From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Kindergarten-Grade 4—This delightful picture-book biography of the environmentalist has engaging illustrations and accessible, succinct prose. When Wangari Maathai was growing up in Kenya, the land was covered with trees. But on returning to her homeland from America, where she was educated on scholarship, she discovered a hot, dry, barren land, stripped of the trees she loved as a child. Starting in her own backyard, Maathai planted trees and encouraged other women to do the same. More than 30 million trees have since been planted by the members of her Green Belt Movement. Maathai was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2004 in recognition of her work. The acrylic illustrations have a warm folk-art influence. The pictures are both literal and symbolic, and framed in complementary lines of color. An author's note and a quote from Maathai are included. This book would be a superb choice for read-alouds or assignments.—Melissa Christy Buron, Epps Island Elementary, Houston, TX
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Like Claire A. Nivola’s Planting the Trees of Kenya (2008), this powerful picture-book biography introduces Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. As in Nivola’s title, Winter follows her charismatic subject from her rural Kenyan childhood to her adult life as the founder of the Green Belt Movement, which has profoundly improved her country’s health and economy. Winter distills Maathai’s inspirational story into spare words and images. As in her other similarly formatted picture books, such as The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq (2005), Winter’s acrylic paintings employ rich, opaque hues and elemental shapes that illustrate specific details while conveying a broader sense of her subject’s remarkable influence. An author’s note fills in biographical facts, but children may still have questions about specific events, such as the violent protest battles that leave Maathai bloodied. Paired with Nivola’s slightly more comprehensive approach, this title offers a welcome introduction to Maathai’s awe-inspiring work and to the subject of activism in general. Grades 1-3. --Gillian Engberg