HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Soda Bottle School: A True Story of Recycling, Teamwork, and One Crazy Idea
Authors: Seno Laura Kutner and Suzanne Slade
Illustrator: Aileen Darragh
Publisher: Tilbury House Publishers, 2014
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 6-10
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Kutner, Seno Laura, and Slade, Suzanne. The Soda Bottle School: A True Story of Recycling, Teamwork, and One Crazy Idea (published in 2014 by Tilbury House Publishers, 12 Starr St., Thomaston, ME 04861). How can one crazy, little idea solve a couple of very big problems? It is 2007, and Fernando Jose lives in the small Guatemalan village of Granados, under the shadow of the mighty Tuncaj Volcano with his Mama, Abuela, and Abuelo. He is a fourth grader, and his favorite teacher is Seno Laura. However, Granados has two big problems. First, the school is unfinished and too small, housing 200 students with two grades in each classroom and two children at each desk. Second, now that products in fancy packages have started arriving from other countries, Granados has plastic soda and water bottles along with a lot of other trash all over town, and there is no recycling center or even a garbage dump. One day during recreo, Seno Laura is drinking a cold soda from a plastic bottle. That’s when she and Fernando have a crazy little idea that involves picking up all the bottles and trash around town and even in nearby communities. This solved the garbage problem, but how will it help to deal with the school-crowding problem?
Co-author Laura Kutner, who is the real-life “Seño Laura” in the story, is the founder of Trash for Peace, a nonprofit organization which works to promote environmental education both in the United States and internationally. The Soda Bottle School is based on her own experience as a visiting school teacher in Guatemala. In the back are an extended author’s note that provides further information about the actual project and a glossary of the Spanish words included in the book, which also features Aileen Darragh’s cheerful watercolor illustrations. Kutner and co-author Suzanne Slade wrote it to “to inspire young readers to believe in themselves and work together to make the world a better place, and have fun at the same time.” The authors’ profits from this book will be donated to build more bottle schools and to promote environmental awareness. It has been described as a “very cute and inspiring story” and “a lovely warm inspirational book.” I whole-heartedly agree.