Mama Miti, and We Planted a Tree

The two books I am reviewing in this post are related to the Green Belt Movement to plant trees in Kenya.  They carry beautiful messages for the  world, and I believe children will find them engaging.  A wonderful way to introduce children to the Green Belt Movement and reforestation.  I also had the opportunity to hear these wonderful authors speak at the 2011 Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Conference in August.

Mama Miti, is a picture book written by Donna Jo Napoli, about Dr. Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Peace Prize recipient, who changed her country by planting trees.  The book is illustrated by Kadir Nelson, who combines oils with a collage of fabrics that vibrantly honor the spirit of Kenya and its people.  This book is simply stunning with an important message for the children of the world.

Wangari grew up listening to the stories of her elders about how the droughts came and dried up the land.  All life suffered.  But the men of her village held ceremonies under the sacred fig tree and the skies blessed them with rain.  It was because of these stories she developed a love and respect of trees and the earth.  When she grew up she planted trees in her backyard.  Over the years women came from far distances to ask the wise Wangari for advice when they were starving,  had sick cows, had dirty water, needed fire wood to cook, or lumber to build strong homes.   Wangari gave the women special tree seedlings which they planted.    Those trees grew, and the women passed along the seeds to their neighbors in their villages.   Word passed from woman to woman throughout Kenya.   Trees that had  once disappeared flourished over time.   Wangari had started a very large movement by planting one tree at a time.   Now, she is teaching the world.    She is known as Mama Miti — the mother of trees.   Her message is one of peace and living in harmony with nature.  Another outstanding book for the classroom.

Note:  Dr. Maathai, a long time activist for reforestation, passed away on Sept. 25, 2011, at age 71.   Napoli’s book is such a beautiful tribute to Dr. Maathai’s life work. 

We Planted a Tree, is written by Diane Muldrow and illustrated by Bob Staake for pres-school to fourth grade.  Written in simple lyrical language, Muldrow’s text  adds to the beauty of the story:  “Fat little buds appeared on the branches…The sunshine went into the buds… And soon they burst open…Everywhere it was pink, and we were dizzy with springtime.”   Award-winning illustrator Staake’s pictures are colorful and inviting.  Again, Muldrow celebrates Kenya’s successful Green Belt Movement with this lovely book.

Two families from different parts of the world plant a tree.  A family in Brooklyn plants a tree in a small backyard while a family in Kenya plants a tree.  As the trees take root and grow, they begin to have an impact on the world.  They anchor the soil,  keep rainwater in the soil so that gardens can be planted, provide shade, help clean the air, provide food for families and animals, and sap for syrup.  The book offers hope to a world faced ecological issues.  An excellent book for the classroom.

 

Copyright (c) 2011,  Patricia Howe Tilton, All Rights Reserved