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Trash by Andy Mulligan

y Andy Mulligan

Publishing Information: David Fickling Books: New York, 2010
ISBN: 9780385752145 / 9780385752169 (PB) / 9780307746771 (Audio)
: 240 p.
Ages: 12 & Up

Three boys in a Third World country find something at the dump and set out to unravel the mystery behind it while lying, stealing, and narrowly escaping death at every turn.

In an unnamed Third World country, in the not-so-distant future, three “dumpsite boys” make a living picking through the mountains of garbage on the outskirts of a large city.

One unlucky-lucky day, Raphael finds something very special and very mysterious. So mysterious that he decides to keep it, even when the city police offer a handsome reward for its return. That decision brings with it terrifying consequences, and soon the dumpsite boys must use all of their cunning and courage to stay ahead of their pursuers. It’s up to Raphael, Gardo, and Rat—boys who have no education, no parents, no homes, and no money—to solve the mystery and right a terrible wrong.

Book Trailer:

Book Talk:
Raphael is a dumpsite boy. He spends his days wading through mountains of steaming trash, sifting it, sorting it, breathing it, sleeping on it. Then one unlucky-lucky day, the world turns upside down. A small leather bag falls into his hands. It’s a bag of clues. It’s a bag of hope. It’s a bag that will change everything. Soon Raphael and his friends are running for their lives. Hounded by the police, it takes all their quick-thinking and fast-talking to stay ahead. As the net tightens, they uncover a dead man’s mission to put right a terrible wrong. And it's three street-boys against the world...

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Developing Countries
Garbage Collecting
Homeless Children
Political Corruption

Awards & Reviews:
Maryland Blacked-eyed Susan Award Nominees, 2012
School Library Journal
Best Books, 2010
Young Adult Library Services Association Best Books for Young Adult Readers, 2011

Booklist, September 15, 2010
Horn Book, November 1, 2010
Kirkus Reviews
, September 15, 2010
Library Media Connection, May 1, 2011
Publishers Weekly, October 4, 2010 (Starred Review)
School Library Journal, October 1, 2010 (Starred Review)
VOYA: Voices of Youth Advocates, December 1, 2010

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. Throughout the novel, Raphael, Gardo, and Rat take turns recounting their story. How does hearing the multiple perspectives of this story benefit you?
  2. Raphael unflinchingly shares the nature of the condition in which he and the other dumpsite boys live. What feelings does this candor evoke in you?
  3. During the course of the novel, Raphael, Gardo, and Rat learn that the world as they know it will never be the same. In what ways will it be better or worse for them? Have you had an experience that reshaped your life? In what ways have you changed due to this incident?
  4. Using the phrase, “In this story, family means . . .” discuss the issue of family in Trash. Explain your choices.
  5. Discuss the character traits that allow Raphael, Gardo, and Rat to ultimately persevere. How are these characters similar to each other? In what ways are they different? Which character are you most like?
  6. What role does Gabriel Olondriz play in the story? In what ways is he catalyst for the choices made by the boys?
  7. Though the story takes place in an unnamed Third World country, readers are quickly drawn into the story due to Mulligan’s vivid descriptions of the setting. Discuss the relation of the novel’s setting has to the events of the story.
  8. What role do the relief workers such as Father Julliard and Olivia play in the lives of Raphael, Gardo, and Rat? In what ways have the lives of these adults been enriched by serving impoverished children?
  9. By the end of the novel, Rat states, “Jun—no longer Rat. My name is Jun-Jun.” (p. 217) What can be inferred about Rat’s new sense of self? How have Raphael and Gardo enabled this transformation?
  10. Predict the impact that Zepata’s deposal from government will have on this country. What types of changes (if any) do you expect to see now that he is no longer in power?
  11. Using the phrase, “This is a story about . . .” supply five words to describe Trash. Explain your choices.

    Extension Activities for the Classroom

    Where in the World are Raphael, Rat, and Gardo?
    At the heart of Trash, layers of mystery and intrigue drive the story forward. Though the setting is never identified, readers can determine it through textual evidence. Working in small groups, divide up sections of the novel, and have students investi- gate where the story might be taking place. Look at geographical indicators and clues such as descriptions of first and last names, foods, and other cultural references which may hint to location. Using a digital map, have each group document and present her or his findings to the class.

    Bad Boys, Bad Boys, Whatcha’ Gonna Do?
    Though the government corruption detailed in Trash is fictitious, there are many cases of similar events where international assistance for Third World Countries has been impeded. Assign student groups to use news resources, the Internet, and encyclopedias to research real examples of relief efforts being disrupted by political corruption. Typical cases might involve these countries: Indonesia, the Dominican Republic, and Malaysia in the 1960s; Cambodia,          Bangladesh,      Angola, Zaire, and Haiti in the 1970s; Lebanon, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and the Philippines in the 1980s; Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Rwanda, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Iraq, and North Korea in the 1990s; and Sudan, Iraq, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Haiti, and Democratic Republic of the Congo in the last decade. Have students create aGlogster digital poster ( to summarize their findings. After sharing with the group, allow students to consider the similarities and differ- ences between their research and the Zepata case described in the novel.

    Lend a Helping Hand
    Like in many Third World Countries, Trash features adult relief workers who play important roles in the lives of the impoverished children with whom they         work.  Using the library and Internet, have students investigate the roles of relief workers in similar circumstances. Research and consider the following:
    • What types of organizations send relief workers to underdeveloped countries?
    • Do they have a stated goal?
    • How are they funded?
    • What are typical jobs held by those providing aid?
    • What’s the average length of service time relief workers remain in the country where they are working?
    • What are some common dangers they face?
    After gathering information, have students create a digital presentation [using a program like Prezi ( or Microsoft PowerPoint] and share their findings.

Related Websites:
Author's Website -
Cambodian Dump Kids -
CARE Global -
Children of the Dumps - htpp://
Ghana Digital Dumping Ground Frontline/World -
Giant Waste Dump Poisoning Nairobi Children -
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) Humanitarian News & Analysis -
International Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies -
La Mosca City Dump Dominican Republic -
Life in Tegucigalpa's City Dump -
Life in the Dumps of Cambodia -
Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) -
Nairobi Dump Harming Children -
Nicaragua City Dump - La Chureca -
Oxfam International -
Peace Corps -
Save the Children -
“'Shocking' conditions at Kenyan trash dump” -
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs -
World Food Programme -

Carbon Tracker (Apple iPhone/Touch)
Creek Watch (Apple iPhone/Touch)
Good Guide (Apple iPhone; Google Android)
greenMeter (Apple iPhone/Touch)
Find Green (Google Android)
iRecycle (Apple iPhone/Touch & iPad; Google Android)
iEnviroWatch: Environmental Status Reports For Locations In Europe (Apple iPhone/Touch)
Our Choice by Al Gore, 2011 (Apple iPad)
Save the Earth - Do Your Bit! (Google Android)

Bite of the Mango by Mariatu Kamara with Susan McClelland, 2008 (2011 RITBA Nominee)
Can’t Get There From Here by Todd Strasser, 2004 (2006 RITBA Nominee)
Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah, 1999
Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac, 2005
The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer, 1995
Garbage Angel: Sarah's Story by Clyde White, 2005
Garbage King, by Elizabeth Laird, 2004
The Golden Rat by Don L. Wulffson, 2007
Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage by Heather Rogers, 2006 - Nonfiction
An Inconvenient Truth: The Crisis of Global Warming by Al Gore, 2007
A Long Walk to Water
by Linda Sue Park, 2010
Rubbish: The Archaeology of Garbage
by William Rathje, 1992 - Nonfiction
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, 2010 (2012 RITBA Nominee)
The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health-and a Vision for Change by Annie Leonard, 2010 - Nonfiction
Theories of Relativity by Barbara Haworth-Attard, 2005 (2008 RITBA Nominee)
Touching the Rainbow Ground by Paul Weiss, 2010 - Nonfiction
The Traitors’ Gate by Avi, 2007
Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash by Susan Strasser, 2000

Other Books by the Author:
Ribblestrop, 2009
Return to Ribblestrop, 2012

About the Author:
Andy MulliganAndy Mulligan was brought up in South London. He worked as a theatre director for ten years before travels in Asia prompted him to retrain as a teacher. He has taught English and drama in India, Brazil, the Philippines and the UK. He now lives in Manila. Ribblestrop was Andy Mulligan's first book, and was published in the UK in April 2009. It was the runner up for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, and the Guardian called it 'dangerous, high octane fun of the highest order'. Return To Ribblestrop publishes early next year, the second part of a projected trilogy.

Trash is a very different animal. Hailed by the Times as 'outstanding ...exceptionally satisfying', Trash is first and foremost a thriller. It tells the story of three dumpsite boys and an astonishing discovery they make amongst the city's refuse. Smart enough to know they have something truly special - truly life-changing - they try to stay one step ahead of a vengeful police force out to silence them. The novel shifts rapidly from the squalid slums of a third-world city, to its prisons and graveyards. David Fickling published Trash in the Autumn of 2010 in the UK and the USA and the book is now set to be published in twelve languages across the globe. Film rights were snapped up soon after UK publication and schools around the world are pushing it onto the syllabus.

Andy is currently taking a break from teaching, working on his next book. He hopes to be back in classroom next September in his beloved Philippines.

| ©2004 - Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee | Aaron Coutu, Chair