Barasch, Lynne. 2009. FIRST COME THE ZEBRA. Ill. by Lynne Barasch. New York: Lee & Low. ISBN 9781600603655. [Suggested Grade Levels 1- 5]
“The sun is rising over the grassland in Kenya” as the story begins. First come the zebras, then the wildebeests and gazelles, and finally two young boys. Abaani is Maasai whose family raises cattle and Kaki is Kikuyu and his family are farmers. The two tribes do not get along as both want to use the land for different purposes. The two boys argue and yell at each other. Nearby, three warthogs are rooting in the grass, but warthogs will attack anything that enters their territory. A small child wanders away from his mother and the two boys stop their arguing and work together to save the child. This cooperation leads to friendship and hope for peace in the land.
This simple story works on many levels. Easily understood by younger readers, the story resonates with older readers for whom conflict is more common in both their daily lives and in the world. Barasch, who also illustrates the book with ink and watercolor, includes back matter with a brief explanation of Kenyan conflict, pronunciation guide and glossary, and source notes.
Use with younger children to discuss conflict resolution and getting along.
For older grade levels, the book can be used not only to discuss relationships, but also to introduce war or conflict or to investigate the Kenyan setting and history.
Other picture books set in Kenya:
Carmen, Agra Deedy 14 COWS FOR AMERICA. ISBN 9781561454907
Nivola, Claire. PLANTING THE TREES OF KENYA. ISBN 9780374399184
Winter, Jeanette. WANGARI’S TREES OF PEACE. ISBN 9780152065454
By Janet Hilbun