Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya
Written By: Donna Jo Napoli
Illustrated By: Kadir Nelson
Recommended Ages: 4-8
Here is another stunning picture book about Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize (see previous post Planting the Trees of Kenya). In Mama Miti, Napoli tells the story of Maathai and her devotion to the replanting of trees in Kenya.
In this brilliantly illustrated picture book, Wangari Maathai is shown as a wise woman in Kenya with a strong devotion to the environment, and to trees in particular. She grew up listening to stories about her people and the land around her, and became devoted to restoring it to the way it had once been. As her reputation grew throughout the land, other women came to her with their problems, such as too little food, no shelter, difficulties collecting firewood etc. Her wise recommendations always involved the planting of a tree. As she and the other women of Kenya planted trees, the countryside grew strong and verdant again. By 2004, when Mathai received the Nobel Peace Prize, her Greenbelt Movement had planted 30 million trees in Africa.
The illustrations by Kadir Nelson are stunning. They are rendered with oil paints and printed fabrics on gessoed board. Nelson states at the end of the book that he hopes he's "been able to capture the spirit and culture of Kenya, Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement."
I loved Nelson's illustrations so much, that I promptly checked out as many of his books from the library that I could find. Next Non-fiction Monday I'll be posting about two of his sports books. In my opinion, he's one of the best illustrators out there, and I eagerly await his next book.
BookNosher Activities: At the risk of being repetitive, here are two of the activities I wrote about in Planting the Trees of Kenya. With spring on its way, both sites have great activities for young children to participate in.
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.
More BookNosher Activities: Based on Nelson's wonderful illustrations, I think it would be fun to do something with fabric art. Here's a step by step process that one preschool class did in creating African inspired fabric art.
Or for a slightly easier project, you can always create a fabric collage.