Interview with Jen Cullerton Johnson

jenYesterday I reviewed the enlightening story Seeds of Change. Today I am happy to share my interview with the author Jen Cullerton Johnson. She has published fiction and creative nonfiction in literary journals and leads writing workshops for elementary through highschool students. Her book, Seeds of Change, is about the life and work of Wangari Maathai, Noble Peace Prize Winner and founder of the Greenbelt Movement. Jen has also spoken on Green Literacy, the role of environmental books for children and adults with various organizations such as the EPA and the Green Schools Conference.

1. What inspired you to write Seeds of Change?

Wangari Maathai’s life is incredible. She is an environmentalist, scientist, and women’s right’s activist who inspired her country of Kenya to plant 30 million trees and in doing so helped give women skills to earn a living so they could feed their children. What moves me the most about Wangari’s story is her message of harabee, which means “let’s work together.” We can solve problems if we work together.

2. I noticed in your book you cover more than just the “planting of trees” aspect of Wangari’s life. You cover village life, education for girls, and activism. What did you want your readers to walk away with after reading your book?

I want young people to believe Wangari’s message: “Young people, you are our hope and our future.” Go plant a tree. Know that an idea as small as a seed has the possibility to grow into the tallest of trees. Work together.

3) I understand the book has made a significant impact on the students at Brier Creek Elementary School in North Carolina. Can you briefly tell us about it?

Brier Creek Elementary School wants to give every person in their school community a copy of the book in order for everyone to use it as a springboard to think, talk and act on change. Their music teacher wrote a song. Children designed art.

In the middle of seeking books for their own school, the students decided to donate books to a school in Kenya. Now, we are looking for people to donate copies of Seeds of Change. I’ve listed a link to the Lee & Low blog page for more information.

4. How can people help out?

You can:

  1. Post the [Lee and Low] link on your Facebook [or other social media].
  2. Donate a book
  3. Send us good wishes

5.  Any projects coming up in the future you would like to us to know about?

Yes, I am in the final stages of a new picture book about women in Liberia and then in Fall 2014 I am turning my attention to a totally new area: a memoir about teaching incarcerated youth through gardening called: The Karma Garden.

Wow those are really interesting topics. Can’t wait to hear more about it in the future. Thanks for stopping by.

3 Responses to “Interview with Jen Cullerton Johnson”

  1. I enjoyed this interview very much. Jen, I love the books you are writing as they are of interest to me. I like Wangari’s universal message of harabee, which applies to everything in life. Your upcoming book about the women in Liberia sounds interesting. And, I’m intrigued about the Karma Garden.

  2. This sounds like a wonderful book! I love how it has inspired people to make change!


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