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  • 2010 Comstock Read Aloud Book Award 

    14 Cows for America written by Carmen Agra Deedy, in collaboration with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez, and published by Peachtree, 2009.

    14 Cows for AmericaWhen Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah returns to his small remote village in Kenya, he tells his people, the Maasai, about being in New York City on 9/11 and witnessing the horrors of “fires so hot they can melt iron,” “smoke and dust so thick they can block out the sun,” and the loss of “more than three thousand souls.” To the Maasai, the cow is a symbol of life, so Kimeli offers his only cow to the people of America. In a sacred ritual attended by a diplomat from the United States Embassy in Nairobi, the Maasai add thirteen more cows to the gift and present “fourteen cows for America.” In the words of Kimeli: “We were helping to heal a people far away.”

    The book’s back matter further explains this incredible act of hope and friendship. These sacred cows remain in Kenya where the herd has already grown to thirty-five. The herd has become a living symbol of peace.

    Stunning, full-page illustrations created in pastels and colored pencils in tones of blues, greens, oranges, and browns, capture the vast Kenyan landscape and the beauty of the Masaai people in their native dress.

    Fourth through sixth graders listened intently to this story. Teachers noted that this powerful book led to much discussion during and after the reading. One fourth grade class “wrote about what was interesting and shocking.” Children appreciated the illustrations with their vibrant colors, especially the portrayal of the ceremony to bless the cows. Teachers and their students found the note by Kimeli Naiyomah important for understanding the context of the story. One librarian’s comment reflects the heart of this story: “A touching book [of] how people reach out when a nation is hurting.”

    Carmen DeedyCarmen Agra Deedy and Thomas Gonzalez both immigrated to the United States from Cuba and now live near Atlanta, Georgia. Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah from Kenya has completed a master’s degree in molecular biology and now is pursuing an advanced degree and a career in peace and conflict resolution.

    Additional information about 14 Cows for America can be found at http://14cowsforamerica.com.