A solid introduction to an important figure.

PLANTING PEACE

THE STORY OF WANGARI MAATHAI

This illustrated biography of Kenyan environmental scholar and activist Wangari Maathai showcases her intelligence and courage.

As a girl, Wangari collected firewood from the forest. In clear streams, she witnessed the life cycle of frogs. She tended her own small garden. And when her brothers asked why she didn’t go to school, her mother said, “There’s no reason why not.” Maathai completed high school and went on to study biology in the United States. When she returned home, she found a changed land. The clear rivers were muddy. The forests were replaced by tea and coffee plantations and desert. Even the sacred fig tree had been uprooted. Maathai saw connections between the absence of trees and the poverty and poor nutrition of children and farm animals. With hard work, outreach, and cooperation, Maathai established a tree-planting movement that made a difference in the landscape and communities of her beloved country. Her political involvement is also detailed in this story: her opposition to environmentally irresponsible government plans and how she joined in protest with other women for the release of political prisoners. Each spread matches several paragraphs on one topic with one or more scenes of stylized humans and animals against extremely bright colors. Though the writing is unimpressive, the story is well structured, and the details of Maathai’s life are fascinating enough to merit an attentive read. The arresting figures are engaging, their earth tones set off by pink- and orange-dominated backgrounds. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.5-by-19-inch double-page spreads viewed at 71.8% of actual size.)

A solid introduction to an important figure. (glossary, further information, index) (Picture book/biography. 5-10)

Pub Date: May 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-62371-885-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Crocodile/Interlink

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments.

SUPERHEROES ARE EVERYWHERE

The junior senator from California introduces family and friends as everyday superheroes.

The endpapers are covered with cascades of, mostly, early childhood snapshots (“This is me contemplating the future”—caregivers of toddlers will recognize that abstracted look). In between, Harris introduces heroes in her life who have shaped her character: her mom and dad, whose superpowers were, respectively, to make her feel special and brave; an older neighbor known for her kindness; grandparents in India and Jamaica who “[stood] up for what’s right” (albeit in unspecified ways); other relatives and a teacher who opened her awareness to a wider world; and finally iconic figures such as Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley who “protected people by using the power of words and ideas” and whose examples inspired her to become a lawyer. “Heroes are…YOU!” she concludes, closing with a bulleted Hero Code and a timeline of her legal and political career that ends with her 2017 swearing-in as senator. In group scenes, some of the figures in the bright, simplistic digital illustrations have Asian features, some are in wheelchairs, nearly all are people of color. Almost all are smiling or grinning. Roe provides everyone identified as a role model with a cape and poses the author, who is seen at different ages wearing an identifying heart pin or decoration, next to each.

Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments. (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984837-49-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Sage, soothing ideas for a busy, loud, sometimes-divisive world.

GRANDMA'S GARDENS

In an inviting picture book, Chelsea and Hillary Clinton share personal revelations on how gardening with a grandmother, a mother, and children shapes and nurtures a love and respect for nature, beauty, and a general philosophy for life.

Grandma Dorothy, the former senator, secretary of state, and presidential candidate’s mother, loved gardens, appreciating the multiple benefits they yielded for herself and her family. The Clinton women reminisce about their beloved forebear and all she taught them in a color-coded, alternating text, blue for Chelsea and green for Hillary. Via brief yet explicit remembrances, they share what they learned, observed, and most of all enjoyed in gardens with her. Each double-page spread culminates in a declarative statement set in italicized red text invoking Dorothy’s wise words. Gardens can be many things: places for celebration, discovery and learning, vehicles for teaching responsibility in creating beauty, home to wildlife large and small, a place to share stories and develop memories. Though operating from very personal experience rooted in class privilege, the mother-daughter duo mostly succeeds in imparting a universally significant message: Whether visiting a public garden or working in the backyard, generations can cultivate a lasting bond. Lemniscates uses an appropriately floral palette to evoke the gardens explored by these three white women. A Spanish edition, Los jardines de la abuela, publishes simultaneously; Teresa Mlawer’s translation is fluid and pleasing, in at least one case improving on the original.

Sage, soothing ideas for a busy, loud, sometimes-divisive world. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11535-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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