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When I Get Older: The Story Behind “Wavin’ Flag"

by  K'naan
Illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez

Published by Tundra Books, 2012
32 pages
ISBN: 978–1–77049–302–5

Ages 7–10

The inspiration for songwriter/poet/singer K’Naan’s hit “Wavin’ Flag” starts with his grandfather, and continues with his experience as a Somali refugee. “Until I was thirteen years old, I lived in Mogadishu, a city that was like a sparkling jewel.” K’Naan’s grandfather was a well-known Somali poet. When war broke out, he wrote a short poem for frightened K’Naan: “When I get older, I will be stronger. / They’ll call me freedom, just like a waving flag.” “Poems will be your courage,” said his grandfather when K’Naan’s mother finally got papers so the family could leave their country. His grandfather stayed behind. In Canada, K’Nann wore sandals in the snow, “but by the time the snow melted, my English was better.” Music was something that helped him connect with other kids, both refugees and Canadians. “Singing made me feel as if anything were possible.” The story’s honest, engaging first-person voice is authentic and childlike. The art is a wonderful combination of realism and abstraction, as poignant faces sit atop bodies and against backdrops full of energy and movement. End matter provides additional information about Somalia and K’Naan, as well as the complete original lyrics to his song.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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