Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya

Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya

Donna Jo Napoli
Illustrator:  Kadir Nelson 
Picture Book
For ages 5 and up
Simon & Schuster, 2010   ISBN: 978-1416935056

In Kenya, where Wangari grew up, people used to turn to trees in times of trouble. Wangari loved these stories about how trees played an important role in their lives of her people, and when she was an adult and living in a city she “planted trees in her backyard and sat under them to refresh her body and spirit.”

One day a woman came to Wangari and asked her for advice. The woman could find no work in her valley and her family needed food. Wangari gave the woman seedlings for the mubiru muiru tree and told her to plant them. The woman and her children planted the trees, and in the coming years those trees gave the woman and her family fruit to eat.

Another woman came to see Wangari and told the wise woman that she had to walk long distances to find firewood. What should she do? Wangari gave the woman seedlings for the mukinduri tree. “This tree makes good firewood,” Wangari told the woman.

Many women came to Wangari over the years, and each one left with some kind of tree seedling. There were so many kinds of trees, and each kind was useful to the women of Kenya in some way.

This is the true story of Wangari Muta Maathi, a Kenyan woman who helped to bring trees back to a sadly deforested country. Her grassroots efforts to help her people and the environment at the same time had a profound effect not only on Kenya, but on people all over the world who heard her story and who learned her lessons.

With a lyrical text and stunning multimedia art, this picture book is a must for every reader, both young and not so young.