14 Cows for America
Carmen Agra Deedy
Illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez
September 11, 2001 is a date no American will forget if alive at the time. This story begins with a Maasai man, Mikeli, who lived in New York City that fateful day. He was so moved by what he saw and felt, he wanted to give his most valued possession to the people of the United States. He owned but one cow. He interrupted his medical studies to travel home to Kenya and ask village elders to bless his cow for America.
Instead the elders gathered thirteen more cows – a virtual fortune for the Maasai – and presented them to the US ambassador. The Maasai were not prepared for the depth of the ambassador’s appreciation, but they cried along with him. This book is not only important for telling children about September 11, but also for showing the compassion and brotherhood that came out of the tragedy. Praised by Publishers Weekly and School Library Review, the book has appeared on several reading lists. There is also an excellent publisher’s website for the book at http://14cowsforamerica.com/ . It deals with the Maa language, geography, culture, history, and more.
The story needed to be told and shared with Americans. Wilson Mikeli Naiyomah, who is the focus of the story and the liaison between the cultures, does a beautiful job of telling his side as an afterword. His village continues to care for the growing herd of cattle.
Dramatic and vivid illustrations accompany the moving story. The artist combines nearly photographic images with fantasy, as shown when Mikeli tells the villagers about the tall buildings and fire in New York.