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For You Are a Kenyan Child
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For You Are a Kenyan Child

3.5 2
by Kelly Cunnane, Ana Juan (Illustrator)

Imagine you live in a small Kenyan village, where the sun rises over tall trees filled with doves. You wake to the sound of a rooster's crow, instead of an alarm clock and the school bus. Your afternoon snack is a tasty bug plucked from the sky, instead of an apple. And rather than kicking a soccer ball across a field, you kick a homemade ball of rags down a dusty


Imagine you live in a small Kenyan village, where the sun rises over tall trees filled with doves. You wake to the sound of a rooster's crow, instead of an alarm clock and the school bus. Your afternoon snack is a tasty bug plucked from the sky, instead of an apple. And rather than kicking a soccer ball across a field, you kick a homemade ball of rags down a dusty road. But despite this, things aren't that different for a Kenyan child than they would be for an American kid, are they? With so much going on around you, it's just as easy to forget what your mama asked you to do!

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Cunnane debuts with this playful, vivid tale that offers a glimpse of a rural Kenyan childhood. "Roosters crow,/ and you wake one morning/ in the green hills of Africa,/.../ Enter Mama's hut/ .../ sip maize porridge to begin the day,/ for you are a Kenyan child." Lyrical prose in the second person asks readers to imagine themselves as the young hero, who finds many diversions to his job of guarding Grandfather's cows (e.g., he chases a monkey, kicks a rag ball with a friend). At each detour, he calls out, "Hodi?" (Anybody home?), and hears, "Karibu!" (Welcome!) in reply; the words skip boisterously across the page in bold typeface. Author and artist convey a nurturing environment, as relatives and friends each offer the boy something (in translated Swahili phrases). The village chief lets him parade around with the "chief stick;" his grandmother gives him fresh sweet "sleeping milk" from a gourd; his gentle grandfather bestows forgiveness. Juan's (The Night Eater) signature wide-eyed characters and animals, and tweaked perspectives seem ideally suited to this exotic yet homespun tale. Blue snow-capped mountains and bright, often patterned clothing contrast against dusty ground painted in splatters of pinks and oranges. Despite the boy's tattered shorts and bare feet, readers will sense the generosity of his village. Meanwhile, his relentless distractions will resonate with children the world over who are prone to put off chores in favor of more exciting exploits. Ages 3-7. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Marianne Mitchell
In this colorful glimpse into Kenyan daily life, a young boy is asked to watch his grandfather's cows. He is glad to do it, but on his way to the fields, many distractions keep him from his task. There are people to greet, animals to see, sweet milk to taste, and friends to play with. Ana Juan's warm, stylish illustrations leap off the page, radiating love of life and family. Readers will enjoy picking out the unique details that highlight the differences between cultures, such as munching on a bug for a snack, or the little bushbaby critter that follows the boy. They will also identify many things they have in common with him, like playing ball or forgetting to do one's chores. The author, Kelly Cunnane, lived in Africa for many years. She smoothly weaves several Swahili words into the rhythmic, poetic text. There are helpful notes at the front of the book about Swahili, including a pronunciation guide and a glossary. The large format of the spreads and text makes this an easy book to share in circle time with children. It will add a warm glow to their appreciation of another culture.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3-Through vivid, descriptive text that highlights the Kenyan countryside and culture, this story about one day in the life of a Kalenjin boy unfolds. "Roosters crow, and you wake one morning in the green hills of Africa, sun lemon bright over eucalyptus trees full of doves." The boy's primary chore is to take his grandfather's cows to the pasture and watch them carefully. However, once he gets them there, he slips away to see who else is awake. From then on, he keeps getting distracted by one thing or another. When he finally looks to where the cows should be, they are not there. His expression is forlorn as he ponders, "Why did you wander? Why didn't you stay and do the job Mama gave you today?" When he meets his grandfather leading the cows on the path home-something he should have been doing-the youngster is contrite. Grandfather simply hands him back his cow switch and says, "Twende nyumbani sasa-Let's go home now." The brilliant, colorful, and humorous illustrations stand out against the white backgrounds and are large enough for group viewing. A gentle story about family, responsibility, and a curious little boy.-Mary N. Oluonye, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A day in the life of a distractible lad, illustrated with almost magical brightness by the reigning Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award-winner. Cunnane invites readers to place themselves at the center of her warm tale of a boy who, sent out to mind his Grandfather's cows, instead turns aside to enjoy a hot chepati from the proprietor of the local tea shop, hares off after a passing monkey, visits the kindly village chief, savors a drink from Grandmother and a sweet insect offered by a neighbor, then kicks a rag ball with a friend until the sun begins to sink. Guiltily recollecting his duty, the boy hurries toward the fields-only to meet his dignified Grandfather quietly bringing the cows in for the night. Smiling brown figures dressed in a mix of modern and traditional clothing fill the foregrounds in Juan's luminous rural scenes, echoing the poetic text's happy tone. Drawing on personal experiences, Cunnane opens with an acknowledgement of Kenya's distinctive tapestry of languages and customs, but then goes on to show qualities in the character, community and play of one particular child of that land that mirror those of children everywhere. A rare excursion, glowing with love and laughter. (glossary) (Picture book. 6-8)

Product Details

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
11.00(w) x 10.50(h) x 0.60(d)
AD760L (what's this?)
Age Range:
3 - 7 Years

Meet the Author

Kelly Cunnane lived in Africa for many years but now resides in Beals, Maine. This is her first book for children.

Ana Juan is the illustrator of Elena’s Serenade, which School Library Journal called “a fascinating adventure that explores issues of gender roles, self-confidence, and the workings of an artist’s heart” in a starred review. Her paintings have appeared on the cover of The New Yorker, on book and album jackets, on film festival posters, and in several European magazines. She is also the illustrator of Frida by Jonah Winter and the author and illustrator of The Night Eater. She lives in Madrid, Spain.

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For You Are a Kenyan Child 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a Kenyan residing in the U.S. and my 10-year-old cousin also from Kenya just borrowed this book from the library and ran to me saying some of the Swahili was wrong. I went through the book and was in total shock by the way the author had totally used words that were out of context. First, I'd like to commend her for writing a book about a Kenyan village and to state that the illustrations are quite good. I am sure she had the purest of intentions when writing it. I cannot claim to have flawless Swahili but having learned and spoken the language since childhood, I can easily identify mistakes. It is unfortunate that there are thousands of children out there reading incorrect Swahili. Her father says the following: 'It is bad that she has placed the wrong meaning of Swahili words in the English context and she ought to have consulted a Swahili scholar or native speaker 'a Tanzanian/Kenyan' so as to write the language correctly. No book would be published in English with incorrect spellings and context and we hope that measures will be taken to correct these errors.' We also believe that the publisher has an obligation to ensure that the books they sell which are geared to millions of people/children are correctly edited by native speakers/scholars of the respective foreign languages. Some mistakes found in the book include: Una taka chepati? = Unataka Chapati? * Chapati is not a pancake, it is a type of flat-round-bread with its origin in India. Jambo, Mzee - Mzee means an old man/elder not exactly respected one as stated. * Mheshimiwa means respected one. Una taka shika rungu 'fly-whisk'? = Unataka kushika rungu? * A rungu is a club, not a fly-whisk, not sure what a flywhisk means in Swahili. Una taka maziwa lala? = Unataka kunywa maziwa lala? * Maziwa lala is not sleeping milk but cultured milk/Natural yogurt. Una taka ndudu? = Unataka mdudu/dudu?. Una taka cheza? = Unataka kucheza?. Kabisa means completely/totally but not 'of course' as implied Most of the people I have spoken to including my friends are in total shock at the incorrect use of Swahili. It isn't right. Once again, we are grateful that such a book exists but hope that the errors will be corrected.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have taught children for a long time, but i have yet to see a book capture their attention as quickly and strongly as 'For You are a Kenyan Child' did. This book makes kids wonder and want to explore the world beyond the class. I recommened it strongly! (Teachers: you never know, you might learn something to)