14 Cows for America

The Library had this book sitting atop one of the shelves, and I found the artwork to be so beautiful that we had to check it out. I had not heard about this book, nor was I looking for a children’s book discussing September 11th. Like I said, it was just a pretty book, and our library tends to make good suggestions with their book placement. Little Hippie wanted to read the story in bed that night, so we dove in. I found myself becoming very emotional while reading aloud, having to pause several times. My daughter asked her favorite question, “Why?” Why do you have tears, Mommy? Why did these people want to send cows to America? Why were the people in America so sad? Did hugging the cows help feel them better? (That last question uses a syntax original to my Little Hippie, and I am dreading the day it disappears and is replaced by proper grammar and usage).

Some of these questions will be answered as she gets older. I know that she will understand that the cows did not travel to the U.S., nor were they hugged. Some day, she will understand symbolic gestures. However, it occurred to me that even though my kids will grow up in a world very much shaped by the events of that horrific Tuesday morning, they will probably never be able to comprehend September 11th because they weren’t even alive at the time. Then again, those of us who were adults at the time will probably never be able to comprehend it.

Discussing 9/11 with an anxiety-prone kindergartener is a challenge. This book has provided a nice bridge. Be sure to read the afterword by Kimeli Naiyomah, whose touching story is so masterfully told by the author and illustrator.

There is a terrific companion website, which gives additional information about the Maasai tribe, culture, cows, and a teacher’s guide for using the book in the classroom. Everything about this book is beautiful.


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