While returning home to visit his remote Maasai village in Kenya, Naiyomah tells the members of his nomadic tribe about America, where he is in medical school, and the horror of 9/11: Buildings so tall they can touch the sky? Fires so hot they can melt iron? What can the Maasai do to help thousands of souls lost? Unlike in the picture book Muktar and the Camels (2009), also set in East Africa, the tone here is too reverential, and the characters have little individual identity. But based on Naiyomah's true experiences, the words and the glowing mixed-media illustrations show empathy and connections across communities, with close-up portraits of the Maasai on the savannah at work with their cows under the open sky, their rituals, their sorrow for New York's tragedy, and their heartfelt generosity. In a reversal from the usual international aid story, here it is the U.S. that gets help from a developing country as the villagers donate 14 sacred cows to America.--Rochman, Hazel Copyright 2009 Booklist
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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
A native of Kenya, Naiyomah was in New York City on September 11, 2001. In his and Deedy's (Martina the Beautiful Cockroach) lyrical account, he returns to his homeland and tells the members of his Maasai tribe a story that had "burned a hole in his heart." The narrative avoids specifics and refers to the events of 9/11 obliquely as the villagers listen to him with "growing disbelief": "Buildings so tall they can touch the sky? Fires so hot they can melt iron? Smoke and dust so thick they can block out the sun?" Until they read Naiyomah's concluding note, children may not fully comprehend either his story or the villagers' subsequent actions: the tribe elders bless 14 cows, revered in Maasai culture, and symbolically offer them to the American people to help them heal. Featuring luminous images of the Maasai in vivid native dress and sweeping African landscapes, Gonzalez's pastel, colored pencil and airbrush paintings appear almost three-dimensional in their realism. A moving tale of compassion and generosity. Ages 6-10. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved