We are joining Kidlit Frenzy’s Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge this year. Our book selections would be interwoven with our current reading theme – Buffet of Asian Literature: Makan! Kain Tayo! Let’s Eat where we highlight either Asian titles or books about foodfoodfood! Today, I am glad to find a book that combines both of these: it’s the story of Japanese-American cell biologist named Dr. Gordon H. Sato and how planting trees in a war-ravaged country can help feed and save families.
This very important, deceptively-simple non-fiction picturebook is presented in the format of a cumulative verse ala The House that Jack Built against a backdrop of Susan L. Roth’s stunningly-glorious collage artwork. Each page bleeds into the next with the verse written on the lefthand side of the page and the more detailed factual information presented on the right-hand side margin. The layout and the design of this picturebook is simply gorgeous and well-considered (see below).
This book demonstrates how one man’s simple vision: planting mango trees by the shore of the salty Red Sea – can transform a dry, arid land, such as Hargigo, to a leafy green forest. The mangrove trees not only nourish the land, the leaves also provide oxygen giving people and animals the gift of clean air;
the sheep and goats live longer as they are fed with mangrove leaves; bundles of dry branches are used as fuel for fires that cook food; and local fishermen are able to catch more fish. This is nothing short of an inspiring, amazing book that shows how a brilliant, big-hearted man such as Gordon H. Sato made a world of difference by fighting famine in Eritrea, a country in Eastern Africa. After gaining its independence against Ethiopia in 1993, it became Dr. Sato’s life-mission “to help the people of the war-torn young country.” Where there was darkness and deprivation, Dr. Sato planted seedlings and then there was light, and air, and sustenance.
Teachers would be very happy to note that there is a very detailed Afterword that includes quite a great deal of photographs from Dr. Sato’s project. Interestingly, he named this movement as the Manzanar Project from his experience during World War II when he and his family were taken to the Manzanar War Relocation Center when he was a teenager.
This is where he learned how to feed his family by making corn grow in the dry dusty soil. He stated that he called his work The Manzanar Project “to remind people that it is possible to fight injustice with hope.” This is a great companion book to Donna Jo Napoli and Kadir Nelson’s Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya which we also shared last week. Truly a gorgeous book that deserves a spot in any bookshelf. For teachers who wish to make use of this in the classroom, here is a very comprehensive teaching guide created by Lee & Low.
The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families by Susan L. Roth & Cindy Trumbore. Published by Lee & Low Books, Inc., 2011. Book borrowed from the NIE Library. Book photos taken by me.
Nonfiction PictureBook Challenge: 7 of 25