By Jonah Winter, illustrated by Red Nose Studio
Schwartz & Wade Books, 2010
$17.99, ages 4-8, 40 pages
Showing how ridiculous the trash problem can become, Winter and Red Nose Studio satirize Long Island's 1987 attempt to unload 3,168 tons of rubbish on someone else's shore in this delightfully wry book.
As if staging sets for a Claymation film, Red Nose Studios recreates with clay, wire, cloth and found objects the notorious garbage barge fiasco, and with such humor, you'd hardly believe an event like this could ever have happened.
Over the course of six weeks, the smelly barge pulled by a salty old tugboat captain attempts to port in one community after the next, only to be greeted by scowls and armed resistance (including a Texas Ranger straddling a horse in a speedboat) along the East Coast and beyond.
At first the plan is to bring the garbage to North Carolina and pay farmers to bury it on their land, but when word gets out to officials, a police boat swerves in front of the barge and forces it away. Then the barge heads to New Orleans, only to be stopped by the Coast Guard before it can go up the Mississippi.
Finally, after being turned away by gunpoint from the coast of Mexico and Belize, even the captain can't stand the stink anymore -- he dons an oxygen mask -- and calls his boss, a Long Island mobster, to say he's quit. His boss tells him to head back to Islip and try a few places along the way, but of course no one wants the festering trash.
The barge eventually pulls into New York Harbor, where it's met by the Statue of Liberty holding her nose and a restraining order to keep it from docking. Not even Islip will take it back, but after a heated legal battle, Brooklyn agrees to incinerate the trash down in size and bury the rest where it came from.
Some say the event, fictionalized here for the sake of good storytelling, brought to light the nation's landfill problem and spurred the recycling movement.
Best Parts: As the barge nears the Florida shore, the tugboat captain is greeted by a flotilla of pasty-skinned retirees in float rings (one a rubber duck) shaking their fists.
Later off the coast of Belize, two stone-faced soldiers stand on either side of a little mustachioed general on a booster stool, shouting "Kungo," which in New Yorker slang means, "Fuhgeddaboudit."
The caricatures are hysterical and bring levity to a sad episode in history.
Flip over the sleeve of Here Comes the Garbage Barge! to see how the book was made and check out the trailer below of Red Nose Studio building the sets!