Aimed at elementary schoolers, Wagner’s heartwarming salute to recycling features the reincarnation of a friendly bottle and can.
In jaunty, rhymed text, Wagner introduces readers to Arnie and Bing—“Arnie, a pickle jar, and Bing, a lemonade can, / gave each other a very quick scan” after they find themselves sharing a shopping cart at the grocery store. Chewing the fat at the checkout line, Arnie and Bing discover they share a love of singing. Once home and tucked away in the dark precincts of the refrigerator, the pair sings a few tunes to keep things from getting glum; this is the kind of trying situation that forges lifelong friendships. Inevitably comes the day that both friends’ contents have been consumed; Wagner doesn’t spare readers the frisson that runs through Arnie and Bing when they’re sent to the recycling bin, and when that bin gets dumped in a truck, then deposited on the single-stream recycling floor. That’s not to say readers will be terrified, but the writing is intimate enough for them to identify with Arnie and Bing’s predicament—“Jumbled and scrunched with the paper and plastic, / their journey had gone from scary to drastic.” What will likely be new information for kids comes when the sorting commences—and the high drama drops a notch. Wagner gives a step-by-step explanation of the recycling process, with the creation of cullets and ingots and the fashioning of new containers. The book’s many photos are particularly good at conveying the processing of bottles and cans. Otherwise, the artwork is of the minimalist-intervention school—real photos with the occasional appending of cartoon eyes and mouth if a can or bottle has something to say. But those eyes are critical when Arnie and Bing are reborn as a salsa bottle and fruit punch can respectively. “Hey, hey, Bing! I KNEW that was you! / I could never forget your eyes of blue!”
An endearingly homespun tale that could nevertheless better balance its entertainment and education.