For Children

Planting the Trees of Kenya

planting the trees of kenyaPlanting The Trees Of Kenya by Claire A. Nivola

The Story of Wangari Maathai: This beautifully illustrated story does not attempt to tackle the wider global problem of the loss of rain forests and the destruction of people's livelihood by logging companies out for profit and the supplanting of food crops by commercial ones. The whole question of the harm done by agri-business must be the subject of quite a different book.

Here the question is asked: Who denuded the forests and fertile fields of the Kenya highlands to leave deserted areas or fields of commercial crops? Wangari, the real life heroine of this story, grew up in what she regarded as an earthly paradise. But when she returned to her native village after studying biology in an American university, she found it transformed and put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the village women.

Her heroic task, which earned her the Nobel Peace Prize and has become legendary, was to organise the women, later joined by the men(!) and, in difficult circumstances, including severe water shortage, to found the Green Belt Movement. Planting trees was its main purpose and also to bring back a sustainable agriculture in order to feed and clothe the people who had become impoverished, hungry and ragged.

They went into schools, prisons, army barracks and the message was always the same: here are seeds, plant them; till and water the soil and plant the old crops that fed you. To the soldiers she pointed out that real defence required "a gun in one hand and a seedling in the other!"
So, in thirty years, thirty million trees have been planted in Kenya, "tree by tree, person by person."

The Sad Book

sadbookThe Sad Book by Michael Rosen

Should children sometimes be confronted with the sad realities of life – and death? Michael Rosen, the well known broadcaster and children's author, portrays his own sadness at the loss of his child – and how he tries to cope with it. In a series of superbly drawn caricatures and poignantly written texts, he takes us through his many moods and activities.
Sometimes he wants to talk to someone about it. His mum's dead so he can't talk to her. He finds someone else. Sometimes he doesn't want to talk about it at all. "The sadness is mine and no-one else's."
He does all sorts of things. No doubt writing books for children helps but, strangely, that's one thing he doesn't mention. Sometimes he's unpleasant and unfair (especially to the cat!). Or he tries to do something he's proud of, or thoroughly enjoys, like watching football on the telly.
What, where, who is sad? he asks. It's everywhere, "it comes along and finds you." Looking at things and remembering things is also part of it: playing with his son (the one who died) birthday parties, especially birthday parties.
The book may depress but it shows the necessity of living with and coping with life's misfortunes. It is well worth a read.
A story to inspire old and young alike. A riveting read.

The Librarian of Basra

The Librarian of Basra

The Librarian of Basra by Mark Alan Stamaty

Tales of war and destruction are many: loss of precious life and of things people hold dear.
This is the true story of one woman's incredible (and incredibly successful) rescue, from the flames of war, most of the books, "more precious to her than gold", from a world famous library, at the cost of her health and almost of her life.

Are books really worth saving at such a cost? She and her neighbours and friends thought so.
How they managed, in war torn Iraq, under the noses of the occupiers and with no help from the authorities, is a thrilling and inspiring saga of courage and fortitude. Fortunately she had a car, but imagine the effort of transporting a library of books, secretly, firstly over the 7-foot wall of a neighbouring restaurant and then to her own little home until there was hardly enough room for them to breathe. Now "she waits and dreams of a new library...but (for now) the books are safe... with the librarian of Basra."
The gorgeously illustrated clear text will delight the hearts of children, stimulate their imagination and – perhaps most important of all – make them hate war.

The Grandad Tree

The Grandad TreeThe Grandad Tree by Trish Cooke

Leigh's brother, Vin, told her that, like their apple tree, "which grew from a seed", granddad was a baby once. As a boy in Jamaica, he went to school and climbed trees. As a man he was a husband for Gran, a father to mum and then a Grandfather to them. "That's life", he told them. Through the changing seasons he was with them beneath that tree, with his violin, playing with them and for them. Things change, things die, like people - like grandad. But memory can keep them alive.
They planted a seed beside their "grandad tree". When they are sad, instead of crying, they water the seed. "It will grow", says the narrator, "it will change – and they'll love it for ever."

Len Goldman

Other childrens' books on trees:
Aani and the tree huggers by Jeannine Atkins
The Tin Forest by Helen Ward and Wayne Anderson
The Cherry Tree by Ruskin Bond
Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree By William Miller


one city two brothers

Illustrations by Aurelia Fronty.

A picture book for children – of all ages from 8 to 80. It's a moral tale but not a dull lecture.

Solomon the Wise, king of Israel, has a story to tell. The moral it contains is not shouted at you and needs no laboured explanation. Two brothers have brought their problem to the great adviser – for advice.

But before he can respond, they start a noisy quarrel about who should inherit the land left behind by their late father. One, probably the elder, claims his "legal rights". The other protests loudly at this "injustice".

The wise one silences them, holds their attention and tells them this story that has been handed down by word of mouth for centuries.

Two brothers have adjoining farms which are, nonetheless, situated in different villages along the riverside. One is married with children, the other is a bachelor. As we shall see, they were very different in character from the two who stood before Solomn. One day, the married brother was thinking things over and was a little worried about his brother.

As he gathered in his corn, he thought of his childless brother, pretty miserable living on his own and with no chidren to care for him in his old age. So he decided to give his brother a pleasant surprise. He picked up three sacks of corn, waited until nightfall and secretly took the corn and put it in his brother's barn. But it was he who got the surprise when he found, next morning, that the three sacks were still there!

I must have been dreaming, he thought and repeated the manoeuvre the next dark night. But the same thing occurred. Perhaps the astute reader has already guessed the reason for this seeming miracle. The other brother had had similar thoughts about his brother with a large family and far more mouths to feed.

It was only on the third night, in the broad moonlight, they met on their mutually generous journeys. This evidence of the love they bore for each other had a lasting effect. They worked together, sowing, reaping and storing together in peace and harmony.

Sickly sentimental? Not a bit of it. On the spot where they met, so it is told, The Temple was built and, later, the city of Jerusalem, today at the heart of one of the world's most bloody and intractable quarrels. Get the point? The two listening brothers did. It is to be hoped that children of all ages, and especially those at the centre of the present conflict, will get it too.

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