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From The Asian Reporter, V21, #09 (May 2, 2011), page 16 & 21.
Planting trees, feeding families
The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families
By Susan L. Roth & Cindy Trumbore
Illustrations by Susan L. Roth
Lee & Low Books, 2011
Hardcover, 40 pages, $19.95
By Julie Stegeman
The Asian Reporter
It would be difficult not to become bitter after being locked up because you were of the "wrong" ethnicity at the wrong time. Gordon H. Sato, a Japanese-American teenager, and his family were imprisoned in the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California during World War II. Sato emerged from the experience with the knowledge of how to grow corn in dry and hostile conditions as well as a desire to help his fellow man.
Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore tell Sato’s story in their new children’s book, The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families.
Sato, armed with a doctorate degree in cell biology earned in the years after his internment, discovered a unique way of empowering people to feed themselves.
The cell biologist observed that mangrove trees could live in seawater near freshwater streams. He also found that camels could thrive on mangrove leaves and deduced that goats and sheep — which could sustain a population of people — could do the same.
Using experiments, Sato determined that adding nitrogen, phosphorus, and iron to seawater would allow mangroves to grow. Armed with the new knowledge, he brought the concept to a village in the country of Eritrea, where hunger is widespread.
The Mangrove Tree is organized into two parts. The first details Sato’s work in Eritrea, called the Manzanar Project, using alternating poetry and prose:
Then a scientist had an idea:
to plant mangrove trees
by the shore of the salty Red Sea
so the animals could eat
the fat green leaves of the trees.
An Eritrean village named Hargigo was the first to be transformed from one of constant hunger into a self-sufficient community, all "by planting trees, mangrove trees, by the sea," with the whole village participating in growing the trees and tending the goats and sheep that feed on them.
Accompanying the first part of the book are remarkable mixed-media collage illustrations by Susan L. Roth depicting villagers, mangrove trees, and more in interesting textures and colors.
The second part of the book offers a biography of Sato, accompanied by photographs of the scientist, the people he has helped, and his Manzanar Project — so named "to remind people that it is possible to fight injustice with hope." There are also details of Sato’s continuation of the Manzanar Project in two other African countries, Mauritania and Morocco.
The final pages of The Mangrove Tree include a glossary, pronunciation guide, and websites of interest as well as a list of sources. Sato "believes that large-scale planting of (mangrove) forests would have an enormous positive economic impact on world poverty and hunger." The Mangrove Tree provides a fun, interesting, and inspiring glimpse of the amazing positive change a person can make by overcoming adversity and thinking creatively.
To learn more about the Manzanar Project, visit <www.themanzanarproject.com>.