Only the Mountains Do Not Move: A Maasai Story of Culture and Conservation

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A photographic essay about contemporary Maasai—the changes in lifestyle, land, and farming practices they face and how they are adapting to those changes.
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A photographic essay about contemporary Maasai—the changes in lifestyle, land, and farming practices they face and how they are adapting to those changes.
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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Nancy Garhan Attebury
Cooking inside huts, playing stone games in the dirt, and brushing teeth with a tip of a twig are some of the daily activities of the Maasi people in Africa. In this book, the author/photographer captures the peaceful way of life these people have and gently helps the reader learn about a new culture. Maasi proverbs, or sayings passed down from generation to generation, are sprinkled throughout. They help paint a picture of caring, hard-working people who try to conserve the natural resources they have, in an effort to live like they have in the past. The narrative flows well and shows that the author/photographer has done extensive research with the people. In fact, she lived with the people in this village while she gathered information. Vibrant photos of the people, their village, domestic and wild animals are appealing. A map at the front of the book, author's notes, a glossary with pronunciation guide, and a website about children helping children accompany the main body of text. This enticing nonfiction book is an excellent supplement to social study lessons about people in the world. Reviewer: Nancy Garhan Attebury
School Library Journal
Gr 3–6—Traditionally the Maasai lived a nomadic life as herders in East Africa. Moving their goats and cows to graze in different areas, members of the tribe existed in harmony with animals such as giraffes and elephants. However, severe droughts and the establishment of wildlife preserves have reduced available grazing lands. Reynolds documents the ways in which members of the Il Ngwesi tribe in Kenya have responded. Her text and excellent-quality photos introduce the daily lives of men, women, and children. She shows how traditional roles and ceremonies exist alongside adaptations such as growing crops, cultivating wild bees, and guiding tourists to see animals in natural habitats. Although the Maasai proverbs Reynolds includes hint at a positive outcome, the people face ongoing challenges from environmental and political forces. This thought-provoking photo essay reveals a culture in the midst of change.—Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University, Mankato
Publishers Weekly
Reynolds’s compelling portrait of Maasai culture centers on the Il Ngwesi tribe in Kenya. Through straightforward descriptions (“The Maasai do not count their animals. They know each one by sight”) and large, color photographs, readers learn intimate details of the Il Ngwesi people—for example, that they sleep on wooden beds covered in animal skins, and that all members of the tribe, including children, have chores to do before playing games or making brightly beaded jewelry. Reynolds also discusses the Maasai’s dependence upon their animals and the effects of climate change and restricted land use on their way of life. A thought-provoking look at a culture that is peaceful and industrious, and which holds onto tradition while facing the future. Ages 6–11. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews

Six Maasai proverbs complement glimpses into the daily life of a Maasai community in a compact and fascinating portrait of this nomadic people and their changing world.

Reynolds describes in photographs and text how, in an area about the size of Oregon, the Maasai herd goats and cows as they have traditionally done and also increasingly adapt to changes in the environment and availability of grazing land and water. Farming and beekeeping are shown as examples of new Maasai ways of subsistence that may help restore health to the land that supports wild animals. The Maasai's respect and care for wild animals—they do not hunt them for food—and for the environment comes through clearly. The straightforward and economical text explains the construction of the huts, the use and importance of the livestock and the responsibilities, games and social traditions of girls and of boys within the group. The dozens of photographs inside and on the cover are excellent, with only two—peering inside anenjaki, or hut—a bit dim. An author's note discusses in a more personal voice the importance of Maasai storytelling and explains the effect that wildlife preserves—where not even leopards are truly wild—have on the natural order that the Maasai seek to restore.

A revealing look at a vibrant and distinct culture. (author's note, glossary, source notes)(Nonfiction. 7-11)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781600608445
  • Publisher: Lee & Low Books, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/1/2011
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 395,160
  • Age range: 6 - 9 Years
  • Lexile: 990L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Jan Reynolds is an award-winning author and photographer whose work has appeared in numerous publications, including National Geographic, The New York Times, and Outside magazine. All seven books in her Vanishing Cultures series of photo-essays for children were recognized as Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People. Reynolds is also an avid skier, mountain climber, and adventurer. She holds the world record for women's high altitude skiing, was part of the first expedition to circumnavigate Mount Everest, and performed a solo crossing of the Himalayas. Reynolds lives with her family in Stowe, Vermont.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 3, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Review title: Conservation & Care. Readers will be treated t

    Review title: Conservation & Care.
    Readers will be treated to new vocabulary from the Maasai culture. For example, words like enkajis, enkang, moran, bao, and sansevieria. Also, learn about creating a balance between the land and the animals. *Informative. *Educational. *Great for cultural awareness. Enjoy the insightful way the people adopt to life in the modern world and find solutions to live more sustainably. A quote from the book: "A new idea follows an old one." - Maasai Proverb.

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  • Posted January 24, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    What a great peak into the Maasai way of life!

    I was surprised to see this book and I didn't hesitate to request it from NetGalley. The Maasai insist on continuing their culture despite everything and everyone and I love that about them.

    When I studied Linguistics at the University of Oregon, SIL brought a Maasai over for us to learn aspects of their language. I focused on their numbering system, which is based on the livestock. I will never forget hearing the pounding in our ceiling and running up to the guy's hall to see what was going on and finding our Maasai friend showing his roomates how to do the Maasai leap.

    I read this book with a specific picture of the their culture in my head from our friend's stories. Many of the things in the book resonated true with me. A family took the author in and showed her a lot of their life.

    Some of the book is obviously "nice" keeping it kid-friendly. There is mention of cow dung used in the mud for the huts, but it is discreet compared to what I had heard, which is good. :-) She was similarly discreet regarding their food. She mentions drinking blood, but only in the Author's Note at the back. The danger of the wild African landscape is also downplayed. The women travel in groups and the men are skilled with their spears, but there are only hints at running into lions often. So, kids have a great introduction into this unique culture while adults are given more.

    What I enjoyed the most is the details in the day to day life. The author captured things my friend didn't share, like how big their homes are, how big the community, just how free their livestock is to forage. The pictures show them creating bracelets and playing games and how the men stay together in a group. The author captured the every-day life.

    She also highlighted how their environment has shrunk and their way of life is threatened and what they are doing to adapt. The stories that are their education have passed on a strong culture generation after generation. They continue to be fiercely their own.

    I think there is a lot more that isn't shared, but this book is still a great peak into the Maasai way of life.

    My Rating: 5 - Love it!

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