Plastic, Ahoy!

Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

  • Interest Level: Grade 3 - Grade 6
  • Reading Level: Grade 4

Plastic: it’s used to make everything from drink bottles and bags to toys and toothbrushes. But what happens when it ends up where it doesn’t belong—like in the Pacific Ocean? How does it affect ocean life? Is it dangerous? And exactly how much is out there?

A team of researchers went on a scientific expedition to find out. They explored the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where millions of pieces of plastic have collected. The plastic has drifted there from rivers, beaches, and ocean traffic all over the world. Most of it has broken down into tiny pieces the size of confetti.

For nearly three weeks at sea, researchers gathered bits of plastic and ocean organisms. These samples helped them learn more about the effects of plastic in the ocean. Follow along on the expedition to find out how scientists studied the Garbage Patch—and what alarming discoveries they made.

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Interest Level Grade 3 - Grade 6
Reading Level Grade 4
Genre Science
Category 5 Kinds of Nonfiction, 5KN: Narrative Nonfiction, STEM, STEM: Earth Science
Copyright 2014
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Millbrook Press ™
Language English
Number of Pages 48
Publication Date 2014-01-01
Reading Counts! Level 6.2
Text Type Narrative Nonfiction
BISACS JNF037020, JNF051100, JNF037070
Dewey 363.738
Graphics Full-color illustrations
Dimensions 10.625 x 8.875
Lexile 900
ATOS Reading Level 6.1
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 164144
Accelerated Reader® Points 1.0
Features Awards, Bibliography/further reading, Glossary, Index, Maps, Reviewed, Table of contents, Teaching Guides, and eSource

Author: Patricia Newman

Patricia Newman wants us all to know we are part of nature. As a Robert F. Sibert Honor recipient, she shows us how our actions ripple around the world, empowers us to find our own connections to nature, and encourages us to use our imaginations to act on behalf of our communities. Patricia likes to think of her books as a contribution that helps make the world a better place for the next generation. Her nonfiction titles have received multiple starred reviews, Orbis Pictus Recommended Awards (NCTE), Green Earth Book Awards, several Eureka! Awards from the California Reading Association, and most have been included in the Bank Street College's Best Books of the Year lists. To learn more, visit her website at or connect with her on social media.

Illustrator: Annie Crawley

Annie Crawley, aka Ocean Annie, travels and works around the world. Trained as a photo and broadcast journalist, her work has been broadcast and published worldwide. From Indonesia to Galapagos, Belize to Papua New Guinea, India to Australia, Annie has explored and documented life on our planet. Based in Seattle, Annie works as a producer, writer, photographer, and motivational speaker. She founded Dive Into Your Imagination, a multimedia company producing books, enhanced eBooks, educator guides, films, motivational art, and more. Annie was the photographer and filmmaker aboard SEAPLEX sponsored by Project Kaisei and Samy's Camera. Annie specializes in the underwater realm and also works as a photo, video, and scuba diving instructor. She is a member of the Women Divers Hall of Fame and created a dive team for kids and teens. Visit her online at and

Lerner eSource™ offers free digital teaching and learning resources, including Common Core State Standards (CCSS) teaching guides. These guides, created by classroom teachers, offer short lessons and writing exercises that give students specific instruction and practice using Common Core skills and strategies. Lerner eSource also provides additional resources including online activities, downloadable/printable graphic organizers, and additional educational materials that would also support Common Core instruction. Download, share, pin, print, and save as many of these free resources as you like!

Plastic, Ahoy!

Plastic: it’s used to make everything from drink bottles and bags to toys and toothbrushes. But what happens when it ends up where it doesn’t belong—like in the Pacific Ocean? How does it affect ocean life? Is it dangerous? And exactly how much is out there? A… View available downloads →

Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Plastic, Ahoy!

In 2014, Plastic, Ahoy!: Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch written by Patricia Newman with photographs by Annie Crawley captured the attention of young readers everywhere. Ten years have come and gone, and the discoveries shared in Plastic, Ahoy! are just as important today… View →


  • Great Lakes Great Books Award Nominee, Nominated, 2016
  • Green Earth Book Award, Winner, 2015
  • Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year, Winner, 2015
  • AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books Finalist, Short-listed, 2014


Library Media Connection

“Captivating, captioned photographs from the ship’s voyage fill each page. Vivid and detailed diagrams provide further details to the studies.” —Library Media Connection

Sport Diver Magazine

Talking Trash: Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
by Amanda Morales
Sport Diver Magazine

Americans generated a staggering 251 million tons of trash in 2012, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, with plastic waste alone accounting for 32 million tons of that total.
A new book, Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, examines what happens when tons of plastic and other debris make its way to the ocean to become part of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Author Patricia Newman spent three weeks at sea with Scripps Institution marine biologists and researchers exploring the effects of the plastic and other trash on marine life.

Plastic, Ahoy! follows Miriam Goldstein, Chelsea Rochman and Darcy Taniguchi — ­all members of the 2009 Scripps ­Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition — aboard the research vessel as they run tests on water and plastic samples to determine the impact of this pollution on the region. Photographer Annie Crawley captures images of the garbage patch — which is the result of pollution from shores, rivers and oceans — in this eye-opening book.

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“Newman does a solid job of walking readers through the trio of studies in an orderly fashion, and plenty of color photographs convey a sense of ship life for readers more drawn to the adventure than the science.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

School Library Journal

“The balance between text, graphics, and photographs is ideal. . . . Recommended for all general collections needing an attractive and informative look at the environmental effect of plastics that encourages young readers to take meaningful and doable action.” —School Library Journal


“An engaging and worthwhile read, this will surely make young readers think twice about their trash.” —Booklist