“Look at these,” Miles said, holding out two very wet shoes.
Eugene studied them closely. “They’re the same shoe, but not the same size,” he said.
(From The Art Project, book 4 in the Eugene’s Island series.)
I first read about items spilling into the ocean in the book Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them by Donovan Hohn. What a book title, right?! Eric Carle took his inspiration for the picture book 10 little rubber ducks from the same factual story as Hohn – tens of thousands of toys which were washed overboard from a container ship in the Pacific Ocean in 1992.
What stayed with me from Hohn’s book though weren’t the toy ducks, but another spill he wrote about; a spill of sport shoes. I haven’t read Moby-duck for a while, but it stuck with me that the left shoes went one direction and the right shoes the other. People all around the world started finding the shoes and Curtis Ebbesmeyer (who the University of Washington’s Magazine calls ‘the world’s leading authority on flotsam’) was able to track the shoes on their floating journey, research which helped us learn heaps about ocean currents. He also discovered how little the plastic, rubber, and foam in the shoes would breakdown in the water.
Why did this all come back to me years later when writing a new adventure for Eugene in my early chapter book series, Eugene’s Island? Who knows! That’s just the way good ideas work I think – we take in stories, books, conversations, life experiences, and later out comes pieces, parts, small segments to use in a new story.
If your little reader has read and enjoyed The Art Project, they might like to watch this quick video about the real shoes:
If you are a teacher or homeschooler and want to learn more about ocean pollution, or get craft ideas related to the books, you can download our free teacher notes here (pdf).