In Johnston’s (The Woodcutter and the Most Beautiful Tree, 2011) latest environmentally conscious tale, a young girl is inspired to become an activist after visiting an island made of plastic refuse.
Lelani is a carefree child who spends her days paddleboarding in the bright ocean. One day, she finds a message in a plastic bottle summoning her to visit an island called New Flotsam. Intrigued, she ventures out on her paddleboard to the mysterious locale. After a long journey, she finds herself on “[a]n entire continent made of waste from all the other continents.” There, she meets Big Sam, a boy who presides as emperor of the wasteland. He shows Lelani animals tangled in plastic and a forest made of plastic straws. Johnston’s pastel illustrations sensitively depict the beautiful natural world as it’s threatened by the growing trash problem. Like Dr. Seuss’ Lorax, Big Sam explains to Lelani that human pollution is destroying the wildlife. Big Sam explains the rapid growth of the island, thanks to other places’ waste: “Decisions made in the Fast Lands, no matter how tiny and small, can have a big effect in New Flotsam, which is why I have answered the call.” Through Big Sam’s words, Johnston conveys his message in a clear manner that young readers will fully comprehend. Also, the sadness of the animals tangled in the garbage is likely to evoke readers’ sympathy. Big Sam implores Lelani to return to the mainland as an ambassador of change. She takes her mission to heart, creating reusable alternatives to plastic products for her friends and family, and she passionately educates everyone around her. Her impassioned approach is likely to inspire children to action, and the measures she takes are entirely accessible for young readers. Overall, this book is highly recommended for educators or caregivers looking for a way to educate children and inspire them to be environmentally conscientious.
A sensitive, thoughtful book that effectively conveys the impact each person has on the environment.