Monday, May 24, 2010

A Recent Read - Seeds of Change by Jen Cullerton Johnson

Last month, writer and environmentalist Jen Cullerton Johnson gave an inspiring workshop to members of Saturday Writers and dozens of children writers. During Jen's workshop she talked about her book Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace, a story about Wangari Maathal, a Kenyan woman who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 at the age of 64.

At the time of the workshop, Jen's book had not yet been published, but she promised to have her publisher send me a review copy as soon as the book came out. True to her word, the publisher Lee and Low Books in New York, sent a copy last week. Seeds of Change is a beautifuly written (by Jen Cullerton Johnson) and lushly illustrated (by Sonia Lynn Sadler) children's picture book with a powerful message.

The Seeds of Change opens with Wangari as a young girl in Kenya at the foot of a mugumo tree, where she learns from her mother to treasure and protect nature. Wangari is a curious girl and a quick learner. She learns much from her brother Nderitu, who attends school, and Wangari and dreams of going to school herself. At that time it is unusual for a girl to be educated, but Wangari's dreams come true after her parents save up to send her to the local school then later to fruther studies in Nairobi.

Education plants seeds of ideas and opportunities for Wangari, who loves science. She travels to America and and studies to become a biologist. In America, she does more than learn science, she also discovers a spirit of freedom and possibility that she wants to share with others in Kenya. No matter where she travels she carries a part of her family with her and remembers her promise to protect her land.

Cullerton Johnson's accurate depiction of facts, vivid descriptions, and authentic dialogue combine to create an inspiring story about Wangari Maathal, a determined woman whose actions took root in the Green Belt Movement and who became the first African woman and environmentalist to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace, by Jen Cullerton Johnson, Illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler, $18.95, ISNB; 978-1-60060-367-9, Hardcover, 40 pages, Lee & Low Books Ages 6 to 11

Note: While I received a free review copy of Seeds of Change from the publisher, I was not paid to give the book a favorable review.


  1. That sounds like a completely wonderful book! It would be great in my classroom - thanks for the info! :)

  2. Hi Jemi,
    You're welcome. Later this week I plan to post an exercise Jen used in her Nature Writing Workshop, which would be a good to use in a classroom as well.

  3. I really enjoyed Jen's presentation. I'm sure the book is wonderful!


  4. Hi Pat,
    It is a great book. I predict it will get many awards, not only for the writing but also for the subject matter.


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