Oct 1, 2012

When I Get Older: The Story Behind "Wavin' Flag"

When I Get Older: The Story Behind "Wavin' Flag" (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written by: K'naan with Sol Guy

Illustrated by: Rudy Gutierrez

Published by: Tundra Books

Published on: September 13, 2012

Provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The 2010 Soccer  World Cup in South Africa had some standout moments, on and off the pitch. The vuvuzela was one musical star but the sound that became synonymous with that World Cup was K'naan's song, "Wavin' Flag." You must have heard it. Even I've heard it! The inspirational and uplifting lyrics sent a message of hope to fans all over the world.

What I didn't know about the song is the man behind it is a Canadian with an inspirational story to tell. When K'naan was born in Mogadishu, it was a shining jewel of a city on the Indian Ocean. He lived with his mother, siblings, and poet grandfather until civil war broke out. His courageous mother brought them to the US and then to Canada as refugees.

Of course, even though we'd like to think that moving to Canada solved all their problems and it was happily ever after, giving up your friends, culture, and language is never easy. New words, new experiences, new footwear are all barriers to cross- but oh the feeling when he does it!

My children both loved the illustration of teen Knaan's foot in a sandal on the snow. They both love to take off their footwear (and other clothing!) just to feel the snow when it rarely visits our locale.

Gutierrez' vibrant illustrations provide layers upon layers of information and infuse the book with feeling. The way the guns that threaten on one page resemble the pointing fingers of bullies on another show how dangerous both are to the safety of a child.

K'naan's message of how important peace and freedom are, that they are worth the hard work we have to put in to get them, is told in an extremely accessible way for young readers. We are left with the refrain of K'naan's most famous song to inspire young people to work for a better world.

"When I get older,
I will be stronger.
They'll call me freedom,
just like a waving flag."

The people behind the book put Thor money where their message is. Half of the proceeds of the book go towards education in Somalia.

 This review is a part of Nonfiction Monday, hosted this week by Shelf-Employed.


  1. Hey cool, I sang that song last year with a South African band here in Sendai!

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  3. Living in Canada at the time, it was one of those songs that was overplayed here. It hit on its own at first, and thanks to CRTC laws was in heavy rotation. Then a reworked version was a Haiti hurricane fundraiser. Then the World Cup. We just couldn't get rid of it. I'm a fan of K'naan, but have had enough of that tune. My kids on the other hand still haven't lost their love for it. It's funny we talk about kids having short attention spans yet they can read the same books, watch the same movies, or listen to the same songs over and over and over...

    1. It is funny! My daughter never tires of Going on a Bear Hunt, no matter how many (hundreds of) times I've read it.

  4. I love how easy it is to travel outside the US, simply by reading a book or visiting a blog - like yours. Thanks for participating in today's Nonfiction Monday roundup. Lisa

  5. Oh wow, I didn't know about this book nor have I listened to the song yet (have to go on youtube and look it up) - this definitely looks like a beautiful book with an equally important message. I love books like this. I have a feeling it would be good as well for our Immigrant Stories Reading Challenge - will check if we have this in our libraries. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I'm with John, that song was played A LOT. A LOT.

    The book sounds really interesting though. I'm going to have to look it up.


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