Seeds of Change by Jen Cullerton Johnson, illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler
We have already seen two incredible picture books about Wangari, so I was hesitant to pick this one up. I should never have hesitated. This book adds to Wangari’s story by telling the story of her youth growing up in the bounty of Kenya. Her mother teaches her about each tree and what it offers. Though it was unusual for girls in Kenya to be educated, Wangari’s parents saw how bright she was and sent her to school. After she graduated from elementary school, Wangari went to the city to continue her education, eventually heading to the United States to study biology. Throughout her travels, she thought often of Kenya and her home. Kenya had changed with the land being harvested for timber by big foreign companies. Wangari returned to Kenya and taught women and children to plant trees, giving the people a way to feed themselves and turning the barren land green again. In 2004, Wangari won the Nobel Peace Prize, the first African woman or environmentalist to receive it.
Johnson has taken the time to really reveal where Wangari came from and what created the seeds of environmentalism within her. Other picture books pick up where Wangari is seeing the damage done in Kenya, but this addition of her childhood and education make for a more complete understanding of her. Sadler’s illustrations use thick white lines which remind me of batik or stained glass. The images show interesting design choices that are often dreamlike.
I would recommend pairing this with both Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli and Planting the Trees of Kenya by Claire A. Nivola. The three together offer a strong environmental message combined with a complete view of the woman behind the movement.
Highly recommended, this book tells the powerful story of Wangari and her legacy in Kenya. It shows readers that one person can definitely make a difference. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from copy received from Lee & Low.
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