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Monday, April 19, 2010

Mama Miti, written by Donna Jo Napoli and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. 2010. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"The woman and her children returned home
and planted trees with their strong hands,
one by one. In the years to come, when flowering
season was over, the family ate the shiny round
fruits. They shared with their neighbors, who carried
home the seeds, planted them, and grew their own
mubiru muiru trees."

Such an important message to be shared...Thayu nyumba Peace, my people.

I remember sharing Wangari's story in a previous post. This story has some of the same elements, but the telling is unique and most worthy of your time. As a child Wangari listened to the stories of her people, and grew to love the trees that were part of the elders' tellings. Wangari never forgot her roots, and planted trees in her backyard, knowing they would bring peace to her mind in the middle of the city where she was living. Wangari was wise in her ways and women sought her counsel. One woman did not have enough food to give her family sustenance. Wangari suggested she plant trees that would help to feed her family. Another walked long miles to find firewood for cooking...her travels took so long she had no time to prepare meals. She was counselled to grow her own wood, from another special kind of tree. As each woman did as Wangari suggested, she shared her learning with neighbors and friends.

The women kept coming. Each had a concern, and looked to Wangari for the solution to the problem. Wangari was always ready with sage advice. And she always sent the women away with a wish for peace. As the trees that had been depleted returned to the rural areas where they had once flourished, Kenya became 'strong and peaceful', too.

"Wangari changed a country, tree by tree. She taught her people the ancient wisdom of peace with nature. And now she is teaching the rest of the world."

In creating the artwork for this uplifting book, Kadir Nelson used mixed media...cloth and paint. The effect is stunning. He wanted his illustrations to reflect the beauty of Kenya and the people who live there. He did just that. And he helped to create a book that reminds us that change begins with one person, or one small gesture.

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