Chattanooga Sludge: Cleaning Toxic Sludge from Chattanooga Creek

Chattanooga Sludge: Cleaning Toxic Sludge from Chattanooga Creek

by Molly Bang
The true story of one man's ingenious plan to clean the toxic sludge from a creek in Tennessee. John Todd had an idea to build a greenhouse called a Living Machine, where living plants and creatures would clean the toxic sludge. People thought his idea peculiar, but John Todd knew that it might be the only hope. Full color.


The true story of one man's ingenious plan to clean the toxic sludge from a creek in Tennessee. John Todd had an idea to build a greenhouse called a Living Machine, where living plants and creatures would clean the toxic sludge. People thought his idea peculiar, but John Todd knew that it might be the only hope. Full color.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this dense picture book/nonfiction hybrid, Bang (Yellow Ball) tackles the onerous task of explaining to young readers the environmental impact of toxic waste and its attendant disposal. The result is a tedious dissection of one man's experiments for cleaning up the poison sludge of Tennessee's Chattanooga Creek. Unfortunately the writing style and substance are at odds here. Bang attempts a lighthearted approach, but is bogged down by the necessary specifics of the science at hand. Her characteristically bold mixed-media collage-and-paint artwork proves as intriguing as ever, though it fails to add much spark to a dull discussion. Winged amphibian angels float throughout the pages, delivering asides and facts, creating a sort of humorless homage to Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen's Magic School Bus titles. Although the ecological topic is a worthy one, it wallows in this particular execution. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Debra Briatico
This compelling picture book describes the true story of one man's ingenious plan to use a Living Machine, a specialized greenhouse containing living plants and creatures, to clean up the toxic sludge found in Chattanooga Creek, one of the most highly polluted waterways in the southeastern United States. Stunning collage art and interesting facts fill the pages of this clever resource.
Children's Literature - Dia L. Michels
Over a 200 year span, Chattanooga Creek accumulated large amounts of 33 different industrial poisons, earning the title "most polluted waterway in the southeastern United States." Could clear waters ever again fill the creek? A man known for the creation of "Living Machines," that use flora and fauna to digest sludge, was invited to see if he could help restore the creek. Using cartoon frogs posted at various spots along the margins to offer commentary, Bang takes an otherwise complicated topic and makes it entertaining, informative and visually appealing. The story of Chattanooga sludge presents an example to young readers of how intellect and creativity can help solve real-life problems.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 3-6This unique offering takes a particularly difficult subject and makes it accessible to youngsters. In it, Bang explains and follows the efforts to clean up Chattanooga Creek, badly polluted by years of industrial dumping and abuse. Readers are taken on a step by step journey starting with the discovery of "a man from Massachusetts" who used plants in greenhouses called Living Machines to clean sewage and transformed it into usable water. The city council members invited John Todd to try out his process on samples taken from their creek's toxic sludge. The remainder of the text describes the scientist's rigorous trial-and-error methods of experimentation. The magnitude and complexity of the cleanup are made painfully clear. The often-technical discussion is greatly aided by the colorful and informative diagrams. Bringing this subject to life and making it comprehensible to a lay audience of any age is an impressive feat. Bang pulls it off nicely; her stunning collage artwork (perhaps her best to date) is fascinating in detail and encourages repeated viewings. While the lack of documentation is a concern, this book presents an engaging look at a very hot topic.Melissa Hudak, North Suburban District Library, Roscoe, IL
Carolyn Phelan
Although the format may lead readers to expect a story for preschoolers, this unusual picture book describes a scientist's experimental use of microbes to turn toxic sludge into clear water. The story begins millions of years ago with the origins of the Appalachian Mountains. That would make a good book in and of itself, but Bang finishes the subject before readers get to the title page. A more modern story starts when the Chattanooga City Council asks a man to try using bacteria to clean up 150 years worth of industrial sludge in Chattanooga Creek. The text explains the processes and variables involved in setting up a tank where bacteria and other microbes can break down chemical elements. Meanwhile, in the margins, little ghosts of frogs (killed by toxins in the creek) explain and comment on the events in the story. The book is packed (perhaps overpacked) with information, and though overall this is something of a hodgepodge, children old enough to follow along should find the narrative engrossing. This is science with a purpose, and both the premise and the background details are fascinating. The illustrations, collages of painted papers and photographs, are bright and eye-catching, but at times are crowded as well. Despite its drawbacks, this unique book will provoke curiosity about microbes, chemistry, and biology, topics that are seldom presented to children in such an involving way.
Kirkus Reviews
Bang (One Fall Day, 1994, etc.) salutes one man's efforts to clean up "the most polluted waterway in the southeastern United States." Filling seven pages before the title page is an overview of the forces of nature that created the Chattanooga Creek and the forces of manufacturing that rendered it toxic, with 33 varieties of pollutants. Enter John Todd and his Living Machine: a bioassay tank (a healthy test environment) and another tank of specially selected bacteria (from marsh mud, rotting railroad ties, etc.) intended to gobble and make harmless the creek's nasty sludge. As the book ends, Todd is still at work, with preliminary results that point the way to success.

A scientific experiment has never been so driven by suspense. Bang creates an intriguing, appealing, vulnerable character in Todd and an equally effective presence in the Chattanooga Creek, then splices into the story information on geology, ecology, bacteriology, and biology, in a successful effort to explicate the complex workings of nature. The facts are superbly captured in exquisite collages that turn the subject of sludge into an airy ode to green, clean living. It all adds up to a favorable omen for the future of the Chattanooga.

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st ed
Product dimensions:
10.89(w) x 11.44(h) x 0.59(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

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