Review: Total Garbage by Rebecca Donnelly and John Hendrix

Total Garbage by Rebecca Donnelly and John D. Dawson

Total Garbage: A Messy Dive into Trash, Waste, and Our World
Rebecca Donnelly and John Hendrix
Henry Holt & Co.
Published March 7, 2023

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Total Garbage

Total Garbage by Rebecca Donnelly dives into the messy truth about trash, garbage, waste, and our world—it’s a fact-filled and fascinating illustrated middle grade environmental read!

Trash has been part of human societies since the beginning. It seems like the inevitable end to the process of making and using things—but why?

In this fascinating account of the waste we make, we’ll wade into the muck of history and explore present-day STEM innovations to answer these important questions:

What is garbage?
Where does our garbage come from?
Why do we make so much garbage?
Where does our garbage go?
What can we learn from our garbage?
How bad is our garbage problem?
How can we do better?

Rebecca Donnelly tackles the extraordinary, the icky, and the everyday, helping us see how our choices, personal and societal, impact our world and our planet—and encouraging us make a change.

Back matter includes a timeline of the history of waste management, selected bibliography, and index.

“clear, engaging writing. . . [and] whimsical, informative, detailed teal-tone line drawings add to a captivating and important book. . . A fact-filled and fascinating dumpster dive of a book.” —Kirkus Reviewsstarred review on Total Garbage

“this book makes garbage fun to read about and is a great choice for browsable nonfiction shelves and curricular tie-ins” —School Library Journal on Total Garbage

Total Garbage on Goodreads

My Review

I’ve read a few books about waste and trash in the last few years. Some focus more on different types of waste and others focus more on activities to do as an individual. I think TOTAL GARBAGE did a great job exploring big questions about trash, including some of the reasons we dispose of trash the way we do today and how it impacts the environment.

One of the ways this book doesn’t pull any punches is in its assessment of why we dispose of waste in the way we do: money. Essentially, even when we know a disposal method is harmful for the environment or inefficient, if it’s cheaper or can be repackaged to the public as something positive, then often a company will choose that waste disposal method. I thought the information about recycling campaigns and waste being shipped overseas were eye-opening and presented in a straightforward manner.

I liked that the book still ends with a hopeful note, and that it does offer ways to help at a personal and community level. All in all, I think this is a powerful, informative book that I hope finds a home on many library shelves and in classrooms everywhere. Readers who enjoyed WHEN THE WORLD RUNS DRY by Nancy Castaldo will definitely want to check out TOTAL GARBAGE.

Total Garbage on Bookshop

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 10 up.

Discusses waste problems that affect everyone on the globe, but acknowledges and calls out the fact that marginalized people and people in poverty will be disproportionally effected by problems caused by trash.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content

Spiritual Content

Violent Content
References to waste issues causing health problems and injuring or killing animals.

Drug Content

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of TOTAL GARBAGE in exchange for my honest review.

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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