14 Cows for America

by Carmen Agra Deedy (Author) Thomas Gonzalez (Illustrator)

14 Cows for America
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

In June of 2002, a very unusual ceremony begins in a far-flung village in western Kenya. An American diplomat is surrounded by hundreds of Maasai people. A gift is about to be bestowed upon the American men, women, and children, and he is there to accept it. The gift is as unexpected as it is extraordinary.

A mere nine months have passed since the September 11 attacks, and hearts are raw as these legendary Maasai warriors offer their gift to a grieving people half a world away. Word of the gift will travel newswires around the globe, and for the heartsick American nation, the gift of fourteen cows emerges from the choking dust and darkness as a soft light of hope--and friendship.

This New York Times best seller recounts the true story from Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah of a touching gift bestowed on the United States by a tribe of Maasai Warriors in the wake of the September 11th attacks. With the stunning paintings of Thomas Gonzalez, master storyteller Carmen Agra Deedy hits all the right notes in this elegant story of generosity that crosses boundaries, nations, and cultures.

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Publishers Weekly

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.)" Copyright 2009 Publishers Weekly Used with permission.

School Library Journal

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" Copyright 2009 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"Elegant sentences... 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."
Carmen Agra Deedy
Carmen Agra Deedy is a New York Times best-selling author and renowned storyteller. Her books have received numerous awards and honors. Carmen has performed in many prestigious venues, but children are her favorite audience. Born in Havana, Cuba, she came to the United States as a refugee and like most immigrants sees the world from multiple perspectives. She lives in Georgia.

Michael Austin grew up in Florida and graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi. A creative director, he has created art for many companies, including record labels and magazines, and has illustrated a dozen children's books. He lives in Georgia.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Peachtree Publishers
Publication date
August 04, 2009
BISAC categories
JNF038100 - Juvenile Nonfiction | People & Places | United States
JNF038010 - Juvenile Nonfiction | People & Places | Africa
JNF053200 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Social Topics | Values & Virtues
Library of Congress categories
United States
September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001
Maasai (African people)
Naiyomah, Wilson Kimeli
Bluebonnet Awards
Nominee 2011 - 2011
Beehive Awards
Nominee 2011 - 2011
Parents Choice Awards (Fall) (2008-Up)
Gold Medal Winner 2009 - 2009
Black-Eyed Susan Award
Nominee 2010 - 2011
Colorado Children's Book Award
Nominee 2011 - 2011
E.B. White Read Aloud Award
Honor Book 2010 - 2010
Finalist 2009 - 2009
Land of Enchantment Book Award
Nominee 2011 - 2012
North Carolina Children's Book Award
Nominee 2011 - 2011
Volunteer State Book Awards
Nominee 2013 - 2014
South Carolina Childrens, Junior and Young Adult Book Award
Nominee 2011 - 2012
Georgia Children's Book Award
Nominee 2013 - 2013
Young Hoosier Book Award
Nominee 2014 - 2014
California Young Reader Medal
Nominee 2014 - 2014

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