Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Power of Community

A book recently arrived at the Doucette Library that got me all misty eyed while working at the reference desk.  Not a good look, needless to say.

The book was 14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy (327.676 DEF 2009 PIC BK).

It is based on the real life experience of a young Maasai man, Kimeli Naiyomah when he returned home to Kenya telling the village elders of one story that “burned a hole in his heart”.  He tells of the events he witnessed on September 11, 2001 in New York City and that he feels compelled to respond to the tragedy in the way taught by his people, “To heal a sorrowing heart, give something that is dear to your own.”  For Kimeli this can only be done by offering a cow, a symbol of life to the Maasai.  But instead of just one, the village offers a herd of 14 cows which are ceremonially presented to and symbolically accepted by a resident, American diplomat.  The final words, “Because there is no nation so powerful it cannot be wounded, nor a people so small they cannot offer mighty comfort” encapsulate the power of compassion and the continuity of generosity between communities.

The illustrations are gorgeous, with luscious tones depicting the African landscape and people.  Recommended for grades 2-5 but could be higher depending on how you are using it.

I had an opportunity to introduce this book to MT students just after reading it for the first time and paired it with another recent acquisition The Grand Mosque of Paris : a story of how Muslims rescued Jews during the Holocaust by  Karen Gray Ruelle, (940.5318 RUG 2009) to address the concept of community.  The instructor had asked me for a range of materials that would engage her students focused around defining what are community and the importance of networking.

Maybe it was because I had read the two books so closely together that I felt the power of both so strongly.  Two very different communities at different points in time but both responding to crisis, showing strength and compassion for those in need embodying what is good in humans and finally, offering hope for us all.


Roberta said...

Yes, 14 Cows is a very powerful, amazing story. Thanks for sharing this post at Nonfiction Monday today.

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