PPBF: One Plastic Bag

Yes, I’m a huge Miranda Paul fan. I’ve read Miranda’s debut book, ONE PLASTIC BAG, many times. This year, I shared it with my kindergarten through 3rd-grade LEGO League team. The FIRST LEGO League Jr. challenge was  “Waste Wise,” and students learned about trash, reusing, and recycling. This book was a perfect fit for one of our research sessions.


AUTHOR: Miranda Paul

ILLUSTRATOR: Elizabeth Zunon

PUBLICATION INFO: Millbrook Press, 2015


SOURCE: personal copy

INTENDED AUDIENCE: grades 1 through 4

GENRE: nonfiction picture book


“Isatou walks with her chin frozen.

Fat raindrops pelt her bare arms. Her face hides in the shadow of a palm-leaf basket, and her neck stings with every step.”

From the publisher: “Plastic bags are cheap and easy to use. But what happens when a bag breaks or is no longer needed? In Njau, Gambia, people simply dropped the bags and went on their way. One plastic bag became two. Then ten. Then a hundred.

The bags accumulated in ugly heaps alongside roads. Water pooled in them, bringing mosquitoes and disease. Some bags were burned, leaving behind a terrible smell. Some were buried, but they strangled gardens. They killed livestock that tried to eat them. Something had to change.

Isatou Ceesay was that change. She found a way to recycle the bags and transform her community. This inspirational true story shows how one person’s actions really can make a difference in our world.”

THEMES/TOPICS: social activism, recycling

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: One Plastic Bag has so many hooks. First, Miranda incorporates Gambian culture and language into the text, immersing the reader into Isatou’s world. Second, the book has great read aloud-ability. Miranda uses a repeating refrain: “first one, then two, then ten,” which makes kids want to chant along. Finally, who can resist a story about one person seeing an insurmountable problem and taking a small step that leads to a giant change?


  • One Plastic Bag‘s Web site is packed with activities and information, including a PowerPoint about The Gambia and instructions for turning plastic bags into purses.

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!

15 thoughts on “PPBF: One Plastic Bag”

  1. I absolutely love this powerful story. I reviewed it last year. My 9-year-old great granddaughter came to visit and she saw the book, read it and asked if she could have it and share it with her class. She said her teacher read it to the class and they had to write a paragraph about what they would do.

    1. What a wonderful idea! I think we can all identify with Isatou’s first instinct to turn away from such big problems, but I hope we all ultimately have her courage to face them.

  2. I own this one and love it! There is sooo much plastic in so many unexpected places in this world. It’s scary. What these women are doing is nothing short of amazing. Ideally, we’d all love to see plastic bags go away, but in the meantime, reusing them is the next best thing.

    1. Agreed, Jilanne. And I recently found out from our recycling facility that they’d rather we not put the bags in the recycling because they make the machines break down. Reusing them is best.

      1. Yes, that’s true. The bags gum up the works of a hard plastic recycling facility. A couple of local supermarkets in San Francisco do have containers specifically for recycling plastic bags. I think they get processed separately.

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