Review: Mama Miti

Posted on March 9, 2010

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Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya
By Donna Jo Napoli
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Book
January 2010
40 pages

Mama Miti means mother of trees. This story is the folktale version of how one woman saved Kenya from deforestation one tree at a time. As a child, Wangari Maathai listened to stories about the old days and learned to love trees. When she grew up, she planted all kinds of trees in her backyard. Poor women came from all over the country to see her and told her their problems. She gave each of them a seedling from the right kind of tree to solve their problem, along with a blessing, “Thayu nyumba – Peace, my people.”

Napoli accomplishes much with this simple tale. She portrays African culture and educates readers about the life sustaining qualities of specific trees. The glossary in the back of the book lists each tree and summarizes its use. The afterword contains a short biography of Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. A note from the author describes the Green Belt Movement which she founded.

Nelson’s stunning illustrations, done with oil paints and printed fabrics on gessoed board, bring African culture to life. Each page is an exquisite work of art depicting the beautiful faces and rich colorful landscape of Kenya.

Mama Miti is both a treasured keepsake and a unique way to show young children about the importance of trees in our environment.

Copyright (c) 2010 by Peggy Tibbetts

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