Books Diversified - Rainbow Colours of Literature Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes

[Nonfiction Wednesday] She Who Belongs to the Leopard: Wangari Maathai – The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees


Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2015 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, as well as reading challenges that we have pledged to join this year.

We have just launched our new reading theme for July – August: Diversified – Rainbow Colours of Literature.


Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions Of Trees

Written by: Franck Prévot Illustrated by: Aurélia Fronty
Published byCharlesbridge, 2015
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.


I have been seeing this picture book biography shared by fellow book enthusiasts for quite awhile now, so I was so excited when I found out that we already have it in our public library.

I learned about Wangari Maathai through Donna Jo Napoli and Kadir Nelson’s Mama Miti. It is amazing the many things I learn through picture book biographies. While there are quite a number of books that have been written about this formidable woman who planted millions of trees in Africa, this latest book by Prévot and Fronty has fully captured my heart.


The book begins with a narrator talking about how Wangari changed the face of Kenya and painted it green. Through her gift of languages and powers of persuasion, she managed to rally together many village women to “plant hope for today and forests for tomorrow” and that this book is her story.

In contrast to other PBBs, this one traced Wangari’s roots from the time she was born. As the eldest sister of five siblings, she had numerous responsibilities and was expected to be the second lady of their home and help her mother with numerous chores. It also talked about how her father worked for one of the ruling British colonists, and how her brother’s innocent question led to her eventually attending school at a time when women could hardly even read.


This book is filled with more information about Wangari that I didn’t know about. I felt that I knew her even more as the author provided a glimpse of what she experienced when she studied in the US:


or that time when she was imprisoned because she posed a threat to the authoritarian power of Daniel Arap Moi who, at the time, was the President of Kenya and ruled the land for 24 years:


The impressive thing about this picturebook biography is that while the reader learns a great deal of information, it is presented in such a riveting and lyrical storytelling tone that did not come across as didactic or as if Prévot was lecturing the reader about facts and figures. I felt that both author and artist managed to capture the very essence of this amazing woman who had always known that “a tree is worth much more than its wood.”


Teachers would also be happy to note that there is extensive historical timeline and background information provided on the life of Wangari Maathai found at the end of the book. Definitely one of the bookgems published this 2015.


#nfpb2015 Challenge Update: 34 (25)

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

6 comments on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] She Who Belongs to the Leopard: Wangari Maathai – The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees

  1. I have read the others, too, Myra, but now you’ve convinced me that I should also find and read this one. Great review!


  2. Isn’t this title stunning? I bought it this spring and plan to share with my class later in the year when they have built up some listening stamina (I have a younger group this year) I particularly love that last image you shared – thinking of an art project . . .


  3. Mama Miti was an amazing PB bio,and this one looks as good–I will need to read it. Maathai is such an amazing influence and role model.


  4. I’d read two nfpbs about her and I think I may read Mama Miti too.


  5. So many people have been reviewing books about this incredible woman. My library doesn’t seem to have any yet, I might have to request them!


  6. Pingback: [Our 2015 In Books – Part One of Two] A GatheringBooks List of Outstanding Reads | Gathering Books

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