps and get sick from the toxic fumes. She decides to do something about this. With a few friends, she collects, washes, and cuts up these plastic bags into strips and figures out a way to crochet them into plastic purses to sell. What a way to start a little business and clean up your neighborhood too! An inspiring woman. 

I hope others who read Isatou Ceesay's story will be inspired to be the change in their own communities. In illustrating this book, I decided to use many different textures in the collage elements. Many of the women's clothing in the illustrations came from pieces of fabric that hold a special place for me. I also used real plastic bags in the images! That was really fun. 

Since Isatou and her friends made purses to sell, and I make purses too (although with fabric, not plastic) an sell at craft fairs and such, I felt I could really identify with her; it's nerve-wracking to sit at a table with your precious handmade things, hoping someone will take an interest and buy some. You've got to be friendly, but not overbearing, you've got to try and keep a smile on your face and look pleasant even if it's 95 degrees out and you're hot and cranky and you have not sold a single thing."

Liz generously gave me a gift of two of the beautiful purses made be the women of the community. Amazing to think they are crocheted from plastic bags -- an inspiring endeavor! 

I love this quote from Isatou Ceesay: "People thought I was too young and that women couldn't be leaders I took these things as challenges; they gave me more power. I didn't call out the problems - I called out solutions."


Cheriee Weichel said...

Thank you for this rich review about this book. If I didn't already have it on my to read list, I would want it now.

Cathy Ballou Mealey said...

I just re-shelved your book and Miranda's next to one another in my collection thanks to Elizabeth! Fun to study her work in the two books side by side!

Jeanne Walker Harvey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Thanks so much for your comments, Cheriee! And how cool is that that you're a lteacher ibrarian at a school called "Charles Dickens Elementary School" in Vancouver, B.C. I'm so pleased you stopped by!

Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

You're so great, Cathy! That is fun to hear about you filing the books together! Thanks for stopping by!

Myra Garces Bacsal said...

I've been seeing this title shared by quite a few bloggers now, and really intrigued by it. Looking forward to finding it.

Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Hi Myra, Yes, it's a wonderful book about the difference a person can make, and the environmental message about plastic is powerful too. Thanks for stopping by!