Rummanah Aasi
 There are many times when I get discouraged by the human race. The circuitous destruction cycle that we bring upon ourselves is disheartening. Our shining moments do happen when tragedy strikes, reminding all of us what is really important as we come together and help each other out in the greatest time of need. In the powerful picture book, 14 Cows for America, we are reminded that no nation or people are invincible to destruction.

Description: An illustrated true story of a gift of fourteen cows given by the Maasai people of Kenya to the U.S. as a gesture of comfort and friendship in the wake of September 11 terrorist attacks.

Review: Teaching about the atrocious events of September 11 in school is a tricky. It is even more difficult in trying to teaching it to elementary school students. Though there have been picture books that allude to Sept 11, never have any of them seem to reflect on these events like 14 Cows for America. The picture book tells the story of a young man named Kimeli who returns to the village where he grew up. Kimeli is Maasai, a tribe that is known for its fierce and brave warriors, and he has been studying in New York to become a doctor. However, the events of September 11th are still with him, and later he tells his people the story of that horror of that particular day. Kimeli tells the elders that he will offer his cow to the people of America. The elders agree, but invite a diplomat from the United States Embassy in Nairobi to visit the village. When the diplomat comes he is greeted with a full ceremony and is presented with not one, but fourteen cows. The cows, who are deemed sacred and never been slaughtered according to an endnote from Kimeli himself, show solidarity, friendship and compassion between two foreign nations. Though they have little or no commonalities between them, we are reminded that despite all of our labels, we are in the end the same: human.
 Carmen Agra Deedy does a good job in explaining the Maasai without sounding condensing or stereotypical. The illustrations by Thomas Gonzalez are eye appealing and fantastic. The choice of colors are vibrant that makes one feel like they are reading a documentary on paper. Though we aren't shown in great details of the attacks, we do get a sense of what happened with the colors of grey, red, and orange streaking the sky, which also provokes our emotions of those terrible images that we can't shake out of our minds. What makes this story in more remarkable is that it is true and the uplifting emotions that it stirs are genuine. 14 Cows for America would be a great addition to any elementary classrooms and children's library.

Curriculum Connection: Social Studies

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 2 to 5.

If you like this book try: September Roses by Jeanette Winter or The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordecai Gerstein.
4 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    I can't even imagine trying to explain 9/11 to elementary school children, so this seems like it would be a fantastic way for parents/teachers to broach the subject when it comes up. Thanks for sharing Rummanah!


  2. Alison Says:

    This sounds like a sweet book. I like that it both deals with 9/11 sensitively and introduces kids to a totally different culture.


  3. BookQuoter Says:

    Great book to review dealing with such a very sensitive issue. I wouldn't have known about it otherwise, so thanks for that.


  4. Jenny: I agree. What I love the most is that this book is about the goodness of the human spirit and how we come together after a tragedy.

    Alison: The book handled the sensitivity of 9/11 and explaining a new culture so well.

    BookQuoter: I've heard about this book a while ago but didn't get a chance to read it until now because it is on the Bluestem Award list for Grades 3-5 in IL. It's definitely worth reading!


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