Review and Teaching Guide!: Trashed by Derf Backderf



Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!


Author: Derf Backderf
Published November 3rd, 2015 by Harry N. Abrams

Goodreads Summary: Every week we pile our garbage on the curb and it disappears–like magic! The reality is anything but, of course. Trashed, Derf Backderf’s follow-up to the critically acclaimed, award-winning international bestseller My Friend Dahmer, is an ode to the crap job of all crap jobs–garbage collector. Anyone who has ever been trapped in a soul-sucking gig will relate to this tale. Trashed follows the raucous escapades of three 20-something friends as they clean the streets of pile after pile of stinking garbage, while battling annoying small-town bureaucrats, bizarre townfolk, sweltering summer heat, and frigid winter storms. Trashed is fiction, but is inspired by Derf’s own experiences as a garbage­man. Interspersed are nonfiction pages that detail what our garbage is and where it goes. The answers will stun you. Hop on the garbage truck named Betty and ride along with JB on a journey into the vast, secret world of garbage. Trashed is a hilarious, stomach-churning tale that will leave you laughing and wincing in disbelief.

My Review:  I must first start by saying that this book is not completely nonfiction. The story is based roughly on Backderf’s life, but the story is overall fiction. However, the nonfiction aspect of the book lies in multi-genre aspect of this graphic novel. While Backderf tells you the story of JB’s life as a garbageman, he includes information about the state of garbage in the United States. The mix of JB’s story with information from Columbia University and an EPA report really makes this text so unique. Backderf does a great job balancing the fiction component (filled with dark humor and stark reality) with the information that puts everything in perspective.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I have created a teaching guide for Trashed which can be found at: 

Within the guide, I include discussion questions, but also a project-based assessment combining Trashed, the Columbia University report about municipal solid wast, an EPA report on advancing sustainable materials management, The Inconvenient Truth, and the six-step creative problem solving process.

Discussion Questions: Trashed’s structure is unique in its mix of fiction and fact. Why do you think the author chose to mix the two instead of sticking with only one genre? Also, why do you think he chose to not make this a memoir based on his own experiences and instead make a fictional narrative?; JB’s tone throughout the text is primarily negative seeming annoyed, bitter, or hopeless. Some examples of this can be found on pages 10-11, 37, and 202. How would you describe JB’s tone? What words were specifically used throughout the text to set the tone? Why do you think the author chose to write JB’s character this way?; What claim do you think Backderf is making by including all of the factual evidence about municipal waste? How is his claim developed over time? How did he use rhetoric throughout the text to advance his point of view?; Looking at the information Backderf shared from the Columbia University and EPA reports, how did the author choose the order in which he revealed information?; Was there any factual information shared in Trashed that surprised you? Why did it surprise you, and what does it make you reflect on?

We Flagged: 

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Read This If You Loved: My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf, Nonfiction texts about the environment, Nonfiction graphic novels, Adult graphic novels

Recommended For: 

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6 thoughts on “Review and Teaching Guide!: Trashed by Derf Backderf”

  1. I don’t know My Friend Dahmer, nor this one either. It looks fascinating. There is a “mountain”, and not in the Rockies, outside Denver that is the accumulation of our trash in days gone by. Another landfill is in another place. I’m glad that we have a great re-cycling program, but know that many still do not. What a continuing problem it is. Thanks, Kellee, love hearing about this.

  2. Fascinating, and terrifying – it’s so easy to turn a blind eye to the reality of our disposable culture – once the garbage has been carted away it’s so easy to pretend it no longer exists! Always good to have a reminder that there are no easy fixes to our environmental problems, and that we all play a role.

  3. I have not seen this book or the author before. Looks to be a definite tongue in cheek read! I love how you take a book that is engaging and make such a fantastic teacher’s guide that incorporates wonderful questions!


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