One Plastic Bag

Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia

  • Interest Level: Kindergarten - Grade 3
  • Reading Level: Grade 2

The inspiring true story of how one African woman began a movement to recycle the plastic bags that were polluting her community.

Plastic bags are cheap and easy to use. But what happens when a bag breaks or is no longer needed? In Njau, Gambia, people simply dropped the bags and went on their way. One plastic bag became two. Then ten. Then a hundred.

The bags accumulated in ugly heaps alongside roads. Water pooled in them, bringing mosquitoes and disease. Some bags were burned, leaving behind a terrible smell. Some were buried, but they strangled gardens. They killed livestock that tried to eat them. Something had to change.

Isatou Ceesay was that change. She found a way to recycle the bags and transform her community. This inspirational true story shows how one person’s actions really can make a difference in our world.

Format Your Price Add
Interest Level Kindergarten - Grade 3
Reading Level Grade 2
Genre Picture Books, Social Studies
Category 5 Kinds of Nonfiction, 5KN: Narrative Nonfiction, Diverse Books: Feminism, Diverse Books: Race & Ethnicity, Diverse Books: Social Justice, Diversity, SEL: A Self-Awareness, SEL: B Self-Management, SEL: C Social Awareness, SEL: D Relationship Skills, SEL: E Responsible Decision-Making, Social Emotional Learning
Copyright 2015
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Millbrook Press ™
Language English
Number of Pages 32
Publication Date 2015-02-01
Reading Counts! Level 1.6
Text Type Narrative Nonfiction
BISACS JNF037020, JNF010000, JNF007120
Dewey 363.72880966
Graphics Full-color illustrations
Dimensions 10.625 x 8.875
Lexile 570
ATOS Reading Level 2.9
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 170587
Accelerated Reader® Points 0.5
Features Author/Illustrator biography, Author/Illustrator note, Awards, Maps, Original artwork, Reviewed, Starred Reviews, Teaching Guides, Timeline, and eSource


  • Star Of The North Picture Book Award Nominee, Nominated, 2017
  • South Carolina Book Award Nominee, Nominated, 2017
  • NYC Reads 365 Recommended Reading List, Winner, 2017
  • Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year, Winner, 2016
  • Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) Choices, Winner, 2016
  • Nutmeg Award Nominee, Nominated, 2016
  • Green Earth Book Award Short List, Short-listed, 2016
  • Children's Africana Book Award Notable Book, Commended, 2016
  • Delaware Diamonds Program, Nominated, 2016
  • NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books, Winner, 2016
  • Cybils Finalist, Nominated, 2016
  • Nebraska Golden Sower Award Nominee, Nominated, 2016
  • Black Eyed Susan Book Award Nominee, Nominated, 2015
  • Amelia Bloomer Project List, Winner, 2015
  • AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books Commended Book, Commended, 2015
  • New York Public Library Best Books for Kids, Winner, 2015
  • Eureka! Children’s Book Award Silver Honor, Commended, 2015



“Colorful textured and patterned collage artwork illustrates this inspiring true story, which concludes with more information about Isatou’s grassroots initiative.”―Booklist

The Horn Book Magazine

“This handsome presentation of grassroots environmental activism is certain to inspire young readers.” —The Horn Book Magazine

Publishers Weekly

“Notes of hope, determination, and empowerment suffuse Paul’s story…. Incorporating real plastic bags into her mixed-media collages, Zunon, who grew up in West Africa, juxtaposes the brown, dusty landscape against splashes of color and vibrant printed dresses and head coverings worn by the village women.” —Publishers Weekly

School Library Journal

“Simple but lyrical text conveys this beautiful, thought-provoking tale of ecological awareness and recycling. . . . An inspiring account.”—starred, School Library Journal

Kirkus Reviews

“Though Isatou Ceesay’s country may be unfamiliar to young readers, they’ve probably done some handicraft recycling of their own. The easy connection makes this a welcome addition to the small shelf of examples of ingenuity in developing nations.” —Kirkus Reviews

Author: Miranda Paul

Miranda Paul is the award-winning author of more than a dozen books for children, including One Plastic Bag and Boston Globe–Horn Book Honoree Nine Months Before a Baby Is Born. Miranda is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books and serves as its mentorship chair. Learn more at

Illustrator: Elizabeth Zunon

Elizabeth Zunon grew up in the Ivory Coast, West Africa, and memories of her childhood can be seen in her artwork. She currently lives in Albany, New York. Find her online at

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!

One Plastic Bag

The inspiring true story of how one African woman began a movement to recycle the plastic bags that were polluting her community. Plastic bags are cheap and easy to use. But what happens when a bag breaks or is no longer needed? In Njau, Gambia,… View available downloads →

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