Reviews for 14 Cows for America

Booklist Reviews 2009 July #1
While returning home to visit his remote Maasai village in Kenya, Naiyomah tells the members of his nomadic tribe about America, where he is in medical school, and the horror of 9/11: "Buildings so tall they can touch the sky? Fires so hot they can melt iron?" What can the Maasai do to help thousands of souls lost? Unlike in the picture book Muktar and the Camels (2009), also set in East Africa, the tone here is too reverential, and the characters have little individual identity. But based on Naiyomah's true experiences, the words and the glowing mixed-media illustrations show empathy and connections across communities, with close-up portraits of the Maasai on the savannah at work with their cows under the open sky, their rituals, their sorrow for New York's tragedy, and their heartfelt generosity. In a reversal from the usual international aid story, here it is the U.S. that gets help from a developing country as the villagers donate 14 sacred cows to America. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

ForeWord Magazine Reviews 2009 September/October
Kimeli grew up in a small Maasai village in Kenya. When he was older, he won a scholarship to study medicine at Stanford. But on September 11, 2001, he was visiting New York City. He writes, My warrior heart could not sit still in me. I wanted to do something to help. This is the story of where Kimeli went, and the story he told, and the connection and sacrifice that was made to heal a sorrowing heart. Gonzalezs richly vivid illustrations pay tribute to the landscapes and people of Kenya. That Gonzalez and author Deedy both immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba make this collaboration even more uniquely American. Recommended for elementary grades. ©2009 ForeWord Magazine. All Rights Reserved.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Spring
With Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah. In 2002, college student Naiyomah returned home (a Masai village in Kenya) to tell the story of September 11, 2001. He then helped present fourteen cows to the U.S.: "Because there is no nation so powerful it cannot be wounded, nor a people so small they cannot offer mighty comfort." The tale is poignantly related through understated, powerful prose and color-saturated illustrations. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2009 July #1
Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah is about to return home, to a small village in Kenya. He has been studying to become a doctor in the United States. Amid a joyous homecoming, the children in the village ask if he has brought any stories. He has only one; one that has "burned a hole in his heart." Naiyomah was in New York City on September 11. In gentle yet piercing present-tense prose, storyteller Deedy introduces readers to a young Maasai scholar who wants nothing more than to help a nation heal. In Maasai tradition, cows are sacred, and Naiyomah asks the elders to bless his cow so he can offer it to grieving Americans. In an incredible show of compassion and strength, other villagers join him. Fourteen cows in all, from one tiny Kenyan village, prove that hope and friendship can cross all boundaries. Gonzalez's saturated paintings, glowing with oranges, reds and browns, radiate a warmth that is matched only by the Maasai's generosity. A stirring, heartwarming tale that made headlines when it happened--and is now, thankfully, preserved on the page for children. (afterword) (Informational picture book. 4-8) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 August #1

A native of Kenya, Naiyomah was in New York City on September 11, 2001. In his and Deedy's (Martina the Beautiful Cockroach) lyrical account, he returns to his homeland and tells the members of his Maasai tribe a story that had "burned a hole in his heart." The narrative avoids specifics and refers to the events of 9/11 obliquely as the villagers listen to him with "growing disbelief": "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?" Until they read Naiyomah's concluding note, children may not fully comprehend either his story or the villagers' subsequent actions: the tribe elders bless 14 cows, revered in Maasai culture, and symbolically offer them to the American people to help them heal. Featuring luminous images of the Maasai in vivid native dress and sweeping African landscapes, Gonzalez's pastel, colored pencil and airbrush paintings appear almost three-dimensional in their realism. A moving tale of compassion and generosity. Ages 6-10. (Aug.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2009 August

Gr 2-5--Kimeli Naiyomah returned home to his Maasai village from New York City with news of 9/11 terrorist attacks. His story prompted the villagers to give a heartfelt gift to help America heal. Deedy and Gonzalez bring Naiyomah's story to life with pithy prose and vibrant illustrations. Each block of text consists of a few short, elegant sentences: "A child asks if he has brought any stories. Kimeli nods. He has brought with him one story. It has burned a hole in his heart." The suspenseful pace is especially striking when surrounded by Gonzalez's exquisite colored pencil and pastel illustrations. The colors of Kenya explode off the page: rich blues, flaming oranges, fire-engine reds, and chocolate browns. Full-page spreads depict the Maasai people and their land so realistically as to be nearly lifelike. Gonzalez manages to break the fourth wall and draw readers in as real-time observers. The book's only flaw is the less-than-concrete ending: "…there is no nation so powerful it cannot be wounded, nor a people so small they cannot offer mighty comfort" is an important message, but not a particularly satisfying one for children. Fortunately, their questions will be answered by Naiyomah's endnote, and it provides a fitting conclusion to this breathtaking chronicle.--Rebecca Dash, New York Public Library

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