Skip to main content

Bag in the Wind by Ted Kooser, illustrated by Barry Root


With his first book for children, former National Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Ted Kooser tells the story of a plastic grocery bag, the "color of the skin of a yellow onion," as it blows out of a landfill and into the lives of several townsfolk. Bag in the Wind is beautifully and somberly illustrated by Barry Root, subject of a great interview over at Just One More Book. About Bag in the Wind, Kooser says, “My wife Kathleen and I are dedicated recyclers, but plastic bags present a challenge. Lately, I’ve found that thrift shops like them, so I’ve been taking them there. But foryears I had bags of plastic bags that nobody wanted. Writers and artists make use of things that others may not value, so I thought I’d turn my bags into a story, and here it is.”


Kooser follows the bag which, despite being "perfectly good," has been thrown away, as it is borne along on a winter wind. Whether it is plastered to a chain link fence with other trash or snagged in a leafless tree, the empty bag does not seem without purpose. After being pecked at by a red-winged blackbird, the bag meets up with a girl walking along the road side collecting aluminum cans.


Once the bag comes into contact with humans, it is used for one thing after another, ultimately returning to the girl, unbeknownst to her, when she spends the money she earned collecting cans to buy a second hand baseball glove and ball. Her new purchases go home with her in the perfectly good bag the color of the skin of a yellow onion.


I love how Bag in the Wind works on so many levels. To the youngest listeners, this is an adventure story. Slightly older readers will delight in the circular nature of this tale. All listeners, from the youngest to the oldest, will be able to grasp the concept of reuse and recycling that flows subtly through the story. There is even an "note about recycling plastic bags" at the end of the book that details the damage and dangers plastic bags pose, reasons why it can take anywhere from 15 to 1,000 years for a plastic bag to decompose and ideas and resources for ways to reduce, reuse and recycle the 100 BILLION Americans use PER YEAR.




For those of you interested in Ted Kooser's poetry for adults, here are two sort of kid-friendly poems that I think are great.

Daddy Longlegs

Here, on fine long legs springy as steel,
a life rides, sealed in a small brown pill
that skims along over the basement floor
wrapped up in a simple obsession.
Eight legs reach out like the master ribs
of a web in which some thought is caught
dead center in its own small world,
a thought so far from the touch of things
that we can only guess at it. If mine,
it would be the secret dream
of walking alone across the floor of my life
with an easy grace, and with love enough
to live on at the center of myself.






Selecting A Reader

First, I would have her be beautiful,
and walking carefully up on my poetry
at the loneliest moment of an afternoon,
her hair still damp at the neck
from washing it. She should be wearing
a raincoat, an old one, dirty
from not having money enough for the cleaners.
She will take out her glasses, and there
in the bookstore, she will thumb
over my poems, then put the book back
up on its shelf. She will say to herself,
"For that kind of money, I can get
my raincoat cleaned." And she will.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!

Be…

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers remains the most read post on my blog since I wrote it in 2012. Because of this, I have cleaned up this post, tightened the writing and added in any pertinent information that has come about since it originally ran. When I first started books4yourkids.com in August of 2008, I was scrambling for content, finding my purpose and my voice and not always doing my best writing. How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers was one of the first articles I wrote and, as a bookseller and a book reviewer, and now as an elementary school librarian where I have gone from working with kids reading well beyond their grade level to kids reading well below, this philosophy remains my organizing principle and central focus when reading and recommending books to parents and children. 

In the interest of my mission and the attention this article continues to receive, I have updated and expanded this article and included a guide to using …