Me and Marvin Gardens

Me and Marvin Gardens
Written by Amy Sarig King

Publisher’s Summary:
Obe Devlin has problems. His family’s farmland has been taken over by developers. His best friend Tommy abandoned him for the development kids. And he keeps getting nosebleeds, because of that thing he doesn’t like to talk about. So Obe hangs out at the creek by his house, in the last wild patch left, picking up litter and looking for animal tracks. One day, he sees a creature that looks kind of like a large dog, or maybe a small boar. And as he watches it, he realizes it eats plastic. Only plastic. Water bottles, shopping bags… No one has ever seen a creature like this before, because there’s never been a creature like this before. The animal-Marvin Gardens-soon becomes Obe’s best friend and biggest secret. But to keep him safe from the developers and Tommy and his friends, Obe must make a decision that might change everything.

Primary Source Pairing:
Obe is an environmentalist. He loves the wild patch behind his house and works each day to take care of it. The Devlin dirt is in his blood even through the dirt may not actually belong to the Devlin family anymore. When Obe comes across this strange and wild animal that only eats plastic, he thinks he has found the pollution solution. Obe names him Marvin Gardens.

Ms. G is Obe’s teacher and a fellow environmentalist. During Earth Month, Ms. G. shares facts with students. One fact states: “Pollution kills a million seabirds every year” (page 60). Obe’s love for the planet and his newfound friendship with Marvin help him decide how he can protect Marvin and the environment.

For this primary source pairing, invite students to study an image of an albatross chick that has died from ingesting too much plastic. Just like Ms. G.’s fact states, the plastic in the oceans and waterways has a profound and deadly impact on the wildlife that rely on this habitat for food and shelter. Although the image may be difficult to look at for some students, let it be a discussion starter about ways they can help the environment. Obe’s story, aside from the fictional, slightly imperfect pollution solution, shows us that one person can have a positive impact on the environment.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What do you notice that you didn’t expect?
  • What do you notice that you can’t explain?
  • What do you see that looks strange or unfamiliar?
  • How do you feel when you look at this image?
  • Do you think people should see this image? Why or Why not?
  • How could this image evoke change in the way people use plastic?

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Albatross at Midway Atoll Refuge: Chris Jordan (via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters) / CC BY 2.0,

Additional Resource:
The map on page 23 of the book showing Devlin Creek and the phases of construction.