Monday, March 27, 2023

MMGM--Total Garbage and What Stays Buried

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Donnelly, Rebecca and Hendrix, John. Total Garbage: 
A Messy Dive into Trash, Waste, and Our World 
March 7th 2023 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

I am amazed that, on average, 4.9 pounds of trash per person today is created in the US, and most of it is sent to sanitary landfills, which were first created in the 1930s. How is that even sustainable? It's not, and Donnelly and Hendrix's new book is a great way to show young readers why trash is a problem, and offer them some steps as to how to deal with it. 

No previous knowledge is presupposed in this book, and so different kinds of trash are described. I didn't know the term Municipal Solid Waste, but this is comprised of paper, food waste, plastics, textiles, electronics and school waste. There are also special sites for things like medical and construction waste. The problem of food waste has been in the news a lot recently in my community, and is something I absolutely hate. Because I have a yard and a garden, I'm able to compost fruit and vegetable scraps, along with egg shells and tea leaves, and if I throw out more than a pound or two of food a YEAR, I would be very surprised. Seeing how much trash, and what the different kinds are, is a good way for kids to start thinking about how to reduce the waste they create. 

There ae so many good chapters and various aspects of waste. Subjects such as throwaway living (not a fan of anything single use here!), downcycling, environmental racism and justice are all thought provoking, and I found the information about incineration interesting. Sweden burns about half of the waste, and the process can be used to create energy. It's not a perfect system, of course, but it is a little surprising that more thought hasn't been put into this in the US. 

Hendrix's illustrations are always fun (and his Faithful Spy is a masterpiece), and will add to the appeal for young readers. I loved that Menzel and D'Aluzio's 2014 project photography a week of trash was mentioned. I'm all for letting tweens know about problems in the world that they might not be able to solve, but which they can still think about and make efforts to help. Maybe if enough of my students read this book, they can help me get a project going to cut down on food waste in our cafeteria. There is a limit to the number of baby carrots I can personally consume. 

Young, Suzanne. What Stays Buried
March 7th 2023 by HarperCollins
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Callista Wynn's family has powers that others don't, and these powers include being able to talk to ghosts. This is helpful to Callie, because she is a medium who can still communicate with her grandmother and her father, who both passed away and are tethered to the house. This will end when she is 13, however, because of a decades old curse that started when a local woman, Edwina, was involved with the kidnapping and murders of local children, including Callie's aunt Virginia, and was killed by the residents of Windmere. As Callie's birthday approaches, her younger sister, Molly, starts to see "The Tall Lady", and Molly has a very bad feeling about this, especially since several local boys have gone missing. Callie doesn't know quite what to do, and even her father and grandmother are unsure how to proceed, so they ask her aunt Freya to come to help. It's a good thing they do, because not only is Molly possessed by a demon, but the brother of a boy in Callista's class goes missing from school. Wyland has always been nice to Callie, unlike most of the other children in her school, and he believes her when she talks about being able to see ghosts. Unfortunately, when she mentions that the children might be in a house in the marshes, he calls his mother, and soon the police are scouring the area. When nothing is found, the town turns against the Wynns. Callie has to learn to keep her knowledge to herself, but she will only have to do this for a short time. Before long, the situation intensifies, and she and Wyland have to strike out on their own to try to find the missing children before Callie's birthday arrives. Will Edwina, the "Tall Lady",  be successful in her bid to steal the souls of enough children to make her invincible, or will Callie be able to thwart her and save the day?
Strengths: Well. THAT was certainly a lot scarier than I thought it would be! Sure, in Oh's Spirit Hunters, the brother is possessed, but the description of the possession, and of Edwina, and the marsh, are terrifying! The fact that Callie was nearing the end of her powers and might not be able to get her sister back added a definite air of urgency. This started off with a homey kitchen scene with the grandmother and father, and I thought it was going to be more like Urban's Almost There and Almost Not, but instead it jumped right into murderous ghosts! There are some pretty violent scenes, with the aunt being injured, and there are a lot of missing children. Notice that for middle grade readers, this is definitely a strength! Since it's the ghosts doing the horrible things and not human beings, I'm okay with that. I was not intending to finish this one the day I picked it up, but I could not put it down. Young has done some YA science fiction type books, but she should be encouraged to write more middle grade horror!
Weaknesses: Other reviewers seem to really like the "heartfelt" ending, when Callie sort of uses all of the love in her life to repel Edwina, but that seemed a bit out of step with the rest of the book, and isn't necessarily what my young horror readers want. On the other hand, it's a great way to get teachers and librarians to read and recommend the book! The cover makes this look like it is for younger readers than it is. This would probably scare the bejeezus out of a 3rd or 4th grader. I would not want to be responsible for those nightmares! Little bit of a spoiler (highlight to see): this is not one of those books where ALL of the dead children come back at the end, just so you know. 
What I really think: I'm definitely buying two copies, because this was WAY scarier than I thought it was going to be. It will take some handselling, but I think that once students read it, they will be recommending it to their friends. Another reviewer took issue with the unsupervised seance and summoning of dead spirits, saying it was teaching students occult practices. Since I don't believe that ghosts are real, I don't have a problem with this. Perhaps, as a precaution, I should tell students not to summon ghosts, the way I tell them to not summon demons in the bathroom when they check out Monahan's Mary: The Summoning. 


  1. This year Denver has made more changes to reduce the waste for our landfills. They now charge for trash, but re-cycle & composting is free. I hope it will help. The book does sound like one to share with students. Our schools do have composting, too. The other one may have some problems with the seances, I guess, yet I imagine many will love it, too. Thanks, Karen!

  2. It depends on how the seance is depicted. If it depicts a successful summoning of an evil spirit with no consequences for anyone who takes part, then I believe that is unrealistic. I've known people who have participated in seances with very ill effects. I've also read a lot about people who have been possessed and it's terrifying. On a happier note, when my great-aunt was a little girl she was playing in the garden and ran inside to tell her mother that her brother had visited to say goodbye. The family found out later it was the same day and time he was killed in the trenches in WW1. Potentially suspect seance aside, I think the book sounds really good. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Anonymous8:23 PM EDT

    Total Garbage sounds like a must have book for every school library. Thanks for highlighting it. Carol Baldwin

  4. 4.9 pounds per person??? Holy smoke. I hope all the kids read that book and help save the world. What Stays Buried sounds way to scary for me, but I know some kids who would like it. Thanks for the reviews.

  5. Thanks for the review for What Stays Buried. I already have a teacher in mind to recommend that book to.