Seeds of Change

Seeds of Change:  Planting a Path to Peace by Jen Cullerton and illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler Seeds-of-Changeis about the life of Wangari Maathai, a woman whose story is both uplifting and complex.

The book begins with a scene of Wangari’s mother showing young Wangari the mugumo, the wild fig tree, and explaining its importance to both the environment and her culture.

Her brother tells her of the things he learns at school, and Wangari decides she would like to go too. Although it is unusual for a girl to receive an education, Wangari does go to school. In fact she goes all the way to study in the United States and becomes a scientist.

When Wangari returns to Kenya, she find many things have changed. She finds the trees have all been cut down and the resulting environmental damage means that people can no longer grow food for themselves. In a move that is in one hand simple, and in the other incredibly insightful, she encourages the women to re-plant the trees.

Her tree-planting movement grew and flourished as did the trees themselves, but not completely without hardship. Wangari had to overcome harsh political resistance and was even briefly imprisoned. She was released, however, and in 2004 Wangari became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

You will not believe this is Jen Cullerton Johnson’s first picture book. She has done a masterful job of incorporating multiple layers of meaning. She adds important concrete details, such as the feel of the rough bark of the tree, the sounds of the birds, and the things Wangari’s brother taught her from his school. Children can relate to these things. Mothers reading the book can relate to the mothers being able to feed their children. People interested in environmental issues will be encouraged by the message that simple things initiated by a handful of people can make a positive difference in our world. People of many ages and backgrounds will find something that resonates in this wonderful book.

Sonia Lynn Sadler’s illustrations are bright, bold and beautiful. I was not surprised to read that she is inspired by quilts, you can see the influence of warm, colorful, geometric quilt designs on almost every page.

Together the text and illustrations make a fabulous package, sure to sow some Seeds of Change of its own.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Lee & Low Books (June 30, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 160060367X
ISBN-13: 978-1600603679

Book supplied by publisher.


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Anastasia Suen’s Nonfiction Monday page. This week’s post is at Apples with Many Seeds

Three Tree Books

To wrap up our month devoted to learning about trees, we have three older books to consider.

Be a Friend to Trees by Patricia Lauber, and illustrated by Holly Keller, is part of the popular Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out-Science series. be-a-friend-to-treesThe emphasis of this book is how useful trees are. Starting with products and foods we use that come from trees, Lauber then devotes several pages to how many animals need trees for food and homes. Finally she moves to less concrete benefits of trees, such as holding soil and water, and producing oxygen. The last three pages are devoted to simple ideas of how you can be a friend to trees through activities like recycling and planting a tree.

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Collins; Revised edition (January 30, 1994)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0064451208
ISBN-13: 978-0064451208

tell-me-treeWe are huge fans of Gail Gibbons, so of course we picked up her book Tell Me, Tree. We were not disappointed. Gibbons has a huge talent for presenting a wealth of information so simply and logically that you finish the book astonished at all you have learned, whether you are a child or an adult. Starting out with general information abut parts of trees, such as seeds, leaves, bark and roots, Gibbons emphasizes identifying trees. She illustrates the overall shape, leaves and bark of sixteen different trees (although she also identifies leaves and trees throughout the earlier pages as well.) At the end she shows how to make your own tree identification book with pressed leaves, and leaf and bark rubbings. The last page is full of unusual and interesting facts about trees, sure to entice children to want to find out more.

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (April 1, 2002)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316309036
ISBN-13: 978-0316309035

Last, but certainly not least we have A Tree is Growing by Arthur Dorros and illustrated by S.D. Schindler.A-tree-is-growing

This book is suitable for a slightly older audience. The text is a bit more complex and detailed, as it follows an oak tree through the seasons. Along the way are interesting sidebars of other species. Did you know that baobab trees store water in their trunks and actually swell up? I knew saguaros could do that, but not other trees.

When you first open the book, you might be surprised by the darker paper background and more subdued look of the illustrations. It is not the glaring primary colors of a board book. If you stay with it, however, you will begin to realize how the illustrations really capture the actual hues and tones of nature. Schindler’s renderings of tree bark are particularly amazing.

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Scholastic (April 1997)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0590453009
ISBN-13: 978-0590453004

I’m sure you will find each of these books are “tree-rific.”


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Anastasia Suen’s Nonfiction Monday page. This week’s post is at Shelf-Employed.

A Log’s Life

Do you know a young child who loves to look under rocks and roll over logs to check what lives there? A Log’s Life by Wendy Pfeffer, illustrated by Robin Brickman is that kind of experience.A-Log's-Life

Books about the life of a tree often give emphasis to the botanical process of growing and development. Not so many books talk about the importance of the tree, and the log that remains after the tree falls, to the community of animals, plants and fungi around it. This book fills that gap for the youngest reader in an interesting and refreshing way.

The illustrations are unique 3D paper sculptures. They really must be seen to be appreciated, so go to Simon & Schuster where you can browse inside to see for yourself.

I like that the book includes discussion questions and ideas for activities in the back. I have a feeling that in this case they might be redundant, as the text and illustrations are likely to generate plenty of discussion on their own.

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Aladdin (March 6, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416934839
ISBN-13: 978-1416934837


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Anastasia Suen’s Nonfiction Monday page. This week’s post is at In Need of Chocolate.

Life Cycle of an Oak Tree

Angela Royston is a prolific children’s writer, and her expertise shows in Life Cycle of An Oak Tree. She knows exactly what words to use, simply and clearly. She also knows how the story should unfold. In fact, Life Cycle of An Oak Tree is a nice solid informational book rather like an oak tree itself.

life-cycle-oak-tree-1Starting out with an acorn, and following an oak tree through its life cycle until it is hundreds of years old, the young reader learns both about the developmental process and the vocabulary needed to discuss it. The centerpiece of the story is an English oak, which can live for 900 years. What a venerable tree!

Illustrated with clear, colorful photographs, and with a timeline on each page, the book is visually appealing. The summary of the life cycle does skip steps, for example moving from sapling to catkins, but the text makes the steps clear.

For children interested in nature and ready to show off their reading skills, this is great book to give them a firm start.

Ages:  6-8  •  Grade Level:  1-3
Publisher: Heinemann  2010 (2nd Edition)
ISBN: 9781432925314 (1432925318)

Submitted to the July I Can Read carnival, hosted at In Need of Chocolate.