by Jen Cullerton Johnson; illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler
Lee & Low Books, New York, 2010
Description: 40 p. : col. ill. ; 26 cm.
Subject: Narrative nonfiction; biography; Kenya; conservation; environment; women’s rights
Interest Level: 3-6; Reading Level: 4.8
Lexile measure: 820
Awards: Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent in Illustrations; YHBA nominee
4 out of 5 stars
Summary from the publisher: “A picture book biography of scientist Wangari Maathai, the first African woman – and first environnmentalist – to win a Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for planting trees in her native Kenya. Detailed narrative and vibrant images paint a robust portrait of this inspiring champion of women’s rights and the environment and engagingly capture the people, clothing and landscape of Kenya.”
Evaluation: This biography not only tells the story of Wangari Maathai, but also provides information about the culture of the Kikuyu people. The text flows chronologically and reads like narrative fiction. Children will be interested to learn that most women are not sent to school and that big corporations at one time were destroying the Kenyan landscape.
The scratchboard and oil illustrations are visually captivating and match the tone and style of the text. They invoke images of a green and colorful country. The illustration style resembles quilts and will keep the read-aloud listeners engaged.
The author’s sources are listed in the back of the book, along with a brief update on Maathai and the Green Belt Movement. I recommend this book for both independent reading as well as read-alouds.