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"Oh," said Violet. "Mrs. McGregor needs help." Violet, who was ten years old and a bit shy, opened the screen door to let Mrs. McGregor into the sunporch.
"Thank you, Violet," said Mrs. McGregor as she squeezed through the opening, cradling a big green object in her arms.
At closer look, Henry saw that the big green thing was a metal frog. He guessed that the frog was heavy, so he took it from Mrs. McGregor. At fourteen, Henry was the oldest of the four Alden children. "What would you like me to do with this?" he asked.
"Oh, thank you, Henry," said Mrs. McGregor, the cook and housekeeper. She worked for James Alden, the children's grandfather and guardian. "How do you think it would look if we put it here, on the floor of the sunporch?"
Henry put the frog down and stepped back to look at it.
"It looks very good," said twelve-year-old Jessie. "Where did you get it?"
Mrs. McGregor smiled. "I rescued it from the new recycling center that opened last week."
"Rescued?" asked Benny, who was six years old. "Was the frog in trouble?"
"No," laughed Mrs. McGregor. "The manager of the new recycling center puts a few things alongside her shed each morning—things she thinks can be reused. When I took my recycling in this morning, I saw this frog alongside the shed. Kayla, the manager, told me I should feel free to take it and reuse it."
Mrs. McGregor stepped back to look at the big metal animal. "Hmmm," she said. "I really liked the color of this frog when I saw it. But now I'm not exactly sure how we can reuse this frog."
"I know!" said Benny. "It's so big, it can guard our sunporch!"
Henry, Jessie, and Violet laughed.
"We already have Watch," said Jessie. Watch was the dog the Aldens had found and taken in. After their parents had died, the four children ran away and lived in an old boxcar in the woods. They ran away because their grandfather, whom they had never met, was going to be their guardian. They thought he would be a mean person. They turned out to be wrong: Their grandfather was a good person. He found them and brought them to live with him.
"Well," said Mrs. McGregor as she patted the large metal frog, "the frog can help Watch watch. And now it's time for me to make breakfast."
As the children helped Mrs. McGregor by setting the table, they talked about the new recycling center.
"Does it take newspapers and cans and plastic?" asked Jessie.
"Yes, it does," said Mrs. McGregor.
"What's this I hear?" asked Grandfather as he walked into the kitchen.
"There's a new recycling center right here in Greenfield," answered Henry. "And it takes newspapers and cans and plastic bottles."
"That's wonderful," said Grandfather. "That means I don't have to drive the newspapers to Silver City and the cans and plastics to Elmford. That will mean less use of gasoline."
Everyone agreed that the new recycling center was a wonderful thing for the town of Greenfield. "The more things we recycle and reuse, the fewer natural resources we use up," said Grandfather.
"I know what a natural resource is," announced Benny. "It's trees and land and water."
"That's right," said Henry. "If we use oldpaper to make new paper, we save more trees."
"Oh boy," said Benny. "Let's take all our old papers down to the new recycling center today!"
Jessie, Violet, and Henry all liked Benny's idea. After breakfast the four children went into the garage and looked at the piles of recycling. There was a cardboard pile and, next to it, a newspaper pile. There was a box filled with metal cans and a big bag of plastic bottles, too.
"We can ride our bikes," said Henry.
"It's a good thing our bikes all have baskets," said Jessie. "With four bikes, we can take almost half of what's here."
"And then we can take more tomorrow," said Violet.
"I like the name of this center," said Jessie as they pedaled their bikes through an open gateway. Above their heads was a metal arch with the words "Use It Again Recycling Center." The entire recycling center was surrounded by a sparkling new chain-link fence.
The Aldens stopped and looked around. Shiny new recycling bins stood in long rows. Each bin was labeled for what went inside. The biggest bin was labeled "Plastic." Off by itself was a huge Dumpster labeled "Other Stuff." Near it was a wooden shed. A young woman lifted an old toaster out of the Other Stuff bin and turned around. As she did so, she saw the children.
"Hello," she said. "Welcome to the new recycling center. I'm Kayla Korty, the manager."
The children introduced themselves.
"You can lean your bikes against a bin," said Kayla, "and I'll give you a tour of the place. But first—what do you think of my collection of treasures?"
The children watched as Kayla put the toaster on a shelf that ran along the outside of the shed. Above the shelf was a handwritten sign: "These May Be Treasures."
The Aldens looked at the things Kayla had on the shelf. Jessie noticed a toaster and a pack of notebooks. Benny noticed two piñatas. Violet noticed a wooden checkerboard without checkers. Henry noticed an old chair that had wooden legs and a wooden back. He could see that the seat of the chair had once been made of woven cane, but that the cane had worn out and broken off. Now there was nothing to sit on.
"I look through the Other Stuff bin each morning," Kayla said. "If anything looks interesting to me, I pull it out and put it here. Feel free to take any of these things home if you want them. There are treasures in recycling," she said with a smile.
"Wow!" said Benny. "Look at that bull piñata! It looks just like the one in Tío's Tacos, my favorite restaurant."
"Oh Benny," laughed Jessie. "You love food so much that every restaurant is your favorite."
Kayla handed the red piñata to Benny. "Would you like to take it home?" she asked.
Benny held the piñata. It was very dusty on top, but he thought he could clean it off. "Yes!" he said. "I'll put it in the sunporch with Mrs. McGregor's frog."
"Frog?" asked Kayla. "You mean that big, green metal frog?"
The children nodded.
"I wish I had never given that frog away," muttered Kayla.
"Why not?" asked Jessie.
"Oh," said Kayla, waving her hand in the air, "just because." She looked at the children. "Benny has a piñata," she said. "Would anybody else like to take a treasure home?"
Neither Henry nor Violet were interested in anything, but Jessie looked at the notebooks. "This is a whole pack of notebooks," she said. "And it's unopened."
Kayla shrugged. "Don't ask me why anybody would throw it away," she said. "Would you like it?"
Jessie said she would. She liked to use notebooks to make lists.
"I'll keep the piñata and notebooks here in my studio until you're ready to leave," Kayla said.
"Your studio?" asked Violet. "Are you an artist?" Violet loved art. Although she was shy, Violet was just as smart as her sister and brothers. All of the Aldens loved puzzles and mysteries.
"Come inside and see," said Kayla. She led the way into the shed. She put Jessie's box of notebooks and Benny's piñata on a table.
The Aldens looked around. They didn't see any paintings. They didn't see any clay.
Henry noticed a table and stool. On the table were small pieces of metal. He saw copper wire and a small soldering iron. "You make jewelry," said Henry.
"Yes!" said Kayla, clapping her hands. She seemed very happy that Henry had guessed what kind of artist she was. "I find small pieces of old metal—like tin, steel, or copper—and I make jewelry out of them."
"You recycle the junk into jewelry," said Jessie with a smile.
"Yes," said Kayla. "Let me show you—"
She was interrupted by a young man standing outside the shed door. He was wearing jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt.
"Hi Kayla," the young man said. "I'm here to volunteer."
"Oh, hi Ethan," said Kayla. Then she frowned. "I'm so glad you're here. It happened again last night."
"Don't worry," said Ethan. "I'll clean it up." He turned and walked away.
"Ethan volunteers to help sort the recycling," Kayla explained.
"I thought people sorted their own recycling once they got here," said Henry.
"Some people don't take the time to sort their recycling once they get here," Kayla explained. "They just dump their bags and boxes and leave. But most people take the time to put their items in the right bins."
"Like we're going to do," said Violet.
Kayla smiled. "Come outside and I'll show you where everything goes."
The four children picked up their recycling bundles and followed Kayla as she showed them around the large recycling center. Except for Kayla's studio, the center was filled with row after row of Dumpsters.
"This center is so new and so clean," said Jessie.
"Yes," said Kayla. She pointed downward. "Notice the new concrete paving," she said. "Most of the center is paved so that when it rains, people don't have to walk through mud."
The Aldens followed Kayla to the first bin.
"Here's where all the cardboard goes," she said, pointing to an extra-large bin.
Henry lifted his large bundle of cardboard and dumped it into the bin.
Next, Kayla showed them where the glass bottles and jars went. "All the glass goes into one of four bins," she said.
"I see," said Jessie. "One is marked Green, one is marked Brown, one is marked Clear, and the other is marked ... Other."
Kayla laughed. "That's just in case you have glass that's yellow, for example, and you don't know where it goes."
"Or purple," said Violet, who loved the color purple. "I've seen purple glass."
Violet opened a bag they had brought on their bikes and began to drop each glass jar or bottle into the correct bin.
"Let me!" shouted Benny. "I want to drop some bottles."
Violet gave Benny the bag she was holding. It was filled with clear glass bottles and jars. Benny reached in and pulled a bottle out. In order to drop it into the bin for clear glass, Benny had to stand on his tiptoes. Benny dropped each bottle and jar in, one at a time, until the bag was empty.
"Very good, Benny," said Kayla. "All that glass will be melted down and used to make new glass bottles and jars."
Jessie saw that the bin for metal cans was right next to the bins for glass. She opened the bag of metal cans she had brought to the recycling center. At home in their garage, the children had stepped on each metal can in order to crush it. Crushed cans took up less space, so they could fit more in their bag. Kayla watched as Jessie dropped all the metal cans into the bin.
The Aldens also had two bags of plastic bottles. At home they had crushed these flat, too.
Kayla showed the children where the plastics went. Henry dumped the two bags of plastics into the large bin.
"Now you know where to put cardboard, metal cans, glass jars and bottles, and plastics," said Kayla. "Did you bring any newspapers?" she asked. "Our center collects everything, so you don't have to drive to another town to recycle."
"Yes, we have newspapers, too," said Benny. Kayla showed Benny where to put them. Then he looked past Kayla to where Ethan was working. "What's Ethan doing?" asked Henry.
"He's raking leaves," said Kayla as she walked toward one corner of the recycling center. The children followed.
The children said hello to Ethan and introduced themselves.
"Hi," said Ethan as he kept raking. "Happy to meet you."
"Does your recycling center take leaves?" Jessie asked Kayla.
"It does," said Kayla. People who make their own compost come here and take the leaves and clippings."
"What's compost?" asked Benny.
Jessie had learned about compost in school. She explained to Benny that compost is made of plants or plant parts that have decayed. Compost might also contain eggshells or coffee grounds. "The decayed parts are mixed into dirt to make it richer," she explained. "Richer dirt helps grow better crops."
Benny knew what crops were. They were plant foods like tomatoes, corn, and carrots. Benny loved all foods.
Violet didn't understand why the leaves and grass clippings weren't inside plastic bags already. She wondered why Ethan had to rake them up. "Did somebody throw their leaves all over the ground?" she asked Kayla.
Kayla frowned. "No," she said. "People stuff their leaves and grass into plastic bags and drop them off here. But it seems that somebody is breaking into the center and then breaking open all the bags of leaves and grass."
"That's terrible," said Violet. "Why would anybody do something mean like that?"
Ethan raked so close to where Violet was standing that she had to jump away.
"I don't know," said Kayla. "But thankfully Ethan has volunteered to clean up the mess. I don't know what I'd do without him."
"Do you need more volunteers at the recycling center?" asked Henry.
"I sure do!" said Kayla. "You see those boxes and bags?" she asked, pointing to a large stack near the front gate. "I need volunteers to open those up and sort them into the proper bins."
The Aldens looked at one another. "We would like to volunteer," said Jessie.
Kayla looked at them. "Really?" she asked.
The four children nodded.
"Thank you," said Kayla. "Thank you so much."
"Ethan," asked Kayla, "would you like one of the Aldens to help you rake up the leaves and grass?"
"No!" shouted Ethan. "I need to do this myself."
Kayla stepped back. She seemed surprised by Ethan's sudden answer. "Well, okay," she said.
"Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny, please wait for me by the front gate, right by that huge pile of stuff," Kayla said. "I'll bring you each a pair of gloves."
The children walked to the front gate and looked at the bags and boxes, each one filled with recyclables.
They noticed a woman standing on the sidewalk across the street. She had her arms folded across her chest. She was staring at them with an angry look on her face.CHAPTER 2
The next morning the children loaded their bikes with more recycling and pedaled to the Use It Again Recycling Center. Even though they had worked hard yesterday, they had enjoyed it. Helping other people felt good. And helping people recycle felt especially good.
When the Aldens arrived at the center, they saw more boxes and bags of trash on the sidewalk along the outside of the recycling center.
"Wow!" said Benny. "We worked hard yesterday, and now there are new bags and boxes to sort. There are more bags and boxes today than there were yesterday!"
Henry laughed. "That's good," he said. "It means that people are really using the recycling center."
The Alden children expected to see Kayla sorting through the bin marked "Other Stuff," looking for what she called "treasures" and putting them on the shelf outside her shed. Violet in particular was hoping to find something purple to take home and reuse.
What they found instead was a big mess. The large Other Stuff bin lay on its side on the concrete. Things that had been placed inside the bin lay scattered all over the concrete. A man wearing a golf cap, a long-sleeved shirt, green pants, and hiking boots was bent over, picking things up off the ground and throwing them back down on the concrete. Kayla was trying to talk to him, but the man wasn't paying any attention.
Quickly, the children leaned their bikes against a bin.
"What happened?" Henry asked Kayla.
"There was another break-in last night," Kayla answered. "This time the person tipped over my Other Stuff Dumpster."
Henry looked at the Dumpster, which lay on its side. Then he looked at the fence behind the Dumpster. The top part of the chain-link fence was bent inward. Whoever did this climbed the new fence, thought Henry.
Jessie was looking at the Dumpster, too. "If we all help, do you think we can tip the Dumpster back up?" she asked Kayla.
"That's a good idea," said Kayla. "Chad, do you think you can help us?" she asked the man in the golf cap.
The man didn't answer. He kept picking up and putting down all the things that had been in the Dumpster.
Kayla spoke more loudly. "Chad? Can you help us?"
"What?" he asked, straightening up.
"Can you help us turn this Dumpster upright, the way it should be?" Kayla asked.
Chad frowned. "Yeah," he said. "Okay."
The Aldens and Kayla and Chad all worked together to tip the Dumpster upright.
"Thank you," said Kayla. "You kids have been so helpful!"
"And we can help today, too," said Benny.
Henry spoke to the man in the golf cap. "We're the Aldens," he said. "I'm Henry, and these are my sisters, Jessie and Violet, and my brother, Benny."
The man frowned. "I've read about you Aldens in the newspaper. You're the kids who think you can solve mysteries," he sneered. "Ha!"
"We know we can solve mysteries," said Jessie. "You didn't tell us your name."
The man glared at Jessie. "Chad Foster," he grunted. Then he bent back down and began scooping things up and dumping them into the bin.
"Are you a volunteer?" Jessie asked him.
"Yeah. And I don't have time to chat," he said.
Jessie thought Chad Foster was a very unfriendly man.
Kayla looked at the Aldens and shrugged her shoulders, as if to say she didn't know what Chad's problem was.
"I'm so glad you're here," she said to the children. "May I split you up into two work groups?"
"Sure," said Henry.
Kayla smiled. "Okay. Jessie and Benny, I'd like you to help Chad pick everything up and toss it back into the Dumpster."
"No!" shouted Chad, straightening up again. "I don't need a bunch of kids around while I'm trying to work."
Kayla walked up to Chad. "I expect everybody who volunteers here to treat one another with courtesy. If you can't do that, Chad, then you should leave right now."
Excerpted from The Clue in the Recycling Bin by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Robert Papp. Copyright © 2011 Albert Whitman & Company. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted July 26, 2011
Green metal frogs, brightly-colored pinatas, and stolen diamonds all come together to create "The Clue in the Recycling Bin."
The Arden children are at it again, playing amateur detectives. Come enjoy this story as they learn what it means to be going green at the new local recycling center and end up finding a thief in it's midst. See how they work together to gather all the pieces of this puzzling chain of events to end a string of month-long crimes, including a diamond heist.
Children's literature is not usually a genre that I review but this turned out to be a nice little break from what I have been reading. I would like to do a lot more children's fiction since I have a 9 year old grandson who loves to read and two young granddaughters who I hope will also get in on the act in time. This story is part of a long series from this author and I am definitely going to have to look for some more!
I would highly recommend this book to anyone that is searching for a good children's fiction series. I seem to have a harder time finding good reads for young boys this age, so these seem perfect!
This book was kindly provided to me by Open Road Publishers for my honest review.
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