Here are two great picture books about environmental activists.
“Luna & Me,” written and illustrated by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw tells the story of Julia “Butterfly” Hill, who spent two years living in a tree to prevent the clear-cutting of a California redwood forest. The trees her activism saved are up to 3,000 years old, and Kostecki-Shaw’s illustrations bring to life the entire ecosystem of which they are a part — birds, squirrels, banana slugs — in an enchanting way. I felt as if I was there in the redwoods while reading.
My favorite spread shows Butterfly finding a “magical cave” in the tree’s split trunk.
“It was alive! She found ferns, huckleberry, furry green moss, tiny mushrooms, bugs, chickadees, hummingbirds, chipmunks, and even a fox! ‘Luna!’ Butterfly chirped. ‘You are a forest within a forest! Luna beamed even brighter.’ Butterfly knew what she had to do.”
The story shows Butterfly facing storms and discouragement but ultimately succeeded in getting the forest protected in perpetuity.
I want to hang Aurélia Fronty’s gorgeous, colorful illustrations for “Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees” on my walls. Alongside the images, Franck Prévot’s words tell us how Wangari Maathai started the Green Belt Movement to reverse deforesttion in Kenya. She did more than plant trees and inspire others to plant trees, though. Wangari faced down powerful corporate and government officials to halt projects that would have destroyed more forests and threatened endangered species.
That included standing up against authoritarian president Daniel arap Moi. “She is humiliated, hit, hurt, and imprisoned several times, but she doesn’t give up.”
I would recommend this picture book for a little bit older audience than “Luna & Me,” because the text is longer and more complex. But I highly recommend you add both books to your collection! Both depict women who knew that “a tree is worth more than its wood,” as Wangari’s mother taught her. Their stories offer kid-friendly examples of the real impacts of courage, conviction and commitment to change.