Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Women Make History

Among the newest biographies being published are amazing stories of women who lived their lives in ways that changed the world. Sometimes the changes alter the way the entire world acts, in other cases, the changes are profound for a few people nearby or occasionally, just one person's life shifts, but it can become a transformation that signals a larger reshaping of a community, a discipline or a culture. Imagine the change you can be!

Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Simon & Schuster, $15.99, Ages 4-8.

Now famous as the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Kenyan Wangari Maathai is also the first African woman to win this award. The founder of the Green Belt Movement to reclaim the damaged land by planting trees to curb erosion, among many other things, Wangari, currently known as Mama Miti – Mother of Trees – grew up in the shadow of Mount Kenya, hearing stories of how the people held ceremonies for peace under sacred trees. As an adult, city dweller, she plants trees to refresh her spirit and remember her family’s roots.
Award-winning author Napoli shares Wangari’s story in a folklore style, showing women and children coming to ask for help, and Wangari offering assistance in the form of giving the women trees to plant, for food, for firewood, for shelter, for medicine, etc. Using the Kikuyu names for the trees and a repeated refrain, Thayu nyumba (translated as “peace, my people”) Napoli’s lyrical text is accompanied by celebrated artist Nelson’s oil paints combined with textiles in vibrant collage illustrations honoring the spirit of the country, people and an amazing woman of many firsts.
This vigorous book with its dynamic faces, strong bodies, energetic colors, and spirited story, introduces a good woman who demonstrates “something we can all do, ‘Plant a tree.’” An Afterword, Glossary and notes from both author and illustrator are included.

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