WELCOME! Once a month, usually on a Thursday evening, a group of writers, illustrators, teachers and librarians meets in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles to discuss children's books. Usually we talk about one picture book and one middle grade or YA novel. After the meeting, Sandy Schuckett, a retired LAUSD librarian, summarizes our discussion. Here are her reports of our thoughts about the books we have read. We'd love to have your comments too!
Thanks to Nancy Hayashi for our wonderful title art! Our group has been meeting since 2007. It was organized under the auspices of the Children's Literature Council of Southern California (CLCSC).

Thursday, February 13, 2014


At our last meeting we talked about three books, and were introduced to a fourth, about Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize-winning Kenyan woman who was responsible for the creation of the Green Belt Movement, whose goal is to plant trees in Africa.
We thought Wangari's Trees of Peace was a bit 'clunky' but we liked the colorful, almost-primitive illustratons. We felt the book would be useful to introduce young children to Wangari's life and work, but the amount of actual information about her was minimal, and there were many unanswered questions regarding how the men reacted and her time spent in jail.
Some of us loved the illustrations by Claire Nivola in Planting the Trees of Kenya because of their feeling of vastness as they showed how the trees were destroyed and then re-planted in Kenya. We also liked the additional specific information that was provided by the Author's Note at the end. We thought the story was acceptable, and gave good insight into the work that Wangari did for her immediate  community as well as the larger African landscape, and that it provided a good explanation of how important trees are to life.
We all agreed that Kadir Nelson's oil paint and fabric illustrations for Mama Miti were stunning, but we weren't all thrilled with the text. Some said it almost read like a folktale or a myth, and didn't really provide enough detail in the text of what really happened -- especially over a long period of time. We all liked the 'back matter' -- especially the Glossary of the Kikuyu names for the various types of trees, and the explanation of how Wangari's work embodied the idea of harambee, the act of working together for the community.
The fourth book, Seeds of Change, by Jen Cullerton and illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler, was read aloud to us by one of our members. We all agreed that its text actually presented the most information, especially about Wangari's childhood and early life as a young girl, and how she was able to go to school in Africa and then attend college in the U.S. before she returned to Kenya for her 'life's work'. We also loved the colorful illustrations, which were easily clear and visible from a distance when it was read aloud. Many of us thought that the text was a bit too long for a read-aloud, but that a student reading it alone would get a lot out of it. 
One of our members, a school librarian, stated that she had used all four books together with students, and that in this way they could compare and contrast, and they could get the most complete picture of the life of this amazing woman, who, sadly, died in 2011.

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