A plastic bag, a windswept umbrella, a used tire and a forgotten goldfish are all seemingly harmless items that, with the possible exception of the goldfish, might not give anyone a moment's pause. We see these things every day. "I'm Not a Plastic Bag," however, chooses to illustrate the impact these everyday discards have on the environment around us.
All swept to sea, those items and so many others find their way to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Rachel Hope Allison deftly, yet cheerfully, illustrates this blight caused as a by-product of careless human consumption. Allison gives the Patch a lifelike quality, seeking to befriend life around it while immediately repelling the same. Initially benign, the Patch becomes a toxic collection that turns from curiosity to deathtrap for wildlife it encounters, smothering life in a manner not unlike Lennie from "Of Mice and Men."
Allison invokes her middle name in this story, however, giving the reader hope for the cleansing of the ocean from concerns such as this Garbage Patch, but it isn't going to be magical or quick. In the setting of this book it can be and that certainly serves as inspiration and motivation.
The worst criticism I can give this book is that it is a breezy read. Unhampered by dialog or captions, this story reads as quickly as you want it to. Certainly, the page count and price might keep some folks from buying this book, but taken as a collection of marvelous illustrations in a format that can be shared with anyone and everyone, that price tag begins to diminish a bit. While it may seem like something you can shuttle through, Allison's art does invite you back for more. This book isn't meant to be read and quickly discarded.
While the story itself is charming and thought-provoking, the environmental awareness content, including the indicia of this volume, makes the book all the more indispensible for me. Yes, it is ironic to have a deadwood collection preaching the good news of environmental awareness, but the indicia contains the following note: "Archaia Entertainment & Global Printing, Sourcing & Development (Global PSD), in association with American Forests and the Global ReLeaf programs, will plant two trees for each tree used in the manufacturing of this book." Yes, I'm aware that there has been a push for sustainable paper supplies in the recent past, but this one is right up front, before you can even start the story. It's not plastered across the cover, but it is on the inside notes.
In addition to a wordless story that has a clear message for readers of any age, this collection contains some facts about what the Great Pacific Garbage Patch contains as well as what it affects. Finally, the book offers up some ways you can help curb your own impact on the world around you, like my personal favorite: drink tap water in a reusable bottle. Sure, convenience may factor in to simply grabbing that single-use bottle of water, but convenience also created the Garbage Patch. After all, where will that bottle go once you're done with it? Are you sure?
I've been a recycler all my adult life. My wife used to chide me for it, separating out plastic from cardboard, choosing to forego a bag at the grocery store so long as I could carry the items out the door in my own hands, but she has come around to my way of thinking and we're now a family that produces roughly one fifteen-gallon bag of trash a week. This book, however, has me thinking that I can and should make that bag a bit smaller. After all, as Jeff Corwin notes in his foreword for this book, "the world we inhabit today is not inherited from our ancestors, but borrowed from our children."