Cover image for One little bag : an amazing journey
One little bag : an amazing journey
1st ed.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : illustrations (chiefly color) ; 25 x 28 cm.
In pictures without words, the reader follows the journey of one brown paper bag from a tree in the forest through the years it is used by three generations of one family until eventually the old bag becomes the container in which a new tree is planted.


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An evocative wordless picture book that is a loving tribute to mindful living on our precious planet. * "Beautifully effective." -- Kirkus Reviews , starred review* "Deeply profound... compelling... emotionally resonant." -- School Library Journal , starred review* "Elevating the life of an ephemeral object to the time scale of love across generations." -- Publishers Weekly , starred review

From a tall tree growing in the forest--to the checkout counter at the grocery store--one little bag finds its way into the hands of a young boy on the eve of his first day of school.

And so begins an incredible journey of one little bag that is usedand reusedand reused again.

In a three-generation family, the bag is transporter of objects and keeper of memories. And when Grandfather comes to the end of his life, the family finds a meaningful new way for the battered, but much-loved little bag to continue its journey in the circle of life.

Author Notes

Henry Cole has illustrated more than fifty books for children including The Leprechaun's Gold by Pamela Duncan Edwards, Little Bo by Julie Andrews, and On Meadow Street, which he wrote. His first novel was A Nest for Celeste.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

Gr 1--3--How far can one paper lunch bag really go? A little boy and his father purchase a flashlight one day, bringing it home in a small paper bag. The boy then uses the bag to carry his lunch to school, redirect the beam of his flashlight, and transport all kinds of things. As time goes by, the boy gets older, and the trusty paper bag goes along with him. Their journey continues as the boy enters college, meets his future wife, and welcomes a new life into the world. All the while, this hearty paper bag withstands its myriad uses and observes this family as it develops around him, ultimately returning to the earth from whence it came. Though there are no words in this story, its message is deeply profound. Before the title page, readers encounter a prelude that details the making of a paper bag from its beginnings as a tree. Cleverly, the illustrations are entirely in black and white except for what will become the brown paper bag. Nostalgia and love abound in this story, bringing tears to the eyes of readers of all ages with each detailed image. At the end of the book, the author explains his own paper bag story and how it transformed into this richly emotional tale. VERDICT This is a compelling and emotionally resonant addition to Earth Day curricula, especially as an inspiration for reusing items as long as possible.--Mary Lanni, formerly at Denver Public Library

Publisher's Weekly Review

Cole's story follows a paper bag from its forest origins to a factory, to a boy's kitchen table, and into adulthood. At first, the brown lunch sack bears a single red heart, crayoned on by the child's father, in closely worked ink spreads. As the boy grows, the bag comes with him--it's stuffed with sheet music as his guitar playing attracts the attention of a young woman with a guitar of her own. She adds another red heart to the sack; a page later, it's witness to a marriage proposal. A baby arrives: a third heart. Years later, the bag's final use involves saying goodbye to the new child's grandfather with a sweet memorial. By elevating the life of an ephemeral object to the time scale of love across generations, Cole nudges readers to take a second look at the things they throw away. An author's note describes how Earth Day prodded Cole to reuse the same paper lunch bag for years. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 4--8. (Apr.)

Horn Book Review

This wordless story follows a family and a paper bag through the generations. A tree becomes a log that gets hauled to a paper mill, turned into a brown bag, boxed, and delivered to a market, where a parent and child acquire it. Only at this point does a bold double-page spread broadcast the book's title with cinematic flair. As time progresses, the child grows and the family expands, using the bag in myriad creative ways: as a lovingly packed lunch sack, as part of a night-light, as a holder for wedding-flower petals, and in a baby's mobile. When a bulky armchair sits empty, suggesting that the parent from the beginning of the story (now a grandparent) has passed away, the bag stores trinkets offering comfort and closure; finally, a seedling is grown in the tattered bag as the family uses it one last time to plant a new tree, continuing the cycle and signaling future promise. Inky crosshatched sketches are gentle and warm, with environmental motifs (on signage at the store, labels on products, etc.) adding atmosphere. A light wash of color spotlights the bag (or its materials) on each page, but the focus remains on the characters, positioning the family's experiences and relationships as paramount. In an author's note, Cole shares the childhood story that inspired the book and urges readers to ponder the "lives" behind their products and the value of reusing and recycling. Elisa Gall May/June 2020 p.93(c) Copyright 2020. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

This wordless picture book traces one brown paper bag's journey: from timber and manufacturing through the hands of a small, white boy and his single father to those of the next generation.The skilled black-ink drawings lend a look of pleasant harmony to all the characters that populate the pages, from woodland creatures to humans of various ages and gender and racial presentations. Meticulous attention to composition, textures, and period detailstarting around the 1960smakes each page a delight. The common feature of each scene is a brown paper bag, which the protagonist's father decorates with a red heart on his son's first day of schoolthe book's only pops of color. After its first use for the boy's lunch, the bag becomes a never-ending vessel-of-all-trades. As the boy grows up, the bag serves as, among other things, a de facto lampshade over a flashlight to quell nightmares; a bag for automotive tools; receptacle for an engagement ring when the protagonist, now a young man, proposes to his girlfriend, a black woman; a petal container for the wedding's flower girl; and a collection bag when the protagonist's child gathers seashells with grandpa. Because there are no words, children are left to draw their own conclusions from an eventual drawing of the grandfather's empty chair. (Is he wintering in some warm place? The planting of a pine seedling, its roots protected by that paper bag, offers an alternative interpretation.) The subtitle will disappoint those who equate "amazing" with narratives outside a common, middle-class, heteronormative life. However, the bag's durability is amazingand, according to the author's fascinating note, not impossible.Beautifully effective as both nostalgia trip and lesson in conservation. (Picture book. 3-7) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

A very special paper bag begins its life as a tall pine tree. Detailed ink-pen illustrations in mostly black and white tell a wordless story. Readers first see the tree, then the loggers, the paper mill, the paper-bag factory, and, finally, a father and his son carrying home a flashlight in a brown paper sack. Dad packs the boy's lunch for school and paints a red heart on the bag. As the boy grows, pictures show him playing his guitar with his dog, camping, getting married (now there are two hearts!), and welcoming a new baby (three hearts). As the baby grows into a little boy, he collects items with grandpa (heart no. 4) to place inside his special taped and tattered bag. In the last image, the two plant a tree, using the paper bag to hold the roots and the sapling. This very sweet tale about sustainability celebrates recycling, conservation, and ecology. It's just right for Earth Day projects and presents an engaging journey through the central character's own life cycle.