cover image Chattanooga Sludge

Chattanooga Sludge

Molly Bang. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-15-216345-7

In this dense picture book/nonfiction hybrid, Bang (Yellow Ball) tackles the onerous task of explaining to young readers the environmental impact of toxic waste and its attendant disposal. The result is a tedious dissection of one man's experiments for cleaning up the poison sludge of Tennessee's Chattanooga Creek. Unfortunately the writing style and substance are at odds here. Bang attempts a lighthearted approach, but is bogged down by the necessary specifics of the science at hand. Her characteristically bold mixed-media collage-and-paint artwork proves as intriguing as ever, though it fails to add much spark to a dull discussion. Winged amphibian angels float throughout the pages, delivering asides and facts, creating a sort of humorless homage to Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen's Magic School Bus titles. Although the ecological topic is a worthy one, it wallows in this particular execution. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)