Napoli, D. J., & Nelson, K. (ill.) (2010). Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9781416935056
Annotation: When the women of Kenya have problems, they go to Wangari to solve them, and she has a tree to fix every issue.
Reaction: I love Donna Jo. She has written a lot of fairy tale/mythology retellings that I devoured in high school, so when I saw this picture book sitting on the shelf at the library, I knew I wanted to check it out. This story is pretty simple, in that there’s no major conflict or action, but it is a powerful story of a woman peacefully changing her country by encouraging her people to embrace nature. The tone is very mellow and calm, and the entire story evokes a strong sense of peace and tranquility. It was so nice to read because it had such a calming effect on my hectic day.
Because the story is simple, the art really stands out and shines. Nelson used fabric and oil paint on gessoed board to create the illustrations, and the bright fabrics really bring Kenya to life for the reader. He uses fabrics for everything except the faces and hands of the people, which are so beautifully detailed in rich chocolate brown oil paint. The patterned fabrics add a lot of wonderful texture to the pictures, and I love that he uses them for unexpected things: the green of the seedlings and browns of the fields, plus all the colorful clothes.
This book would well used in 5th or 6th grade social studies, possibly paired with One Hen.
Media Used: Oil paint and fabric on board.