Chirchir just wants to make herself useful like all her other family members. But she drops Mama's water bucket, spills Kogo's tea, and sends Baba's potatoes tumbling down the hill. Isn't there something that Chirchir does best? Set in the rolling hills of rural Kenya, this is a wise and lyrical story about belonging from Kelly Cunnane, the author of the Ezra Jack Keats Award winner For You Are a Kenyan Child, accompanied by Jude Daly's beautiful folk art-style illustrations.
Cunnane returns to the Kenyan setting of her 2006 picture book, For You Are a Kenyan Child, in a you're-too-small tale given depth by lyrical prose ("High in Africa, wind like a cat paw wipes the sky clean"). Chirchir tries but fails to help her elders and is sent away time after time. "Little one, this work is not for you," says Mama after Chirchir drops the well bucket. "Go help Kogo with the fire." Not until Chirchir finds her baby brother, Kip-rop, crying untended does she discover a task she can do as well as the grownups. In an afterword, Cunnane explains that Chirchir is a member of the Kalenjin tribe; the story contains a great deal of information about Kalenjin life, language, customs, and Kenyan flora and fauna ("Warblers and cuckoos swing in the bottlebrush tree"). Daly's (Sivu's Six Wishes) softly shaded acrylics have much to teach, too. When Chirchir helps her grandmother build a fire, roosters peck on the hut's floor, but a radio sits on the table. Images of security, dependability, and plenty offer a fresh picture of African life. Ages 3 7.