Chirchir, a little girl of the Kalenjin tribe in Kenya, cheerfully sings and tries to help her busy family with chores.
Her zeal is greater than her abilities, though, as she loses her grip on the well rope, lets the fire leap up to burn the chai and causes newly dug potatoes to roll down the terraced hill. “Little one, this work is not for you,” is the gently repeated admonition, as Chirchir is sent from one relative to another. Finally, spirits low, she hears a sound and runs to the brothers’ sleeping hut. Baby Kip-rop is crying, and big brother Kip-koech is sleeping through it! She cradles the baby and sings soothingly. Cunnane’s lilting text conveys respect for Kelenjin village life and the importance of children’s contributions to agrarian work. Her thoughtful portrait of Chirchir, striving to find her familial role, resonates across cultures. South African Daly’s soft acrylic pictures depict village life with a stylized, folkloric verve. Animals graze placidly as villagers work amid the sweeping backdrop of green hills and well-tended crops. At last, the family pauses. “What has made the day pass so sweetly? they wonder. / The answer comes on a breeze / that echoes through the hills and valleys / of Kenya. / Chirchir is singing.”
An affecting slice of Kenyan village life presented by a skilled author and illustrator, both with African connections. (author’s note, glossary) (Picture book. 3-7)