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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 2008
"The earth was naked. For me the mission was to try to cover it with green." - Wangari Maathai

Growing up in the shadow of Mount Kenya in Africa, Wangari is surrounded by an umbrella of green trees. The trees protect the birds, provide firewood to the women of the village and help keep the soil rich for the sweet potatoes, sugarcane and maize Wangari helps to harvest.

Wangari travels to America for school, but when she returns six years later, the trees are gone. No crops grow, the birds are gone and the women have to travel far distances to find firewood. On World Environment Day in 1977, Wangari plants nine seedlings in her backyard and begins the Green Belt Movement which, over the next 27 years, plants thirty million trees across Africa.

Wangari's Trees of Peace: a true story from Africa is the story of one woman's effort to return green to Africa. Told in Jeanette Winter's simple language and blocky, colorful illustrations, Wangari's Trees of Peace is wonderful means to introduce 3-to-7-year- olds to environmentalism, the interconnected nature of ecosystems and political activitism. It also introduces some difficult subjects that may make some children and parents uncomfortable: prejudice ("Women can't do this"), violence ("Wangari blocks their way, so they hit her with clubs") and imprisonment ("They call her a troublemaker and put her in jail").

While Winter's tale simplifies Wangari's story to a basic level, it carries within it an important message, that one person can make a difference. Wangari's simple act of planting a tree translates to an important environmental movement and Wangari receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Children are innate idealists and it is never too early to foster their belief that they can achieve anything.

In keeping with the environmental nature of Wangari's Trees of Peace, the book is printed on 100 percent recycled paper with 50 percent post-consumer waste.

Armchair Interviews says: Book both educates and entertains.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2014
Wangari's story is important, and she is an amazing woman. I always enjoy Jeanette Winter's spare and poetic storytelling.

But here, I find her storytelling flawed. I got this book for my 8 year old when her class was studying Kenya. It was a good fit of topic and tone, except the narrative was incomplete. One page Wangari is getting beaten by the police, then she's arrested and then. . . what?

On the next page "Wangari is not alone. . . " The women are planting trees, but there is no explanation for how long Wangari was jailed, how she got out, how did she get the seeds to the women when she was jailed, what happened to HER? Yes the trees are important, but how (as mentioned in the Author's Note) did she get from jail to being a member of Parliament? The last close-up of Wangari in the book is her face bleeding from the police club. Yes, that did happen and it is important, but it left my daughter with the logical idea that the beating was the last thing that ever happened to Wangari. (The tiny image of her on the last page could, really, be anyone. And there is no explanation for how she got out of jail to be standing on the mountain in that last image.)

My child was wrapped up in the story and felt cheated by the fact that Wangari's story was left incomplete. Yes, the trees are important, but the story of the person who made it happen is just as important, especially to the young children to whom this book is targeted.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2009
I bought this for my 8-year-old niece. She and her mother read it together and really loved it. This is a great story, clearly told. For all our progress on the gender front, girls still need positive female role models, and Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement and Nobel Prize Winner is a terrific one. The story values education but also stresses the importance of putting education to use. Also, the story helps children understand sustainability. Finally, the story stresses how we all need to take part in forging solutions. One person can't fix enormous problems by herself.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2009
Wangari Maathai is an amazing woman - she won a scholarship to attend college in the U.S., became a professor of biology in Kenya, she enabled Kenyan woman to become environmentalists by enticing them with money, and she stood up to the government to elicit needed change to better the lives of her people. The story is powerful and still accessible, written in plain language appropriate for the 4-7 crowd.

That said - word of caution. I wanted to take this to my daughter's school, but there are two pages that make it inappropriate. The book discusses how she was beaten with clubs by police and thrown in jail. Blood is shown coming from her cheekbone. This is a difficult message to give to a 4 year old, conflicts with other messages about police we give them, and will render this book unusable in most classroom environments.

So, I am recommending the book for home use with discussion and sadly not recommending it for school use unless it has been shared beforehand with the parental types.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 2009
We gave this book to both sets of grandchildren, each almost 3 and 4. They love it! One of the almost 3 year olds keeps asking me to read the book about trees, and one of the 4 year olds has now become interested in everything to do with Kenya. She keeps talking about Wangari as if she knows her. The book touched something in the children, as her memoir, Unbowed, did in me. I will recommend it to every teacher, too, as a read-aloud in schools.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 2008
Since this is based on a true story, it is a great way to introduce children to environmental responsibility, as a matter of social justice. Even though women in African cultures are confined to certain roles, Wangari convinces women that they can make a difference in their culture. Wangari teaches them that by planting the seeds that will grow into trees and re-covering their land in green forestation, they are planting seeds of hope in their communities.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Wangari Maathai grew up in Kenya. Under Mount Kenya there were many beautiful trees. She and her mother used to go into the forest to gather wood. She also helped her mother in the garden. Because Wangari was an excellent student, she won a scholarship to a college in America. She lived in the states for six years and when she returned she was shocked at what she saw. Kenya was not the same as it was before. There were no trees to be seen and women were struggling to get firewood for their homes and had to walk many miles to get it.

The birds were gone. Everything was stark and barren. It was enough to make her cry, but she had a plan. She began simply by "planting nine seedlings." From this tiny idea and a few seeds grew an even greater idea. Wangari started a nursery and convinced other women that they needed trees again. "Our lives will be better when we have trees again. You'll see. We are planting the seeds of hope." Kenyan men thought she was a fool and jailed her when she tried to block some cutting. She was alone in jail, yet she wasn't. Would the forests of Kenya return from a small idea and nine seedlings?

This was a wonderful, true life tale of a woman who wanted to save the environment in a small way, but ended up changing the face of a nation. The story and writing are very appealing and the art work is very complimentary. This is understandably a Vermont Red Clover Nominee for the 2009-10 year award. In the back of the book is a brief biography of Wangari, a woman whose spirit you are sure to fall in love with!
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on December 21, 2010
As a young girl in Kenya, Wangari Maathai appreciated the beauty of "the umbrella of trees" surrounding her village. She was also grateful for the bounty these trees and the Earth offered in food and wild animals, for food and shelter, as well as the aesthetic pleasure each afforded. Growing up, she traveled to the United States to attend university. When she returned to her native home lands, she was despirited to find the extent to which the region had suffered from deforestation. With sadness, anger, and determination to do something, she organized other women in her and neighboring villages to plant new trees - sapling by sapling, row by row. "People are fighting over water, over food. We plant the seeds of peace." Not surprisingly, she soon found herself confronting government-backed workers cutting down more trees to make room for an office building. Wangari defied orders to lead her cadre of women out of the way to allow the building to proceed. Refusing, she found herself jailed for civil disobedience. "Right is right, even if you're alone," she reassured herself. However, word of her plight spread "like ripples in Lake Victoria," and government officials relented to the growing pressure to free her. In the end, Wangari Maathai, the women she led, and the many more she inspired planted some 80 million trees in the highlands of Kenya, for which she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. "We were called to assist the Earth, to heal her wounds and, in the process, our own - indeed, to embrace the whole of creation in all its diversity, beauty, and wonder," she said in accepting her well-deserved prize.

"Wangari's Trees of Peace" is written clear language for even very young children to understand. The pictures, inspired by regional folk-art, convey the important messages of the book - the importance of preventing deforestation, fighting for and standing up to one's beliefs, and the value of teamwork - beautifully. I read this book to first- and second graders, and they loved it, able to retell the story with their own pictures. I recommend this book highly, especially for young girls, who will surely find in Wangari Maathai a most worthy role model.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2009
This is an excellent picture book follow-up to the adult version, The Challenge for Africa. It will make students aware that one person can make a difference. It will broaden their awareness of the issues that other countries are dealing with.
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on February 1, 2015
Great topic and nice illustrations, but the prose is terrible and the violent portrayal of being beaten by a club with blood coming out of Wangari's head is definitely not OK for 4-8 year olds. Maybe ok for 8 year olds, but the prose is way younger than that age group.

My daughter, age 5, is terrified of going to jail, so luckily she fixated on the jail aspect and ignored (or blocked out) the blood part. I'm all for social justice and fighting when it's right, but this age group is too young for thinking police will beat them bloody if they stand up for what's right. All that can come in time, but not before they can conceptually grasp that.

Also agree that it was weird the narration left Wangari in jail and never explained how she got out. My daughter quizzed me about that over and over too.

I think the author does not understand how to reach young children, although I like that she started the book when Wangari was a girl.

Despite my reservations, she loved the book and asked to read it 3 times in one day so far.
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