The Story of Wangari Maathai
By Gwendolyn Hooks • Illustrated by Margaux Carpentier$ 19.95
“The book covers aspects of Maathai’s life with clarity, explaining how she went from schoolgirl to biologist to an important environmentalist … Vibrant colors and patterns, along with people playing, working, and planting among the Kenyan landscape, create a strong look … A worthy addition to all biography collections.” —Booklist
About this book
Explores political and environment issues in an inspirational way
This picture book tells the inspiring story of Wangari Maathai, women's rights activist and one of the first environmental warriors.
Wangari began the Green Belt Movement in Kenya in the 1960s, which focused on planting trees, environmental conservation, and women's rights. She inspired thousands across Africa to plant 30 million trees in 30 years and was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
- Explores environmental and political issues in an inspirational way
- Vibrant illustrations from print-maker Margaux Carpentier, one of the featured artists in Taschen's The Illustrator: 100 Best from Around the World
- Narrative non-fiction text by Gwendolyn Hooks, winner of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Children
“In 28 individually titled spreads, this engaging narrative nonfiction picture book relays the life of Kenyan preservationist Wangari Maathai (1940–2011), ‘the first woman to get a PhD in East Africa,’ the founder of the Green Belt Movement, and a Nobel Peace Prize winner who fought for justice. Tracing Maathai’s life, including her childhood and education, Hooks uses elegant yet accessible prose: ‘They became the roots of the movement and their efforts its leaves.’ Carpentier’s saturated geometric illustrations emphasize the bold impact of Maathai’s actions, including her work empowering rural women to plant millions of trees and help rebuild Kenya’s infrastructure, and peaceful protesting that halted construction of a skyscraper in Nairobi’s largest city park. A well-paced profile of an inspiring environmentalist who built a movement. Front matter includes info about Maathai’s inspiration; back matter includes a glossary and an index. Ages 7–up.” —Publishers Weekly
“A solid introduction to an important figure … This illustrated biography of Kenyan environmental scholar and activist Wangari Maathai showcases her intelligence and courage. As a girl, Wangari collected firewood from the forest. In clear streams, she witnessed the life cycle of frogs. She tended her own small garden. And when her brothers asked why she didn’t go to school, her mother said, ‘There’s no reason why not.’ Maathai completed high school and went on to study biology in the United States. When she returned home, she found a changed land. The clear rivers were muddy. The forests were replaced by tea and coffee plantations and desert. Even the sacred fig tree had been uprooted. Maathai saw connections between the absence of trees and the poverty and poor nutrition of children and farm animals. With hard work, outreach, and cooperation, Maathai established a tree-planting movement that made a difference in the landscape and communities of her beloved country. Her political involvement is also detailed in this story: her opposition to environmentally irresponsible government plans and how she joined in protest with other women for the release of political prisoners. Each spread matches several paragraphs on one topic with one or more scenes of stylized humans and animals against extremely bright colors … [T]he story is well structured, and the details of Maathai’s life are fascinating … The arresting figures are engaging, their earth tones set off by pink- and orange-dominated backgrounds.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A variety of picture-book biographies outlining the life of Wangari Maathai have been released over the past 10 years, but Hooks proves that there’s room for one more and that if children don’t know about this inspiring Kenyan woman, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, they should. Breaking two-page spreads into distinct chapters, the book covers aspects of Maathai’s life with clarity, explaining how she went from schoolgirl to biologist to an important environmentalist who started a grassroots movement among Kenyan women, reintroducing trees to a ravaged landscape. Difficulties in Maathai’s life aren’t glossed over, but the ultimate message is one of triumph. Carpentier’s illustrations establish themes early, and readers will be able to locate Maathai at different times in her life by her yellow and teal-blue outfits and by the colorful headbands she wears as an adult. Vibrant colors and patterns, along with people playing, working, and planting among the Kenyan landscape, create a strong look. Useful back matter is provided. A worthy addition to all biography collections.” —Booklist