French children’s-book author Franck Prévot loves telling stories, playing with words, and talking with kids about books. At the heart of his writing is the idea that young people can be change-makers in their communities. “It’s so important to show kids that they are an important and decisive part of humanity,” he told TFK.
Prévot’s latest book, Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees, highlights the groundbreaking accomplishments of Nobel Peace Prize winner and environmental activist, Wangari Maathai. The picture book weaves together Aurélia Fronty’s rich illustrations and Prévot’s words to show readers that having courage in the face of challenge can bring hope to an entire nation.
Prévot talked to TFK about why he chose to write about Maathai, and his hopes for future generations.
Why did you decide to write about Wangari Maathai?
We thought that Maathai was exactly the kind of person that should be honored. She attended school with her brothers in a little Kenyan village, at a time when girls in Africa usually didn’t have this opportunity. She eventually studied in the United States and Germany before coming back home to offer her knowledge and courage to her country and its people.
She fought for human rights and women’s equality in her country. Mainly, she fought to replant trees where big companies, like tea producers and wood merchants, had cut so many of them. She was also elected as Kenya’s assistant minster of environment, natural resources, and wildlife and even won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.
We wanted to write a book to show readers that “young people are a gift to their communities and indeed the world,” in the words of Maathai. And, of course, that everybody can do something to protect forests.
What do you hope kids will learn from reading your book?
If they learn only one thing from reading our book (“Our” because I would never forget the wonderful work Aurélia Fronty did to illustrate my words!), it would be Maathai’s mother’s words: “A tree is worth more than its wood.”
Kids have so many things to offer the world—they are inquisitive, and are so concerned with social justice and the environment. They could sometimes even show adults the way! So I hope that they will learn from reading Maathai’s story that they are right to do so. I hope that this book will give them the desire to never give up when they are confronted with the “there’s no other way” thought.
What do you think kids can do to make a difference in the world?
Kids should grab every opportunity to talk to each other about the best ways to build a society in which people really work together and take care of the environment. After all, this is the most important part of the heritage they will pass down to their children.