Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Friday, February 17, 2012

Get Real by Mara Rockliff

Get Real: What Kind of World are You Buying?
by Mara Rockliff
Running Press. 2010
ISBN: 9780762437450
(Grades 6 and up)
Reviewer checked this book out of the local library.
Can we really change the world with our wallets is the question Rockliff asks readers to ponder in her 2010 book, Get Real. Every day we make decisions on what to buy. From sneakers, t-shirts, fast food, to coffee. In a straight-forward tone, Rockliff leaves no holds barred as she explains how we are manipulated by giant corporations who care more about their financial returns than about the people who make their products, as well as the negative impact buying without a conscience is having on our world.
Chapter 3, “And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt: What They Never Tell You At the Mall”. So there you are, inside the store, staring at racks and racks of clothes.” You want to buy a pair of jeans. Right away you have too many choices. “Do you want low-rise or high rise? Classic fit, boot-cut, wide leg, or relaxed? The deep blue kind that scream “brand new”? Or the pre-faded kind that look like you’ve been wearing them for years?” But then try asking for jeans sewn by a worker earning a decent wage. Where does it say the factory who made the denim jeans did not dump their toxic wastes into a river or stream? “See if the sales clerk can point out the sign that says how many toxic chemicals were sprayed on the “natural cotton” that will soon be nestled close against your skin.” After this set up, we learn just who made those jeans and the child slaves who work in horrific conditions and earn a meager wage to help support their family. What should you be asking when you buy those jeans? “Were these clothes made in a sweat shop?” To find out which companies are responsible, she lists several [.org] sites.
Ever wonder what is really in that fast food you think is so yummy? Chapter 4, “Peek Between the Buns” is about all the chemicals placed in your food to make it taste better and the factory farms where your food is raised. Chapter 7, “Buys in the ‘Hood: Bust out of that big box” Rockliff brings up an argument that we’ve heard before, “Just how organic is that bunch of grapes if it has traveled 15,000 miles and using one gallon of fuel for every second?” When you chose to buying your food from big box stores, you have no idea where it comes from. Part of the problem is that box stores do business on a giant scale. They don’t buy for just one store, they buy for hundreds of stores. Consequently, they need to find a supplier that can ship them tons of foods, year round, and cheap. We are so used to having whatever we want, whenever we want that we don’t consider that maybe eating fresh green beans in the middle of winter is an unnecessary luxury we can do without. To really know where you food is coming from, buy from a farmer’s market or purchase a share in CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture)
The book’s design will be appealing to teens. It is active with bright colors and includes pictures to emphasize the point the author is making. It is printed on 100% recycled paper and certified by the ICTI (International Council or Toys Industry that mandates toys and related products are produced in a safe and humane environment). 
Rockliff demands consumers to be more socially responsible.  We all need to stop buying willy-nilly, and, instead, ask ourselves these questions: “Who made it”, “What’s in it?”, “What’s it doing to the earth, other people, and me?” It might not mean having a closet full of the latest fashions or owning the latest cell phone or cool laptop, yet, by making those hard choices readers will be taking huge steps in helping others and, by buying less, saving our world from becoming one big trash dump.

The book has an index, and an extensive list of resources, including books, articles, and web site.
Use this book to explain to students what the High Cost of Materialism is having on our planet and ourselves. Visit The Center for a New American Dream to watch the 5 minute video A Plentitude Economy.  Here is an interview on Green Teen with the author.

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