cover image For You Are a Kenyan Child

For You Are a Kenyan Child

Kelly Cunnane, , illus. by Ana Juan. . Atheneum/Schwartz, $16.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-86194-9

Cunnane debuts with this playful, vivid tale that offers a glimpse of a rural Kenyan childhood. "Roosters crow,/ and you wake one morning/ in the green hills of Africa,/.../ Enter Mama's hut/ .../ sip maize porridge to begin the day,/ for you are a Kenyan child." Lyrical prose in the second person asks readers to imagine themselves as the young hero, who finds many diversions to his job of guarding Grandfather's cows (e.g., he chases a monkey, kicks a rag ball with a friend). At each detour, he calls out, "Hodi?" (Anybody home?), and hears, "Karibu!" (Welcome!) in reply; the words skip boisterously across the page in bold typeface. Author and artist convey a nurturing environment, as relatives and friends each offer the boy something (in translated Swahili phrases). The village chief lets him parade around with the "chief stick;" his grandmother gives him fresh sweet "sleeping milk" from a gourd; his gentle grandfather bestows forgiveness. Juan's (The Night Eater ) signature wide-eyed characters and animals, and tweaked perspectives seem ideally suited to this exotic yet homespun tale. Blue snow-capped mountains and bright, often patterned clothing contrast against dusty ground painted in splatters of pinks and oranges. Despite the boy's tattered shorts and bare feet, readers will sense the generosity of his village. Meanwhile, his relentless distractions will resonate with children the world over who are prone to put off chores in favor of more exciting exploits. Ages 3-7. (Jan.)