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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa (Picture Book/Non-Fiction)

Released September 2008

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

Wangari Maathai grew up in Kenya. Under Mount Kenya there were many beautiful trees. She and her mother used to go into the forest to gather wood. She also helped her mother in the garden. Because Wangari was an excellent student, she won a scholarship to a college in America. She lived in the states for six years and when she returned she was shocked at what she saw. Kenya was not the same as it was before. There were no trees to be seen and women were struggling to get firewood for their homes and had to walk many miles to get it.

The birds were gone. Everything was stark and barren. It was enough to make her cry, but she had a plan. She began simply by “planting nine seedlings.” From this tiny idea and a few seeds grew an even greater idea. Wangari started a nursery and convinced other women that they needed trees again. “Our lives will be better when we have trees again. You’ll see. We are planting the seeds of hope.” Kenyan men thought she was a fool and jailed her when she tried to block some cutting. She was alone in jail, yet she wasn’t. Would the forests of Kenya return from a small idea and nine seedlings?

This was a wonderful, true life tale of a woman who wanted to save the environment in a small way, but ended up changing the face of a nation. The story and writing are very appealing and the art work is very complimentary. This is understandably a Vermont Red Clover Nominee for the 2009-10 year award. In the back of the book is a brief biography of Wangari, a woman whose spirit you are sure to fall in love with!

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