The Mess That We Made by Michelle Lord, illustrated by Julia Blattman (9781947277144)
This cumulative tale focuses on the environmental impact of our garbage, or the mess that we made. Four children in a little boat float in a sea of nets, bottles, plastic and more. As they watch, a seal is caught in a broken net, a turtle is trapped in a plastic bag, and the landfill near the water grows and grows. Then the book takes a turn and shows how people, large and small, can make a real difference by cleaning up the beach, recycling, using clean energy, protesting problematic fishing, and cleaning up the oceans.
It is the cumulative format that really works here. Lord never makes it into a towering and overwhelming “This is the house that Jack built” sort of story. She instead plays with the format in a shorter structure, creating a clear cause and effect for young readers both in the destruction of our oceans and in cleaning them up. The result is a cumulative tale that reads aloud really well and smoothly. Her twist of showing how people can help is a call to action that clearly shows how even children can make a difference in our world.
The art is particularly effective when showing underwater scenes and the huge amount of garbage in the ocean. The light from above illuminates the struggles of ocean life and yet also shows the lingering beauty of the habitat and the blue green waters.
A strong environmental message about our oceans and our responsibility. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.