Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize and founder of the Green Belt Movement, grew up in the highlands of Kenya, where fig trees cloaked the hills, fish filled the streams, and the people tended their bountiful gardens. But over many years, as more and more land was cleared, Kenya was transformed. When Wangari returned home from college in America, she found the village gardens dry, the people malnourished, and the trees gone. How could she alone bring back the trees and restore the gardens and the people?
Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature, says: “Wangari Maathai’s epic story has never been told better—everyone who reads this book will want to plant a tree!”
With glowing watercolor illustrations and lyrical prose, Claire Nivola tells the remarkable story of one woman’s effort to change the fate of her land by teaching many to care for it. An author’s note provides further information about Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement. In keeping with the theme of the story, the book is printed on recycled paper.
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.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.