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Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai

Claire A. Nivola, Author
Claire A. Nivola, Author . FSG/Foster $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-374-39918-4
Reviewed on: 03/10/2008
Release date: 04/01/2008
Hardcover - 978-89-8488-599-8
Hardcover - 32 pages - 978-4-566-00197-8
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Text, pictures, subject and pacing all contribute to the success of Nivola’s (Elisabeth ) picture book biography of Wangari Maathai, the 2004 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. In the first pages, Wangari watches her mother in the garden; the pale mountains, blue sky and profusion of growing things testify to Kenya’s primeval beauty. Educated at a Benedictine college in Kansas, Maathai returns to her native country to find the land stripped for commercial farming. Others sigh; she is galvanized. She stands among women whose colorful skirts belie their poverty, and she teaches them to plant trees. Not even Kenya’s soldiers escape her campaign: “You hold your guns... but what are you protecting?” she demands. “You should hold the gun in your right hand and a tree seedling in your left.” Thirty million trees later, the soil—and small farms—thrive again. Simultaneously childlike and sophisticated, Nivola’s paintings have the detail of tapestry and the dignity of icons. The idea of restoring ruined land to its original beauty will fill readers of all ages with hope. Nivola makes children feel it is possible for anyone to change the course of history if they set their mind to it. An author’s note provides additional biographical and political details. Ages 5-8. (Apr.)

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