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Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace

Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace

5.0 2
by Jen Cullerton Johnson
As a young girl in Kenya, Wangari was taught to respect nature. She grew up loving the land, plants, and animals that surrounded her—from the giant mugumo trees her people, the Kikuyu, revered to the tiny tadpoles that swam in the river. Although most Kenyan girls were not educated, Wangari, curious and hardworking, was allowed to go to school. There, her mind


As a young girl in Kenya, Wangari was taught to respect nature. She grew up loving the land, plants, and animals that surrounded her—from the giant mugumo trees her people, the Kikuyu, revered to the tiny tadpoles that swam in the river. Although most Kenyan girls were not educated, Wangari, curious and hardworking, was allowed to go to school. There, her mind sprouted like a seed. She excelled at science and went on to study in the United States. After returning home, Wangari blazed a trail across Kenya, using her knowledge and compassion to promote the rights of her countrywomen and to help save the land, one tree at a time.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With at least three other picture books out about Nobel Prize-winner Wangari Maathai—Planting the Trees of Kenya (2008), Wangari’s Trees of Peace (2008), and Mama Miti (2010)—another volume about the Kenyan activist might seem to crowd a full shelf. This one, though, provides older children with a more thorough investigation of Maathai’s life. Debut author Johnson includes an account of Maathai’s training for a doctorate in biology and the obstacles she faced, sets her tree-planting initiative in the context of her political career, and identifies her adversaries as “Foreign business people, greedy for more land for their coffee plantations and trees for timber.” The highly stylized figures in Sadler’s (Ma Dear’s Old Green House) scratchboard spreads are outlined in white, lending them a stained-glass feel. Trees, leaves, and water are simplified into elemental shapes, giving the whole the appearance of a tropically colored quilt. Throughout the book runs the image of the Kikuyu people’s sacred mugumo tree as the source of Maathai’s tree-planting project, an idea “as small as a seed but as tall as a tree that reaches for the sky.” Ages 6-11. (May)
Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
This pictorial biography profiles Wangari Maathai who, at age sixty-four, was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Starting with her life in a small Kenyan village, readers learn how her mother's teachings on the sacredness and interconnection of life spawned a budding environmentalist. Wangari walked miles to a one-room, dirt-floor elementary school and then continued her education by attending boarding school in Nairobi and eventually going to college in Kansas and Pennsylvania. Wangari's experience in the United States offered her not only advanced training in biology, but also a new awareness of the possibilities for women. She returned to teach at the University of Nairobi and to promote women's rights. As she watched the gradual deforestation of her homeland by large corporate interests, she began to fight back by replanting trees with the help of women and children, eventually forming the Green Belt Movement. Those who opposed her activities had her unjustly jailed, but she was later freed through the intervention of her supporters. At this point, Wangari realized she had to take her message beyond Kenya in order to effect change. She eventually returned home, was elected to Parliament, and became Minister of the Environment. When she received the 2004 Peace Prize, it marked the first time an environmentalist had been so honored. The story line is clear and compelling. Most illustrations cover a two-page spread and are in brilliant colors representing the textiles of Africa and the lush greenery of its plants. Although sometimes a little too busy, the illustrations generally succeed at tying together and enhancing the story elements. This great teaching tale emphasizes the power of ideas, the interconnectedness of the environment with people's lives, and how taking personal responsibility can effect significant change. It is a recommended purchase for classroom and school libraries. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 2–4—This entry on Wangari Maathai takes a slightly more comprehensive look at her life than several other recent books. Her deep love of nature and her determination, first to get an education and later to save the environment and ultimately the people of Kenya, are discussed. Foreign business interests and the duplicity of "corrupt police" forced her first into prison, then politics, and ultimately into spreading her message to the wider world. The book closes as she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. An afterword adds more detail on the Green Belt Movement. Vivid colors sparkle from within the thick white outlines in the batik-style illustrations that fill the pages.—Carol S. Surges, McKinley Elementary School, Wauwatosa, WI
Kirkus Reviews
This debut picture biography, idealized and inspiring, draws on Wangari Maathai's autobiographical writing to present an overview of the activist's life from childhood to the present. Johnson sows her narrative with botanical metaphors: "Her mind was like a seed rooted in rich soil, ready to grow." The mugumo tree symbolizes Kenya's transition from agrarian bounty to environmental precipice: It yields figs for humans and animals yet bows to destruction as multinational corporations raze forests to profit from coffee plantations. Richer than other treatments of Maathai for children and more grounded in her work's implicit feminism, this details her education in Nairobi and the United States, her imprisonment for activism and her scientific and environmental work, resulting in the planting of 30,000,000 trees and economic empowerment for Kenyan women. Sadler's beautiful scratchboard illustrations incise white contoured line into saturated landscapes of lush green leaf patterns, brilliant-hued textiles and undulating, stylized hills. Maathai always wears a colorful headscarf or fabric bow, and the community spirit she resuscitates is joyfully celebrated on every spread. Vibrant and accomplished. (author's note, sources, quotation sources) (Picture book biography. 6-11)

Product Details

Lee & Low Books, Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.20(w) x 10.10(h) x 0.40(d)
820L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 10 Years

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Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Deanna_Demers More than 1 year ago
WOMEN'S RIGHTS ACTIVIST & ENVIRONMENTALIST Seeds of Change: Planting the Path to Peace by Jen Cullerton Seeds of Change is not only a biography of the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Wangari Maathai, but it is a Coretta Scott King Award winner. This book is straight to the point, not wasting a word, but emits a huge encouraging message on how it is the little things that people can do to create a huge change. Wangari was a young girl who grew up in Kenya, Africa who was actually allowed to go to school. As a young child she was taught a respect for nature and excelled greatly in her science classes. After studying in the U.S., she returned back to her native land and used her knowledge to teach women and children how to plant trees. She advocated for the women in her country as well as encouraging environmental awareness for her people. In this vivid children's picture book, it teaches children that even a small thing like a seed can make a huge change. One must remain diligent and help educate others. I would definitely recommend this book as a read along. It would be exceptionally fun to read during Black History month.