Seeds of Change: planting a path to peace
By Jen Cullerton Johnson
Illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler
picture book biography
“Wangari had an idea as small as a seed but as tall as a tree that reaches for the sky. Harabee! Let’s work together!’ she said to her fellow countrywomen…” (Johnson, page 24)
Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2004, is known for her Green Belt Movement in Kenya, in which she enlisted hundreds of women to plant trees. Together, they worked against corrupt officials and greedy businesspeople to improve the quality of life for all. Seeds of Change: planting a path to peace is the story of Maathai’s childhood as a precocious learner, her studies as a college student, her work with women and children in Kenya and, finally, her outreach throughout the world.
Biography units are widespread in education. Studying Maathai’s biography would be a great connection with studies on environmentalism, social justice, and creating an effective movement. This book also highlights the important work she did as a woman and for women’s rights. The economic benefits for the women planting trees can be examined when looking at the sustainability of the movement itself.
Literature connections can be made with other biographies on Maathai, including picture book Wangari’s Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter and, for high school students and adults, Unbowed, a memoir by Wangari Maathai.
Connections can be made when doing greening up projects and tree plantings, or as a positive approach to studies on deforestation and land-use or natural resource issues. Humans cause damage, but can also help repair it. We can learn much by being inspired, and Maathai does inspire!