Plastic Ahoy – Perfect Picture Book Friday

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Title: Plastic Ahoy, Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Author: Patricia Newman

Photographer: Annie Crawley

 Publisher: Milbrook Press, 2014

Ages: 8-12

48 pages

Genre: Nonfiction

Themes: plastic scraps, environment, conservation, plastic scraps, single-use plastics, sustainability, marine pollution, waste, getting involved, solutions, great pacific garbage patch, Pacific Ocean, science, the scientific method

Favorite Quote:

To See plastic debris in the middle of this large stretch of ocean, far from land, offers a vast wakeup call for the way we leave our footprint even on remote places of the Earth.


Three young PhD students are on a mission to study a massive accumulation of plastic in the Pacific Ocean, AKA the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The scientific method unfolds as they conduct their investigation. Their adventures introduce readers to the basics of ocean science and the hazards of plastics.

Why I like this book:

A thoroughly researched non-fiction read, Plastic, Ahoy!: Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a pertinent introduction to this specific example of human pollution and to modern marine science.

What makes this a stellar NF addition to your school shelves?

It’s a mission about three young female scientists and their specialities and research on this trip. We learn much about the stages of scientific inquiry, equipment used, and the living organisms they researched under the sea. This brings some real people into the science, and it shows the range of issues being studied about the garbage patch as well as the specificity of each scientists’ interests and expertise.

The text includes questions on many levels, as well as the process the scientists go through in answering one question, which leads to another one they have to design an experiment to answer, and on and on. It also explicitly states that often their questions (experiments) led to more questions. 

Sidebars outline clearly how the scientists’ work and experiments use the scientific method.

Awesome specific human details like, how the soda machine breaks down during the trip and how the team pulls a smelly dead squid onto the boat.

The color photographs by Annie Crawley from the actual expedition make you feel like you are right there on the boat. The photos make this book, capturing all the action right down to that broken soda machine.

I always say, almost everything I know, I learned form picture books, and this is no exception. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch was not discovered until 1997, although it has probably been in existence much longer than that. No one knows how much plastic debris is in the patch or what exactly it is doing to the ocean ecosystem. Some of the first discoveries included that most of the plastic is broken bits the size of “confetti.” Not what I expected. It was fascinating to see how many animals were making a new home out of the plastic. What I imagined was a garbage island floating out in the ocean, but it isn’t really like that. Much of the bigger plastic floats just below the surface, and the bulk of the plastic are small pellets the size of rice. Another interesting fact was that some plastics absorb toxins created by the degrading of other plastics– meaning that animals ingesting those pellets got a double-dose of bad.

This is a compelling read for all ages.


There is a ton of supplemental reading as well as source notes at the back of this book and there are tips to combat this devastating destruction in our ocean.  It’s a great choice for children interested in marine biology, chemistry or conservation, and will be a great resource for any science unit on the environment, marine ecosystems, food chain, ecology, trash/recycling, plastic pollution or natural adaptations. It would make perfect reading for Earth Day or World Ocean Day.

Patricia has many more resources on her website including a 30-Day Challenge she created with Annie Crawley.

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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7 Responses to Plastic Ahoy – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Andrea Mack says:

    Wow. This sounds compelling! I’m going to look for it at my local library.

  2. Joanna says:

    It is very thorough and could definitely be used in middle school as well as upper primary.

  3. I have this book and find it quite disturbing. Patricia Newman is so thorough in her research. And it’s so hard to watch these videos. Plastic is in everything now, including our cells. But I am heartened by the number of people working to turn the extent of its dissemination around.

  4. You are finding excellent books to share on this topic. I watch everything I can on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, as it is a problem we HAVE to solve. And, kids are interested in this topic, with young people trying to find solutions. The videos are REAL and I enjoyed watching them. Thank you!

  5. WOW! This is an important read for EVERYONE. It may likely encourage others to try to go plastic free. Thank you so much for reviewing this book! I have it on hold at my library.

  6. Emily Lim-Leh says:

    A subject increasingly pressing upon my heart. Thanks for sharing this!

  7. Patricia Nozell says:

    Thank you, Joanna, for bringing another wonderful #NF #PB to my attention! I have learned so much about the plastics problem reading your blog this month, and I applaud your efforts to live plastic-free.

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