Monday, March 8, 2010

Garbage Barge in THE PIT

A few weeks ago a third grade teacher sent me an email looking for "literary non-fiction." Confession time, I've never been into the teacher lingo, and am not always up on the current terms for things, so I had to go to my friend Maria for a definition. She described it as a non-fiction book that is written like a story, now that's a definition I can understand, and amazingly, I was a big fan of these kinds of books as a kid. I also realized that literary non-fiction is what Karen and I screened for the CYBILS this year. However, one that we didn't screen, that I just discovered on a recent trip to Cover to Cover is Here Comes the Garbage Barge written by Jonah Winter.

Remember the story of the barge from New York that traveled all over 6000 miles looking for a home? It was all over the television and newspapers in 1987. Comics were getting big laughs talking about the little tug boat named Break of Dawn pulling over 3100 tons of Islip, New York's smelliest leftovers from NYC to Mexico to Belize and back again. When it arrived back in Islip, they refused their own garbage! You can't make this stuff up!

So Jonah Winter takes this news story and turns it into a fun story with illustrations by Red Nose Studio. Each harbor from North Carolina to New Orleans to Florida has it's own personality shown both in the illustrations and Winter's brief descriptions. For example, Florida is describes as "The Sunshine State, home of alligators, beautiful beaches and grandparents." A large number of my students say, "Hey, my grandparents are in Florida!" and then laugh at the old guy floating in his ducky tube in the ocean shaking his fist at the garbage barge. Very funny!

As the barge gets turned away in port after port, and finally ends up back in Islip, NY, the kids are always disgusted and surprised when the city who created the garbage actually has the nerve to turn it away. Of course, justice is served, when the trash is incinerated in Brooklyn and buried in land fills in Islip, and the kids leave with a feeling of closure, but also disbelief that this is actually a true story.

Great writing and awesome artwork make this fun read aloud in THE PIT! I found this awesome You Tube video on the making of the illustrations, way cool!


  1. I loved this book too. Did you take off the cover and look at the back of it? My favorite part!

  2. Huzzah for nonfiction in The Pit! (Good reminder to all of us...)