Title: Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai
Author and Illustrator: Claire A. Nivola
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level: 5.9
Concepts: human resources, natural resources, scarcity, economics and gender, interdependence
Review: As a child growing up on a farm in Kenya’s Central Highlands, Wangari Maathai delighted in the beauty of the fig, olive, and flame trees that graced the landscape, and she valued the clear water of the stream that flowed near her home. Sadly, these conditions changed for the worse in just a very short time while Wangari attended college in the United States. Distressed to return home to deforestation, soil erosion, dirty water, and a worsening in people’s well-being, Wangari resolved to become a part of the solution. Her simple but powerful idea to start planting trees grew into a national movement that ultimately led to over forty million new trees planted in Kenya. Wangari’s activist efforts included educating women, men, and children about why it was so important to their livelihood to plant tree seedlings. In 2004 she won the Nobel Peace Prize, the first African woman to receive this honor.
Children and adults alike will appreciate this book for its powerful message, rich illustrations, and informative author’s note. Numerous economics ideas are woven into the text, with particular emphasis on the consequences of scarcity, the replenishment of natural resources, and the strengthening of women’s autonomy. Despite the weighty topic, the tone is gentle. Children will unwittingly gain an important lesson in environmental activism while they enjoy an interesting story.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children