Caudill 2013 Nominees: Trash

Every year kids across Illinois can vote for their favorite book in the Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award program.  Any Illinois student in the 4th through 8th grades who has read (or listened to) at least 3 of the nominated books can vote (typically through their school).  Voting takes place in February; winners are announced in March.

Among the 20 nominees for 2013, there are several that are sure to appeal to guys   Here is one that is both a powerful and disturbing adventure.

Trash, by Andy Mulligan (lexile: 850; AR book level: 5.1; 232 pp)

Three teen boys — Raphael, Gordo, and Rat — not too different from boys you might know, maybe not too different from you.  Except these boys live with trash.  Literally.  On the outskirts of a large city in an unnamed Third World country, they live in a massive dump site.  With no education, no parents, no home, they make a living picking through the ever-growing mountains of garbage for scraps to sell.

Until one “unlucky-lucky day” when Raphael finds a strange leather bag.  It contains money, yes, but even more intriguing, a map, a key, and an ID card.  And when the police show up at the dump that night and offer a large reward to whoever finds the bag, the boys realize these clues may lead to a much bigger prize.  Relying on street smarts and simple courage, they seek to unravel the mystery, pursued by ruthless officials who will do whatever it takes to get what they want.  Ultimately they will uncover a terrible wrong, and attempt to fulfill a dead man’s wish for justice.

The story is fast-paced, told in alternating voices by each of the boys and some others who help them.  The ending is great (I cheered), but be forewarned that this is a realistic and eye-0pening portrayal of how the poorest live in many countries, where the wealthy elite are corrupt and there are no checks on police brutality.  The setting closely resembles Manila, the capital of the Philippines, where the author has lived, but I know that the same poverty and corruption can be found in many other countries (including one where I lived).

Other 2013 Caudill nominees I’ve previously reviewed:

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