Saturday, January 15, 2011

Seeds of Change: the inspirational story of Wangari Maathai (ages 5 - 10)

As we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, many schools and families are talking about the way we can participate and change the world to be a better place. I was particularly moved by how many students at my school are keenly aware of helping improve the environment. These students would be particularly interested in learning about Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan woman who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. Seeds of Change, by Jen Cullerton Johnson, introduces students to Wangari Maathai's life and mission, and shows her determination to help make Kenya a better place by starting with helping the environment.
Seeds of Change: Wangari's Gift to the WorldSeeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace
by Jen Cullerton Johnson
illustrations by Sonia Lynn Sadler
NY: Lee and Low, 2010
ages 6 - 10
winner of the Corretta Scott King - John Steptoe Award for New Talent in Illustration
available on Amazon and at your local library

Seeds of Change presents an interesting view of the Wangari Maathai's childhood, drawing on her autobiographical writing. Although it was unusual for girls to receive formal education in rural Kenya, Wangari’s parents agreed to send her to school. Wangari’s determination and hard work continued as she went first to high school in the city, and then to university in the United States to study biology. She returned to Kenya to teach and inspire women scientists, but became concerned when she saw the environmental damage that was occurring throughout the country. Maathai established the Green Belt Movement, bringing about environmental and economic change in Kenya by helping local women plant over thirty million trees.

In 2004, Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the first time an African woman or an environmentalist had received this prestigious prize. Johnson’s prose reads aloud smoothly and is full of rich metaphors which draw on the environmental themes. In an interview about Seeds of Change, Johnson says, "What moves me the most about Wangari’s story is her message of harabee, which means “let’s work together.” We can solve problems if we work together." This is a powerful story that can encourage students to pursue their passions, take risks and make a difference.

Sonia Lynn Sadler’s colored scratchboard illustrations are bright and engaging, full of the greens and browns of nature and the bright patterns of African cloth. Sadler was recognized for her artwork with the Coretta Scot King - John Steptoe Award for New Talent in Illustration, given by the American Library Association to recognize an African American illustrator at the beginning of their career who shows promising talent.

For a preview of this bright, colorful book, head over to Lee and Low's website. They also have an interesting interview with both Johnson and Sadler about writing and illustrating Seeds of Change.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher. If you make a purchase on Amazon using the links on this site, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.

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