‘Plastic: Past, Present, and Future’ by Eun-Ju Kim (Review)

Hayley, the younger of my two little helpers, is very environmentally conscious and always careful to put rubbish in the right bins, so when Scribble (the children’s imprint of Scribe Publications) reached out with the offer of a book with an environmental focus, I was happy to receive a copy.  As luck would have it, though, there’s another reason why the book is such a good choice.  You see, it happens to have originally been written in Korean, by a female writer, which means that as well as being a timely reminder to cut down on waste, it’s a perfect choice for Women in Translation Month – take it away, Hayley 🙂

What’s the name of the book, and who is it by?
The book is called Plastic: Past, Present, and Future, and it’s written by Eun-Ju Kim and illustrated by Ji-Won Lee (the translation is by Joungmin Lee Comfort).

What’s it about?
It’s about plastic and what’s good about it and what’s not good about it.  It also says how we should use plastic, and it talks about why we should not use plastic a lot, too.

Did you like it?  Why (not)?
Yes, because it can help children learn how to use plastic and why it’s good for us.

What was your favourite part?
My favourite part was at the very start where there was a shipwreck and all the bath toys fell out!

Was it difficult to read?
A little bit, but I took my time reading it.

Would you recommend this book to other boys and girls?  Why (not)?
Yes, so boys and girls can learn about plastic and how we can help the environment!

Hayley, thank you very much 🙂

It’s never too early to start learning about what’s going on in the world, and Plastic does an excellent job of tackling an important topic in a way young children will understand.  The shipwreck Hayley referred to above comes from an anecdote that starts the book, telling how a cargo of bath toys was thrown into the Pacific Ocean, with the assortment of rubber ducks and other fun objects gradually washing up all around the world:

In fact, the wayfaring toys showed up on various shores around the world.  Some went up north and got trapped in the Arctic ice.  Some others continued to travel in the Atlantic Ocean and made their way as far as Scotland.

But even at the end of their long adventures, the toys still looked almost as good as new.  How did they stay so fresh?
(Scribble, 2019)

The story illustrates the durable nature of plastic, which is both a blessing and a curse – while it allows us to make advances in many areas, it also means that it will take centuries for all of this to biodegrade (something Miss Hayley was very surprised by!).

From this nice beginning, Kim goes through step by step, introducing how we use plastic in the home, how the substance is produced, the benefits of plastic and (of course) the many problems it brings.  It’s not written as a horror story by any means, but the book clearly shows the issues plastic causes in terms of landfill and harm to marine life, with a section on how the plastic that makes its way to the sea can hurt fish, birds and larger animals.  Happily, the book ends on a positive note, with examples of how people are trying to solve these issues, as well as a list of simple ways everyone can help.

Plastic is a very colourful book, and Lee’s illustrations will help young readers follow some of the processes and ideas even when the text is a little tricky.  My nine-year-old is a fairly competent reader, but there were several passages here where I had to take over because of specialised and complex terms, meaning it’s a book best suited to joint reading.  This is also a good idea because some of the ideas may be unfamiliar.  My little helper often interrupted our reading to ask questions and seek clarification when she didn’t quite understand what was happening.  Even if your child doesn’t get everything, the book is mostly straightforward, and there’s always the fun of looking for the yellow rubber duck on every page.

Overall, Kim’s book would make a great resource for primary-age children, or schools, and would certainly help provide kids with a nice overview of an important topic.  The size and colours will also help keep young readers interested (certainly, some of the readers my daughter comes home with can be rather dated and dull by comparison), meaning they are more likely to absorb what they read, or what is read to them.  Hopefully, by the time this generation is helping their children to read, some of the ideas introduced at the end of the book will be more widespread, helping plastic to become less of a problem in the future 🙂

8 thoughts on “‘Plastic: Past, Present, and Future’ by Eun-Ju Kim (Review)

    1. Erik – Well, they already do pretty well with their reading – I even had to take my other daughter to the shops yesterday to buy some books!


  1. There’s been a lot of attention on plastic bags but very little on toys. Yet places like McDonalds give them out in their thousands every day as part of meal deals for children. They look at the toy for all of 5 seconds and then the toy gets abandoned to the waste dump. Scandalous….


    1. Karen – Very true. In fact, here in Australia, the latest trend from the very supermarkets that dumped plastic bags is to create ranges of plastic mini-figurines (which come in plastic bags…) that shoppers get with every $30 of groceries…


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