I believe the book was written in the 1980s, but I'm not sure - I read it in the 1980's, so it was available then at least. It may also be British. A young boy is transported to a strange wasteland world (possibly a world full of trash), and travels across it in a blimp to try and get back to the real world. The blimp gasbag is made of used plastic bags, and the basket is made of trash as well; plus, for some reason, he and his companion(s) take quite a lot of trash with them. In the end, he works out some kind of equation (on a calculator or a modified kids' toy) that allows him to go back to the real world. As far as I can remember, it was novel-length and not part of a series.

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    I initially wondered if this could be "High Way Home" by Nicholas Fisk. But the children were marooned on an island on Earth, and constructed a hot air balloon to escape, rather than a blimp. Sep 22, 2023 at 18:58
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    If it was a British book they wouldn't have referred to it as "trash" (Americanism)
    – Valorum
    Sep 22, 2023 at 21:31
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    Sounds very similar - in some ways - to Charles Platt's Garbage World (1967 but reprinted many times into the late '70s). To whit: it reads like YA, has a planet of trash, people using blimps to travel about the trash world, and a male hero. And despite Valorum's weird insistence, the author is British.
    – Cassfrank
    Oct 11, 2023 at 22:06
  • Adding the Goodreads link for more info: goodreads.com/book/show/827537.Garbage_World
    – Cassfrank
    Oct 11, 2023 at 22:07
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    Could it be "a box of nothing" by Peter Dickinson goodreads.com/book/show/1964620.A_Box_of_Nothing
    – Aaron Abel
    Oct 17, 2023 at 14:29

1 Answer 1


The correct answer is A Box of Nothing (1985) by Peter Dickinson.

Credit for this answer goes to Aaron Abel - thank you very much for your help!

From Google Books:

While skipping school, James sees his mother on the street. He ducks inside an abandoned store, where an aged shopkeeper asks what he wants to buy. When James says “nothing,” the old man sells it to him: a heavy cardboard box stuffed full of top-quality nothing. James tries to explain this to his mother, but she doesn’t believe him and throws the box over the fence and into the dump. He sneaks in to retrieve his new possession—and finds himself trapped in another world.

The dump is an eerie place populated by hyperintelligent rats, monstrous seagulls, and a very clever pile of garbage called the Burra. Once it was a thriving community, but something strange has happened, and the dump has become stuck in time. To get back home, James must help the Burra save the dump—using all the nothing he can find.

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