Monday, October 3, 2016

A Creation Care Hero

Picture Book: Seeds of Change
Author: Jen Cullerton Johnson
Illustrator: Sonia Lynn Sadler
Summary: This is the beautiful story of Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize winner for her leadership in The Green Belt Movement, an organization she founded to plant trees in Africa. She was the first female from Africa to win this prize. 
This book begins with young Wangari and her mother sitting under the mugumo, a fruit tree her mother explains, that is home to many. 
When her parents recognize Wangari’s intelligence, they send her to school even though she is a girl. She is so successful she travels to America for a degree in biology. 
She returns and becomes a professor of science, very unusual for an African woman. Her country has changed though. New factories have caused much damage and suffering, particularly dire effects from the loss of trees, even the beloved mugumo
Maathai becomes an outspoken critic of these factories and teaches her countrywomen to plant trees, eventually 30 million trees! 
After crossing those powerful in Kenya’s industries, Maathai is imprisoned. There she prays for her faith to be strengthened. Supporters band together for her release, and she comes out of prison determined to fight also for the rights of women prisoners. 
Maathai takes her message to the world and is elected to Kenya’s government where she has even more positive influence on Kenya’s and Africa’s environment.
Hanna’s Comments: On the 7th day of PBT’s Picture Book a Day for a Year, I featured another book about Wangari Maathai, Planting the Trees of Kenya, a 2008 book that also tells this story. Read that post [here]. There are many picture books about Maathai’s story and movement. I decided to feature Seeds of Change because it highlights her personal story. You get an understanding of the importance of trees in her culture, her desire to go to school, her academic success, her passion for women’s rights, her prayers in prison, and how women worked together to plant millions of trees. Youth who are particularly worried about the environment will respond to this powerful story. There is some very general information about Wangari Maathai on the last page of the book. Be sure to tell your audience that Ms. Maathai died in 2011. More about The Green Belt Movement and Wangari Maathai can be found [here]. If this story is too long or complicated for your children, simply tell the story while showing the illustrations. Be sure to give credit to the author and illustrator.
Original Publisher & Date: Lee and Low Books, 2010
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 6 and up, 1st and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Let humans have dominion over all the earth - according to Hebrew Professor Ellen F. Davis: the original word translated into “dominion” means “mastery among” or “working on behalf of”- (Genesis 1:26); God put man in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it (Genesis 2:15) also scriptures about trees (Psalm 1:3, Isaiah 60:13, Jeremiah 17:8)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children, youth, or adults when talking about faith-based heroes or faithful responses to creation care and environmental concerns.