MAMA MITI

WANGARI MAATHAI AND THE TREES OF KENYA

Napoli adopts a folkloric narrative technique to showcase the life work of Wangari Maathai, whose seminal role in Kenya’s reforestation earned her the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. When, one after the other, women journey to Maathai to seek counsel about scarce food, disappearing firewood and ailing animals, she tells them, “Plant a tree….Thayu nyumba—peace, my people.” Specific tree species and their utility are mentioned in the text and reiterated in a glossary. Nelson’s pictures, a jaw-dropping union of African textiles collaged with oil paintings, brilliantly capture the villagers’ clothing and the greening landscape. The richly modulated oils portray the dignified, intent gazes of Maathai and other Kenyans, and the illustrator’s signature use of perspective suggests the everyday heroism of his subjects. In addition to incorporating the fabric collages (and some whimsy in his animal depictions), the artist newly focuses on landscape, with many double-page spreads depicting undulating fields, distant mountains and a white-hot sky. Deserving of a special place with Claire Nivola’s Planting the Trees of Kenya (2008), this is, in a word, stunning.  (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4169-3505-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2009

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A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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UNDER THE SNOW

A snow-covered countryside may look barren of life, but Stewart’s quiet text takes readers under the blanket of white to “a hidden world” where ladybugs sleep en masse and voles tunnel from tree to tree, where a wood frog freezes safely solid and bluegills and waterboatmen share frigid waters, where a turtle lies buried in mud and “even on the coldest winter days, red-spotted newts dodge and dart, whiz and whirl just below the ice.” Bergum’s equally quiet watercolors spread across the pages in panels that offer cross-sections and magnified details to give readers glimpses of the world beneath the snow. Their precision lends a dignity and beauty even to a sleeping centipede and a barbeled carp. Readers will come away with an appreciation for the adaptability and endurance of the animal world. (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-56145-493-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2009

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