Friday, January 10, 2020

The Mess That We Made

The Mess That We Made 
by Michelle Lord; illus. by Julia Blattman
32 pages; ages 5-7
Flashlight Press, 2020

theme: environment, ocean, pollution

THIS is the mess that we made.

The book opens with an illustration of kids in a  boat, surrounded by a spiral of plastic debris and sea life. Then, page by page, introduces the sea animals affected by the mess of plastic floating in the ocean: the fish, seals, turtles.

This is the seal
that eats the fish
that swim in the mess we made.

From the ocean to the landfill that spills plastic into the water, we see tons of plastic: bottles, fishing nets, plastic bags that trap the sea life … a very big mess.

What I like about this book: That Michelle gives us hope. Because “we are the ones who can save the day…” she writes. We can reduce the plastic we use, recycle it, and clean up the beaches and bays. I like the cumulative “House that Jack Built” structure – it’s perfect for a book where the mess grows and grows. Plus there’s Back Matter – and you know how much I love books with back matter! Three pages at the end of the book highlight the problems of plastic in the oceans and landfills, and also provide specific actions readers can take to reduce the amount of plastic trash they produce.

One Question for Michelle

Archimedes: Have you managed to eliminate plastic from your life?

Michelle: Not yet, but I am cutting down. I’ve switched to bar soap instead of body wash in single-use packaging, and  no plastic grocery bags for me. Unfortunately, when dining out I sometimes forget to tell the waitstaff that I don’t want a straw before one automatically shows up in my drink. Maybe I should tie a string around my finger. I wish restaurants only provided straws upon request.

Last year my husband and I bought several pieces of new furniture. The amount of foam in the packaging disappointed me. I am fortunate that my town offers plastic foam recycling for drop-off. Scientists estimate that it takes from several years to one million years for plastic foam to break down! My goal for this year is to shop local and secondhand for the things I need.

My daughter went vegan several years ago and shops at thrift stores and farmer’s markets, and  my husband is a recycler extraordinaire. If we all make an effort, together we can make positive changes to our environment!

Beyond the Books:

You can learn more about the plastic problem in our ocean here. If we continue to use – and throw away – plastic at the rate we currently do, the plastic in the ocean will At current rates plastic is expected to outweigh all the fish by 2050. Absurd, right?

Reduce the amount of plastic you use. I gave up using plastic straws and single-use water bottles last year. I also carry reusable shopping bags when I go to the grocery store. You’ll find more ideas here.

Michelle is a member of #STEAMTeam2020. Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy provided by the publisher.


  1. Great review Sue, I can't wait to get a hold of this book. I am excited to see how the structure and rhyme are carried through the story. BTW - I love the question you put to Michelle.

    1. I really like the way the structure helps show the increasingly complex problem of plastic use.

  2. I enjoyed reading your review. This book feels important.

  3. That cover creates quite an impact. And while I haven't eliminated all plastic from our use stream, at least we can recycle pretty much everything in San Francisco. Very little goes to the landfill. But reducing is definitely the way to go.

    1. I agree - it's hard to eliminate it all. So nice that you can recycle much of it.

  4. Enjoyed your review. Will check this out for my great grandson! It sounds like it is presented in a child-friendly way! Great cover!

  5. A book everyone - old and young - needs to read!