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I Hope Readers Will Be Inspired

Kristen Ball Author Interview

A Calf Named Brian Higgins is based on your real-life experiences of traveling to Africa. Why was this an important book for you to write?

It was important for me to write this book because of how much I loved spending time with the wonderful people in Sauri, Kenya. Part of the reason I had gone to rural Kenya was to be helpful to a community suffering from poverty and I quickly learned that while they are lacking in many basic resources, the people there know more about taking care of each other than any community I have ever known.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

The people in Sauri, Kenya worked together and established a rule: leave what you can, take only what you need. Since abiding by this simple principle, no one in their community has died of hunger. When I speak at schools, I ask the kids to think about that: leave what you can, take only what you need. That can be tough to live by under any circumstances, and certainly when you’re lacking food and medicine. When they took only what they needed, there was enough for everyone.

What is one thing that you hope readers take away from A Calf Named Brian Higgins?

I hope readers will be inspired by the love and solidarity of the people in Sauri and will help end global poverty.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I am working on a book about the love we have for our dogs/pets. The manuscript should be completed this summer.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website

Thirteen-year-old Hannah Higgins is convinced her summer is ruined when she is forced to travel to Africa and work in a remote village in Kenya with her mom and uncle. Never having been to a developing country, she struggles with the differences from home. She has to live without electricity or running water. Then she is told she must attend a local school. Just when she thinks nothing could make this trip any worse, she learns people there are dying of hunger and preventable disease. Hannah becomes frustrated and wants to help, but when poverty threatens the lives of people she loves, all she wants to do is go home.

A Calf Named Brian Higgins

A Calf Named Brian Higgins, written by Kristen Ball, is a child-friendly story that addresses serious and interesting topics, including poverty, different cultures, friendship, mourning death, and personal development. The story follows Hannah Higgins, a typical grumpy teenager from suburban New York who is dragged to the plains of rural Kenya to visit her Uncle, Brian Higgins, while he is there doing charity work. Leaving behind her comfortable American lifestyle for one that is drastically less comfortable poses many challenges that Hannah needs to overcome, such as limited access to fresh water. By spending time with the local people and being immersed in the culture, she slowly understands why her Uncle loves Sauri so much.

This story answers a couple of important questions. How would a typical white teenager react to going into rural Africa? And what does it take for that teenager to change their perspective on their life? Ball tackles both of these questions in a way that is simple enough for children to understand but sophisticated enough for all ages to appreciate. This is a story of personal growth. Hannah goes from a naive and unworldly teenager to an individual who begins to value her life, others around her, and opportunities wholeheartedly.

Ball’s debut novel was written based on her experiences of being the first westerner to live in Sauri, the Kenyan village where her story is set. Therefore the book touches on many of her first-hand experiences, enabling her to paint a far more vivid and authentic landscape of an environment many Westerners (especially children) are likely not to be familiar with. Ball’s spin on the story’s events helps to give the story a more genuine and sincere feel. The reader is not being presented with a shallow story from someone with limited knowledge of these complex topics. Still, they’re experiencing the insight of someone who lived under these circumstances.

A Calf Named Brian Higgins is a fantastic novel to introduce children to heavy and challenging topics, such as poverty or entitlement, in a simple and engaging way. It’s essential for children to be exposed to several cultures and walks of life, and reading this novel with them and discussing it would be a great starting point.

Pages: 272 | ASIN : B07DNKC7G4

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