For this week’s Mondays with Mira, I’m delighted to be sharing Miranda Paul’s picture book biography, One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of Gambia, beautifully illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon.
In this inspiring biography of an ordinary Gambian woman who becomes extraordinary through necessity and the courage of her convictions, we learn a little about the long-term consequences of plastic bags on the animals, environment, and people of Isatou’s village. When goats start dying from eating the appealing bags, and other environmental disasters occur, Isatou comes up with an ingenious solution for recycling the bags into glamorous and practical purses despite the ridicule of others. She enlists her friends help and one-by-one other women join her until it becomes a movement and other women from other villages come to learn and make the bags as well. All sorts of other wonderful things happen as a result of Isatou’s decision to deal with the polluting plastic bags that I’m not going to give away.
But what I do want to talk about is how skillfully and poetically One Plastic Bag is written. Miranda starts off by forgoing the old-style of biography conventions of telling Isatou’s story from birth to death (or in this case birth to now) focusing instead on a single central narrative located in a specific place but with global implications. She uses metaphor and simile and alliteration, “Something silky dances past her eyes softening her anger. It moves like a flag, flapping in the wind, and settles under a tamarind tree.” Miranda also uses repetition, “Day after day, the bag she dropped is still there. One plastic bag becomes two. Then ten. Then a hundred. Plastic isn’t beautiful anymore, she thinks. Her feet step down a cleaner path and the thought floats away.”
Miranda uses language skillfully to create rhythm and pacing as we learn what happens to Isatou, her community, and the transformation of the polluting bags into attractive accessories. It’s a great story that’s very inspiring on many levels and Miranda tells it beautifully.
I've lost count of how many books Miranda has coming out in the next few years but despite appearances, she hasn’t been an overnight success. On the One Plastic Bag website www.oneplasticbag.com she provides a ton of resources for teachers and others to work with the book and on one of the pages she mentions that the book took 12 years to come to fruition. Miranda has studied her craft taking courses at places like the Academy and also done a tremendous amount of work for hire and educational writing becoming a grammar and submissions formatting expert (see her wonderful and memorable grammar course here http://www.childrensbookacademy.com/get-your-grammar-groove.html ) as well as a highly skilled and experienced writer.
At the same time that she's been building her resume and writing skills, Miranda's also been contributing to the family income with the income she's earned as a writer. She also founded Rate Your Story www.rateyourstory.blogspot.com a wonderful free critiquing service for children’s writers, which has helped many writers and also helped Miranda build her own social media following whether she realized it or not. In other words, she has done all the right things and it shows in both her beautiful writing and in creating the foundations for a strong and renumerative career.
After I finished reading One Plastic Bag, I felt honored to have had Miranda as a student, privileged to know her as a friend, and all around happy from this uplifting book.
Miranda has another fabulous book coming out in just a few days - Water is Water. She also contributed a super helpful interview to The Academy’s upcoming Writing for Love and Money course and also blogs on the 4th Wednesday of the month here at the Academy. Yahoo!! Watch for Miranda, pretty much everything she does is magical and all those publishers saying yes to her, know what they are doing because after doing all the right things, Miranda knows what she is doing!
Mira Reisberg is the founding instructor and Director of the Children’s Book Academy. She has a PhD in Education and Cultural Studies with a focus on children’s literature and has published eight award-winning and best selling books. In her most exciting endeavor yet, she and Jennifer Swanson (award-winning author of over 20 books) have teamed up to co-teach a course on how to access and write for both trade and educational publishers while earning an income, developing a great reputation and creating a sustainable career!! It’s pretty much the missing link for MANY writers. The course starts May 18th! Click here to find out more and take advantage of the generous bonuses and early bird specials.
Mondays with Mandy or Mira consists of Mandy Yates and Mira Reisberg. Mira is the founder of the Children's Book Academy and was so impressed with Mandy when she was a student in one of the interactive courses, that she invited Mandy to share the blog. Mandy has as an MFA in creative writing from Spalding University and has been published multiple times in Highlights Magazine. We hope you enjoy and find our offerings helpful.
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