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Children's Nonfiction Social Activism & Volunteering

Wangari Speaks Out

by (author) Wangari Maathai

commentaries by Laia de Ahumada

illustrated by Vanina Starkoff

translated by Susan Ouriou

Groundwood Books Ltd
Initial publish date
Sep 2023
Social Activism & Volunteering, Composition & Creative Writing, Africa
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2023
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2023
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 9 to 12
  • Grade: 4 to 7


Wangari Maathai was the first African woman and first environmentalist to receive a Nobel Peace Prize.

In 1977 in Kenya, she started the Green Belt Movement. Wangari’s goals had been to use tree planting to restore the environment while providing income and resources to African women. The group’s objectives broadened to the protection of human and environmental rights, civic education, and the promotion of democratic values while valuing the cultural heritage of Africa. The GBM has now planted tens of millions of trees.

In her acceptance speech, Wangari explains that “the state of any country’s environment is a reflection of the kind of governance in place, and without good governance there can be no peace.” The efforts of the GBM and other organizations led to the peaceful transition to a democratic society in Kenya, and the tree became a symbol of the democratic struggle. Her speech is strikingly illustrated and followed by an analysis written by Laia de Ahumada.

The Speak Out series publishes the most inspiring speeches of our times, then deconstructs them to give young readers a deeper understanding of global issues and the power of language to influence them.


Key Text Features

biographical information





historical context


informational note


Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:


Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.


Analyze in detail how a key individual, event, or idea is introduced, illustrated, and elaborated in a text (e.g., through examples or anecdotes).


Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and explain how it is conveyed in the text.


Compare and contrast one author's presentation of events with that of another (e.g., a memoir written by and a biography on the same person).

About the authors


Wangari Maathai is a Kenyan environmental and political activist. She holds a BSc from the United States at Mount St. Scholastica and a Masters degree in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh. She would become the first Eastern African woman to earn a doctorate, when in 1971 she was granted a Doctorate of Anatomy from the University of Nairobi. In the 1970s, Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, an environmental non-governmental organization focused on the planting of trees, environmental conservation, and women's rights. Maathai served as Assistant Minister for Environment and Natural Resources in Kenya from 2003-2005.


Wangari Maathai's profile page

LAIA DE AHUMADA is a writer and researcher. She has a doctorate in Catalan philology and helped create the Terra Franca Association and the Heura Open Center. She lives in Barcelona, Spain.

Laia de Ahumada's profile page

VANINA STARKOFF is a graphic design graduate but discovered that her true passion lies in the world of images and children’s books. Her first book was a finalist in the III Premio Internacional Compostela for Illustrated Books, and she was selected twice as a finalist for the Golden Pinwheel Young Illustrators Competition in Shanghai. She was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and now lives in Brazil.

Vanina Starkoff's profile page

Susan Ouriou is an award-winning literary translator who has translated the fiction of Quebec, Latin-American, French and Spanish authors. She won Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation in 2009 for Pieces of Me by Charlotte Gingras, after first being shortlisted for The Road to Chlifa by Michèle Marineau and then for Necessary Betrayals by Guillaume Vigneault. The Road to Chlifa was also awarded an honour list placing by IBBY (International Board of Books for Youth) as were Naomi and Mrs. Lumbago by Gilles Tibo, This Side of the Sky by Marie-Francine Hébert and Pieces of Me. Necessary Betrayals was also voted one of the 100 best books of 2002 by the Globe and Mail. Another translation, The Thirteenth Summer by José Luis Olaizola, was runner-up for the John Glassco Translation Prize. She has worked as the director of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre and as faculty for the Banff Centre's Aboriginal Emerging Writers residency. She is the editor of the 2010 anthology Beyond Words – Translating the World.

Susan Ouriou's profile page

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