All Things Kenyan

Festivals of the World: Kenya

Title: Festivals of the World – Kenya
Author: Falaq Kagda
Publishing Company: Gareth Stevens, Inc.
Number of Pages: 32
Reading Level: Grade 3/age 8+
Original Publishing Date: 1997

This colorful book is a text book intended for a school library or classroom use.  Various Kenyan festivals are detailed – Jamburi, Initiation, Eunoto, Christian and Muslim traditions.  Also, there are some activities for children to do:  make a fly whisk, make and play a Kenyan game called Kigogo, cook some rice pancakes.  There is a glossary and index in the back of the book.

What I Liked:
In the beginning of Festivals there is a list of Kenyan celebrations grouped in the season they are celebrated.

The pictures are excellent.  There are many many pictures of all types of Kenyans – Kikuyus, Masai, Muslims, Catholics, Christians, etc. Pictorially, just about all of Kenya is represented in this book.

At the back of the book are two craft activities children can make.  One is a fly whisk, the other is a traditional game called kigogo. With the help and supervision of a parent, a child can also make rice pancakes, a traditional recipe from the coast of Kenya.

What I Didn’t Like:
Unfortunately, there is a lot I didn’t like about this book.

My biggest problem with this book is the mention of male and female circumcision.  There are ten pages, almost one third of the book, dedicated to this.  This topic is inappropriate for a third grader.  Granted this is a huge tradition in Kenya, one which many tribes celebrate to one degree or another.  However, there is a lot of controversy about female circumcision.  If this book were used in my child’s classroom, I’d be having a conference with the teacher, principal, and superintendent. I’m not sure of the intentions of the editor and publisher, but this is clearly an oversight of some ultra liberal people.

Another problem is Festivals states: “The last Eunoto was celebrated in 1985.  There will probably not be another one.”  Eunoto is a graduation ceremony for Masai boys.  They graduate from the warrior class to the elder class. If you look at the July 11, 1987 and the July 12, 1987 entries of Jim Damico’s journal from his trip to Kenya, he clearly states that he witnessed a Eunoto ceremony. Since Festivals was published in 1997, clearly there is an error here.

There are a couple of smaller errors too.  A misspelling of the Luhya tribe’s name – Luaya instead of Luhya or Luhia.  Also, the book states there are more than 40 tribes/ethnic groups in Kenya when, in fact, there are more than 70.

I don’t recommend buying this book at all.  It has errors and it’s content simply isn’t appropriate for the recommended reading level.  If you do buy this book, I recommend getting a razor blade and circumcising the pages about initiation rites out of the book.  As for my copy, it’ll make it’s way to the pile of magazines and old books used for my children’s projects and collages.

Overall a nice looking book with inappropriate and inaccurate information.

A review copy of Festivals of the World: Kenya was sent by the publisher free of charge.