Bag in the Wind

( 1 )


In a singular first children’s book, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Ted Kooser follows a plastic bag on its capricious journey from a landfill into a series of townspeople’s lives.

One cold morning in early spring, a bulldozer pushes a pile of garbage around a landfill and uncovers an empty plastic bag — a perfectly good bag, the color of the skin of a yellow onion, with two holes for handles — that someone has thrown away. Just then, a puff of wind lifts the rolling, flapping bag ...

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In a singular first children’s book, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Ted Kooser follows a plastic bag on its capricious journey from a landfill into a series of townspeople’s lives.

One cold morning in early spring, a bulldozer pushes a pile of garbage around a landfill and uncovers an empty plastic bag — a perfectly good bag, the color of the skin of a yellow onion, with two holes for handles — that someone has thrown away. Just then, a puff of wind lifts the rolling, flapping bag over a chain-link fence and into the lives of several townsfolk — a can-collecting girl, a homeless man, a store owner — not that all of them notice. Renowned poet Ted Kooser fashions an understated yet compassionate world full of happenstance and connection, neglect and care, all perfectly expressed in Barry Root’s tender illustrations. True to the book’s earth-friendly spirit, it is printed on paper containing 100 percent recycled post-consumer waste and includes an author’s note on recycling plastic bags.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
In early spring, a "perfectly good" plastic bag is blown from a landfill on a series of adventures. The lengthy text follows the bag from fences to trees to barbed wire. There a girl named Margaret uses it for the aluminum cans she has collected to recycle for cash. The bag is then picked up, blown onto a stream, finally taken to a secondhand store. Margaret enters, seeking a baseball glove with the money she has earned from recycling. She finds one that fits and has enough money to buy a baseball as well. The woman in the store puts the glove and ball into a bag, just like any other, but the very same bag Margaret had used. With this satisfying conclusion, the recycling continues. Root deftly uses watercolors and gouache in muted hues for his long, single and double-page, detailed, naturalistic illustrations. The plastic bag, "just the color of the skin of a yellow onion," can be followed from scene to scene. A further note about plastic bags encourages reuse and recycling but best of all not to use them at all. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Publishers Weekly
A plastic bag, “just the color of the skin of a yellow onion,” blows away from a landfill and across a wintry rural landscape. With unadorned realism, captured in former poet laureate Kooser's plainspoken prose and Root's (The Birthday Tree) copper and slate-gray watercolors and gouache, a girl finds the bag and fills it with aluminum cans, which she takes to a gas station to cash in. Soon the bag meanders on. A traveler, sleepy beside a bridge, lets the bag slip into the water, and in the morning, a homeless woman fishes it out. After the bag ends up at a secondhand store, its journey comes full circle when the girl from earlier buys a baseball glove and ball from the cozy-shabby shop, not recognizing they're put in the same bag she had before, “because it looked just like every other grocery bag in the world.”The reflective message about waste (there's an endnote about recycling plastic bags) is gently balanced against the meditation on the quiet beauty and nobility of objects—and people—that aren't often given a second thought or glance. Ages 5–8. (Feb.)
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—In his first children's book, the former U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner tells an environmental story about a plastic grocery bag as it is blown out of a landfill, over a considerable distance, and eventually into the hands of some people who reuse it. Young Margaret picks it up to carry discarded cans she sells for scrap metal. A woman uses it to block a draft under her door. Two street people pick it up but eventually drop it. A man bundles it with other bags and sells them to a woman who runs a secondhand store. The story comes full circle when Margaret buys a baseball glove and ball there and carries her purchases home in the very bag she had initially found. Root's watercolor and gouache paintings, often golden-hued landscape spreads, follow the bag from its bright early-morning wanderings, through the day and shadowy night, and into the daylight once again. Long, compound sentences flow smoothly as they describe the bag's protracted journey, offering poetic images such as "clouds like enormous black leaf bags" that race across the moon. Older children who can listen to the lengthy text will benefit from hearing the beauty of the language and, in addition, will learn about recycling plastic bags from the informative author's note.—Marianne Saccardi, formerly at Norwalk Community College, CT
Kirkus Reviews
In his first children's title, former Poet Laureate Kooser follows a plastic grocery bag, "just the color of the skin of a yellow onion," on a skittering journey from landfill to thrift shop. The exquisitely observed narrative renders the American landscape's dubious symbiosis-nominally natural, persistently industrial-worthy of a child's attention: "There were lots of young trees along the ditch, their twigs covered with hard little buds that would soon open, and the bag got caught on a branch and hung there the rest of the night, flapping and slapping in the wind." The author finds people, too, illuminating the good done when "reuse" meshes routinely into everyday life. A girl collects cans and buys a secondhand baseball glove, a man gathers and sells plastic bags to a shopkeeper. Curious readers are drawn toward the bag just as the bag is propelled along its gentle but pernicious cycle. Root's gouache-and-watercolor pictures, suffused with the pale gold light of early-spring dawns, capture the injured land, its quirky denizens and the bag's familiar-well-bagginess. Wonderful. (author's note about recycling plastic bags) (Picture book. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763630010
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 2/23/2010
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 630,645
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.40 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Ted Kooser

Ted Kooser was the United States Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006 and won a Pulitzer Prize for his book of poems DELIGHTS AND SHADOWS. He is the author of twelve full-length volumes of poetry and several books of nonfiction, and his work has appeared in many periodicals. This is his first children’s book. He lives in Garland, Nebraska.

Barry Root has illustrated many books for children, including THE CAT WHO LIKED POTATO SOUP by Terry Farish and THE BIRTHDAY TREE by Paul Fleischman. He lives in Quarryville, Pennsylvania.

Good To Know

Kooser revealed some interesting facts about himself in our interview:

"I wanted to be a writer from the time I was a young man, but realized that I'd have to make a living somehow. I tried high school teaching but was incapable of maintaining discipline in the classroom and the students ran right over me. In 1964, after being tossed out of graduate school because I was a completely undisciplined scholar, I went to work at an "entry level" job in a life insurance company and over twenty five years was gradually elevated to a vice presidency.

During those years I wrote every morning from 5:30 till about 7:00. I never saw myself as an insurance executive, but rather as a writer in need of a paying job."

"I love living in rural America, away from the noise and clamor of the city, and I am completely content to go all week without speaking to anyone but my wife and my dog. My wife, Kathleen Rutledge, is the editor of the Lincoln Journal Star, the daily newspaper in Lincoln, Nebraska, and she helps keep me up on the news. I rarely leave home unless I can't find a good excuse not to go.

I write and paint and do chores around the farm, and am immensely thankful for every new day."

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    1. Hometown:
      Garland, Nebraska
    1. Date of Birth:
    2. Place of Birth:
      Ames, Iowa
    1. Education:
      B.S., Iowa State University, 1962; M.A., University of Nebraska, 1968

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 12, 2010

    more from this reviewer


    Formerly a United States Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser has penned an imaginative story focusing on conservation, and related it through the adventures of an empty plastic bag. Now, this is just a perfectly ordinary bag, the kind you might carry groceries in. It was "...just the color of the skin of a yellow onion, and it had two holes for handles."

    The bag's odyssey begins one winter morning when a bulldozer pushes garbage around a landfill. The motion loosens the bag which is picked up by the wind. From there breezes carry it over the landfill's fence and to a country road where a young girl, Margaret, is picking up aluminum cans. She turns them in, saving her pennies for something special.

    Of course, once she has used the bag it is blown further along to a gas station, to a road where it is found by a homeless man, to a stream, to a river where a woman finds it and uses it to line"the front of her outside coat." One of the surprises BAG IN THE WIND has for us is the bag's final destination.

    Kooser closes his narration with information about recycling plastic bags.

    Barry Root's warm and winning illustrations done in watercolor and gouache beautifully express the meaning of the story.

    - Gail Cooke

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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