PLANTING THE TREES OF KENYA

THE STORY OF WANGARI MAATHAI

Laced with gracefully told anecdotes, this picture-book biography examines the work of Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize–winner Maathai, who returned from college abroad to find her country ecologically imperiled. With the shift from small, local farms to large commercial ventures Kenya’s trees were disappearing, women were forced to hunt further afield for firewood and desertification threatened. The story of Maathai’s Green Belt Movement lends itself well to Nivola’s treatment. The often-panoramic scenes of country and village life possess a detailed, näive charm that beautifully explicates Maathai’s social progress as she instructs women, schoolchildren and even prison inmates in the benefits of planting and nurturing trees. In one effective spread, Maathai says to soldiers: “You hold your gun . . . but what are you protecting? The whole country is disappearing with the wind and water.” In the facing painting Maathai stands before a group of attentive, black-capped, red-coated soldiers and gestures to a map of Kenya posted above a cheery row of potted seedlings. This impressive effort will resonate with children. (author’s note, source note) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: April 8, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-374-39918-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2008

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JOHNNY APPLESEED

Though she never says outright that he was a real person, Kurtz introduces newly emergent readers to the historical John Chapman, walking along the Ohio, planting apple seeds, and bartering seedlings to settlers for food and clothing. Haverfield supplies the legendary portions of his tale, with views of a smiling, stylishly ragged, clean-shaven young man, pot on head, wildlife on shoulder or trailing along behind. Kurtz caps her short, rhythmic text with an invitation to “Clap your hands for Johnny Chapman. / Clap your hands for Johnny Appleseed!” An appealing way to open discussions of our country’s historical or legendary past. (Easy reader/nonfiction. 5-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-689-85958-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

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A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy.

ROBOBABY

Robo-parents Diode and Lugnut present daughter Cathode with a new little brother—who requires, unfortunately, some assembly.

Arriving in pieces from some mechanistic version of Ikea, little Flange turns out to be a cute but complicated tyke who immediately falls apart…and then rockets uncontrollably about the room after an overconfident uncle tinkers with his basic design. As a squad of helpline techies and bevies of neighbors bearing sludge cake and like treats roll in, the cluttered and increasingly crowded scene deteriorates into madcap chaos—until at last Cath, with help from Roomba-like robodog Sprocket, stages an intervention by whisking the hapless new arrival off to a backyard workshop for a proper assembly and software update. “You’re such a good big sister!” warbles her frazzled mom. Wiesner’s robots display his characteristic clean lines and even hues but endearingly look like vaguely anthropomorphic piles of random jet-engine parts and old vacuum cleaners loosely connected by joints of armored cable. They roll hither and thither through neatly squared-off panels and pages in infectiously comical dismay. Even the end’s domestic tranquility lasts only until Cathode spots the little box buried in the bigger one’s packing material: “TWINS!” (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-98731-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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