14_cows.jpg 14 Cows for America

by Carmen Agra Deedy


Presents an illustrated tale of a gift of fourteen cows given by the Maasai people of Kenya to the U.S. as a gesture of comfort and friendship in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Author Website:

Carmen Deedy http://carmendeedy.com/news.html

Website for Book-


Lots of info and some video trailers of the authors and team who worked on the book. Meet Massi, the real life hero in the story.

**Picture Book Extender Activities - click here**

This link takes you to a page of wonderful questions and activities to use with the title, generated by the author and publisher.


=====14 Cows for America
, a New York Times Bestseller from award-winning author Carmen Agra Deedy, is a true story of hope and generosity about a gift from a small Kenyan village to the people of America. This children's book was done in collaboration with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah and features stunning illustrations by Thomas Gonzalez.=====
Library Media Connection (November/December 2009)
Carmen Agra Deedy, in collaboration with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah, has written the moving story of Kimeli's return visit to his Maasai village in Kenya from New York City shortly after 9/11. To the nomadic cattle herding Maasai the cow is life. Kimeli wishes to buy one cow as a symbol to America, but when he tells the story of 9/11 to the village, the elders want to do more. At their invitation, the U.S. ambassador to Kenya travels to the village where he is greeted by a sacred ceremony during which America is presented with 14 cows. Kimeli describes his feelings and the ambassador?s tears in an afterword. Gonzalez infuses his softly muted illustrations with the vibrant reds of the Maasai dress, and other colors of the landscape. He manages to create the feeling of this dusty village along with the pride of its inhabitants. Facial expressions tell of their feelings in being able to help such a great country as America. I dare you to read this special picture book without getting teary every time. It is a wonderful read-aloud that could also be used with older students. It will trigger discussion among your young listeners and others. Highly Recommended. Shelley Glantz, Reviews Editor, Library Media Connection

School Library Journal (August 1, 2009)
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 Reed Business Information.

On these lists: Children's Books of the Year 2010, Notable Books for a Global Society 2010, Teachers Choice 2010.


To introduce this book to children will require laying some groundwork regarding several key points in the book. This book addresses:
  • a. Multiculturalism
  • b. A Historical Event
  • c. Family connections ( can apply to people of any country)
  • d. Items of significance in various cultures (in this case, cows).
  • e. Empathy and caring about people (no matter where they live).
  • f. Role model about using education to help oneself and other people (the young man being educated in another country to become a Dr.)
  • g. A glimpse of how people in other cultures live through the artwork of Kenya in the book.

When introducing this book, I think one could ask students, “If some child in your school suddenly had their house burn down and they lost all their belongings, how would that make you feel?” I think most all children would feel sad and empathetic. One could continue by saying, “Is there some item that you have at your home that you could give to them that you think could make them feel better about such a big loss?” I think some students would think of something instantly, and some would struggle with the concept. In the discussion, there would probably be various ideas students would contribute. Maybe stuffed animals, maybe money, maybe a special toy…

(To continue the introduction, I would begin to give “hooks” to children who are too young to have experienced America’s 9/11 experience where terrorist destroyed the Twin Towers in New York City.)

In this book you are going to find out how and why some people in a country called Africa (it would be excellent to have a map available to show where in the world Africa is) did something special when a devastating tragedy happened to some people in America. You will notice that the people in Africa have a different way of life because they live in a place where the land and conditions are much different than we have come to know. People travel to other countries for many reasons. 1. Some go to help people who are struggling. 2. Some get education in another country. 3. Some go on vacation to see what other places look like. 4. Some people have jobs that are located in another country so they go there to work.

When people in your family go far away and then return to your home, many times there is a gathering of friends and family who gather and are happy to see them return. Usually there are many stories to share about the traveler’s experiences while he/she has been away. The gathered group is eager to hear about what they will say. This book tells about a time like that too.
Now we are ready to read the book about 14 Cows for America. Every book has a title for a reason, so will need to listen carefully to decide why the author chose this title for his book.

Read the book and talk about the pictures as you go along. It is very important to read the forward and the “after word” to create understanding.

After the book is finished, discussion could be held more in depth about 9/11. It would be good to have a poster or some photos of it and how they’ve made the memorial places to commemorate the lives of those who were killed in that tragedy. This is history now to the younger children who will be hearing the book. But the empathy and sympathy that was shown by people from another country via the story that came from one of their own people who experienced it, is touching no matter what age or what country in which one might live.
It would be interesting to document the reactions of children after the book is read and the discussions have occurred. I do think the pre and post discussions would make a difference in their understanding. It is a book that would certainly benefit from teacher or adult leadership to guide children’s thinking.

Other books by Carmen Deedy:

  • Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale,
  • The Library Dragon,
  • The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark,
  • TreeManand more.

Created by Linda Stahlman, Hays, KRA Zone 1, Sept 2010