Book of the Month: Clean Up

We first met Rocket, the star of Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola’s Clean Up, in 2019’s Look Up which went on to win the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. Rocket, along with her teenage brother Jamal, won our hearts with her enthusiasm, curiosity and kindness – as well as playing an important role in increasing the diversity of main characters in children’s books. We were delighted to see Rocket and her family return in this charming follow up, which tackles the timely issue of plastic pollution.

In Clean Up, Rocket is excited for her holidays with her grandparents, who live by an animal sanctuary and run whale-watching tours. On arrival, after a surfing trip with her Grammy, Rocket is upset to find a baby turtle tangled in plastic. She learns all about plastic pollution, educates the other beach-goers and organises a ‘clean up crew’ to tidy up the beach.

Like all the best picture books, the text and the pictures in Clean Up work beautifully together to tell the story. Nathan Bryon’s words bounce across the page, conveying the message of environmental responsibility with levity. There is a rhythm to it, with short sentences, bold words and lists speeding it up when Rocket is excited and more traditional prose slowing it down as Rocket is saddened by the state of the beach.

Dapo Adeola’s artwork is as delightful as ever, with so much character packed into every illustration. I particularly enjoyed spotting Jamal, Rocket’s brother, constantly staring at his phone looking slightly too cool for school (even when buried up to his neck in sand). Rocket is so animated that she practically dances off the page.


Clean up book by Dapo Adeola

Classroom Approaches

Clean Up would slot neatly into topics about environmental responsibility, beach habitats and marine life. Children could research further facts about the effects of plastic waste on wildlife and recreate the page where Rocket explains her ‘Did you know’ facts, complete with illustrations of themselves educating the beach-goers. Posters always work well for these types of activities and these could be displayed around the school or in local areas.

Dapo’s artwork could inspire creative responses too – written descriptions of the detailed environments or, if you’re feeling brave, collaged beachscapes with real sand – some clean, some littered.

The creative bins that Theresa’s mother makes at the end of the story could inspire children to design their own imaginative themed waste bins for local areas. They could even write persuasive letters to local leaders to implement their ideas.

Finally, the children could be encouraged to form their own ‘Clean Up Crew’, with areas to keep clean and tidy. They could write their own agreement or charter for what they pledge to do to keep their area clean and plan a celebration for when the job is complete!

More from Dapo Adeola and Pop Up:

Find out about Dapo and his books on Pop Up Hub

Dapo’s teacher CPD session on Diversity & Representation and Character Design

Breaking New Ground: our work to celebrate British children’s writers and illustrators of colour

Join Pop Up Festival to work with Dapo and many other amazing writers and illustrators