Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday-14 Cows For America by Carmen Agra Deedy

 My Friend Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy hosts weekly link up to share Nonfiction Picture Books. Please visit her amazing website.

There have been several new middle grade and YA books coming out recently so I thought I would share a not quite new picture book that shows another side of the 9-11 tragedy. 

by Carmen Agra Deedy
Illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez
Published 2009
Peachtree Publishers
32 Pages
Review copy provided by publisher.

Goodreads Summary
In June of 2002, a ceremony begins in a village in western Kenya. Hundreds of Maasai surround an American diplomat to bestow a gift on the American people. 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 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 hopeand friendship. Master storyteller Carmen Agra Deedy hits all the right notes in this story of generosity that crosses boundaries, nations, and cultures. An afterword by Wilson Kimeli Naiyomahthe Maasai warrior at the center of the storyprovides additional information about his tribe and their generousity. Thomas Gonzalezs stunning paintings are saturated with rich hues of oranges and browns and blues and greens, which capture the nobility of the Maasai people and the distinctive landscape of the African plain.

My Thoughts
I think I need a moment. This book is so moving, beautiful and powerful. I don't know how I missed it when it came out. The author shows how important and sacred cows are to the Maasai tribe early in the story. 
"They sing to them. They give them names. They shelter the young ones in their homes. Without the herd, the tribe might starve. To the Maasai, the cow is life."

The illustrations are so big and colorful, you feel as though you are there listening to the story and talking to the elders. They decide to give 14 cows to America "Because there is no nation so powerful it cannot be wounded." 
This is not a story of tragedy, but one of profound kindness and compassion. I would read it with children in grades 3+. 

Watch the book trailer:

Here is a list of YA and middle grade books about 9-11.
Here are a few for younger children. 


  1. What an incredible story, and what a beautiful message of empathy and kindness. There's a wonderful message too of understanding the spirit behind people's actions - the gift of a cow might seem strange to city kids, but it's the deep significance and meaning behind the gift that gives it its importance, not the material nature of the gift itself. I'm inspired now to find this story!

  2. I recently discovered a similar book that I, too, had missed when it came out. It's Mara Rockliff's My Heart Will Not Sit Down, which tells the story of how the impoverished nation of Cameroon donated $3.77 to New York City during the Great Depression. The two of these would make a wonderful pairing (but maybe keep the Kleenex close).

    I reviewed the Rockliff earlier this summer at

  3. Sounds interesting. I should pick this up the next time I run across it in the library.