Earth Day book review: Michael Recycle

Michael Recycle is here to save the day, and teach the values of recycling along the way! Photo: Alexandra Colombo

SILVER SPRING, Md, April 20, 2013 - Michael Recycle by Ellie Bethel, illustrated by Alexandra Colombo  ISBN: 9781600102240

“There once was a town called Abberdoo-Rimey, where garbage was left to grow rotten and slimy.” So begins the tale of a town saved by little boy wearing a colander on his head and a green cape. The town was perpetually dirty and smelled until the “green-caped crusader” arrived.

Michael Recycle teaches the town that they need to act soon and they need to recycle. After delivering his message he disappears. The boy inspires the people of the town and they begin to recycle and find new uses for old things.

The town gets clean and throws a large party to celebrate. By this time they take their new way of life so seriously, they roll up the streamers and put away the decorations to be used again. After the radical transformation of Abberdoo-Rimey , Michael returns for a visit and is happy to see that “It gleams and it glitters! Now nothing’s wasted and nobody litters!”

Following the story are several pages (not written in rhyme) of Michael’s Recycle’s “green tips.” These are everyday things parents and kids can do to make a difference. These are good ideas that you can discuss their impacts with your children and may even give you a few new ideas to incorporate together.

Photo by J. Aaron Farr. Click to enlarge.


While the story does teach valuable lessons about recycling and reducing waste, it feels a little light in terms of the main character.  Recycle Michael is the catalyst for change in town, but all he does is show up and tell the people they need to change their ways. He does not reappear in the story until the end of the book, and that is only to pay a visit. Given that the book is named after this character, his role seems insignificantly small, and the real heroes of the book are the people of the town who make radical changes to their way of life.

Given that the story is written in the same rhyme and meter of Dr. Seuss, and that the whimsical art style that make up the buildings and the town folk, it appears this book was meant to be an heir to The Lorax. However, with such a short and underdeveloped story and hero, it falls short.

Photo by Robynlou Kavanagh.


In lieu of a Dr. Seuss tale about recycling, Michael Recycle is a good stand-in with young children, especially for those whose attentions spans cannot handle the longer tales of Suess. It is also important to note that it deals with the modern day, tangible reality of recycling that our children live with, versus the more intangible idea of deforestation handled by the good Dr.

It is worth a read, and while it may not be The Lorax’s successor, it is a fun compliment.

Published by Ideas & Design Works, LLC in March of 2008, Michael Recycle is only available as a hardcover.


Follow Brighid on Twitter a @BrighidMoret and receive updates when new columns post on Facebook or Google+. Read more about first time parenting issues in Parenting the First Time Through at The Communities at The Washington Times. Find more reviews of children’s picture books at Big Reads For Little Hands.

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Brighid Moret

Brighid is a freelance writer and first time mother.  She holds an MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins University.  Find her on Facebook @Brighid Moret


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