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The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families

The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families

3.0 2
by Susan L. Roth, Cindy Trumbore

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For a long time, the people of Hargigo, a village in the tiny African country of Eritrea, were living without enough food for themselves and their animals. The families were hungry, and their goats and sheep were hungry too. Then along came a scientist, Dr. Gordon Sato, who helped change their lives for the better. And it all started with some special


For a long time, the people of Hargigo, a village in the tiny African country of Eritrea, were living without enough food for themselves and their animals. The families were hungry, and their goats and sheep were hungry too. Then along came a scientist, Dr. Gordon Sato, who helped change their lives for the better. And it all started with some special trees.

These are the trees,
Mangrove trees,
That were planted by the sea.

With alternating verse and prose passages, The Mangrove Tree invites readers to discover how Dr. Sato's mangrove tree-planting project transformed an impoverished village into a self-sufficient community. This fascinating story is a celebration of creativity, hard work—and all those mangrove trees that were planted by the sea!

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This moving depiction of ecological innovation centers on a project spearheaded by Dr. Gordon Sato to plant mangrove trees, which grow easily in salt water, in the village of Hargigo in the impoverished African nation of Eritrea. Graceful prose alternates with cumulative verse to relay the benefits that the trees provided for the community: "These are the fishermen/ Who catch the fish/ That swim in the roots,/ Of the mangrove trees." Resembling papier-mâché, Roth's textural mixed-media collages become increasingly lively as the new ecosystem flourishes. An extensive afterword, containing many photographs of Sato and the people of Hargigo, brings their hopeful story into sharp focus. Ages 6–11. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
In the seaside village of Hargigo in Eritrea, mangrove trees have changed the lives of the people. Since there was little rain for plants to grow, Dr. Gordon Soto decided to plant mangrove trees that can live in salty water. On one side of the double pages, the simple cumulative story of the seedlings that grew into trees is told. On the other side, we learn the details of Dr. Soto's plantings. Women tend the seedlings, leaves grow, animals can eat the leaves, the dry branches provide fuel, sea creatures grow among the roots and attract fish, and children grow up healthier and better fed. Dr. Soto hopes to grow mangrove trees in many countries with seacoasts and also in desert areas. This inspiring story of scientific success in enhancing living conditions is attractively visualized with double-page collages of paper and fabric. Corrugated boards become village huts; decorated papers produce schools of fish; snippets of cloth are dresses and scarves. The esthetically powerful illustrations reinforce the power of the story. An Afterword offers several pages of further details and photographs; there is also a glossary and pronunciation guide plus lists of sources of further information. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 3–6—This is a true story set in a small village in Eritrea. "The families used to be hungry./Their animals were hungry too./But then things began to change.../all because of a tree." In poignant text that alternates between cumulative verse and prose, Roth and Trumbore describe how Dr. Gordon Sato, a Japanese-American cell biologist, helped to relieve poverty and famine by planting mangrove trees in salt water. Tended mainly by women, the trees flourished and multiplied, supplying food for animals and fish that, in turn, provided food for the people. Roth's large paper and fabric textured collages first reveal a barren village that is then gradually transformed as pots of mangrove seedlings are transplanted and become abundant mangrove forests. Depictions of women in colorfully patterned long dresses and head scarves, shepherds in capes and head coverings, and children playing outside houses "made of cloth, tin cans, and flattened iron" convey a sense of place and culture. The cumulative poem ends with an introduction to and picture of the smiling scientist himself: "This is Gordon,/Whose greatest wish/Is to help.../By planting trees,/Mangrove trees,/By the sea." A lengthy afterword contains additional information about Dr. Sato and photos of him working with the local people. Pair this inspiring story with Donna Napoli's Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya (S & S, 2010) to spark discussion about how one individual can improve the lives of others.—Marianne Saccardi, formerly at Norwalk Community College, CT
Kirkus Reviews

Here is a grand deed, as basic as a science-fair project, that had a profound application bringing health and economic bounty to a small coastal town, Hargigo, in Eritrea. Dr. Gordon Santo had a brainstorm: Why not plant mangrove trees in the waters off Hargigo? The leaves would feed the town's hungry herds of sheep and goats and provide wood for fuel; the trees' root system would attract fish (a food and revenue source); and the trees themselves would do what trees are so good at—converting carbon dioxide to oxygen. Roth's artwork is a treat, cut-paper and fabric collages of intense, shimmering color on a ground of paper that is electric with thick veins of fiber (photos join glossary in backmatter). Roth and Trumbore's cumulative verse goes about its merry way on the left page—"These are the shepherds / Who watch the goats / and watch the sheep / That eat the leaves"—while a narrative on the right takes readers on Santo's journey. He has named the project Manzanar, after the internment camp where he was placed during World War II, because he wanted to turn that experience (where he first grew desert plants) into something good. Hitting home hard is the project's simple practicality: no high-tech, no great infusions of capital or energy—in a word, motivating, in the best possible way. (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Product Details

Lee & Low Books, Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.00(w) x 11.10(h) x 0.50(d)
NC1190L (what's this?)
Age Range:
6 - 9 Years

Meet the Author

SUSAN L. ROTH's unique mixed-media collage illustrations have appeared in numerous award-winning children's books, many of which she also wrote. Her bookParrots Over Puerto Rico​won the Robert F. Sibert Medal for Nonfiction from the American Library Association.About the illustrations for this book Roth says, "I cut blade after blade of grass to fill the prairies. I guess I cut about fifty billion!"Roth lives in New York.

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The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
pinkystar06 More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the way the story was told. I felt it was a great way to explain about different cultures and communities for students to understand in their own words. I also loved the illustrations used. The collages were captivating and a different type of picture book brought to life. A great book and I would use this for my classroom one day!
ACRain More than 1 year ago
An interesting tale of a society very different from our own and one man’s mission to save its people. Although and informational book it is anything but boring. Using the mix of photography and mixed media it offers young readers the chance to learn about another country and culture yet still leaves readers captivated and entertained. This is a read that any social studies teacher should defiantly have on their shelf. Though the story told does focus on the science and human relations this book would be easy to use across curriculum. The story might also inspire young readers to think beyond themselves and the possibilities for making the world around them a better place.