Debbie McNeill's new children's book
The Sector > Provider > General News > Teacher inspired by War on Waste to create children’s book about rubbish bins

Teacher inspired by War on Waste to create children’s book about rubbish bins

by Freya Lucas

July 21, 2023

Teacher Debbie McNeill, based in Canberra, has created a new self published picture book designed to inspire children as young as preschool age to put their rubbish in the appropriate bin.


The inspiration for her book came from the ABC’s War on Waste series, and her own teaching of a unit about the impact of human waste on the environment.


While children said they cared about the environment and environmental issues, she would often see them leave food wrappers lying on the ground, rather than finding a bin for them. 


“It’s just too easy to throw something out the window or too easy just to get up and walk away and say, ‘It doesn’t matter. Someone else will clean that up’,” Mrs McNeill told The Canberra Times. 


“Well, someone else is us.”


Her first audience was her school community, when she wrote a story for her Year 5 class to act out at a school assembly. The lead character of the play was named Derek Hopperstink.


Following the success of the play, she hired illustrator Bridget Acreman to bring her self-published work to life.


The book details Derek’s adventures. Derek is an ibis who encounters trouble when eating rubbish he finds on the ground. Following the trouble, he decides to become a waste warrior, recruiting a kookaburra and other friends to spread the word about the danger of rubbish, and to educate humans. 


Mrs McNeill said she never saw herself becoming an author but having the book sent off to the printer on Monday “felt like a dream come true”.


The book includes notes for teachers on how they could lead a discussion after reading the book with different age groups, including talking about the elements of language for a literacy lesson.


Her book is already proving successful, with a group of kindergarten students taking it upon themselves to collect rubbish after hearing the story, calling themselves waste warriors. 


“I was over the moon to hear that they were actually doing it, not just reading a nice little story. It actually pushed them into action from kindergarten,” she said.


Learn more about the book on Mrs McNeill’s instagram: @derek_the_waste_warrior

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