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Facing the Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  950 Ratings  ·  144 Reviews
Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton gives American kids a firsthand look at growing up in Kenya as a member of a tribe of nomads whose livelihood centers on the raising and grazing of cattle. Readers share Lekuton's first encounter with a lion, the epitome of bravery in the warrior tradition. They follow his mischievous antics as a young Maasai cattle herder, coming-of-age initiation ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published October 11th 2005 by National Geographic Children's Books (first published January 1st 2003)
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Jennifer Lavoie
I bought this book for my classroom but also because it fits my Around the World bookclub here on Goodreads. It's a memoir from a boy who grew up in the Maasai tribe in Kenya. Though short I loved the book because it gives readers - especially kids - an idea of what it's like to live a very different life.

The Maasai tribe, specifically the Ariaal which Joseph is part of, is nomadic and their livelihood comes from cattle. They are the most integral part of their daily lives. Most of their diet c

A pretty interesting book detailing a boy's life growing up as a Maasai in Kenya. More suited to children than adults, though I didn't discover this until after I'd finished the book. It felt a little stunted and suddenly ended - I wanted to know more - but then the author explains that they deliberately cut off at the end of the childhood years because he wanted to write the book for children, to show them what life is like growing up in a different part of the world. The author faces some hard
Pelican G.
Aug 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is an autobiography about a boy born in a nomadic Maasai tribe who is placed in a missionary school by the government. He is encouraged to go only by his mother, when his tribe believes he should drop out and help herd cattle. He faces many difficulties as he fights his way to get to a highly competitive secondary school. After he graduates, he realizes that he doesn't have the money to go to college in the U.S., and gets a job as a bank teller in Mombasa. One day, he meets a customer who t ...more
Ryan H
Sep 21, 2017 added it
This is a great book because it shows children how it is like when you grow up in a different country and how much harder it is. My favorite character was a little kid named Lemasolai because I thought that he was brave to try and protect the cattle from the ferocious lions. This book was a true story and it was awesome to see how this happened in real life thats what I thought. I always had to think in my story because new things kept happening for example when he said he had to run from the pi ...more
Kelli G
Apr 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Kelli Gillis
English 5
8 April 2013
Facing the Lion
Facing the Lion by Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton is an autobiography about his life growing up in Africa and making his way to the United States. He grew up raising cattle, but was sent to school in his young teens because the government issued that at least one child from every nomadic family must be sent to school. His school was far away and had to walk there with a group of kids; he started soccer and met President Moi who helped him with
Feb 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
4.25 stars.

How shall you act when face-to-face with a lion on
the hunt?

--when he looks straight at you,
--his mane stained with blood,
--his gaping mouth revealing his great teeth
and gullet beyond?

So, Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton’s Facing the Lion begins . . .

Somewhere between autobiography and memoir sits this wonderful narrative.

As with autobiography, the author recounts a sequential timeline from a young age to a current age, (at the time of publication). Yet, like memoir, consequential events rev
Jun 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a lovely book aimed at about a sixth-grade reading level about a Maasai boy living in Kenya. He grows up watching the cattle and learning to become a warrior as do other boys his age. But circumstances contrive to send him to school, where he enjoys learning and becomes a good student, but misses his home. I found this book to be an excellent way for children to learn about the Maasai people, but I liked it more, perhaps, for discussing, in a way children may understand, how getting an e ...more
Aug 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
National Geographic published this memoir of a poor nomadic Maasai boy in Kenya who, against all odds, went to school, made friends with the president of Kenya, graduated from high school, and was educated in the United States at St. Lawrence University and then Harvard. He became a teacher at a prestigious private high school in Maclean, Virginia, during which period of his life he spent half his time in the US and half living the nomadic life with his tribe in Kenya. The book covers his life t ...more
Dec 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Really interesting book about life growing up in the Kenyan Savanna.
Can't recommend this enough if you want a nice, quick and short break from the norm.
A book about how if you push yourself enough then the sky really is the limit.
This would be especially good for children who need a little help realising their potential
Richard Knight
Apr 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A brief, enjoyable book for kids and adults. You can read it in a day. What I enjoy most about this story about an African boy who becomes a man (through circumcision! ) and then travels to the US is the voice. It's calm, informative, and direct. There's wisdom and life lessons on every page. Check it out.
Aug 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
Very interesting autobiography about an African teacher who now teaches in Northern Va but goes back home every year and takes his friends/students with him. He is making a difference in the community and has very enlightening observations on Africans and Americans. This is a quick and educational read!
Sean Saldana
Mar 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This (in my opion) was a REALLY good book......It tells a story of a boy who grows up as a part of the Masai tribe...his WHOLE life depends on cows..... when he turns 5(I think) he HAS to go to school.....And his journey begins there
Oct 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
Fascinating book. I love reading about other cultures.
Taylor Pandolfino
Jun 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: teaching
As a bothersome middle school student relatively uninterested in multiculturalism, I never liked the fiction, nonfiction, and memoirs that explored the lives of people from parts of the world I had never been to and had no intention to visit. Thus, the brilliant imperialist critique of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, the powerful resistance to apartheid found in Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country, and the real beauty of Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth were almost completely lost on me. This wa ...more
Jean Haberman
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Joseph grew up in Kenya and was raised in the nomadic way of life. The family group went wherever there was food for the cattle. Cattle was their life. He had the responsibility of watching over cattle at a young age. His greatest ambition was to become a warrior. A requirement is to be circumcised. Boys ages 12 to 22 have to get permission from the elders. They have to ask by making up songs praising the elders, families, or the cattle and then singing them. Every 10 to 15 years, a group of aro ...more
Sep 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great easy to read coming-of-age book of a Kenyan boy from a nomadic northern Kenyan tribe. This seems like it would be a great middle-school book, except maybe for the chapter on his circumcision ceremony. I did think the book ended a little too suddenly. I wanted to know more of his adaptation to life as a student in the USA and how his family felt about him when he returned to Kenya each year.
May 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book is written for children and I must say, if I were 10, I would have given the book five stars. However, as informative as it was, I would have preferred to read a book for a more mature audience.
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this around 10 years ago but some of the story has stayed with me.
I really enjoyed the book at the time.
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Read this book with my son for our "book club." A positive glimpse into someone else's life, this book gave us a lot to discuss.
Rosie Gearhart
Dec 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My children begged for more every time I read to them from this book. Definitely one of the most memorable (especially the circumcision chapter! Yikes!).
Megan Harrington
Mar 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Pretty good book. I thought it was very well written and it made me feel like I understood there culture more. But if I had the choice I don't think I would read it again. One time reading it was enough.
Nov 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chloe Mccormac
May 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
This book was really good. I liked learning about the Maasai in Africa. Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton is an extraordinary person and it was really interesting to get to learn about what it was like growing up in the Maasai in Africa. It was a really good book for me personally because I'm going to Africa during the summer so it was great to get some background knowledge on the different type of life style that people have in other parts of the world. But even if your not going to Africa it's still a ...more
Jacob Hard
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This a very good memoir about a small boy learning to become a man in his nomadic culture.But overall this book is a nice quick read that I enjoyed.
Feb 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kids, 2017
This book doesn't earn 4 stars because of literary merit but the story is just fascinating. Kids will read this book and learn about an entirely different group of people and culture. I honestly knew nothing about nomadic tribes in Kenya and this simple text taught me a lot.
Jan 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teen
Have you ever been face to face with a lion, scared he's going to eat you for dinner??

This is the true story of Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton who grew up as a Masai warrior in northern Kenya. His tribe is nomadic, which means they move their houses to where the food is plentiful. Growing up in Kenya is totally different than growing up in the United States. Joseph's family lives in a hut made of sticks and cow dung, and they survive on a diet based on cow milk. Cows are very sacred to the Masai and t
Hussein Mohamed
Jan 14, 2011 rated it liked it
my outside reading book is called facing the lion by Joseph Lemasolia Lekuto and Herman viola.This book is about a boy who wants to get education to support his family. Joseph grow up with poor familly.Joseph had two brothers and his mom but his dad died when he was young.Joseph mom decide to send him to Nakuru to go school .His family had to sale cow to pay for his school and Joseph went to school in city called Nakuru in kenya where some wealthy people and poor people that goes to school.

I d
Apr 04, 2009 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Adama Fall
Sep 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
pages read:34 poages
question: sometimes we are pulled toward one or two characters in the story. we identify with them and feel symphaty for them. with wich characters do you identify in the book, and why do you beleive you identify with them
i really like this book cause i have seen a lot of similitude with my lifestyle when i was young. the first characters, i identify is the lion. i come from africa, specially in senegal. we have many lions in senegal. lion is the symbol of bravery and pride
Oct 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Published in 2005, 'Facing the Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna' is the enthralling memoir of Kenyan nomad and humanitarian Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton. Growing up in rural Kenya in the early 2000s, Lekuton's autobiography portrays the difficulties faced in the transitions between Western and local culture in frank honesty. With simple, straightforward descriptions, the tribal heritages and nature fauna of Kenya were brought alive. Despite the author tending to frequently stray away f ...more
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Joseph Lekuton was born in a cow-dung hut to a tribe of Maasai nomads in rural Kenya. In 2003 he graduated with a master's degree in educational policy from Harvard University. His exceptional journey between those two moments and beyond has allowed him to embrace—and bridge—both cultures.

When he was about six years old, Lekuton entered boarding school. During school vacations, he searched to loca
More about Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton...