One Plastic Bag – Perfect Picture Book Friday

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Title: One Plastic Bag

Authors: Isatou Ceesay and The Recycling Women of Gambia (and Miranda Paul)

Illustrator: Elizabeth Zunon

 Publisher: Milbrook Press, 2015

Ages: 4-8

Genre: Nonfiction

Themes: plastic scrap, environment, conservation, recycling, community, plastics, single-use plastics, sustainability, pollution, waste, getting involved, solutions, Gambia


Njau, Gambia

Isatou walks with her chin frozen. Fat raindrops pelt her bare arms. Her face hides in the shadow of a palm-leaved basket, and her neck stings with every step.

Warm scents of burning wood and bubbling peanut stew drift past. Her village is close now. She lifts her nose to catch the smell.


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. (publisher)

Why I like this book:

One Plastic Bag has so many curriculum links. Through the language choice and illustrations, the reader is immersed ininto Isatou’s world and Gambian culture. The language is not only set in the Gambian context but it is lyrical and has a beautiful refrain variation: “One plastic bag becomes two. Then ten. Then a hundred.” and “first one, then two, then ten,” which makes kids want to chant along during a read-aloud. Also, the great story arc about one woman seeing the dire results of unsanitary random dumping of trash loaded with plastics around her village and took it upon herself to make a difference, one small plastic-woven coin purse at a time. 

The illustrations by Elizabeth Zunon are stunning, richly colorful and evocative of Gambia. She cleverly creates bright and warm collages from plastic bags, African patterned cloths, photographs, and painted surfaces. 


This is a great introduction to teaching about recycling plastic bags and introducing some really cool DIY activities. One Plastic Bag‘s website is packed with activities and information, including a PowerPoint about The Gambia and instructions for turning plastic bags into purses. 

As the timeline in the back matter shows, although this project started off small, eventually it made a huge difference in the lives of those in the area. Isatou was honored with a World of Difference 100 Award for her work. Including a glossary, a map, suggested additional reading, and an author’s note about the impact of the project is helpful to teachers and students interested in looking for ways to make a difference in their own corner of the world. Anyone reading this book will never look at a plastic bag in the same way again.

Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

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6 Responses to One Plastic Bag – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. I loved this book. It really shows that with creative thinking, how plastic can be re-purposed into other items. I also like the theme of one person making a difference and involving the community. Such an important story for kids!

  2. This is a great NF biography and call to action. Showing how every, ordinary person can find a way to make a difference. I agree with Patricia, it is an important story for kids.

  3. I love this book, too. And it’s in keeping with your goal! Nice choice!

  4. Sarah Tobias says:

    I love this book. I always hoped it might inspire some students to start making their own purses and carry bags. Or maybe it would inspire them to write to their representatives and ask them to make changes to the law and get rid of this plastic menace.

  5. This is a wonderful book. Great incentive for kids and adults to look at ways to help reduce plastic waste. Great choice for PPBF.

  6. Patricia Nozell says:

    I love this book. And what a perfect choice for your no-plastic month challenge!

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