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Cristina Kessler

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Member Since: Aug, 2000

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Young Adult/Teen

Publisher:  Philomel Books ISBN-10:  0399239855 Type: 


Copyright:  October, 2004


Twelve-year-old Namelok can't tell anyone about her secret: a mother black rhino and her tiny baby, whom she found in the bush while collecting firewood for her Maasai family. She vows to protect them always, visit them often, and to keep them her secret.

Her visits are suddenly threatened when her initiation into womanhood becomes imminent. There will be no visiting the rhinos after that. Ever. Still, Maasai ways are changing. Can Namelok delay the initiation?

But before she can, Namelok makes a horrifying discovery, one that sends her on a dangerous journey into the bush in a desperate search for poachers and a limping man whose dragging footprints are her only chance at seeking revenge...

Award-winning author Cristina Kessler brings her firsthand knowledge and love of Africa to this powerful and authentic story of a young girl's courage to challenge tradition and to accept her dynamic role in a changing Maasai world.

Namelok stopped to catch her breath. The white sky hugged the searing heat that danced on the horizon. A somber silence filled the bush, leaving only the sound of her heartbeat banging in her chest. Knowing that she was running out of time was only part of her problem. She needed to know that the rhinos were safe. As she raced past a fallen log covered in termite hills, she pleaded, “Please, Enkai, let Emuny Narok and Siri Aang be there, waiting for me. I really need their company today. I really need to know that they are well.”
She also needed every possible minute with them. She sucked in her bottom lip at the thought of the changes coming in her life. Stopping suddenly, she held her hands over her eyes to cut the glare, searching the horizon.
That’s when she saw the vultures.
They were jumping up off the ground, their huge wings flapping and their gnarly clawed feet fighting midair. One ran wildly after all the others, chasing about like a frenzied mother trying to save a child. Four birds flew off, apparently full and fed up with the greedy one. They fell into the vulture routine of circling high up, riding thermals when possible and flapping slowly when it wasn’t. She knew there must be a kill on the ground, for that was the only reason vultures gathered to lurk and fight.
Without thinking about what other scavengers might be there, such as hyenas or jackals or wild African dogs, Namelok charged straight at the spot. She hadn’t run so long or so fast since she and Loitipitip had chased the zebras and wildebeest as herders. She waved her arms and screamed and ran harder. Tears were flowing down her face, for without seeing what lay ahead, she already knew.


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Reader Reviews for "Our Secret, Siri Aang"

Reviewed by Cristina Kessler 11/26/2004
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-While gathering firewood in the bush, 12-year-old Namelok stumbles upon a pregnant rhino and watches her give birth. She names the baby Siri Aang ("Our Secret"), vowing to keep the animals' existence hidden. Times are changing for her Maasai community, and her father has moved the family to a new home with better grazing and water for his cattle, near a Kenyan national park where tourists and a store offer new opportunities to earn money and to spend it. With the advent of Namelok's monthly period, it is time for her to stop wandering freely to visit the animals and to prepare for the circumcision ceremony that signifies her entrance into womanhood. Although she is reluctantly prepared to go along with this, she also wants to attend school and keep up her contact with the rhinos. When the mother is killed by poachers, Namelok tracks the baby through the bush for days, eating little but berries and tree bark, and encountering a lion. She is a curious and courageous character, caught between the values of a nomadic culture and a more sedentary modern society. Because of the wealth of descriptive detail, readers will easily envision the Kenyan landscape and be caught up in the suspense of this intriguing survival story. The cultural dilemmas of the Maasai should stimulate discussion. While the small rhino's story ends happily, youngsters can only hope that Namelok and her family can negotiate the changes in their lives as successfully.-Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Reviewed by Karla Dorman, The StormSpinner 9/28/2004

sopai. :)

i have been interested in maasai culture for many years; and have wanted to travel to kenya and tanzania. this book sounds like it would be a grand introduction into east africa and the maasai culture. sounds like a fascinating book, one that i would love to read.

ashe oleng. :) *that is all the maa i know LOL*

(((HUGS))) and love, karla. :)
Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 9/28/2004
Sounds like a book I really could enjoy! I love reading about the Maasai culture~!

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