One Little Bag: An Amazing Journey

by Henry Cole (Author) Henry Cole (Illustrator)

One Little Bag: An Amazing Journey
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

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 used and reused and 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.

School Library Journal

Starred 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

Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

Starred 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.)

Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
April 20, 2020
Age Range
4 - 7 years

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