The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
April 11, 2008

Environmental Children’s Books, Part 2: Teach Them To Recycle and Bring Their Own Bag

Here are the next two environmental kids’ books, as promised.

Michael Recycle,iconby Ellie Bethel, illustrated by Alexandra Colombo. Green Bean may think that my Michael is a super hero for encouraging his firm to stop buying bottled water. But this big picture book is about a new super hero, Michael Recycle, who flies into trashy towns in his green cape and colander hat and, in Suess-like rhyme, teaches everyone to recycle and garden and collect rainwater. Then, when the town is sparkling again, they throw a big old party to celebrate. In fact, instead of buying streamers,

They covered the town
In green toilet paper
Then rolled it back up
To use again later.

You may think that’s yucky
But these folks don’t agree
In Abberdoo-Rimey
Recycling is key!

While the pictures in this book are fantastic fun and the Go Green Tips at the end are useful, I would have liked to have seen more emphasis on waste reduction and reuse before recycling.

They recycled their paper,
Their plastic and cans,
And even old junk
Like used pots and pans!

I’m not crazy about the word “junk” used to describe stuff that we may not need to keep for ourselves anymore. And recycling pots and pans? Doesn’t Michael know about Freecycle? He is, after all, a super hero. But maybe I’ve become more hardcore than the average bear. And from what I see on the streets of Oakland, it’s challenging enough to get kids to put their trash in a garbage can, much less recycle it. This book is a good start for getting the environmental message across.

I’ll be donating it to the Oakland library this weekend, per Burbanmom’s Giving Challenge.

Oh, and yesterday, when reviewing the two animal books, I forgot to talk about the production of the books themselves. One was printed in Mexico and the other in Singapore. Michael Recycle was printed in Korea. And, for a book about recycling, I was surprised that it’s not itself printed on recycled paper. Or if it is, that fact was not mentioned anywhere in the book or press materials I received. Hmm… sort of like the seminar on “greening your law firm” that Michael and I attended where bottled water and plastic-wrapped sandwiches were served while the panelists talked about eliminating plastic bottles from the workplace. There are the ideals that we espouse, but if they don’t translate into concrete changes, what good are they?

Okay, enough soap box. Michael Recycle is a really cute book and I think it would be a good addition to any school library.

The next book, which coincidentally organicneedle mentioned in a comment on my post yesterday, is My Bag and Me! Save a Bag, Save the Earth,iconby Karen Farmer, illustrated by Gary Grant. It doesn’t say what ages it’s geared toward, but the heavy cardboard pages and pictures of the little boy suggest to me (a non-parent) that it’s for small children. This book encourages kids not only to recycle, but to refuse disposable bags in the first place:

Let’s take a trip
to our favorite store,
where My Bag and Me say,
“Paper and plastic no more!”

The secret to My Bag And Me is the hidden pull-out tray in the back that contains a child-sized resuable bag they can take to the store with them. I love the idea of this, not to mention the cuteness. But I’m less enthusiastic about the materials.

The reusable bag is made of Dupont Tyvek, the type of plastic that many large postal envelopes are made from. The cover of the book states, “This book and the reusable Tyvek bag are 100% recyclable!” What you don’t realize until you read the fine print (if you read the fine print) is that Tyvek is only recyclable by mailing it back to Dupont. I devoted a whole post to Tyvek in October of last. It’s worthwhile to read if you haven’t already.

And notice that the book is advertised as “recyclable” rather than being made from recycled materials. So I contacted the PR rep who sent it to me and asked about the materials used as well as the decision to have it printed in China. These were her responses:

1) On using Tyvek to make the bag: Natural fibers, like cotton or hemp, were too bulky. The book would have been enormous and very heavy, not to mention the extra amount of paper needed to create the tray cavity. There is a marking on the bottom of the bag with an 800 number for recycling Tyvek information. Our hope, however, is that these bags will have a very long life as a shopping bag.

2) On the shiny coating on the cardboard pages: The coating is a plastic film, otherwise known as PP lamination. PP, or Polypropylene lamination is non-toxic and the same goes for the glue, ink and paper used in these books. The paper is made of C1S ( coated paper, one side), and Natura board.

3) On having the book manufactured in China: Cost was the deciding factor for printing in China. We would never have been able to produce this book here, and sell it at the cover price of $10.95. The manufacturer is ICTI audited which gives credibility and they can issue a letter guaranteeing that the materials used are non-toxic and certificates for the materials themselves.

Organicneedle wrote a bit about this book back in March, and then she came up with a list of ways to make your own reusable bags for kids out of reused materials or natural fabrics. Anyway, it’s a cute idea, perhaps not executed in the manner hardcore environuts like me would prefer, but useful nonetheless for getting kids accustomed to bringing their own bags.

I offer this book as another freebie to a Fake Plastic Fish reader. It’s not really appropriate for donating to the library because of the bag that needs to be removed and used. So please leave a comment and let me know if you’d like it. Or email me directly  and let me know.

And finally, here’s an ACTION ALERT for anyone concerned about keeping commercial advertising/product placements out of kids’ books. Harper Collins has announced its plans to publish a series of books for young girls called MacKenzie Blue, in which, according to this New York Times article, “…product placement is very much a part of the plan. Tina Wells, chief executive of Buzz Marketing Group, which advises consumer product companies on how to sell to teenagers and preteenagers, will herself be the author of titles in the series filled with references to brands. She plans to offer the companies that make them the chance to sponsor the books.”

To read about the campaign and to protest the publication of these books, please visit Commercial Alert and take action.

18 comments
saleha
saleha

My kids would like that book. It's great to have books about the environment.

Tia
Tia

Oh my son would love this book. We have been searching our library for books on people doing good things for the environment as a Cub Scout project. They earn a patch/badge for environmental world awareness. :)

Deborah Lindsay
Deborah Lindsay

Please come on my radio show... Tomorrow Matters - "Talk Radio for a Better Tomorrow" which airs daily from 2 to 3 pm out of a Monterey, CA station... KRXA 540 AM. We can do it over the phone!Check my website at www.deborahlindsay.com... and email me about getting you on to talka bout plastics and your blog. Cheers!deborah

Deborah Lindsay
Deborah Lindsay

Please come on my radio show... Tomorrow Matters - "Talk Radio for a Better Tomorrow" which airs daily from 2 to 3 pm out of a Monterey, CA station... KRXA 540 AM. We can do it over the phone!Check my website at www.deborahlindsay.com... and email me about getting you on to talka bout plastics and your blog. Cheers!deborah

Nate Ring
Nate Ring

You requested people post to do follow-ups, and so that is what I am doing. I found your page in another blog "Conserve Plastic Bags".

cindy24
cindy24

Would love to be in for the book. Not thrilled about the product placements. My kids already think we are poor because we do not have cable.cs

RLM
RLM

This one isn't a children's book, but have you seen "Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things," by McDonough and Braungart? It was recommended to me by a friend, and I'm eagerly awaiting for it to become available in one of our libraries (it's checked out of everywhere right now). From what I hear, the book's actual production and publication embody the principles it advocates: making a product which can be recycled into something of the same quality, rather than downcycled (hence "cradle to cradle" rather than "cradle to grave"). I will be interested to see it, and would be interested in your thoughts on it if you were ever to review it.

Tanya
Tanya

You are one tough critic! :) Even though the books weren't perfect I love that more and more awareness is being generated. Plus hey if your brother's a children's book illustrator, maybe you should write a book and he could illustrate it!?! :) His pictures were beautiful.

Burbanmom
Burbanmom

Oh My Freakin' Goodness. Ads in BOOKS?!?!? Is nothing freakin' sacred to these advertisers?!?!?! Unbelievable.Thanks for the heads up. Will check out the link.Don't need the bag book, my kiddos already LOVE taking our own bags! :-)

Anonymous
Anonymous

perhaps we can expect sequels? as in michael's siblings- bruce the reducer and suze the reuser?as always beth, great job on your reviews and on keeping us informed.

Gruppie Girl
Gruppie Girl

Please put my name in the hat for the wonderful book!My kids are big into not-so-gently reminding others to bring reusable shipping bags. They would get a kick out of it.After the kids have read the book, I would love to donate it to the elementary school's library. The librarian is too sweet and would surely only allow the book to only be read in the libary if it is too delicate to be brought home.

Matt & Kari
Matt & Kari

I thought yesterdays book was great but this one is cute too. I'm pretty sure my kid will get a lot of use out of the bag - tyvek & all - so please throw me in again. Thanks for all the research on the books!

Green Bean
Green Bean

Beth, first, thank you for the action alert. Nothing makes me madder (well, almost nothing) than the way the corporations target our kids while pretending to educate them.As to the books, it is nice to see more and more books on the environment for our kids - even if the Michael is not the superhero that yours is.

Michelle
Michelle

Please throw my name in for the book and bag--her own bag would make my daughter's Trader Joe's experience complete!(she already pushes her own cart) And OH MY about the product-placement in books..it seems like "the line" just keeps getting pushed and pushed-in the wrong direction.

MamaBird
MamaBird

Plz throw my name in again (thanks!) and thank you for the heads up on the product placement books. AAAIIIIGGHHH why did I not see that coming?

just ducky
just ducky

Yep...throw my name in again...I've got some nieces and nephews that could benefit from it...

organicneedle
organicneedle

I'm so glad you are doing these book reviews. I love the bag book, despite the flaws. I really think reusing bags could be a second nature practice to the next generation. Like seat belts...my mother still has to be reminded to wear one...and for me it is automatic. My 4yr old already accepts it as "normal" shopping.

mikeandfel
mikeandfel

Even though these books aren't all that they could be, it's really great to know that people are writing about these important issues specifically for our kids. We would love the bag book. :O)