The Story of Environmentalist Wangari Maathai

Lee & Low. Feb. 2020. 80p. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781643790121.
Gr 2-6–Born in Nyeri, Kenya, in 1940, Maathai followed an unusual path for a girl raised in her culture. Her parents allowed her to go to school, and she eventually won a scholarship to attend college in the United States. After earning her doctorate, she returned to Kenya to work as a professor at the University of Nairobi. She became a leader in the Green Belt Movement, an organization of women working to plant trees across the country to fight the harmful effects of deforestation. She served in the country’s parliament and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. Johnson and Sadler originally published Maathai’s biography in a colorful picture book format in 2010. This book’s trim size is meant to appeal to an older audience, and factual sections have been added to provide scientific and historical context. In addition to Maathai’s life, information is presented about the forest ecosystem, deforestation, instructions for planting a tree, and education and the role of women in Kenya. Black-and-white scratchboard, oil illustrations, and photographs are included.
VERDICT There are several picture book biographies available about Maathai as well as biographies for older readers. This combination title targets a specific audience of young readers who need information, but whose comprehension will be supported by the format and visual elements.

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