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Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai    by Claire A. Nivola order for
Planting the Trees of Kenya
by Claire A. Nivola
Order:  USA  Can
Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Daninhirsch

I love picture books for children that introduce history in bite-sized pieces, or books that introduce the reader to other cultures. Planting the Trees of Kenya is such a book.

The author/illustrator introduces the winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, Wangari Maathai. Kenya native Maathai left her homeland to come to the United States for college. When she returned after five years, she was distressed to see that Kenya's resources had been drastically reduced. Before she left for America, the landscape was abundant with trees but now, the fields were barren and most of the trees had been cut down, to be replaced with farms.

Native Kenyans were suffering - without trees, there was no grazing for cows, no woods, and the streams had dried up. There was no clean drinking water and no firewood. While people once worked and ate off the land, now, they had to travel greater distances to buy expensive food.

With her university training behind her, Maathai taught the people of Kenya to plant their own trees. Maathai is portrayed as a strong and educated female character who taught her countrymen perseverance, pride, and self-reliance.

Wangari Maathai's story is beautifully told, is just the right length for young readers, and boasts wonderful illustrations that capture the beauty of this African country. Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai will likely lead to many questions from children about the environment and an individual's responsibility toward it.

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