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Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them
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Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them

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3.25 of 5 stars 3.25  ·  rating details  ·  2,013 ratings  ·  467 reviews
A compulsively readable narrative of whimsy and curiosity- "adventurous, inquisitive, and brightly illuminating" (Janet Maslin, "The New York Times").

When the writer Donovan Hohn heard of the mysterious loss of thousands of bath toys at sea, he figured he would interview a few oceanographers, talk to a few beachcombers, and read up on Arctic science and geography. But ques
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ebook, 416 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Penguin Books
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Will Byrnes
Plastic Duckie, You’re the one. Well, one of 28,800 anyway.

Donovan Hohn begins his tale with an accident at sea. A container ship, in the face of fifty-foot waves, rolls sufficiently to dump more than a few containers, those box-car sized giant legos that we use to transport stuff from here to there. One such dumpee held a large quantity of plastic bath toys. Included were beavers, frogs, turtles and the most-familiar, ducks. Not rubber, mind you, but plastic. His aim is to find as many places a
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I never could get all the way through Moby Dick. Maybe I'll have better luck with Moby Duck.
Zahir
A pretty disappointing book all around. Hohn had the opportunity to tell a great story about the bath toys that were lost at sea in a shipping accident, comment on the environmental threats facing our oceanic ecosystems, and tell a personal story.

Instead he threw together a horribly disjointed rant with a few funny comments here and there. Half the time he's just describing and telling the reader how he feels. The rest of the time he briefly comments on a certain topic before randomly changing
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Susan
I could be flip, and just say that this book told me more about ducks than I really wanted to know. But to be fair, there's a lot of fairly dense scientific information about plastics pollution, global warming, and ocean currents. Hohn interviewed real scientists, and a few whose science is more questionable. The information is interspersed by Hohn's thoughts on such things as the artistic representation of children, his parents' divorce, the popularity of duck breeds, his myopia, Melville, his ...more
Karen
Reading Moby Duck is an adventure worth taking, but not without its hazards. Like the journey of the lost bath toys, this book took me through channels more complex than I anticipated. I want to fault Hohn for taking sidetrips onto uncharted shores, and I want to accuse him of leaving the reader in the doldrums of the open sea. However, I can't criticize him for taking such a broad scope at times and for exploring minutea at others. Much of the charm of this book occurs when he describes a perso ...more
Bill Sleeman

Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them by Donovan Hohn proved to be a disappointing book. I had high hopes for the book as it received quite a few positive reviews both on Goodreads and in the book press in general. Unfortunately I could not get past the self-revelatory clap – trap that the author seemed hell bent on sharing whether it was relevant or not. I

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Rebecca Foster
This is just the kind of random, wide-ranging book I love: part memoir, part travelogue, part philosophical musing on human culture and our impact on the environment, Moby-Duck is an uncategorizable gem. In 1992 a pallet of ‘Friendly Floatees’ bath toys fell off a container ship in a storm in the north Pacific. Over the past two decades those thousands of plastic animals have made their way around the world, informing oceanographic theory and delighting children – but it’s a more complicated sto ...more
Tuck
a really great natural history of oceanography, shipping and commerce, climate change, freak waves, ocean currents, the writing and research process, the HUGE ASS plastic pollution problem (and how THAT is just a tiny bit of the OTHER pollution problems we are making in the seas, as well as air and land),... and on and on. This book is a bit of a master class in all things ocean. This one along with "Flotsaemtrics" and "The Wave" (author Casey wrote "White Teeth" too about the great whites off o ...more
Oriana
Apr 05, 2011 Oriana marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-read-soon
Just when you think there is nothing new under the sun, along comes something totally fucking insanely surprising.

Here is a totally true story, which I am not just making up so that I will win the First Reads giveaway for this book (but please can I have this book, Goodreads Gods??): Donovan Hohn, the author of this amazingly crazy book, was doing a reading in Brooklyn on the same day that this guy was doing a reading. I srsly love The Oatmeal, and although it was a super hard choice, I went to
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Sean
A couple weeks ago I went to a lecture by the author of Moby Duck, Donovan Hohn. I was interested in this because of a story that I remember reading a few years ago. The story was about a flotilla of 1000 ghost rubber ducks, bleached by the sun, about to invade the coast of the UK.

That story turns out to have been false, part of the growing myth surrounding the Friendly Floatees. Much like the white whale, a figment of the collective imagination.

This book tells the story, as best can be reconstr
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Deb
I was sorely disappointed in this meandering book. I almost had to add it to my "Didn't Finish Reading" shelf, but every so often my interest was well-captured. The premise is great: Donovan Hohn heard about the container ship that spilled its contents, included 28,800 bath toys that started to wash up on shores in Alaska, and perhaps in Maine. He sets out to investigate and winds up on a journey of several years. He travels to Alaska, and joins in major beach cleanup projects, finding one of th ...more
Kristin Little
So unbelievably disappointed. First of all, the title is super-misleading. The lost bath toys are just an opening for the author to go off on a hare-brained adventure that is loosely related to the bath toys but has more to do with the author's curiousity about EVERYthing. (Kind of like the pre-schooler who repeatedly asks, "Why?" "Why?" "Why?" "Why?" and so on...) Not that that in and of itself is a bad thing; that premise COULD have led to a great story... but it just missed. This book had so ...more
Jenny Brown
Did not finish.

I kept expecting to learn something, but gave up. This book was obviously sold on concept and the real concept was to give the author the chance to take adventure vacations paid for by grants and an advance.

The author, who is obviously one of the privileged (no one else can afford to teach at the kind of NYC private school he taught at) pretends to be poor, which is offensive, and his reporting on other people is permeated with conceit he seems unaware of. He lost me completely w
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Katherine Rowland
Hohn writes beautifully. Let me get that right up front. Many of his passages are lyrical and evocative. I just wish that those bits had been more liberally sprinkled in the vast sea of this (pretty hefty) book. Inspired by a student's work, Hohn becomes obsessed with the fate of crates of bath toys that spilled into the ocean, and goes a-hunting. As he writes about his travels, he refers often to Moby Dick, and uses that theme and his experiences to delve into his own thoughts and heart. The pr ...more
Sara
I wanted to read this book because I thought it would be a fun adventure about rubber duckies lost at sea and the people who tried to find them again. No such luck! It was a very long read mostly about pollution (which is a serious thing, I grant you) and the people and organizations trying to stop it.

It was way too detailed when it came to names, dates and somewhat irrelevant connections between people. He jumps about in the timeline in a very confusing way sometimes and when giving examples o
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Kim
I wanted to like this book. And sometimes I did. I enjoyed learning about the plastic toy factory in China, for example, and I enjoyed reading about the ways container ships can encounter dangerous wave patterns, and how many things are lost at sea as a result; I enjoyed learning a bit about Inuit children staying up all night unsupervised in Alaska so their parents can work during the day(!).

I didn't always enjoy the 305,017 other details the author felt the need to research and share (and I s
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Sylvia
Moby Duck is hard to describe: part travelogue, part scientific and environmental reporting, part meditation on modern consumerism, and part journal of self-discovery and adventurism. In 1992, a container ship accident dumped over 28,000 rubber toys into the Pacific Ocean, and for years after, they washed up around the Pacific Basin and some even claimed they had floated over the Arctic into the Atlantic.This saga captures the imagination of writer Donovan Hohn, who embarks on a multiyear and tr ...more
Tracey
Lesley marked this as to-read and I recalled the news story the book was based on (a shipment of bath toys gone overboard in the Pacific), so was thrilled to see the library had ordered the book.

Hohn takes a light-hearted approach to his material (and how could you not?) and almost seems to use the book proposal as an excuse to travel, but then again, he's not jetsetting with the rich and famous. Rather he crosses the Pacific on a container ship, and then travels to Alaska on the intercoastal f
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Bookmarks Magazine
The more jaded book critics clearly feel that the “one object and how it changed the world” and the “everything that ever happened is connected to this event” genres have jumped the shark. Yet even admitting their skepticism, they were caught up by Moby-Duck—probably because, as some of them explained, the author’s quest is in several senses quixotic (or maybe Melvillian): Hohn is a haplessly comic, hopelessly ambitious, superficially naïve, philosophical, and sophisticated writer all at once. T ...more
Cheryl
Mar 15, 2011 Cheryl rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cheryl by: Viking Books
"But questions, I've learned since, can be like ocean currents. Wade in a little too far and they can carry you away. Follow one line of inquiry and it will lead you to another, and another."........"The next thing you know years have passed, and you're still adrift, still waiting to see wehre the questions take you. At least that's what happens if you'r a nearsighted, school-teaching, would-be archaeologist of the ordinary, with an indulgent, long-suffering wife and a juveninle imagination, and ...more
Scott
Perhaps you've heard the story about the container ship that lost a bunch of its cargo over the side somewhere in the North Pacific, in 1992, including 28,800 cutesy plastic bath toys, a quarter of which were, each, red beavers, blue turtles, green frogs, and, the most publicized and captivating-to-the-public (and, not incidentally, to Eric Carle, who based a book on the incident), yellow ducks? And that over the years many of these ducks (and beavers, turtles, and frogs) were discovered on far- ...more
Steven
This is one of those books that seems like a cute idea, but turns out to be so much more than it appears.

The author, inspired by a story presented by one of his students, decides to go find out what happened to a bunch of plastic bath toys that fell off a container ship in the northern Pacific in 1992. IN the course of his adventures, he meets and hangs out with the people mentioned in the subtitle, plus toy manufacturers, container ship captains, Arctic scientists, and other characters in an e
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Danny
This book meandered from topic to topic, but maybe it was a metaphor for the way the ducks wandered through the oceans? If you look at this as the story of the ducks, which the title begs you to do, you might find yourself bored or just lost among the waves of information flowing your way. But if you look at the ducks as a gateway to information on ecology, oceanography, pollution, childhood and children's literature, the ocean-bound shipping industry, toy manufacturing, and the economy, then yo ...more
Erik Malvick
The book needed an editor, the author needed some discipline and an outline beforehand.

There is supposedly a story here about a lost container of toys and their journey through the ocean(s). The story is there, but it gets buried by numerous digressions that overwhelm and drag the story under.

It's a tough thing to criticize because the digressions do seem educational and useful, but sometimes they further digress, provide too much details, or end up as a mechanism for the airing of the authors
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Hank Stuever
All the criticisms of this book are valid: certainly too long, by at least 100 pp., even if that's meant to be Melvillian in scope; could do with less self-absorption and lamentations of the lonely father who leaves child and wife at home, even if that's meant to echo Ishmael and/or Starbuck; attempts to make one thing about ALL things can often be clumsy. Etc., etc.

But also, much of the praise for this book is valid too. Something about it compels you to stick with it, mirroring many readers' e
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Benjamin Kahn
I have to admit, I couldn't get past page 60 in this book. I found the author unappealing, and he spent too little time on the subject at hand and too much talk talking about himself and his own (uninteresting) reflections. I reached a point where I just couldn't bring myself to read anymore.

He talks about feeling trapped and that his life is no longer his own after seeing his child's ultrasound. He then proceeds to take off on a bit of a fool's errand just before his wife's due, and from what I
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Matt
Picture your high school English teacher who dreamed of becoming a great American writer. When he finally woke up and realized that doesn't pay the bills, he settled on the only job that made marginal use of his college education. Complete with professions of his love of Thurber (or whomever... I don't care), this book is a piece of crap that bored me to death. It's rare I don't finish a book, but I couldn't make it more than 60 pages. At that point I figured I wasted enough of my life on this b ...more
Meryl Marr
I wanted to like this book. I really tried to, but I was unsuccessful. NPR talked about it. And I adore NPR. The topic was interesting; the title intriguing; the writing horribly boring. While I learned a great deal of the evils of plastic and the process of how it ends up in the ocean, I abhor this book.

I was stunned that it was a best seller, who could have possibly concentrated through this entire book? The writing is disorganized and draining. Each paragraph took way too much effort for me
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Katy
Hohn has a strange interest in the legend of the rubber ducks lost at sea and a philosophical interest in the wilderness of water. He fails to explain these interests well and avoids being introspective during his journey. One starts to think why the mention of his son and rising paternal instincts seem like an afterthought to the rest of the story. He hardly mentions his wife or how their relationship may have been strained by his absence. While other memoirs of adventure and self-discovery may ...more
Sylvia
Great book. The author's adventure began when he read about how almost 30,000 plastic bath toys (including yellow ducks) were lost at sea in transit from China to the United States. Over time, the bath toys were found along beaches all over the world. He travels to Alaska, Hawaii, China, and Greenland to track the toys, and along the way he learns about how our oceans and beaches are being harmed by waste and the toxic build up that that waste is creating. I enjoyed the book because it's not too ...more
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Donovan Hohn is the recipient of the Whiting Writers’ Award and a 2010 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship. His work has appeared in Harper’s Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, and Outside, among other publications. Moby-Duck, his first book, was a finalist for the Helen Bernstein Prize for Excellence in Journalism and runner-up for the PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. A former fea ...more
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“The imaginary child implied by the toys on exhibit in Hong Kong was impossible to reconcile with my actual child. I didn't think I'd like to meet the imaginary child they implied. That child was mad with contradictions. He was a machine-gun-toting, Chopin-playing psychopath with a sugar high and a short attention span.” 2 likes
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