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Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  632 Ratings  ·  111 Reviews
Through artful prose and beautiful illustrations, Donna Jo Napoli and Kadir Nelson tell the true story of Wangari Muta Maathai, known as “Mama Miti,” who in 1977 founded the Green Belt Movement, an African grassroots organization that has empowered many people to mobilize and combat deforestation, soil erosion, and environmental degradation. Today more than 30 million tree ...more
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published January 5th 2010 by Simon Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
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A beautiful story describing the Green Belt Movement started in Kenya by Wangari Muta Maathai who was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize (2004) for working to revitalize a deforested Kenya.

While the movement was a grassroots movement organized by this woman politician, this picture book tells the story as if Wangari is a town elder who gives advice to women who travel from all over the country for her help. It captures the spirit of the African culture--specifically the Kenyan
Lisa Lathrop
Apr 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
1) This inspiring non-fiction picture book is about Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan political activist who founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977. She in empowered rural women who had started reporting their streams were drying up, their food supply was diminishing and the animals were dying. Maathai's movement revived the country and brought it back to life. Wangari was an educated woman whose efforts pulled together Kenya for the common good and her efforts for peace and change won her the Novel ...more
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
I didn't like Kadir Nelson's illustrations in this book as much as I've liked his illustrations for other books. However, the text was beautiful.
Napoli worked in all the functions that trees have for humans as solutions to problems that women brought to her. Well done! The picture of Wangari as a child with the tadpoles is taken right out of her autobiography, Unbowed. Napoli also linked planting the trees with peace, although the message toward the end that Kenya was at peace wasn't true for a
Lisa Vegan
Well, this is the fourth or fifth picture book I’ve read about Wangari Maathai. I still haven’t read her autobiography or her book about the Green Belt Movement.
Each picture book has its strengths and weaknesses.

This was not my favorite of the books. Its main weakness (for me) was that in the main part of the story, women come to Maathai with problems and each time she tells them to plant trees and explains how the trees will solve their problems. Each time she ends with saying “Thayu numba _ P
Sue Cowing
Sep 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Donna Jo Napoli has told the inspiring contemporary story of Wangari Maathai tree by tree, in the compelling, flawless rhythm of an old tale . Kadir Nelson's fabric collage illustrations deepen the glory of the text. Adult readers will be led to wonder at a true story of social and environmental renewal emerging from an area commonly thought to herald the next worst things in the future of the planet. Child readers will be strengthened in their inclination to believe that very small efforts can ...more
Traci Bold
May 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This picture book is powerful. Mama Miti-the mother of trees knows the true ways of the world and is changing our world tree by tree if we heed her warning and follow her path to plant more trees.

A wonderful story told with the richness and power of a gentle woman who started the 'green belt of peace' in Kenya to be shared with the world.

The illustrations are rich and inviting as well as the text.

Written by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Kadir Nelson and published by Simon & Schuster Books
This isn't my favorite Kadir Nelson illustrated book, but I really liked the story and the illustrations together. Though one of the disappointments of this book and others like it is that it diminishes the achievements of the figure being biographied in order to make a point. Wangari seems like a figure who just knows from wisdom she has to plant trees for specific purposes. But in reality she went to school and had advanced degrees that helped her to spread her knowledge and to be listened to ...more
Sep 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
biography of 2004 Nobel Peace prize winner Wangari Muta Maathai. Gorgeous illustrations by Kadir Nelson. Terrific afterward that provides even more details about her amazing life. The book doesn't reveal the full complexity of her life or work, but it is a good introduction and is visually stunning. Author's note at end describes research process & provides links to gain additional knowledge. (I went back and forth between 3 & 4 stars, and the illustrations are what was the deciding fact ...more
This is a well researched book with beautifully written prose focusing on the later part of Wangari's life. The illustrations are absolutely stunning and are reason enough to include this book in a collection. The combination of printed fabrics and oil paints give each picture such incredible texture and life.
Robyn Davis
Sep 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely love this book. It is a beautiful story of a strong African woman. It has big, beautiful pictures that students would enjoy. It also includes many words and phrases in Swahili, as well as a glossary in the back. A great way to introduce Kenyan culture into your classroom and to link to students from Kenya to help them feel validated.
Sep 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Awesome text, and Kadir Nelson has branched a little by incorporating prints into his illustrations. Beautifully done.
Darin Johnston
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biographies
"Plant a tree."

That's what Wangari Maathai said to the first women who approached her about having "too little food", no job, and no skills. Maathai told her to plant a mubiru mubiru tree and to eat the berries. Another woman approached Maathai, telling her she had to walk hours to find firewood. "What can I do?"

"Plant a tree. Here are the seedling of the mukinduri. This tree makes good firewood. Plant as many as you can."

And so it was with Maathai, suggesting various trees to help clean the wat
Viviane Elbee
Interesting non-fiction book about an environmental leader in Kenya, Mama Miti, who started a Green Belt tree planting movement to counter the ill effects of deforestation in Kenya.

Kids liked the story and the message about how one person & tree planting can change the world for the better.

(I didn't know anything about Mama Miti when I picked up this book. If you're interested in knowing more, the author lists books and internet websites where you can look for more information at the back of
Sarah Levy
Feb 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
People living in peace with nature
Mar 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Mama Miti tells the story of Wangari Muta Maathai, who just died on September 25, 2011. She was a Nobel Peace Laureate - the first African women to win the Nobel peace prize. In awarding Maathai the Nobel peace prize in 2004, the Nobel committee said that her "unique forms of action have contributed to drawing attention to political oppression – nationally and internationally."

Maathai was the first woman in east and central Africa to obtain a PhD. She was also the first woman professor the Univ
Sep 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

One woman. One seed. One hope for the future.
Thayu nyumba -- Peace, my people.

Wangari grew up in the shadow of Mount Kenya listening to the stories about the people and land around her. Though the trees towered over her, she had loved them for as long as she could remember. Wangari planted trees one by one to refresh her spirit. When the women came to her for help with their families, she told them
Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli
This entry was posted on March 5, 2013, in Africa, Earth Day, Education, Picture Books, Teaching and tagged bookreview #kidlit, earthday, kidlit, picture books, YA. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment (Edit)

I came across this gem during a search for books illustrated by Kadir Nelson. I was planning a study of his work as my Black History Month theme this year. As usual, Nelson’s illustrations are absolutely amazing. But the story of “Mama Miti” is also a wonderf
Amy Jewell
Apr 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: multicultural
1.) Text-to-world connection: A text to world connection I found when reading this book is that something as easy as planting a tree or a plant can provide so much-food/drink/shelter. It is wonderful that the woman in this book, Mama Miti, was able to promote gardening and planting throughout her country.

2.) I feel that this is a culturally specific children's book. The story is a true story about woman, Wangari Maathai (Mama Miti) that lives in Kenya. All of the individuals portrayed in the sto
Sam Grace
Wow. Kadir Nelson can do no wrong. These illustrations are deep and many of them I wish I had as prints for my house. The story itself grew on me as I read it, and my favorite part was when there was a different tree suggested for each need. That trees can answer so many needs is a cool thing, as is the idea that you could learn each one. I wish, however, that if each tree was not to be illustrated in the story, that there had at least been simpler drawings of them in the glossary at the back (a ...more
Nov 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Wangari Maathai is an amazing woman who is proof that one person can make a difference. She is the recipient of the 2004 Nobel Peace and founder of the Green Belt Movement, which is a movement that promotes conservation and planting trees in Kenya; a region of the world that’s people were weakened due to depletion of many natural resources from deforestation.

Today I read two picture books on Maathai, someone I had never heard of before, and this one was nowhere near as good as the other. My dau
Jul 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-the-kid, africa
I love this book in theory. The story of one woman empowering other women and revitalizing the native environment of her country- what's not to love? But I also have to judge this on the reception it got from the little critic. Which wasn't so overwhelmingly positive. In fairness, she's three and a half, and perhaps not ready yet. The subject matter and the language may have been a bit "dry" for one as young as her, but I can't ignore that it wasn't hitting the spot for the intended audience. Th ...more
kate and lexi
Mama Miti is a children's book that explains how one woman changed a nation by restoring ecosystems and how that helped everyday people. Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan activist who became the first woman to will the Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the Green Belt Movement, makes an excellent subject. The oil paintings and collage illustrations by Kadir Nelson are beautiful and striking, they seem to make a faraway world more real to readers, integrating African textiles and motifs.

In addition to
Mar 31, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: kenya, picture-books
Kadir Nelson's illustrations are gorgeous and it is worth flipping through this book just to drool over his paintings. The text, unfortunately, leaves much to be desired. While Donna Jo Napoli's prose is poetic, Mama Miiti reads more like a hagiography than a biography. Napoli reduces Wangari Maathai's highly political story to a heart-warming tale of one wise woman helping the poor village women who come to her beseeching aid.

Mama Miti does not mention Wangari Maathai's university education,
Feb 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
An amazing story of Wangari Maathai, the first African American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. Wangari had a love for nature and peace. This is how she transformed Kenya, tree by tree. Each time a village woman came to Wangari seeking help, she gave them a seed and told them to plant the mukinduri trees. Each time, these seeds proved to be the things these women needed for their children, wood for fire, medicine for sick cattle, timber for buildings. After a time, the tr ...more
Jan 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Really I would give the illustrations a five and the text a three. Since I can't do that, I went with the average.

The text ... seemed a little dry for a picture book. Which is kind of sad, because as it turns out it is quite an important story. I had never heard of her before but after reading some of the "afterword" she seems like a really interesting person who has done amazing things.

Kadir Nelson's artwork is very different in this one compared to some of his others but I still LOVED it. The
Mar 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Mama Miti is a gorgeous picture book that tells the story of Wangari Maathai the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Wangari developed a love of trees at an early age. As a woman she was respected for her knack for growing things. Village women would come to her for advice and help. Wangari’s advice always lead to the planting of more trees. Kadir Nelson is the illustrator for this book. The illustrations are a wonderful mixed media collage of printed fabric and oil paintings. The ...more
Jul 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This is an amazing story, filled with practical common sense, a lyrical narrative and gorgeous illustrations. The story is a simple one, with repetitive elements and a short enough length that will keep the attention of younger listeners. It has a flowing and enchanting chant embedded within the tale that is soothing and helps reinforce the feeling that this is an oral history being passed down. And the illustrations are simply wonderful, extensively using fabric remnants to create simple, yet b ...more
Haley Hoenke
#SocialStudies #science #earth
Feb 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is my third book in the past month about Wangari Maathai and while each had contributed in unique ways to my knowledge and understanding of her life, I think this is my personal favorite. I am a fan of Kadir Nelson's artwork, and I found his artwork beautiful and inspiring...I especially loved the illustration on the last page of the people of Kenya. I enjoyed the storytelling and language use in this picture book biography. Wangari is an impressive woman and I have enjoyed learning a bit a ...more
Nicole Cingiser
Mama Miti tells the story of Kenyan activist Wangari Maathai's grassroots initiative to plant trees across Kenya. Maathai, who founded the Green Belt Movement (which focused on environmental conservation and and democratic rights), was an advocate for the women of her country, and encouraged all that she met to plant seedlings in order to reforest the land and help the women's lives to become more sustainable. With informative, lyrical prose and stunning illustrations, this book tells the true s ...more
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From her website:

Donna Jo Napoli is both a linguist and a writer of children's and YA fiction.

Donna Jo has five children. She dreams of moving to the woods and becoming a naturalist. She loves to garden and bake bread.

At various times her house and yard have been filled with dogs, cats, birds, and rabbits. For thirteen years she had a cat named Taxi, and liked to go outside and call, "Taxi!" to
More about Donna Jo Napoli...

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