Book Title: 14 COWS FOR AMERICA
Illustrator: Tom Gonzalez
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers
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 on the American men, women, and children, and he is there to accept it. The gift is as unsought and unexpected as it is extraordinary.
A mere nine months have passed since the September 11 attacks, and hearts are raw. Tears flow freely from American and Maasai as these legendary warriors offer their gift to a grieving people half a world away.
Word of the gift will travel news wires around the globe. Many will be profoundly touched, but for Americans, this selfless gesture will have deeper meaning still. For a heartsick nation, the gift of fourteen cows emerges from the choking dust and darkness as a soft light of hope and friendship.
Grade 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
School Library Journal Starred Review
"...a lovely picture book...beautifully evocative..."
The New York Times
"...moving and dramatically illustrated..."
The Wall Street Journal
"Rarely do books for children address the bridging of cultural difference on a grand scale."
"An extraordinary true story of generosity, compassion and hope, 14 COWS FOR AMERICA is rich on multiple levels for young and old alike."
Books to Borrow, Books to Buy
"I dare you to read this special picture book without getting teary every time."
Library Media Connection, * STARRED REVIEW *
"A moving tale of compassion and generosity."
"...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...">
School Library Journal, * STARRED REVIEW *
"...A stirring, heartwarming tale that made headlines when it happened-and is now, thankfully, preserved on the page for children."
"...the words and the glowing mixed-media illustrations show empathy and connections across communities..."
"...an unforgettable book."
Young Adult (& Kids) Book Central
"...it could generate some excellent discussion in classrooms and families."
The Huffington Post