Name of Book: 14 Cows For America
Authors: Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah and Carmen Agra Deedy
Illustrator: Thomas Gonzalez
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers
Audience: Ages 14-18 and Adults (While I do believe that this book is also appropriate for younger children because of its theme of compassion, I chose youth and adults because they would have some type of memories of the events of September 11, 2001 which may help them to gain a deeper meaning from the text.)
Summary: Kimeli, who was born and raised in a remote village in Kenya, has returned from America to visit his people. He is studying to be a doctor and was in New York City on September 11, 2001 to witness the terrorist attack. He shares this story with the Maasai people of his home. These people were once fearsome warriors but now live peacefully as nomadic cattle herders. Cows mean life to these people and are treated as sacred. Kimeli offers to give his only cow to America. The elders respond by offering a total of 14 cows to give as an offering of comfort and peace. A diplomat from the US Embassy in Nairobi comes to accept the gift. These healing cows are being cared for by the Maasai people and are a symbol of hope.
Literary elements at work in the story: The plot of this story is its primary literary element. A group of people thousands of miles away from America gracefully reach out to a people they do not know to offer peace and comfort in the wake of tragedy. The illustrator gives power to the words of the story through beautiful and detailed illustrations which make the plot come to life for the reader.
Perspective on gender/race/culture/economic ability: This story does an incredible job of illustrating how two distinctly different cultures can be brought together due to tragic circumstances. We so often as Americans see ourselves as “mighty and powerful ones” whose strengths and abilities cannot be matched. September 11th showed us that is not the case. Compassionate people from a culture completely different from that in which we live come alongside Americans with a gift of hope and comfort. The concluding words of this story say it best: “Because there is no nation so powerful it cannot be wounded nor a people so small they cannot offer mighty comfort.”
Scripture: Lamentations 3:22-23, Colossians 3:12-14, Romans 5:5
Theology: God’s love is steadfast and God’s mercy for God’s children will never come to an end. As God’s chosen people, we are called to show the same love and compassion to others as God has shown to us. Hope does not fail us because of the love God has given to us through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Faith Talk Questions:
- What do the illustrations tell us about the relationship between Kimeli and his people?
- Why is the cow life to the Maasai people?
- How does the author’s choice of the words “it has burned a hole in his heart” illustrate Kimeli’s reaction to September 11th?
- What is the importance of the cow in the story?
- What do you think the diplomat from the embassy is expecting when he comes to meet with the Maasai elders?
- What is the message in the final illustration and the concluding words of the story: “Because there is no nation so powerful it cannot be wounded, nor a people so small they cannot offer mighty comfort.”?
- In the dedication in the back of the book, Kimeli (W.K.N) speaks of children as being the “peace of the world”. What do you think that means?
- How can we be the “compassionate diplomats” that Kimeli speaks of in his dedication at the end of the book?
Review prepared by Marcia Rauch, MACE, Entering Cohort Fall 2006
14 Cows for America by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.