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Adult Books 4 Teens
Inside Adult Books 4 Teens

A Green Story

from graphic novel guest blogger Francisca Goldsmith:

The character allotted the leading role in Rachel Hope Allison’s nearly wordless comic is the world’s largest garbage pile, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. She descends neither into kitsch nor sermon while turning this gelatinous mass into an expressive, and rather cheerful, being, alienated from all but visiting gulls and giant squid, creatures who have no sentimental use for the giant’s bursts of “speech.”  Beautifully hued and balanced panels—many full page but some as small as Post-it notes—show how intrinsic to the garbage pile’s shape and construction and reconstruction are the natural forces of weather and ocean, just as its contents necessarily flow from the plethora of consumer castaways many of us forget as soon as they disappear from our personal lives.

Many of Allison’s images are fantastically provocative and insight-invoking. A lost tire becomes the echo of a giant squid’s eye and we can’t distinguish which is which. A gull visits and leaves, unaware of the patch’s “Have a nice day” sign lodged in what could be called its mouth. Incoming shreds of plastic, carried on an ocean wind, ignore the white flag of surrender that appears to be caught on the patch.  The patch’s “arms”—accurate renderings of the soupy state of the dump as a whole—appear alternatively to wave welcomings as well as finding themselves wrapped protectively around the patch.

The publisher is launching this on wholly recycled stock and it arrives just in time for Earth Day. But there’s a lot more substantial merit than paper choice or pub date here. What Allison offers is a place from which to observe, evaluate and dream, all necessary tasks if we are to grow decent custodians of our ecosystem.

* ALLISON, Rachel Hope. I’m Not a Plastic Bag. 88p. Archaia. 2012. Tr $19.95. ISBN 978-1-936393-54-1. LC number unavailable.  I'm not a plastic bag

Adult/High School–Allison’s beautifully rendered art shows what life–yes, life–is like on the world’s largest “garbage patch,” a floating mass of plastic and other detritus that has been caught by the Pacific’s swirling currents to form a kind of gelatinous island. Using words only as they might appear on pieces of debris, including the I “love” New York logo on a shopping bag, the manuscript-style “please” that would have decorated an old tin sign, and the like, the story moves accessibly through time, giving readers entry at the point where a child’s umbrella, an empty shopping bag, a tire, a bagged goldfish in transit from shop to home, and a businessman’s binder are all caught in the weather to be cast adrift. Readers see them arrive on the “great garbage patch” and then the well-plotted story opens out as readers see how tides and wind reconfigure the mass and each of the pieces in it, how gulls and squid use and even view it, and other aspects of its makeup, from a condom to a bit of rope. But best of all, in Allison’s imaginative tale, is that the garbage patch itself is expressive, its flotsam forming gesturing arms, tires positioning themselves as eyes, and those worded signs so often appearing in its innocently smiling “mouth”: “Welcome,” “Playground,” and the binder’s front tag, “Hello, my name is…” Science and fantasy are perfectly entwined in this narrative, offering readers a way to imagine feelings and values beyond their own.–Francisca Goldsmith, Infopeople Project, CA

Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.