Yesterday my nephews were at our house after a morning of swimming. They were puttering around on the computer and they called my mom over to show her something. I was in the kitchen, but I could hear their conversation as well as the video that was playing on the computer in the background. I came into the den where our computer is located just in time to see that they were showing her a video of the September 11 terrorist attack, and Lulu was right there beside them, taking it all in. They, in their pre-adolescent ardor, were intent on sharing with their grandmother something they had heard about the video footage. I, in my ever-present concern for my children’s innocent eyes, instructed them to close the video and fast. I just didn’t want my girls to be exposed to this atrocity without some preparation, and at only five and three, I think it’s too early.
This little incident got me thinking about Carmen Agra Deedy’s newest book, 14 Cows for America. This book, written in collaboration with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah, is the story of Kimeli, a member of the Masai people of Kenya, who comes to the U.S. to attend school. While visiting his childhood home, he relates the story of the September 11 attacks on the U.S. which has “burned a hole in his heart.” The Masai people are completely astounded by the story they have heard. Although they are historically known for being warriors, they are now peaceful nomadic cattle herders, and to them, “the cow is life.” Kimeli decides to offer his own cow as a token of condolence to the U.S., and when a diplomat from the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi comes to their village at the request of the tribe, there is an elaborate ceremony in which the tribe presents the U.S. with not one, but fourteen, cows as an offering of peace and healing. This beautiful story ends with this statement: “Because there is no nation so powerful it cannot be wounded, nor a people so small they cannot offer mighty comfort.”
This book is a gentle look at September 11, if that’s possible. Carmen Agra Deedy’s prose is evocative; it makes this real-life event read like a storybook, not like a piece of jouranlism. (If you’re interested in the story from a journalistic point of view, go here.) The illustrations in this book do as much to create the mood as the words do. Thomas Gonzalez, whom I had the privilege of interviewing, really captured the spirit of the story through his beautiful illustrations. Although I have not yet shared this book with my own children, I would guess that it would be entirely appropriate for even someone as young as Lulu (age 5), especially if the child has already been exposed to the tragedy of September 11. This book, with its positive portrayal of humanity and its elaborate afterword which gives even more details about the story, would be a great springboard for a discussion about the potential humans have for both good and bad. This book would make an excellent addition to any library.
You can read more information about this inspiring story at the website 14 Cows for America. You may also enjoy viewing this trailer for the book which previews some of Thomas Gonzalez’s beautiful artwork:
I received this book from Peachtree Publishers as a participant in the 14 Cows for America blog tour. Peachtree Publishers has generously offered to give away two copies of this wonderful book to Hope Is the Word readers. To be entered for this drawing, just leave a comment on this post. To make it interesting, tell me what you were doing on September 11, 2001, when you heard the news of the attack. If you blog about this giveaway and link to this post, come back and leave another comment for another chance to win. I will close comments at 9 p.m. CST on Sunday, August 9, and I will post the winners early Monday morning.