Temba Dawn by Alec Lea is a coming of age story about a farmer boy who is given a cow calf on his birthday. He takes care of the calf, which he names Temba Dawn, and through raising Temba, he learns to be responsible and has all kinds of wonderful experiences. However, just as things seem to be going well for Temba, Rob’s father announces that they are going to sell the farm. Rob immediately starts to worry about what will happen to his precious Temba Dawn. What he doesn’t realize is that Temba has taught him to be responsible and mature, which will help him cope later on.
On the surface, this book seems extremely innocent. It sounds like a great book to teach kids about growing up, responsibility, and letting go. It is also an enjoyable, short, and easy read for beginners and young children. And it is wonderful for all of those things. However, this book has one component that parents and teachers need to be aware of, and that is the sexual theme of cows mating.
Rob’s father breeds cows to help keep this farm and dairy business going. The topic of cows mating comes up a lot in the book. Most of the comments may go over a child’s head, such as when Rob says things like, “The cows were all riding each other.” Other times he will explain how to tell the differences between male and female cows: “I could tell it was a heifer because it had a slit between its legs.”
These may not seem so bad in the eyes of adults who are careful about what their child is exposed to, but there is one chapter (Chapter 6) that goes almost into full detail of a bull and female cow mating. It is graphic. I wouldn’t say it is bad as something like Fifty Shades Of Grey, but it uses the “P” word and is descriptive enough to be concerning. You could skip that entire chapter and not have to worry about that vivid scene. However, as I said, there are other parts that mention cows mating or their private parts, but they are not anywhere near as bad as that one scene.
Parents And Teachers
If you are a parent, I would be cautionary before letting a child read this book. In my opinion, it is not appropriate for a young elementary student, but as a parent, it is up to you to decide what to censor. For teachers, I would skip this book entirely, at least for the younger grades. It may be appropriate for high school students, but there is always that one parent who is going to complain.
The book shouldn’t be ignored entirely, though, because it is truly a well-written and great story with some nice literary themes.
If you are a teacher that would like to use this book, Temba Dawn makes a great companion to A Blizzard Year, which also discusses farming, loss, maturity, and the ups and downs in life. Many of the same activities I suggest for A Blizzard Year can be used or slightly altered for Temba Dawn.