Friday, July 27, 2012

Review: Wangari's Trees of Peace

Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa by Jeanette Winter

This is the story of Wangari Maathai. She was born in 1940 and grew up in the shadow of Mount Kenya in Africa. She received a Kennedy Scholarship to study in America. Maathai received her bachelor's and master's degrees in biological sciences. She returned to Kenya to become the first woman from East Africa to earn a Ph.D. at the University of Narobi. When she arrived, all of the beautiful trees that were once there had been cut down. She was worried Kenya would turn into a desert. Maathai started with nine little seedlings in a row and tried to restore all the trees that had been cut down. She got women in the community and other villages to realize the worth of trees in their communities and they began to plant seedlings too. This was called the Green Belt Movement because all the little trees looked like a green belt stretching over the land. Men laughed at the women trying to bring back the trees, but the women kept planting. When the cutting down of trees wasn't stopped, Maathai protested and stood in front of the tree to protect them. She was beaten and arrested. But the women kept planting. Eventually the canopy had returned back to Kenya. Wangari Maathai won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her contribution to world peace through the Green Belt Movement. Maathai died last year on September 25, 2011 (which was not mentioned in the book because it was published prior to that).
Accepting her Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.
The earth was naked. 
For me the mission was to try 
to cover it with green.
        -Wangari Maathai
This is a great partial biography for kids to read about Wangari Maathai and see that you can make a difference in the world. Maathai faced many obstacles and much opposition to bringing the green back to Kenya, but she persevered and was successful.

I think this book was very accurate. At the end of the book, the Author's Notes give more detail about Maathai and her Green Belt Movement. There are no sources for where she found the information she used though. When I did a little research on Maathai I found similar information about her that the book had.

The illustrations in this book were beautiful and very colorful. I think it was very important to use bright colors because that depicts part of African culture. The illustrations were created using acrylics on Arches watercolor paper. Every picture was framed but the background color of the page is either orange, pink, green or blue. The end pages are both green to represent the green that Maathai was trying to bring back to her community.
Wangari in Kenya before she left for America.

One illustration I was surprised about was when the government hit her with clubs. She is shown with a bloody head. When she's standing in jail on the following page, the reader can still see the blood on her forehead. I was surprised that this was included in the book because it was violent.

Follow this link to learn more about the Green Belt Movement and Wangari Maathai. You can find books, her speeches, and ways to get involved.

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