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For You Are a Kenyan Child (Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award) Hardcover – January 1, 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. PreSchool-Grade 3–Through vivid, descriptive text that highlights the Kenyan countryside and culture, this story about one day in the life of a Kalenjin boy unfolds. Roosters crow, and you wake one morning in the green hills of Africa, sun lemon bright over eucalyptus trees full of doves. The boy's primary chore is to take his grandfather's cows to the pasture and watch them carefully. However, once he gets them there, he slips away to see who else is awake. From then on, he keeps getting distracted by one thing or another. When he finally looks to where the cows should be, they are not there. His expression is forlorn as he ponders, Why did you wander? Why didn't you stay and do the job Mama gave you today? When he meets his grandfather leading the cows on the path home–something he should have been doing–the youngster is contrite. Grandfather simply hands him back his cow switch and says, Twende nyumbani sasa–Let's go home now. The brilliant, colorful, and humorous illustrations stand out against the white backgrounds and are large enough for group viewing. A gentle story about family, responsibility, and a curious little boy.–Mary N. Oluonye, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

PreS-K. "Roosters crow and you wake up in the green hills of Africa." Short, poetic phrases, filled with sensory images, describe a young boy's day in a Kenyan village. He spends a "windy morning" herding his cattle, but his attention gradually wanders to his neighbors at the tea stand, to the village chief's wood shop, and so on, until he forgets his herd altogether. Luckily, the boy's grandfather comes to the rescue. The rhythmic, repetitive language winds the day's activity to a graceful, bedtime close and roots the simple story in Kiswahili phrases and cultural details--from the boy's breakfast of maize porridge to the chief's ceremonial stick. Juan's color-saturated, slightly stylized paintings bring the lush landscape and friendly community to life and expand the sense of a child's freedom and belonging. More specifics about the child's tribe appear in a brief author's note. Suggest this as a story hour choice for kindergarten units about neighborhoods and homes. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 3 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 760L (What's this?)
  • Series: Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (January 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068986194X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689861949
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 0.6 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #95,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I am a Kenyan residing in the U.S. and my 10-year-old cousin also from Kenya just borrowed this book from the library and ran to me saying some of the Swahili was wrong. I went through the book and was in total shock by the way the author had totally used words that were out of context.
First, I'd like to commend her for writing a book about a Kenyan village and to state that the illustrations are quite good. I am sure she had the purest of intentions when writing it.
I cannot claim to have flawless Swahili but having learned and spoken the language since childhood, I can easily identify mistakes.
It is unfortunate that there are thousands of children out there reading incorrect Swahili.
Her father says the following:
"It is bad that she has placed the wrong meaning of Swahili words in the English context and she ought to have consulted a Swahili scholar or native speaker (a Tanzanian/Kenyan) so as to write the language correctly.
No book would be published in English with incorrect spellings and context and we hope that measures will be taken to correct these errors."
We also believe that the publisher has an obligation to ensure that the books they sell which are geared to millions of people/children are correctly edited by native speakers/scholars of the respective foreign languages.

Some mistakes found in the book include:
Una taka chepati? = Unataka Chapati?
* Chapati is not a pancake, it is a type of flat-round-bread with its origin in India
Jambo, Mzee - Mzee means an old man/elder not exactly respected one as stated
* Mheshimiwa means respected one
Una taka shika rungu (fly-whisk)? = Unataka kushika rungu?
* A rungu is a club, not a fly-whisk, not sure what a flywhisk means in Swahili
Una taka maziwa lala?
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Format: Hardcover
Essentially I've come to the conclusion that Ana Juan could come to my home and hit me over the head with multiple frying pans and I would STILL worship at her feet. You know that fantasy everyone has where a famous children's book illustrator walks up to you one day and says, "I made this incredibly beautiful painting, pre-framed, just for you"? You don't have that one? Well I do. And the illustrator in question would be Ana Juan. My goodness me, how that woman can paint. From her Fellini-esque, "The Night Eater" to the biography of "Frida" that only SHE could have illustrated, Juan is consistently brilliant in whatsoever she chooses to do. So when first-time picture book author Kelly Cunnane found that, "For You Are a Kenyan Child" was to fall into the creative hands of Juan, one can only imagine her response. The pairing of an artist who's picture book work, prior to this title, has been almost solely fantastical with a playful but realistic author makes for a unique book. One that reads as well as it looks.

A child wakes in Kenya, "in the green hills of Africa, sun lemon bright over eucalyptus trees full of doves", to herd his Grandfather's cows. He's instructed by his mother to watch them carefully, but the cows won't mind if he slips away for a moment to see who else is up and about, will they? There's Bashir who bakes some pancakes in the morning, and the great black monkeys that perch in the trees. There's the village chief who is carving a magnificent lion and Grandmother who offers "sleeping milk, sweetened with crushed charcoal, fresh from the gourd". Distracted further by friends and playmates the boy finally makes it back to the field . . . but the cows are gone!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ever wonder what it's like to grow up in a little village in Kenya? Kelly Cunnane, a former Peace Corps volunteer in that country, tells the charming story of a little boy who is supposed to be tending his grandfather's cows when... well, there are so many other interesting things to do! You'll learn a little Swahili following him on his adventures ("Jambo!") and find out what happens when the cows come home. The colorful illustrations by Ana Juan are perfect for the story. I would definitely recommend this as a fun way to broaden a child's horizons.
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Format: Hardcover
What a fabulous find! This book arrived today and we have read it 7 times already - and we are all still enthralled. My 2 year old loves the animal pictures and my 3 (almost 4) year old loves living the day with this child so similar to herself yet so far away. The writing is as rich and simple as the rural life it depicts; the illustrations lush and witty.

I bought this book as a connection for my children to the Kenyan grandfather they can never meet, but this is a wonderful book for any family that wonders about the world we live in. Don't be intimidated by the few phrases in Kiswahili; the language was invented by Arab traders and first written down by the British so it is highly phonetic for English speakers. Just remember; 'e' sounds like A and 'y' sounds like E. Relax, smile as you speak and give each vowel equal emphasis. You may never visit East Africa but these are such easy words, a secret language to share with your children.

My only regret about this book is that there isn't a whole series of them. We long to know more about the people of that village and their everyday adventures. It has been sad to say 'Goodnight' to them - seven times!
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