Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion

GC232.B87 – GC is Oceanography and GC 229 – 296.8 are assigned to Currents.  Tracking Trash has quite a few awards, including 2008 — ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2008 — IRA Children’s Book Award, 2008 — Orbis Pictus Award Recommended Title, 2008 — John Burroughs Honor List of Nature Book, 2007 — Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year, and 2007 — Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Award.

Series Title: Scientists in the Field
Author: Loree Griffith Burns
ISBN-10: 0618581316 ISBN-13: 978-0618581313
City and Publisher: Boston: Houghton Mifflin
Copyright Date: 2007
Author’s Website:

Reader’s Annotation: Ever wonder where that shoe that washed up on the beach came from?  Tracking Trash explains how Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer and other scientists use flotsam and jetsam to study ocean currents.

Book Summary: Tracking Trash takes an in-depth look at ocean currents, explaining the research and processes of scientists who study flotsam and jetsam, among other things.  The book explains how currents work and how science can work to preserve marine habitats.  The information includes what everyday people can do to participate and to help keep our oceans healthy.

Critical Evaluation: Tracking Trash is chock full of information, a very comprehensive look at ocean currents, trash, scientific methods, and conservation efforts.  It succeeds because it imparts this information on a very personal level, interspersing facts with human details such as how a scientist’s mother can help shape his research.  It uses clear and precise language, breaking down concepts into manageable packets.  The pacing is excellent, chapters are exactly the right length to maintain interest, and the books insert helpful sidebars  at exactly the right points.

Illustrations: This book is primarily illustrated with color photographs and maps.  The overall effect is somewhat like a coffee table book for children but the photos and maps really help support the book’s information.

Reading Level/Interest: 9 & up – the book’s treatment of a complex subject is clear and simple but not unsophisticated.  The book is not “babyish” and therefore might also be suitable for older children, teens, and even adults looking for a basic overview of ocean currents.
Curriculum Ties: Oceans, Ecology/Environmentalism, Scientists and the Scientific process
Booktalking Ideas: Bring in some interesting flotsam and jetsam or messages in bottles.  Ask if anyone has ever found anything strange on the beach and wondered how it got there.

Genre: Non-Fiction

Challenge Issues: Tracking Trash is mostly about science and scientists, but it does have an environmental/conservationist tilt (not quite a bias).  This may concern parents who have a knee jerk reaction to “being green.”

About the Author: Loree Burns has a Ph.D., a husband, and three children.  She has written another book, The Hive Detectives, which is about honey bee colony collapse.  There is an excellent interview with her here:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s