Here Comes the Garbage Barge!

What It Is

This new book is a fictionalized version of a true story of the infamous odyssey of a barge full of garbage -- more than 3,000 tons of it -- from the town of Islip on New York’s Long Island, NY, down the East Coast, and back again. With local landfills at capacity, chief garbage man, Gino Stroffolino, gets the idea to dump it in North Carolina. Cap’m Duffy St. Pierre and his tugboat are hired to tow the barge to Morehead City, NC, but a barge is a big thing. You can’t just dump it and run! Cap’m Duffy and his barge were chased away by local police. Next stop is New Orleans with similar results. After failed attempts to offload the garbage in Mexico, Belize, Texas and Florida, Cap’m Duffy brings the barge, which became the butt of jokes from school yards to late-night talk show hosts, back to Long Island. After cruising around New York for the summer, the courts ruled that Brooklyn burn the refuse down to “just” 430 tons and bury it in an Islip landfill. Right back where it started from!

Why It’s Fun

The illustrations are the real fun in this book. Red Nose Studio used clay animation, which brings alive the retro and irreverent nature of the story. It’s fun to see what you can find in the garbage heap and you can just smell the stench on the page where the Statue of Liberty is seen holding her nose. If you really love the graphics, check out inside of the book jacket for a “behind the scenes” look at how the graphics were created. You’ll learn that they used real objects to create the barge, including rotten banana peels!

I wasn’t a big fan of Jonah Winter’s fictionalized characters, such as “Gino Stroffolino” and “Cap’m Duffy St. Pierre,” who I found to be somewhat stereotypical. But the author does give us some interesting information, including the fact that the average American makes about four pounds of garbage every day, as well as local tidbits about each region where the garbage is towed.

Who’s Going To Love It

Parents are the ones who will enjoy the story, especially those of us who lived in the NY/NJ area and recall the garbage troubles of the mid-80s. With “the green movement” becoming a part of our every day lives, this landmark tale is a reminder of how far we’ve come. It’s a good opportunity to teach kids about what happens to trash after it leaves our curbsides and what we can do to reduce our “carbon footprints.” However, the length of the story is geared more towards the older end of the publisher’s 4 to 8 recommendation, so you may want to check it out of the library to see what your kids think before buying it.

Reading Time

About 8-10 minutes

Read-It-Again Points

5 out of 10

Book Information

Here Comes the Garbage Barge!
By: Jonah Winter, Illustrated by Red Nose Studio
Published by: Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books (2010)
Approximate retail price: $17.99 (hardcover)


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