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First Come the Zebra.
Barasch, Lynne; First Come the Zebra.. New York, NY: Lee & Low, 2009. $18.95, ISBN 978-1-60060-365-5.

Note: "When two young Kenyan boys, one Maasai and one Kikuyu, first meet, they are hostile toward each other based on traditional rivalries, but after they suddenly have to work together to save a baby in danger, the boys begin to discover what they have in common."


Lynne Barasch has created an interesting text with complementary illustrations entitled First Come the Zebra. One might think that the book is an animal picture book; however, the text focuses on several topics besides animals and their environment. The Kikuyu and Masai have over populated their ethnic area. They now encroach on the animal's traditional space. Consequently, animal migration of zebras, wildebeests, and gazelles comes very close to the villages. When a market mother puts her child on the ground to play, she has no idea that the child is in danger of being gored by a warthog. Through the quick action of a Maasai and Kikuyu boy, the Kamba child is saved. By the heritage of the boys, Barasch juxtaposes the herders with the farmers, a universal theme. The boy's action creates a friendship and respect just as the animals learn to accommodate each other. In a country which has experienced ethnic, social, religious, economic, and political differences, this positive story reminds readers that Kenyans with other nationals around the world can work together.

Unfortunately, the stereotypical minority Maasai become the spokesperson for the herders. The author does use a few Swahili words and phrases. More could have been integrated for an authentic, bilingual ambiance. The author notes provide a context for the story and uses ink and watercolor to provide visualization. This story lends itself for a variety of discussion topics. For this reason it is recommended for science and social studies classes. There are many on-line resources linked to this book and this author.

Patricia Kuntz

Copyright 2010, Africa Access

Rating: R Grade: P Type: Book

Reviewed by: Patricia Kuntz

Subject: East Africa / Kenya / Maasai / Kikuyu / Environment