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This Book Stinks!

This Book Stinks!: Gross Garbage, Rotten Rubbish, and the Science of Trash

Sarah Wassner Flynn
National Geographic Children’s Books
128 pp.
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Did you know about one-sixth of garbage collected in the United States is burned? Or that you can recycle yoga mats into flip-flops? This Book Stinks! will fill you in on all the dirty details of what happens to the things we decide to toss. Fortunately, this book takes an expansive view of the definition of “garbage,” with chapters dedicated to food waste and pollution. And not all the facts are depressing: The U.S. now reuses or recycles about one-third of its waste, and portions of the book are dedicated to explaining how recycling can be fun and profitable.

While the title suggests an ick-themed romp through the dumpster, the book does not dwell too heavily on disgust. Instead, it tries to surprise young readers with innovative solutions that countries and cities around the world have created to deal with the daily waste stream of their citizens. Some of the numbers early on in the book are difficult to get your head around, despite comparisons. Can you imagine, for example, 1000 elephants’ worth of old space junk?

Vivid images are overlaid with bright colors and bold text. The smattering of cockroaches, worms, and flies are sure to delight some kids but might be off-putting to the bug-averse.

This book shines most in its call to engagement and creative thinking. The final chapter provides instructions for crafts and activities that should be enticing to kids and kids-at-heart. Some of the projects are major undertakings (setting up a worm farm for compost), but many are easy to incorporate into daily life and, with some enabling and encouragement from parents, should empower kids to change the way they and their families deal with trash.