Title: First Come the Zebra
Author and Illustrator: Lynne Barasch
Publisher: Lee & Low Books
Concepts: barter, natural resources
Review: Abaani, a Maasai youngster who helps his family by taking the cattle out to graze, notices a new roadside stall one day and another boy selling fruits and vegetables. The boy, Haki, is a member of the Kikuyu tribe. Both boys have learned about the hostilities between the Maasai and the Kikuyu, and it does not take long before they are trading insults and threatening each other. It takes the unexpected need for cooperation to avoid a serious accident for the boys to start a new path toward trust and friendship.
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.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children