Distressed by the problem of plastic-bag disposal, a Gambian woman organizes her neighbors to turn trash into treasure.
When Isatou Ceesay first discovered plastic bags in the Gambia in West Africa, in the 1980s, they seemed wonderfully useful and sturdy. But in her village, they soon became a nuisance, piling up in ugly dump areas where mosquitoes bred. Goats ate them and died. Her solution was to collect and clean used bags, cut them into strips and crochet the strips into useful plastic purses. These were sold at local markets and eventually internationally. Paul, who first went to the Gambia as a volunteer and has returned in other roles, tells this story in a straightforward fashion, deftly including words from the Wolof language and including details about Ceesay’s village life. A map, author’s note, glossary, timeline and excellent suggestions for further reading set this example of a woman who made a difference in a larger context. Fittingly, the collage illustrations make use of colorful papers and plastic bags. These reveal the labor involved and show the women’s joy in the results of their work.
Though Isatou Ceesay’s country may be unfamiliar to young readers, they’ve probably done some handicraft recycling of their own. The easy connection makes this a welcome addition to the small shelf of examples of ingenuity in developing nations. (Informational picture book. 5-8)