Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Seeds of Change

Seeds of Change

Jen Cullerton Johnson
Illustrator:  Sonia Lynn Sadler 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Lee & Low Books, 2010   ISBN: 978-1600603679

When Wangari was a girl, her mother taught her that that mugumo tree is a special tree that provides many animals with a home and with food. Just like the elephants and the monkeys, Wangari enjoyed eating the fruit from the mugumo tree, and she promised her mother that she, like her ancestors, would take care of the tree.

Though most Kikuyu girls were not sent to school, Wangari’s family decided that their clever and hard working daughter should go to school, and they found a way to make it happen. She learned all about numbers and words, and she loved to learn so much that she wanted to continue her education after elementary school. Wangari’s parents arranged for her to leave the village so that she could continue her schooling in the big city of Nairobi.

Wangari was determined that she would make her family proud, and this is just what she did. She studied hard, went to college in America, and became a biologist. Back in Kenya, she became a professor at the University of Nairobi. She discovered that her people were destroying the land by cutting down trees. “We must do something,” she said, and she set about showing her countrywomen that they could make the land green, fertile, and beautiful again. All they had to do to begin the process was to plant trees.

In this beautifully presented picture book, Jen Cullerton Johnson tells the story of Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan environmentalist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her work in her country. Her Green Belt Movement had a profound effect on the land and on the people of Kenya. Sonia Lynn Sadler’s richly colorful illustrations provide a unique backdrop for this memorable book.