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First Come the Zebra Hardcover – July 1, 2009
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From School Library Journal
Grade 2–5—In Kenya, the Maasai are cattle herders and the more numerous Kikuyu are farmers. The two groups often fight about land use. This story uses that age-old conflict as a vehicle for contemplating enmity and friendship. When Abaani, a Maasai boy, sees young Haki's Kikuyu vegetable stall near his family's grazing land, he repeats what he's heard from his elders: "You destroy our land!" Haki, of course, takes offense, and the boys are ready to become enemies. However, they see one another's good qualities when circumstances force them together to rescue a straying toddler. Repeated exposure and a few good games of mancala finally bring about a mutual trust, and they take a real step toward peace when they decide to trade veggies for milk, and to introduce their families. A framing metaphor about the harmony between zebra, wildebeests, and the Thomson's gazelle gently reinforces the lesson. Heartfelt storytelling and strong research combine to offer a universal message with a unique setting. The clear, light-filled illustrations are expressive and create a sense of place. A lovely, hopeful story that manages to convey its message with minimal didacticism.—Heidi Estrin, Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL END
About the Author
Lynne Barasch is a Lee and Low author.
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Top customer reviews
Abaani, a young Maasai cattle herder, spotted a Kikuyu tending his family's vegetable stall and asked who he was. "Jina langu ni Haki." His name was Haki and became angry when Abaani, whose tribe highly valued their cattle, accused his people of destroying their land. After a nasty verbal exchange, Haki went back to work tending his stall. Some women had come to exchange their baskets for produce and he had to pay attention. One of the women put her young toddler on the ground so she could make her selection. The baby started to wander and held his arms out toward some fierce warthogs "rooting in the grass." Abaani became greatly alarmed because he would not be able to save the baby alone. Would Abaani and Kikuyu, tribal enemies, be able to put aside their differences and save this child?
The gentle message that people should put aside their differences and unite for the good of all was very inspiring. This unique book gives a nice bit of history not only about African animal migration, but also about tribal customs and feelings toward other groups. The soothing watercolors lent a lot to this work and meshed perfectly, giving the reader a feel for the African grassland. In the back of the book is a small inset map, a pronunciation guide and glossary and a very interesting note describing in more detail the customs and culture of the Maasai and the Kikuyu and their ongoing rivalry. This would be an excellent read and discuss book in the homeschool or classroom setting!
Interwoven into this tale is an important lesson in economics about barter: when the boys resolve their differences they quickly figure out they can exchange cow's milk for produce. The author's note further explains that economic issues are a source of the conflicts between the Maasai and Kikuyu in Kenya, particularly with the Maasai having lost much of their grazing land to new farms, and the Kikuyu having lost crops to cattle that have strayed to their farmland. Lynne Barasch has produced yet another outstanding book as rich in substantive content as it is lovely in artistic impression.