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14 Cows for America

14 Cows for America

4.4 14
by Carmen Agra Deedy, Thomas Gonzalez

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In June of 2002, a very unusual ceremony begins in a far-flung village in western Kenya. An American diplomat is surrounded by hundreds of Maasai people. A gift is about to be bestowed upon the American men, women, and children, and he is there to accept it. The gift is as unexpected as it is extraordinary. A mere nine months have passed since the September 11 attacks


In June of 2002, a very unusual ceremony begins in a far-flung village in western Kenya. An American diplomat is surrounded by hundreds of Maasai people. A gift is about to be bestowed upon the American men, women, and children, and he is there to accept it. The gift is as unexpected as it is extraordinary. A mere nine months have passed since the September 11 attacks, and hearts are raw. Tears flow freely from American and Maasai as these legendary warriors offer their gift to a grieving people half a world away. Word of the gift will travel newswires around the globe. Many will be profoundly touched, but for Americans, this selfless gesture will have deeper meaning still. For a heartsick nation, the gift of fourteen cows emerges from the choking dust and darkness as a soft light of hope—and friendship.

Editorial Reviews

Nicholas D. Kristof
This is a lovely picture book about foreign aid involving the United States and a remote village in Kenya, but it's not what you think…The illustrations by Thomas Gonzalez are beautifully evocative. They show Kimeli in his Stanford windbreaker and running shoes, surrounded by villagers and, of course, innumerable cows. Over and over in the scenes, two spears or two sticks or even two giraffe necks appear in the background, a subtle echo of the twin towers.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
A native of Kenya, Naiyomah was in New York City on September 11, 2001. In his and Deedy's (Martina the Beautiful Cockroach) lyrical account, he returns to his homeland and tells the members of his Maasai tribe a story that had “burned a hole in his heart.” The narrative avoids specifics and refers to the events of 9/11 obliquely as the villagers listen to him with “growing disbelief”: “Buildings so tall they can touch the sky? Fires so hot they can melt iron? Smoke and dust so thick they can block out the sun?” Until they read Naiyomah's concluding note, children may not fully comprehend either his story or the villagers' subsequent actions: the tribe elders bless 14 cows, revered in Maasai culture, and symbolically offer them to the American people to help them heal. Featuring luminous images of the Maasai in vivid native dress and sweeping African landscapes, Gonzalez's pastel, colored pencil and airbrush paintings appear almost three-dimensional in their realism. A moving tale of compassion and generosity. Ages 6–10. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Carolyn Mott Ford
Kimeli returns to his small Maasai village for a visit. He has been studying medicine in the United States and he was there during the attacks of September 11. He tells the story to his people and they try to imagine the tall buildings, the deadly fires and the air dark with smoke and ashes. They want to do something for the American people who suffered in the attacks and when an elder voices that sentiment, Kimeli points out the importance cows have to the Maasai. Kimali asks the elder's blessing on offering his only cow but the elders do more than give a blessing. An American diplomat is invited to visit and a splendid ceremony is held as the Maasai offer 14 cows to America. The story is beautifully told and wonderfully pictured. The illustrator captured the African landscape as well as the sense and the feeling of those months after September 11, when the people of the USA were wounded and sad, without ever showing a scene from that day. Kimeli Naiyomah tells his interesting and heartwarming story in detail in a note at the back of the book. Reviewer: Carolyn Mott Ford
School Library Journal
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.—Rebecca Dash, New York Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah is about to return home, to a small village in Kenya. He has been studying to become a doctor in the United States. Amid a joyous homecoming, the children in the village ask if he has brought any stories. He has only one; one that has "burned a hole in his heart." Naiyomah was in New York City on September 11. In gentle yet piercing present-tense prose, storyteller Deedy introduces readers to a young Maasai scholar who wants nothing more than to help a nation heal. In Maasai tradition, cows are sacred, and Naiyomah asks the elders to bless his cow so he can offer it to grieving Americans. In an incredible show of compassion and strength, other villagers join him. Fourteen cows in all, from one tiny Kenyan village, prove that hope and friendship can cross all boundaries. Gonzalez's saturated paintings, glowing with oranges, reds and browns, radiate a warmth that is matched only by the Maasai's generosity. A stirring, heartwarming tale that made headlines when it happened-and is now, thankfully, preserved on the page for children. (afterword) (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Product Details

Peachtree Publishers, Ltd.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
11.62(w) x 10.00(h) x (d)
Age Range:
6 - 10 Years

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14 Cows for America 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
rsrey More than 1 year ago
Nicholas Kristoff reviewed this in the New York Times and I ordered the book sight unseen. It more than lived up to my expectations. All ages will enjoy it. Beautifully illustrated. Simply and eloquently told.
cgibbs More than 1 year ago
In this nonfiction story, Kimeli journeys back to his childhood Maasai village in Kenya to visit family and friends. Kimeli begins by describing his people and their history of being fierce warriors. He also describes cows as being vital to the Maasai tribe because they feed them and eventually sell them. They care for their cows as they do their children because without the cows the tribe would starve. The villagers welcome Kimeli back to the village with open arms after he has been away at school in New York. Kimeli becomes saddened, however, because he realizes that he cannot stay with his tribe, but has to return to America for school. This leads him to remember New York and a particular September. Kimeli goes to speak with the elders then tells the story of what happened on September 11, 2001 in New York City. His people immediately want to know what they can do to help the people in America, and because the cow is life for the Maasai, Kimeli offers to give his only cow to America. A diplomat from the embassy is contacted and asked to come meet with the tribe do receive Kimeli's cow. After the tribe meets with the diplomat from the U.S. Embassy, the villagers all want to contribute to the gift of 14 cows will be given to America. The story ends by stating that no nation is so powerful that it cannot be wounded, and no group of people is too small to offer comfort. This message is something that children can relate to easily because they can feel quite small at times, but this story shows that even a small group of people can make a difference. The illustrations throughout the text are rich with color and emotion that parallel the story. Most American children will not have been to Kenya, and the illustrator makes the scenes of the country realistic to the reader.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
14 Cows For America is a great picture book (or as I like to call them, everyone book) for perspective taking. It portrays an African tribe's response to the 9-11 terrorist attacks when one of their young tribe members returns from a educational study program in New York. Seeing the passionate response that the tribe has, and their selfless offering of 14 sacred cows hits deep at the emotional core surrounding 9-11. This book provides a unique way for parents and teachers alike to introduce the subject of 9-11 to children, and also talk about looking at the attacks from a different perspective and recognizing the support we received in this terrible time. Beautiful illustrations are powerful- particularly the last one- in which you see a reflection of the twin towers in a tribesman's eye. Simply chilling.
fortheloveofliteracy More than 1 year ago
This book could be used in any classroom at any grade and have an immense impact on the students and teachers alike. The true story of this boy from a village in Africa and the gift that they give to Americans after 9/11 is nothing short of a tear maker. For those who were impacted by 9/11 it would be hard not to shed at tear at the end of this book. And for those who were not here when it happened, this story is a great tool to use in demonstrating the impact that day had on the entire world. The illustrations in and of itself is enough to take your breath away.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An amazing story of empathy from around the globe... a heartfelt, touching gesture and sacrifice offered by the Maasai village to show their solidarity and support of America months after the tragedy of September 11. Beautifully illustrated. The book is a gem for 9/11 discussion in the classroom. Additional resources on website were also very helpful.
Jalfmar3 More than 1 year ago
Every human being on the planet should read this book. As much as Shackelton's Endurance survival story, as much as the effort to return the crew of Apollo 13 to earth successfully, this is the story of humanity at its absolute best. You will weep by the time you have finished reading this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
blu-j More than 1 year ago
This book, while found in the Children's Section, should be read by all readers, young and old. It shows what an impact 9/11 had on the whole world, not just our little part of it. The compassion and sympathy shown by these East Africans for our country's loss is truly amazing. I highly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This a beautifully illustrated and well written children's book that I hope will become a classic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago