Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Books : Non-Fiction
Planting the Trees of Kenya

Planting the Trees of Kenya

Spring 2008 Non-Fiction
Ages: 5 - 8 yrs.
Author: Claire A. Nivola
ISBN: 978-0-374-39918-4
Hardcover Price: $16.95
In simple, straightforward language, the story of Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai's one-woman crusade to reclaim the landscape of Kenya for its people is brought to life in a tale that is at once instructive and deeply felt. When Wangari returns from college in America, she finds the sacred fig trees have all but vanished and hard times have arrived for those who once depended on the land to feed them. In Nivola's exquisitely detailed illustrations, verdant landscapes stippled in every shade of green give way to panoramic plantations and arid treeless hills. "Devil winds" strip away the rich topsoil now dried to dust, and without tree roots to hold the soil in place, the streams are clogged with silt. Firewood is scarce and people must purchase everything they need instead of producing it locally. Drinking water has dried up and grazing lands are gone. The notion that one person can affect the life of an entire nation may seem like a difficult concept to convey in simple terms, but here it is as crystal clear as the precious water the women haul as they plant thirty million trees over the course of thirty years. As the movement takes hold, the women are joined by children, prisoners, and even soldiers. "You should hold a gun in your right hand and a tree seedling in your left. That's the way you become a good soldier." Wangari instructs...and so they do. Children will learn much about the world we share in this extraordinary view of our interconnected lives on an ever-shrinking planet. An author's note provides more information about the Green Belt Movement and its indefatigable founder.
Kristi Elle Jemtegaard   ©2008 Parents' Choice
Kristi Elle Jemtegaard is the Coordinator of Youth Services for the Arlington Public Library system. She has taught courses on children’s and young adult literature at the Catholic University of America and the University of Virginia. She has served on both the Newbery and Caldecott Award Committees of the American Library Association and has chaired the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee and the May Hill Arbuthnot Award Committee. She is a member and past president of the Children’s Book Guild of Washington DC and has chaired the Washington Post–Book Guild Nonfiction Award Committee. She is a founding member of Capitol Choices, an organization of professionals in the field of children’s literature in the greater Washington DC area. She regularly reviews children’s literature and audio productions for a variety of national publications.

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