Monday, May 11, 2009
The Book Nosher is pleased to join bloggers across the kidlitosphere who celebrate Nonfiction Monday. Some kids prefer to read books about real things, people and places. So once a week, I'll introduce a new (or old) nonfiction book that I find particularly interesting. After all, we can't let fiction have their way every day.
If you're looking for a book that shows how even the simplest act can change the world, then look no further. Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai is a beautifully illustrated book that does just that. It tells the story of Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.
The book begins with Maathai remembering the Kenya of her childhood, a verdant land filled with olive, fig and flame trees.
As a young adult, Wangari left Kenya to study biology in the United States for five years. Upon her return, she was dismayed to find that people had adapted new farming techniques and cut down the trees she remembered and loved from her childhood. The deforestation of the land caused the soil to erode and streams to dry up. She noticed that the Kenyans no longer grew their own food in family gardens. Instead they bought food in supermarkets, which was more expensive and less nutritious.
Wangari realized that the problems she saw all around her stemmed from the trees they were cutting down. Her solution was simple: Plant more trees. She went to the women in the villages and showed them how to collect the seeds from the remaining trees and prepare the soil. She taught them how to tend to the seedlings until they grew strong. As the idea caught on, the women saw the difference in the landscape. The woods were growing again, small farms were flourishing and their families were healthier. Wangari continued to spread the word throughout Kenya by going to schools, and even prisons, with the seedlings.
Planting the Trees of Kenya will make children feel like they can make a difference in the world. The watercolor illustrations are brilliant and invite you to linger a while on each page. The seemingly simple idea of planting trees grew into a national movement, resulting in thirty million trees planted in the last thirty years. Wangari's story will inspire you and your children. They will see how taking small steps towards resolving something that is wrong, can lead to big changes.
BookNosher Tidbits: Planting The Trees of Kenya just won the Jane Addams Children's Book Award. The Jane Addams Children's Book Awards are given "annually to the children's books published the preceding year that effectively promote the cause of peace, social justice, world community, and the equality of the sexes and all races as well as meeting conventional standards for excellence."
BookNosher Activities: Kids love the idea of planting trees. Here are a couple of organizations that have tree-related activities:
Plant-It 2010 is a non-profit organization dedicated to planting, maintaining and protecting as many indigenous trees as possible. For every $1, you can have a tree planted in different locations around the world.
The Arbor Day Foundation has lots of different resources and activities for preschool children on up.