“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Monday, August 3, 2009

14 Cows for America • Picture book

14 Cows for America
by Carmen Agra Deedy
• Illustrated by Illustrator Thomas Gonzalez · In collaboration with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah
August 2009
Peachtree Publishers • Picture Book Ages 6-10
The big gift of compassion one small Kenyan village made to the American people

14 Cows for America
is a true account of hope and compassion in the presence of tragedy. It tells the story of a young Maasai warrior named Kimeli who was a student at Stanford University in California and visiting the United Nations on September 11, 2001. Deeply saddened by the events of that day, he carried the story to his village in Kenya the next spring. The villagers decided to donate their most precious possession as a gift of healing to the United States. Author Carmen Deedy -- winner of the Pura Belpre Medal award (for Martina the Beautiful Cockroach) -- collaborated with Kimeli to tell this story from his perspective.
Story behind the story:
Carmen was stirred to write this story after reading a newspaper account of the ceremony that took place in June 2002 when the Maasai tribe presented fourteen cows to the American ambassador. She worked on the story for several years thereafter, and finally completed it in 2007.

Carmen then sought out the principal character of the story—Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah—to ask for his blessing before proceeding. Kimeli gave his blessing and accepted the offer to join the project as a collaborator working closely with us in the development of the picture book. He made many important contributions to the work, especially to its authenticity.

Book trailer available here: http://www.14cowsforamerica.com/

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent and reviews are in the works; please check back and click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say.

Note: for some reason, beyond my technological know-how, the cover of 14 Cows is reproducing with a blue cast, instead of the glorious orange sun-reflecting sky. My apologies! Please see Peachtree Publishers or the 14 Cow for America website to see the true cover.


Sandra Stiles said...

This was a beautiful book. The pictures were outstanding and created such emotions. The story itself was so pure that I cried. The selfless nature of these people is a lesson for the world. I gave this book a rating of 5. I can't wait for school to start so that I can share it with my students.

Amy said...

Wow! What a fabulous book! The beauty of the pictures with the touching story was just perfect. I enjoyed this book, and I know my stuents will, too. I highly recommend this book to children and adults of all ages. 5 out of 5.

Amy P.
School Librarian

Rebecca said...

This book made me cry. The story is so simple, and so Thomas Gonzalez's illustrations are beautiful, and knowing that it came from a true occurrence, I just teared up. I have not used it with students yet, but I am definitely going to (If I can read it without crying!). My elementary students are mostly too young to remember that day, and it will be a good, gentle introduction to a discussion about the significance of September 11th, perhaps paired with The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, or a nonfiction book about September 11th. 5 out of 5 Strongly recommended.

Jeanette Larson said...

Oh my gosh. I don't even know where to begin talking about this beautiful book. The story shows such compassion and the illustrations are almost spiritual. I'll be adding it to my reading lists for children's literature students. It gives us a glimpse at another culture but also shows how people from another country looked at what happened on 9/11. The last line of the text says it all: “…there is no nation so powerful it cannot be wounded, nor a people so small they cannot offer might comfort.” Definitely a 5!

Tricia Copeland said...

I strongly recommend this poignant, beautiful book. It conveys a point of view not often seen in children's books. Most American children probably would not even entertain the thought that an African tribe would be so touched by our tragedy that they would give their most prized possessions to help heal our country. This story illustrates the strength and compassion of the Maasai people and highlights our commonalities. A gorgeous book and a touching story. Definitely a 5 out of 5.

D.A. Tyo said...

“Because there is no nation so powerful it cannot be wounded, nor a people so small they cannot offer mighty comfort.” This line from 14 Cows From America was the perfect end to a powerful book.

There are many stories about September 11, 2001, yet none quite like this one. 14 Cows From America tells of the story of Kimeli who visits his Massai village in Kenya. It is nine months after the terrorist attack has taken place. He tells the horrors of September 11 to his tribe. They are moved. Kimeli wishes to offer his only cow to the American people, a gift sacred to the Massai; the cow is life. Kimeli asks the elders for their blessing which they give, but there is more that they wish to do.

I was moved by Kimeli’s story and the gift of the Massai. The story was elegantly told with a richness and powerfulness that matched that of the Massai. The illustrations were colorful and powerful themselves. Twice I was moved by the illustrations. The first was of the picture of Kimeli’s mother welcoming him home. The last bit of text on the page reads, “He thinks of New York then. He remembers September.” My eyes then go directly to the right and down just a touch where the New York skyline is represented behind the illustration of Kimeli’s mother and other tribe members. Perfect placement of text and illustration!

The second time I was moved by the illustrations was on the last page. The reflection of the Twin Towers in the pupil of an eye. Very powerful. Very memorable. Just like this story.

I am a sixth grade language arts teacher. Each year in September, my students and I share stories, poems, articles, and discussions about 9-11. I will be certain to share 14 Cows From America and watch the students learn about the Massai whom seem very different from ourselves yet who obviously are very connected with the hearts and minds of Americans.

I give 14 Cows For America a ‘5’.

Heather Hill said...

14 Cows for America is a simple, yet wondrous story of a gift of 14 cows for a hurt nation. The illustrations also lend more beauty to the already beautiful story.

I loved the story, not only for the generosity of the Maasai people, but also because it is an important story for kids about doing what you can to make a difference in the world for the world...no matter how small the gesture seems to some.

I also appreciated the note and picture of Kimeli, the main character of the story. Readers of the book will further feel connected to him and his story.

I love this book and can't wait to share it. I give it a 5!

Heather Hill, Reading Specialist
Enterprise Elementary
Woodbridge, VA

campbele said...

I have to admit that I was skeptical about this book, viewing it as one more book that presents the tribal perspective of Africa. The thing is, this *is* how the Maasai still live in Africa. They live very traditional lives. And from this story, we learn that they are proud, wise and compassionate African people.

This is a beautiful story/book. At times, the phenomenal artwork has an illuminating effect that lifts the images from the pages and brings them to life while at other times,the foreboding shadows pull us into the darkness the characters are experiencing.

It is touching (what a small word!) to realize how much people around the world wanted to do for America after 9/11. I think of the expression "To whom much is given, much is required" and I realize the many ways we can acquire wealth. As a high school media specialist, I plan to use this book for lessons with my students on 9/11. I think they will re-evaluate their place in the world. I would suggest they also read "Facing the Lion" by Joseph Lemasolai-Lekuton.

zettaelliott said...

Great review, Edi--I'm so glad you brought this book to my attention. There are too few stories from the African continent about Africans *giving* and sharing, rather than relying on others' compassion.

Anonymous said...

This is a simple story with a very strong message. It is a wonderful story that shows how people can help to comfort and heal even from a great distance and in their own unique way. It is all the more moving because it is a true account. Related to a tragic event in out history, September 11, it illustrates that there is much compassion in this world and we all are stronger because of it. This book would spark much discussion of September 11 and how we all can make a difference in the world.

Laura _SPED Teacher said...

A very loveley book. The picutes so a wonderful job at detailing the story. The overarching theme of giving and being selfless was a book that ccan be taught in classroom!

Susan Appleton said...

What a WONDERFUL book! I didn't read any of the descriptions about it and had no idea what it was about. As I read and got to the part where the village gives its greatest possessions to the U.S. out of empathy and kindness and realized that it was in response to the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks, I just was REALLY touched! And then to read at the end that this was a TRUE story, just made me cry! What a beautiful lesson for the reader! I can't wait to share this with my 5th-graders! Thank you for writing such a touching book with beautiful pictures that illustrate this account so magnificently!!! Definitely a 5 out of 5!

Lemon the Duck said...

What a model of compassion for other this book portrays! So many times we read or talk with our students about caring for other that are less fortunate than ourselves and what we can do to show we care. This story shows how people do just that.
At first glance, it appears that these people may be less fortunate than us; they have so few material things, but as you read on you see that they are rich in so many other ways, ways that we could learn from.
The illustrations were rich in color and added another layer to the story.
I so enjoyed reading the back matter and learning more about Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah. What an amazing young man and story.
I rate this book a 5 out of 5.
Laura Backman
Reading Specialist
Author of "Lemon the Duck"

spmdmom said...

What a wonderful book. Carmen Deedy has always been an enthralling storyteller but this combination of a true story with moving illustrations provide the reader with an experience that stays with you long after the book is closed. 5 out of 5

Janelle said...

What an outstanding book! I've shared it with everyone who has entered my classroom. The story is moving and the illustrations are fabulous! Reading this book is like experiencing the continent of Africa in some small way.
5 out of 5

Barbara said...

"But some pains are too big for one chest to carry". The strength we can show in our compassion towards others is exemplified in this beautifully written and illustrated book.

We shared this book with our 6th grade students on 9/11, a day most were too young to have a memory of.


Susan Mello said...

What a beautiful book! The illustrations are amazing and the story just heart wrenching. This would be a great book to use when teaching about compassion and caring in a multicultural way.

Molly said...

This is the story of a young man from Kenya who had been studying in America. He returns to his homeland after shortly after 9/11, telling his Maasai people the tragic story, sending the tribe immediately into action to help. The illustrations in this book are breathtaking. The storyline is simple, yet the lesson is applicable to everyone. The generosity of these people was overwhelming to me. Although this is a picture book, it could certainly be used at all levels. While I was reading, I imagined high school social studies teachers using it as an anticipatory set when reflecting on 9/11. I envisioned written reading responses being attached to the use of this book, as well as a hearty and worthwhile class discussion. I even wrote down several prompts to accompany it for when I present it to high school faculty. Even if not used as a connection to 9/11, this book certainly has implications for use in a character education curriculum. The only thing I found disappointing was the fact that I felt I got more of the story in the afterward rather than in the actual story itself. For this reason, I would give it a 4/5.

Molly Matchak
Jones Library at Hickory High School