Title & Author: 14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy
Summary: Kimeli, a young man from a Maasai village in Kenya, returns home after studying in America, bringing with him tales of the 9/11 tragedy. His once-warrior but now peaceful, nomadic culture is stunned by his news, and decides to give their greatest resource – cows – to help heal America heal. With a note from the real Kimeli at the back of the book, this informational and inspiring story will touch anyone.
Reference: Deedy, C. A. (2009). 14 cows for America. Atlanta, GA: Peachtree Publishers.
My Impressions: This book was new to me, and is now going to be part of my personal library. I love nonfiction, especially when it is shared through the lens of a personal story. Thomas Gonzalez’s sweeping illustrations of the African Plains, coupled with Deedy’s sparse yet powerful text make this book one to share as a read-aloud with children of all ages. I am surprised that this book did not receive a Caldecott honor.
Professional Review: /* Starred Review */ “Gr 2–5— Kimeli Naiyomah returned home to his Maasai village from New York City with news of 9/11 terrorist attacks. His story prompted the villagers to give a heartfelt gift to help America heal. Deedy and Gonzalez bring Naiyomah's story to life with pithy prose and vibrant illustrations. Each block of text consists of a few short, elegant sentences: "A child asks if he has brought any stories. Kimeli nods. He has brought with him one story. It has burned a hole in his heart." The suspenseful pace is especially striking when surrounded by Gonzalez's exquisite colored pencil and pastel illustrations. The colors of Kenya explode off the page: rich blues, flaming oranges, fire-engine reds, and chocolate browns. Full-page spreads depict the Maasai people and their land so realistically as to be nearly lifelike. Gonzalez manages to break the fourth wall and draw readers in as real-time observers. The book's only flaw is the less-than-concrete ending: "…there is no nation so powerful it cannot be wounded, nor a people so small they cannot offer mighty comfort" is an important message, but not a particularly satisfying one for children. Fortunately, their questions will be answered by Naiyomah's endnote, and it provides a fitting conclusion to this breathtaking chronicle.”
Reference: 14 cows for America. (2009, Aug. 1). [Review of the book 14 cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy]. School Library Journal, 55 (8), 89. Retrieved from http://schoollibraryjournal.com
Library Uses: This book would be useful in a program not only about the aftermath of tragic events, but also one where children talk about compassion and how to help others.