Two Black Role Models and the Picture Books that Invited Me to Join Their Stories

My children and I have wanted to grow plants from seeds and saplings for a long time. As the adult, I take full responsibility for the delay.

A lot of knowledge from adults books (and experiences) went into this decision, but the impetus to finally take action was very much consequential to reading a few children’s books: One Love, which I wrote about in a previous post, Wangari’s Trees of Peace, which has been a running favourite in our home for some time, and a book we have just encountered, Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table.

DSC_0312The latter two titles are creative non-fiction books about inspiring, contemporary movement leaders of ecological projects that continue to benefit the earth and its people, and that address the need for resources and food to be shared fairly. In short, they concisely and accessibly communicate the ethics of permaculture – earth care, people care, and fair share – through exampling real achievements of Wangari Maathai and Will Allen.

The books begin with the protagonists’ childhoods so that young readers can relate to the role models firstly as peers, and then intermingle those connections with imaginations and aspirations to grow and achieve, like them. Text and illustrations in the former title concentrate upon women and mothers, since Wangari Maathai worked with an ‘army of women’ to plant trees in Kenya after mass deforestation, and founded the Green Belt Movement which is ongoing after her death. Will Allen facilitated his local community to become farmers, including children and teenagers, and the book depicts young farmers imperfectly well. For example one illustration shows a child’s idle moment sitting propped against a vegetable box. His growing power organisation is expanding, and is currently a national US non-profit.

DSC_0310Wangari Maathai’s story iterates reasons behind the importance of ecological action and provides an inspiring example of achievement including sacrifice. Will Allen’s story shows how a mind focussed upon (experience of) the hard labour aspect of growing and farming, to the point of rejecting involvement, can be turned around by trying it with understanding of how good food improves our meal time experiences. It includes plenty of innovative ideas to inspire readers to become farmers too.

Somehow my long-procrastinated knowledge of my very real ecological responsibility to grow beautiful resources and food has become more attractive and more possible as an interaction with these stories – colourful picture book invitations to become part of good stories about the good work of real people.

red peppers growingWe have finally planted some seeds and potted some saplings.

I am aware that maintenance is vastly more difficult than excited dabbling. So I am grateful for these books that make it easy to remember, learn from, and repeatedly be inspired by these two role models. Who else’s ecological stories would you recommend, that I can access with my children as easily?


Elizabeth_Lymer_photo_biggerI am the author of Religious Rhyme Time, an Abrahamic children’s interfaith book, as well as Islamic Nursery Rhymes. I love eating chocolate while I write, and, with strictly chocolate-free fingers, I also create Muslim and interfaith children’s gifts for book people at my Etsy shop, BarakahBedtimesUK.

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