Caldecott Honor Books

caldecott medal

“The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.” From the Website



Caldecott Honor Books

Becker, Aaron. Journey. Candlewick Press, 2013. 40 pages. $15.99 ISBN-13: 978-0763660536

A young girl journeys through magical lands with the help of her red crayon.

Age Range 4-10

Fantasy, wordless picture book

5 out of 5 for quality, 5 out of 5 for popularity.

Caldecott Honor, 2014

Imagination takes us outside ourselves and into beautiful worlds, as it does for a girl, bored of life in an urban city and ready for adventure. Drawing a door for herself on her bedroom wall she enters an enchanting forest filled with lights and a river that takes her to a city full of domed cathedrals and a system of aqueducts. All along the way she travels through the power of her red crayon, making boats, hot air balloons, and a flying carpet. She helps to save a beautiful purple bird who eventually leads her back to her home, but also to a new friend with an imagination to match her own. Without words and full of incredibly detailed and magical drawings, this book tells an adventure story that reminds one of a detailed Harold and the Purple Crayon (which is emphasized even more when the boy she meets in the end has a crayon that is purple). Although the illustrations range from simple to detailed, the geometry and use of color infuse the whole work with emotional content. Any page this book is opened to tells a story and makes it an irresistible book.


Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

Free Fall by David Wiesner

Rainstorm by Barbara Lehman

Book Discussion

  1. Is this book about an imaginary journey or is the girl in a fantasy land that is real to her?
  2. How does the author use color to tell the story?


Great book for pre-readers as it has no words and allows for a lot of interaction. Adventure, Friendship, magic, imagination.


Author website

Author interview


dave the potter

Hill, Laban Carrick. Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave. Illustrated by Bryan Collier. Little Brown and Company, 2010. 40 pages. $18.00 ISBN-13: 978-0316107310

A poem about a slave who made pots and inscribed them with lines of poetry.

Biography picture book, poetry

Age Range: 5-12

4 out of 5 for quality, 3 out of 5 for popularity.

Coretta Scott King Award for Illustrator, 2011

Caldecott Honor, 2011

“To us, it is just dirt…” begins a picture book that imparts the brief things we know about the life of Dave the Potter. Born a slave, almost all the information about him comes from the simple lines of poetry he inscribed on the huge ceramic pots he made. This story is told in poem as well, to further illustrate the power poetry has to describe a life, whether it is telling it autobiographically on pots or historically in a picture book. It is also the story of how pottery is made, clay thrown on a wheel, shape curved with hands and arms. The illustrations are done by Bryan Collier, whose normal collage style is toned down, focusing more on the detail illustrations and using some collage to give the images extra dimension. Especially beautiful are the illustrations of Dave’s hands as they work the clay into a pot. The color palette for the whole work is earth tones, the tans and browns of clay and pottery. This is a unique, beautiful biography of a man who has an unusual place in American history.


Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom By Carole Boston Weatherford

Carver: A life in Poems by Marilyn Nelson

Ellington was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange

Book Discussion

  1. Why is it important that we learn about Dave?
  2. What made Dave different from other slaves?


Author Website

A video showing a pottery vase being made.


william blake

Willard, Nancy. A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers. Illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen. Harcourt, 1982. 45 pages. $16.60 ISBN-13: 978-0812404661

A series of poems in the style of William Blake describe a fantastical inn full or marvelous creatures.

Poetry Picture Book

Age Range: 5 and up

Rating: 5 out of 5 for quality, 3 out of 5 for popularity.

Newbery Medal, 1982

Caldecott Honor, 1982

Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Picture Book, 1982

The introduction tells the story of the author hearing a poem by William Blake as a child and becoming enchanted. In this book, beautifully illustrated with muted earth tones of an old-fashioned style, is Willard’s tribute to her beloved Poet. Clearly written with imagination and fancy, each poem has a different rhythm, but all work to describe some aspect of the amazing inn run by William Blake with the help of tigers, dragons, angels, and the King of Cats. The reader is continually confronted with amazing journeys to the stars, fantastic flying carriages, and dragons making bread juxtaposed against cozy images of Blake at his writing desk or in a study with a warm fire in the fireplace. The city, too, makes appearances, regularly in surreal images of rooftops and rooms clustered among geometric buildings and architecture. The poems are refreshing and feel beautiful and silly and charming, and give nod to Blake’s imagination and need for breaking away from rationality.

“He gave silver shoes to the rabbit

And golden gloves to the cat

And emerald boots to the tiger and me

And boots of iron to the rat.”

The magic and imagination infused in this book make it perfect for reading to children and enjoying alone.


In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

Omnibeasts: animal poems and paintings by Douglas Florian

Red Sings from the Treetops: A Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman

Book Discussion

  1. What do you think this book tells us about the poetry of the real William Blake?
  2. None of the humans seemed surprised by what is happening in the pictures, whoudl you be surprised?

Book Talking

Would you like to visit a place where angels make the beds and dragons bake the bread? Where a nature walk is through the stars? How about if you had to cuddle a bear for a bed?


Author Biography from the Poetry Foundation

A brief movie about the real William Blake



Sydney Taylor Book Award

sydney taylor book award

The Sydney Taylor Book Award is presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience. Presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries since 1968, the award encourages the publication and widespread use of quality Judaic literature. Gold medals are presented in three categories:Younger ReadersOlder Readers, and Teen Readers. Honor Books are awarded silver medals, and Notable Books are named in each category. (From the website

number the stars

Lowry, Lois. Number the Stars. Laurel Leaf, 1989. 137pages. $16.99 ISBN-13: 978-0395510605

Annemarie and her family help their Jewish friends escape German occupied Denmark during World War 2.

Historical Fiction

Age Range 8-13

Rating: 4 out of 5 for quality, 4 out of 5 for popularity.

Newbery Medal, 1990

Sydney Taylor Book Award for Older Readers, 1989

National Jewish Book award, 1990

Annemarie and her best friend Ellen live in Copenhagen during World War II. There are food shortages and no one drinks coffee anymore. While the Germans have occupied the city for some time, suddenly word has come that they plan on relocating the Jews in Copenhagen, so Annemarie’s parents take Ellen in so they can help her and her parents travel across the bay to safety in Sweden. The story is exciting and sweet, the willingness of the young girls to accept the strangeness and learn about courage beautifully told. The story of Denmark, which surrendered to the Germans in World War II to protect its citizens, and the beloved King who still travels around the streets to encourage his people even in times of hardship is very moving. While this is a story about two families, it is also the story of a nation trying to do right, as well as of the resistance movement. The strength of this book is in its simple storytelling and its willingness to introduce children to the hard topics of the holocaust and racism. While the writing is good and the story important, what this book lacks is staying power, I distinctly remember the cover from reading is as a 5th grader, but a couple decades later and my reread was like a first time read. I have fairly good retention for books read and loved that long ago, but perhaps in the effort of taming an incredibly scary and violent story to one that could be read by young children takes away some of its punch.


Saving Sky by Diane Stanley

The Good Liar by Gregory Maguire

Journey to America by Sonia Levitin

Book Discussion

  1. Why does Annemarie choose to accept the limited information she gets from her uncle? Would you have been able to keep from being curious to be safe?
  2. Annemarie did not think she could was brave, do you think she was brave?

Book Talking

Would you be brave is soldiers came into your home and you had to pretend your best friend was your sister to save her life? Annemarie was brave, but she didn’t think so.


Lowis Lowry website

Information about the Occupation of Denmark

Video interview




Deutsh, Barry. Hereville #1: How Mirka Got Her Sword. Amulet Books, 2010. 144 pages.  $15.95 ISBN-13: 978-0810984226

Mirka must fight a talking pig and defeat a troll to follow her dream of being a dragonslayer from a small Orthodox Jewish community.

Fantasy Graphic Novel

Age Range 8-14

Rating 3 out of 5 for quality, 3 out of 5 of popularity.

Sydney Taylor Book Award for Older Readers, 2011

Andre Norton Award Nominee for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2010

Mirka is 11 and lives in a small Orthodox Jewish community with her stepmother, father and pack of siblings. She tried to help her younger brother with bullies and ends up finding a witches house. After stealing a grape from the house, she is attacked by a talking pig who pursues her throughout the week until she is able to defeat him. After helping it she gets help from the witch who tells her how to get the sword that could lead her down her dream path of becoming a dragon slayer. In the midst of this fantasy adventure involving witches, talking pigs and trolls, the story tells details about the Orthodox Jewish faith, what Shabbos looks like and how Mirka’s family relationships are structured, both in their support and in the daily challenges. For me the book’s graphic novel structure makes it more interesting than the story would alone, since the artist does an excellent job of illustrating emotions and expressions of its characters. I also appreciate the religious setting, giving kids interested in comics and fantasy an introduction to perhaps an unknown lifestyle.  I think the cover and description of this graphic novel are irresistible. The unusual mix of adventure, knitting, and family make this very appealing book to recommend.


Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel by Madeleine L’Engle and Hope Larson

Hildafolk by Luke Pearson

Book Discussion

  1. How does this story tell about the life and family of Mirka?
  2. How does the author tie in knitting? Why is knitting important?

Book Talking

How many comic books are about 11 year old Orthodox Jewish girls who fight trolls? What is not to love?


Author interview

2 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Winners


Shange, Ntozake. Ellington Was Not a Street. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004. 40 pages. $17.99 ISBN-13: 978-0689828843

A poem about black men who changed the world told by a little girl who meets them at a party.

Picture Book

Age Range: 5-14

4 out 5 for quality, 4 out of 5 for popularity.

Coretta Scott King Book Award for Illustrator, 2005

The book starts out with a painting of a street sign for Ellington St., under which all the people walk unaware. A young woman is telling of her memory being a little girl in a house through which the great black men of an era came and talked and played and sang. In each picture the little girl in a blue dress looks on while the stately, handsome men laugh and talk overhead. The attendants to the party include W.E.B. Dubois, Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington. The back pages give brief biographies 8 of these men, which is helpful since they are named in the text and shown together in a large family style portrait at the end. The illustrations look stylized and rich, all the people expressive and beautiful as they attend the party in the little girl’s home. There are lovely ties to the girl as a tiny child and a young woman in braids telling a story of her past. The book asks us to remember these men as world changers, not past memories. She wants us to realize the importance of their effect on the world, on each other, and on the children who grew up in their midst. The poem flows beautifully and is a wonderful testament to this rich black history. Looking through it for the first time, I was uninterested, but every time I looked through again I found more and more gems, and found more beauty in the pictures. Although the poem the first time through was a little hard to understand and the references to the men were vague, the biographies in the back helped considerably. This book would be a hard sell were it not for its award.


My People by Langston Hughes, Illustrated by Charles R Smith Jr.

In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall: African Americans celebrating fathers by Javaka Steptoe

Hand in Hand: Ten black men who changed America by Andrea Pinkney and Brian Pinkney

Discussion Questions

  1. How does the artist make this book about people from history into a book that feels like a family?
  2. How does the little girl feel about all these people in her home?


Biography of Ntozake Shange from the poetry foundation

Kadir Nelson Website

Video Interview with Kadir Nelson


Let it shine

Bryan, Ashley. Let it Shine. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2007. 40 pages. $16.99 ISBN-13: 978-0689847325

Coloful illustrations are given to 3 traditional spirituals including “This Little Light of Mine”.

Art and Music

Age Range: 3-8

4 out of 5 for quality, 2 out of 5 for popularity.

Coretta Scott King Award, 2008

ALA Notable Children’s Books, 2008

Ashley Bryan’s art is bright and bold and colorful.  The images are vibrant and stylized collages. The multicolored children dance across the page to songs that are universally sung in Sunday Schools, yet these presentations make them more, giving the songs new life and a fresh perspective. In “This Little Light of Mine” the children each hold a light: flashlights, fireworks, candles, Christmas lights, and flowers. They travel in planes, cars, bikes, and roller skates to spread their light all over. “When the Saints Go Marching In” has crowds of people, each clearly from a stencil, but made unique in color and detail. This song is full of brightly colored flowers, kaleidoscopes of bright shapes. “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” starts with a scene of 8 different cultural buildings in the same collage of bright paper: an igloo, a cathedral, two tepees, three pyramids. The hands, patterned and woven are in each picture, holding people, babies, and lands; protecting and supporting the life filled images. The back of the book contains the musical notations for all three songs. It also contains a note about the historical context of spirituals. Bryan believes in the power of oral storytelling and songs to pass on the history of black people. His books are so beautiful and full of live and vibrancy and rhythm and playfulness. This collage style is stunning, woven together in unique patterns and shapes. I love this book, and picked it up for the bright cover, to find the inside even more impressive.


The Ant and the Grasshopper by Rebecca Emberly

Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A celebration of poetry with a beat. Edited by Nikki Giovanni

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands by Kadir Nelson

Discussion Questions

  1. Why does the illustrator make these pictures so bright? How does that make you feel about the song?
  2. How do you think he made these pictures?

Book Talking

Do you like songs? How many do you know? Here is a book with beautiful pictures along with the songs you may know.


Illustrator Biography from the National center for Children’s Illustrated Literature.

Interview with author

The Mythopoeic Award


The Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature honors books for younger readers (from “Young Adults” to picture books for beginning readers), in the tradition of The Hobbit or The Chronicles of Narnia. Website



Pratchett, Terry. Nation. Harper Collins, 2008. 400 pages.  $16.99 ISBN-10: 0061433012

Mau finds himself on alone on his island after a storm, but as survivors trickle in, he becomes a Tribe Leader.

Speculative Fiction

Age Range: 13 and up

Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction and Poetry, 2009

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Nominee for Children’s Literature, 2009.

ALA Notable Children’s Book for Older Readers, 2009

Printz Honor, 2009

This book has probably the most depressing start of any novel I have ever read. Everybody dies. Mau is left alone on his Nation island while returning home to his manhood ceremony. Also on the island is Daphne, heir to the English throne (although she doesn’t know it), and the two being to communicate and help each other survive intense loss and grief.  Slowly, more island people arrive from neighboring islands in the hopes of help from the once strong, but now nearly extinct Nation. Mau and Daphne must work to help the people and create a new way of identifying themselves. This book is rich with questions of self, of God and of society. It is unusual in that it is an alternative history, set in Victorian times, but having the royal line all died in a plague. The Nation are an imagined people, but having an alternative history set somewhere other than Europe is refreshing. This book is strange in that it deals with issues of God and fate, and the author takes the reader through his own questions that have likely led him to his agnostisism. It is a very well written book, and even though some of the plot points are a stretch, absolutely worth a read.  I was familiar with the other works by Pratchett, and while this one maintains some of his humor, it is clearly a more serious piece.


Raider’s Ransom by Emily Diamand

Troubling A Star by Madeleine L’Engle

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Discussion Questions

  1. What did you think the author was trying to do by having a lost civilization under the Island?
  2. Was there any other way for Pratchett to finish the novel? Why can’t Daphne choose to stay with Mau?


Here is Mau, almost alone on a beautiful tropical islands with a lovely girl and gods that boss him around, but can’t seem to help him figure out how to become a chief without having become first a man.


Author website

Author Interview about the Novel



mountain meets the moon


Lin, Grace. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009. 282 pages. $17.00 ISBN-13: 978-0316114271

Young Minli goes on a journey to find the man in the moon to change her family’s fortune, befriending a dragon along the way.


Age Range 8-12

5 out of 5 for quality, 4 out of 5 for popularity.

Newbery Honor, 2010

Mythopeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature, 2010

ALA Notable Book for Middle Readers, 2010

Minli lives in a poor village with incredibly poor parents. Her father shares stories about magical and wonderful things, but her mother’s bitterness about their life causes Minli to decide to travel to the Man in the Moon to change the family fortune. She finds a tangled dragon and sets him free, giving her a traveling companion. She makes friends with peasants and kings, and a village of people who are always happy. Finally she makes it to the Man in the Moon to ask her question so she can return to her family, who have also been on a kind of a journey waiting and trusting that Minli will come home.

The book has beautiful, simple drawings throughout, and it is an engaging read, full of folklore and magic, but without too much scariness. The read-aloud quality is regularly mentioned by other reviewers, and I think that is because it can be hard to find books that are interesting to listen to without having some mature themes or action. Here is a book that should have won more awards, I think, for its classic feel and wonderful emotional content wrapped up in an exciting story. The cover is appealing as is the illustrative design inside.


Odd and the Frost Giant by Neil Gaiman

Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Discussion Questions

  1. Why did Minli change her question at the end when she got to the Man in the Moon?
  2. What helped her mother lose her bitterness?


Here is a classic read aloud adventure. There are dragons, magical books of fate, evil green tigers, talking goldfish and an old man who controls the red strings of fate.


Author Website

Interview with author


ALA Notable Children’s Books

ala notable

“Each year a committee of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) identifies the best of the best in children’s books. According to the Notables Criteria, “notable” is defined as: Worthy of note or notice, important, distinguished, outstanding. As applied to children’s books, notable should be thought to include books of especially commendable quality, books that exhibit venturesome creativity, and books of fiction, information, poetry and pictures for all age levels (birth through age 14) that reflect and encourage children’s interests in exemplary ways.” From the website

extra yarn

Barnett, Mac. Extra Yarn. Illustrated by Jon Klassen. Balzer and Bray, 2012. 40 pages. $16.99 ISBN-13: 978-0061953385

A young girl finds a magical box of neverending yarn.

Picture Book Fantasy

Age Range 4-9

5 out of 5 for quality, 4 out of 5 for popularity.

ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2013

Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, 2012

Caldecott Honor, 2013

On a walk in the woods Annabelle finds a box of yarn. She knits a sweater, then one for her dog. Since the yarn is not running out, she just keeps knitting, covering her classmates, the townspeople, dogs, trees, houses, cars. When a duke comes and tries to but the box of neverending yarn, Annabelle refuses. He sends robbers to steal it, but when he gets it home, its magic is gone, until it finds its way back to Annabelle.  The book is beautifully and simply illustrated primarily in blacks, browns, and whites, except for the sweaters, which are printed in bulky textures with muted rainbow hues. The story is charming and subtly funny, but it is the illustrations that make this a truly worthwhile read. The faces are simple but expressive, and the scenes well designed, using the whitespace and block printing to excellent effect.  I picked this up because the artist is one I enjoy, his illustrations are funny, but without wackiness that could be offputting. This book was enjoyed by my five year old and all the adults he convinced to read it to him.


I Want my Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Magic Box by Katie Cleminson

Princess Hyacinth by Florence Parry Heide

Discussion Questions

  1. Why doesn’t Annabelle sell her box to the Duke? Would you have sold the box?
  2. Do you think Annabelle will suffer from the family curse?

Book Talking

When you start a project, you know that it will come to an end, don’t you? What if you liked to paint and the paintbrush never went dry? For Annabelle it is knitting, and she finds a box of yarn that never goes empty.


Artist Website

Interview with artist at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Author Website

Interview with book author and illustrator on



crayons quit

Daywalt, Drew. The Day the Crayons Quit. Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. Philomel, 2013. 40 pages. $17.99 ISBN-13: 978-0399255373

A box of crayons send letters to their owner Duncan with hilarious requests.

Comedic Picture Book

Age Range: 4-9

Rating 5 out of 5 for quality, 5 out of 5 for popularity.

ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2014

When Duncan sits down to color, he finds letters from many of his crayons. Red feels overworked, Grey wants to color small pebbles, not just elephants, Blue is used down to a nubbin. Orange and Yellow are fighting over who is the correct color of the sun, Green loves his work, but wants Duncan to make up his mind about the whole sun business so his friends will stop fighting. Peach has been stripped of his paper and feels nude. Each letter is written by the crayon and illustrated with the crayons hopes (Black wants a black beach ball, and not just to be an outline). The voices of the crayons are hilarious and kids will love the humor and the sentiment of crayons with personality. This book is getting a lot of attention, and I looked it up after hearing a number of good reviews. There are some concerns about it, one reviewer suggested that only referencing pink and peach as flesh tones makes this book a bit of ethnic insensitivity. I can see that a little, but not enough to devalue the book, which I fund utterly delightful and hilarious.


Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin

Those Darn Squirrels by Adam Rubin

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown


Book Discussion

1. Why is the blue so tiny? What does Duncan do to help him?

2. What would your green crayon say to you?

Book Talking

What would your crayons say if they could talk? Would they like your pictures, or maybe they would have some things to say about them!


Interview with Author at Kidlit411

Artist Website

Oliver Jeffers: Picture Book Maker

Jane Addams Award for Peace and Justice

jane addams award

“The Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards are given annually to the children’s books published the preceding year that effectively promote the cause of peacesocial justiceworld community, and the equality of the sexes and all races as well as meeting conventional standards for excellence.” From the Website


oney judge

McCully, Emily Arnold. The Escape of Oney Judge. Farrar Straus Grioux, 2007. 32 pages. $17.99

ISBN-13: 978-0374322250

Picture Book Biography

Age Range: 7-12

Rating: 4 out of 5 for quality, 1 out of 5 for popularity.

Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, 2008

Oney Judge is a slave belonging to George and Martha Washington. Although she is treated well by her owners, the reality of her life was one in which her decisions and family relations were not hers to dictate. As Martha Washington talks about her eventual death, she tells Oney that she will be passed on to a relative. Oney is appalled at the fact that she will be forced to separate from her family and work for people who she doesn’t like. The book is filled with many small examples of the ongoing injustices of life as a slave and one feels for Oney when she makes her escape through the resources of local friends. I found it very interesting that because of the status of her owners, her escape had to be kept hushed to an extent that even though they knew where she was, the Washingtons could not really do anything to get her back. The illustrations are lovely and vibrant, giving this interesting story life and movement. The facial expressions are particularly interesting, Martha Washington is often of sour disposition, or totally oblivious.  I am very drawn to the idea of an award for children’s books that emphasize peace and justice, and this one has some themes that are better suited to children that have a bit more experience in the world than a preschooler.

Read Alikes

Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine

Taking Liberty: The Story of Oney Judge by Ann Rinaldi

Book Discussion

  1. Why does Oney run away? How does she manage to stay independent.
  2. One of the reasons Oney resents slavery is the loss of control families have to stay together, yet in order to be free she has to leave her family. How do you think that makes her feel?

Book Talker

If Martha Washington were your boss, you might have a life of ease and prestige, but what if she owned you. What if you could not use you skills or knowledge to pursue your own career or interests? What would you do if you had to choose between freedom and your family?


Author Website

Historical Biographical Note from Mount Vernon

Brief Interview with author at the blog Historically Speaking

 planting trees of kenya

Nivola, Claire, A. Planting the Trees of Kenya: The story of Wangari Maathai. Frances Foster Books, 2008. 32 pages. $18.99 ISBN-13: 978-0374399184

In an effort to overcome deforestation in Kenya, Wangari recruits other women to slowly plant trees, an effort which wins her the Nobel Prize.

Picture Book Biography

Age Range:  5-12

Rating: 5 out of 5 for quality, 3 out of 5 for popularity.

Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, 2009

ALA Notable Book, 2009

When Wangari was a little girl, Kenya was a lush, green, beautiful place. After returning home from pursuing a biology degree in the United States, she finds her home trees gone and the fields and streams replaced with tea plantations. This transition took away the trees families used for firewood and fuel, as well as the gardens used to feed them. Wangari said “When we see that we are part of the problem, we can become part of the solution.” With this in mind she began to organize the local women to plant trees to help hold the topsoil and replace the fields to graze the cattle and goats. She spread her mission and over 30 million trees were planted in 30 years. This story is not only exceptionally inspirational by itself, this telling is simple, moving, and beautiful. Nivola’s illustrations are incredibly detailed, full of color, liviness and beauty.   This author has done other beautiful biographies of strong, environmentally aware women, so I would collect and recommend anything by here, but this book is especially beautiful.


Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya Donna Jo Napoli

The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel

Book discussion questions

  1. Why did Wangari organize women to plant trees?
  2. Who else did she recruit into her work?

Book talking

Are there trees where you live? How about grass and bushes? What if you left and came back and your home was empty of all you remembered being beautiful? What would you be willing to do to make it better?


Interview with author at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast