Kelly Cunnane


Bringing a little bit of Africa to Maine islands

Kelly let us wear real jewels from East Africa, taught us a new language, and showed us how to write observations about unknown things.” – 4th grader

Maine author Kelly Cunnane has travelled the world – Africa, Europe, South America, China and the Caribbean. She has also travelled some of the islands of Maine as a guest of Island Readers & Writers.

Kelly shares what she’s seen and heard in magical, award-winning picture books and books for early readers, all inspired by her adventures and work as a teacher abroad.

Books for children have become a wonderful way for me to share my lifelong love of Africa,” says Kelly. “I have tremendous faith in the power of the arts to create bridges between cultures and within ourselves. I use drama, drawing, and writing to bring alive the world of the Kalenjin tribe and the Sahara as I’ve experienced them. The arts motivate and make learning alive and joyful for me.”

Kelly has been exploring and writing about East Africa since 1979, when she taught school as a Peace Corps volunteer in a village that was 9,000 feet up on the Great Rift Valley. She returned later with her family to live and teach there for a year. In September of 2008 she taught for a year in Mauritania, in West Africa.

A mother of four, she lives now in Beals, Maine.


Past Visits:

May 1. 2018: Vinalhaven School

2015: Kelly visited Swan’s Island Elementary School on May 20 and Deer Isle – Stonington Elementary School on May 29 with her book For You Are A Kenyan Child. Check out photos from Swan’s Island Elementary School on our Facebook page, and read about both days on the blog (there’s a link to video!).

2013: Inter-island event on Isle au Haut.

2012: Mount Desert Island

Immerse Yourself in Kelly’s Books

IRW creates worksheets to supplement the books we bring to life in the classroom, and provide these worksheets to teachers and students to use in preparation for their school visit. Here is a worksheet link for one of Kelly’s books:

For You Are a Kenyan Child worksheets