The African book “Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa” tells the story of Wangari Maathai, who was born and raised in the shadow of Mount Kenya, and appreciated the beauty of “umbrella of trees” surrounding her village.
In the book, Wangari excels at school and wins a scholarship to study in the United States. But when she returned to Kenya, she was shocked by the changes in her homeland — the forest had been cut down to make way for development, leading the lives of the local people — especially the women — even more difficult.
Wangari began a reforestation project; other women became involved and, despite the government’s imprisoning Wangari, 30 million trees were planted across Kenya. In 2004, Wangari won the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her achievements.
According to the book: As a young girl growing up in Kenya, Wangari was surrounded by trees. But years later when she returns home, she is shocked to see whole forests being cut down, and she knows that soon all the trees will be destroyed. So Wangari decides to do something—and starts by planting nine seedlings in her own backyard. And as they grow, so do her plans. . . .
This true story of Wangari Maathai, environmentalist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is a shining example of how one woman’s passion, vision, and determination inspired great change. The book “Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa” was printed on 100% recycled paper with 50% postconsumer waste.
Check out the following Amazon reviews for “Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa”:
Perfect for an 8-year-old: I bought this for my 8-year-old niece. She and her mother read it together and really loved it. This is a great story, clearly told. For all our progress on the gender front, girls still need positive female role models, and Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement and Nobel Prize Winner is a terrific one. The story values education but also stresses the importance of putting education to use. Also, the story helps children understand sustainability. Finally, the story stresses how we all need to take part in forging solutions. One person can’t fix enormous problems by herself. –Deb Oestreicher (Chicago, IL USA)
My children LOVE this book: My twins (age 7) and son (age 5) love this book. We especially enjoy taking it to school to share during reading time with the other students. Thanks for such a wonderful book! –M. Carter
Powerful story of how it only takes 1 person to change the landscape of a country: Wangari Maathai is an amazing woman – she won a scholarship to attend college in the U.S., became a professor of biology in Kenya, she enabled Kenyan woman to become environmentalists by enticing them with money, and she stood up to the government to elicit needed change to better the lives of her people. The story is powerful and still accessible, written in plain language appropriate for the 4-7 crowd.
That said – word of caution. I wanted to take this to my daughter’s school, but there are two pages that make it inappropriate. The book discusses how she was beaten with clubs by police and thrown in jail. Blood is shown coming from her cheekbone. This is a difficult message to give to a 4 year old, conflicts with other messages about police we give them, and will render this book unusable in most classroom environments.
So, I am recommending the book for home use with discussion and sadly not recommending it for school use unless it has been shared beforehand with the parental types. – H. Sapiens “Amanda” (SF Bay Area, CA United States)
Environmental responsibility: Since this is based on a true story, it is a great way to introduce children to environmental responsibility, as a matter of social justice. Even though women in African cultures are confined to certain roles, Wangari convinces women that they can make a difference in their culture. Wangari teaches them that by planting the seeds that will grow into trees and re-covering their land in green forestation, they are planting seeds of hope in their communities. –Stephanie Berkebile “berkeby” (Rosemount, MN USA)
Letting Children Know of an Important, Inspirational Figure: As a young girl in Kenya, Wangari Maathai appreciated the beauty of “the umbrella of trees” surrounding her village. She was also grateful for the bounty these trees and the Earth offered in food and wild animals, for food and shelter, as well as the aesthetic pleasure each afforded. Growing up, she traveled to the United States to attend university. When she returned to her native home lands, she was despirited to find the extent to which the region had suffered from deforestation. With sadness, anger, and determination to do something, she organized other women in her and neighboring villages to plant new trees – sapling by sapling, row by row. “People are fighting over water, over food. We plant the seeds of peace.” Not surprisingly, she soon found herself confronting government-backed workers cutting down more trees to make room for an office building. Wangari defied orders to lead her cadre of women out of the way to allow the building to proceed. Refusing, she found herself jailed for civil disobedience. “Right is right, even if you’re alone,” she reassured herself. However, word of her plight spread “like ripples in Lake Victoria,” and government officials relented to the growing pressure to free her. In the end, Wangari Maathai, the women she led, and the many more she inspired planted some 80 million trees in the highlands of Kenya, for which she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. “We were called to assist the Earth, to heal her wounds and, in the process, our own – indeed, to embrace the whole of creation in all its diversity, beauty, and wonder,” she said in accepting her well-deserved prize.
“Wangari’s Trees of Peace” is written clear language for even very young children to understand. The pictures, inspired by regional folk-art, convey the important messages of the book – the importance of preventing deforestation, fighting for and standing up to one’s beliefs, and the value of teamwork – beautifully. I read this book to first- and second graders, and they loved it, able to retell the story with their own pictures. I recommend this book highly, especially for young girls, who will surely find in Wangari Maathai a most worthy role model. –Daniel L. Berek (Flanders, NJ, United States)