Monday, April 20, 2020

Cast Away: Poems for Our Time by Naomi Shihab Nye

Cast Away: Poems For Our Time 
by Naomi Shihab Nye
Greenwillow Books, 2020, 159 pages

This collection of more than 80 free-verse poems about trash, litter, and the things we throw away by Naomi Shihab Nye, Poetry Foundations' Young People's Poet Laureate (2019-2021), is my new favorite Earth Day book. Maybe because I live in a big city that I love and that has a large population and a great number of tourists roaming around, I am aware of the amount of litter people carelessly drop on the streets, the subways or the piles of garbage that don't get collected because of events like strikes, snowstorms (see "Snow Covers All the Trash" pg 35), and hurricanes.

Nye is a committed collector of trash, picking up after other people as she travels around the world. In fact, she begins her book with two epigraphs, the first being perhaps the most fitting: "I couldn't save the world, / but I could pick up trash." Nye covers a wide variety of trash and litter topics ranging from the purely ecological to the commercial to the political. She has even found that some trash is gift worthy - like the red purse given to Nye by a woman picking through a trash bin outside a restaurant in London the becomes her favorite purse, or the found blue mitten with dots and the word Heroes! knitted into it that became a gift. On the other hand, some trash is overwhelming like the 37,000 abandoned mustard packets from McDonald's that Nye has found by herself.

Nye has divided up this book into five sections: Sweepings, Titters & Tatters, Odds & Ends, Willy-Nilly, and Residue.  Throughout this collection, however, she is imploring us to pay more attention to the world around us and our part in contributing to the vastness of waste we create. To that end, at the end of the book, Nye has included 10  Ideas for Writing, Recycling, Reclaiming. These are all ideas designed to help kids get acquainted with what our trash is doing to the world, like that big floating island of plastic in the Pacific Ocean. It's a world these children will inherit, but as Nye says "It's never too late to make things better. Understanding them more might help." (pg 151)

I have a lot of favorite poems in this book, but I would to share my #1 favorite with you here:
Click to Enlarge
But trash and litter are our problem and there is just so much to unpack in the poems included in this collection. Some don't think these are poems that will appeal to young readers, but I think that as they begin exploring them, they will find much that they can benefit from. Perhaps that next Jolly Rancher wrapper will make it into a trash bin instead of the sidewalk, or single use water bottles will be replaced with reusable bottles.

I'm sure now you can understand why I think this is an excellent choice to share with kids on Earth Day, April 22, 2020.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was an ARC received from the publisher, Greenwillow Books.

2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. This year, it has gone digital. Find out what you can still do HERE

1 comment:

  1. These poems sound excellent any time of year- but so fitting for this week with Earth Day. I hate litter and am so confused that people throw things on the side of the road- or wherever they happen to be. Thanks for sharing!


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