Monday, March 15, 2010

14 Cows for America

Deedy, Carmen Agra. 2009. 14 COWS FOR AMERICA. Ill. by Thomas Gonzalez. Atlanta, GA: Peachtree. ISBN 9781561454907 [Suggested Grade Levels 3- 7]


The Maasai of Kenya raise cows as a means of sustenance. They revere their herds-- naming each cow, singing to them, and honoring their sacrifice. So when Kimeli wants to express his compassion to America after the September 11th attacks, he can think of no better gift than that of his Maasai family’s cow. Kimeli was studying in New York during the attacks, and he witnessed first-hand the devastating sorrow and suffering of people he had grown to love. He returns home to his village asking for the elders’ blessings on the cow he wants to symbolically “donate.” The villagers are so moved, they prepare a celebration for the American ambassador to Kenya. At the ceremony they designate a total of fourteen cows as sacred healing cows, never to be slaughtered, but to live as hopeful symbols for America.

This true account of a wonderful gift to America begins with Kimeli’s return to his homeland, his tennis shoes walking across the grasslands. The climactic gift of fourteen cows is illustrated as a dramatic double-page spread, enticing fingers to count each cow in appreciation. Throughout the book, exquisite air-brushed skies and detailed caramel faces connect the reader to this culture, emphasizing that “there is no nation so powerful it cannot be wounded, nor a people so small they cannot offer mighty comfort.”


Explore with readers the final quote of the story. What makes a nation powerful? Does the quote relate to individuals as well as countries? What are ways that we can show empathy to others?


Other stories of sympathy for America’s tragedy:

Gilley, Jeremy. PEACE ONE DAY. ISBN 9780399243301

Winter, Jeanette. SEPTEMBER ROSES. ISBN 9780374367367

By Rebecca S. McKee

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