A modern environmental folktale with a very down-to-earth message, ONE LITTLE BAG by Henry Cole conveys a heartfelt story wordlessly. The detailed black and white drawings are highlighted with brown and red splashes of color focused on the titular bag and the hearts drawn on it. The 4-8 year old target audience will be able to “tell” their own stories based on the pictures, and older readers will delve deeper into the environmental and family messages within.
The story begins even before the title page with pictures that detail the journey from forest trees to paper mill to store bag. Then, a plain paper bag from a grocery store becomes a lunch bag, complete with a drawn heart, then a comfort item, then a snack bag for camping, and on and on as it follows a little boy from childhood through adulthood. While the story demands a certain suspension of disbelief that a paper bag could survive years of use, the message of “reuse” and recognizing the connection between our everyday items and nature’s circle of life.
Each page in ONE LITTLE BAG feels personal and almost tender. The difficult event of losing a grandparent is opaque enough to be adjusted for the youngest audience but will provide an important framework for family’s to discuss life’s milestones. The author’s note that follows the wordless story also provides a personal connection to the events in the story. The lovely book is incredibly powerful in its structure and imagery.
review by Kristin Wald