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Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa Hardcover – September 21, 2008
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From School Library Journal
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A very inspiring story. Illustrations were clear. Text is best in hardcover.Published 4 months ago by Dls
I LOVE this story & the work of Wangari Maathai. Pass it on....Published 13 months ago by Amazon Customer
Such a great book. We read this for a Girl Scout Brownie meeting and the girl's really connected with this story!Published 14 months ago by kristina walker
Beautiful, true story of a powerful woman who should be a role model for us all. It teaches a powerful lesson about the importance of protecting our environment, standing up for... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Megan Strickland
A great story,with beautiful illustrations Made the point that one person can make a huge difference. Girls loved it.Published 15 months ago by K. Waterman
This book is a lovely inspiration based on a true story. The copy I bought is now in the public library of Morant Bay, Jamaica. Please join me in sharing this story in many ways.Published 16 months ago by Reggae Girl
i got this it was way too shorT I would like to be challenged in my reading too easy for mePublished 17 months ago by crodgers
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... Read morePublished 18 months ago by S. Costonis