They are of different genders, different continents and different centuries. So what do Johnny Chapman and Wangari Maathai have in common? Trees.
Johnny Chapman was popularly known as Johnny Appleseed and dozens of books have been written about him. Of those my favorite is Johnny Appleseed: The Story of a Legend, mostly because I love the illustrations! They are the folksy and friendly creations of Will Moses who obviously inherited his talent from his famous great grandmother, Grandma Moses.
Johnny Appleseed spent his youth in Pennsylvania then migrated to the wild frontiers of Ohio and Indiana. At the time "a written law said every new homestead must plant fifty apple trees. An orchard showed a settler's intention to stay put and work the land. So Johnny figured, apple trees were just what the frontier needed and he'd supply them." Apples provided many uses: "dried apples, apple butter, applesauce, apple pie, apple cider, apple brandy, applejack, apple vinegar and best of all, apples, just tasted so good"
Johnny was commonly the first person a new settler met. If a family was too poor to buy his trees he gave them apple seedlings anyway. He also gave the shirt off his back and the shoes off his feet to those in need. Johnny Appleseed gained a reputation for being kind to all—people and animals. He was not only enterprising and generous but also quirky, lanky, spiritual, an avid reader and a mesmerizing storyteller. In his lifetime he planted thousands of apple trees. Will Moses' book is a great introduction to this good soul.
Nearly a hundred years after Johnny Appleseed died, Wangari Maathai was born to a peasant farmer in the lush central highlands of Kenya. She eventually attended college in America, studying biology. When she returned to Kenya five years later she was aghast to find a nearly treeless landscape. By reading Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai children will learn how an ordinary person can make an extraordinary difference. Wangari inspired women, school children, prisoners and soldiers to plant seedlings. In thirty years thirty million trees were planted in Kenya and the planting continues to this day. The author, Claire A. Nivola, is also the creator of the charming illustrations of this very inspiring book.
Activity: Grow and plant your own tree.