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Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

On this day, 8 years ago, the attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon occured.  In New York on September 11, 2001 was a Maasai tribe member, Kemeli Naiyomah, a student.  On a visit home to Kenya, he tells his tribe of the terrible things he saw.

The tribe is moved by his account of 9/11, and they are spurred to do something. Kimeli possesses one cow, Enkarus. The elders want to do something more. Cows are sacred to the tribe. As the book puts it, “To the Maasai, the cow is life.” Thirteen more cows are offered to America, and a ceremony is held.

This is 14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy, in collaboration with Wilson Kemeli Naiyomah.

This is a must-read book for anyone. Not just for this day, but for any day. The sparse text and gorgeous dark and richly-colored illustrations of Thomas Gonzalez amplify the message. It’s more than a tale of September 11, far more. It’s a stunning portrait of humanity, and how we are all connected.   It’s a story that must be told. Schoolchildren in America will be told for years of September 11, and how many lives were lost, but I think they also need to know that one day, thousands of miles away in Kenya, the continuation of life was celebrated with a most precious gift.

There are so many parts I love to this book. I especially like how the picture book doesn’t depict the fallen towers, but focuses on imagery of the Maasai.  The writing struck me most of all.  The brevity of it, so much accomplished in few words must be highlighted:

“There is a terrible stillness in the air as the tale unfolds. 
With growing disbelief, men, women, and children listen.
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?”

– 14 Cows for America

The end of the book features a note from Kimeli, and also shows the flag commemorating the 14 Cows that will hang in the September 11 Memorial and Museum. 

Title: 14 Cows for America

Author: Carmen Agra Deedy with Wilson Kemeli Naiyomah (Illus. by Thomas Gonzalez)
Date: August 2009
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers
Pages: 36
Format: Hardback

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