Their trash is her treasure, and she’ll prove its value to the naysayers in town.
Sylvia Samantha Wright seems to be the only person who sees the potential in discarded objects such as old pipes, overstock party hats, and half-rotten bananas. When skeptics comment on her habit of collecting junk, she doggedly says she’s “working on something.” However, when elderly Ezekiel Mather finally asks what she’s working on, she confesses that she doesn’t know. He encourages her, saying: “That’s the best part….The part before you know.” A series of townwide disasters gives Sylvia an opportunity to demonstrate how the junk she collects can be utilized in feats of engineering and problem-solving. Cartoonish line drawings with colorful, textural accents support the exaggerated silliness of the disasters, but the text’s humor somewhat tarnishes the sincerity of its empowering message. An unnecessarily wordy recurring punchline concerns an incompetent female mayor (no room for two intelligent female characters with agency in this town!). (It’s also a pretty homogeneous town; all the named characters are white, with only a few scattered characters of color in the occasional background.) Despite Sylvia’s refrain, “I’m working on something,” both text and illustrations avoid depicting her much-hyped problem-solving process by leapfrogging over it to the final results of her efforts.
Day’s picture-book debut purports to encourage ingenuity, perseverance, and girls’ interest in STEM but falls short of its potential. (Picture book. 4-8)