Wangari Maathai won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her founding of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya. Two years later, her book Unbowed: a Memoir was published to critical acclaim. Now her story is told again in a picture book for children called Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai by Claire A. Nivola.
The telling of a story of environmental abuse may seem a bit serious for younger children, but Nivola has simplified the story for ease of elementary understanding. The important point made is that when a person sees a problem, she can do something to solve it. Maathai could have easily accepted that a person could do little about deforestation, but she instead believed that she could with others do very much. As a result 30,000,000 trees have been planted. Caring, cooperation, and the importance of the individual are good lessons for young readers. Older readers should be reminded of this as well.
Planting the Trees of Kenya is the kind of book that parents and teachers may want to read aloud, so they can explain some of the unfamiliar words and describe the problems to their listeners. Then the children should be allowed to look at all the pictures which subtly include much about the culture in Kenya. Libraries with environmental or world cultures collections for children will want to consider this attractive book.
Nivola, Claire A. Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008. ISBN 9780374399184