2023 Winner of Peace Corps Writers’ Award for Best Book for a Young Reader


Kansas Kaleidoscope

Mark G. Wentling
Honduras (1967–69) & Togo (1970–73)


Best Book for a Young Reader

In many ways, 11-year-old Marky is a typical kid in 1950s Kansas. He collects baseball cards like other boys his age, goes fishing and hunting with his father, and has a good shot at winning his town’s annual turtle race. But his family is not immune to hardships. Marky and his siblings, for example, rarely see their dad, Boyd, who works the graveyard shift at an aircraft plant 30 miles away. Their mother, Gerry, is a manic-depressive; Marky adores her but is perpetually worried about her oscillating moods.

After two decades of marriage and six children, Marky’s parents engage in arguments that escalate in frequency and violence. Intense fights send Gerry fleeing to a neighbor’s house only for Boyd to chase her down.

With his older siblings out of the nest, Marky becomes the protector of his two little brothers. The three boys stick together when Gerry makes plans to leave her husband for good  . . . and take her sons with her.

But Marky’s life takes another turn for the worse, as his parents’ never-ending feud culminates in him and his brothers stranded at a foster farm. Now, they’re saddled with uncompromising farm chores, and endure merciless punishments if they stray from their foster parents’ strict rules. Marky struggles to keep up with academics and farm work and to ensure his remaining family stays close. But an indelible figure from his past makes a surprise return and offers him a momentous choice.

Mark G. Wentling (Honduras 1967-69; Togo 1970-73)

Mark G. Wentling has 50 years of humanitarian service that began in 1967 as a Peace Corps Volunteer for five years in Honduras and Togo. His has visited over the past half century all 54 African countries. He says he was born and raised in small towns in Kansas but made in Africa.He was Peace Corps Director in Gabon and Niger. In 1977, he began working for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Niger, and served as USAID’s representative in Guinea, Togo/Benin, Angola, Somalia and Tanzania. He became a Senior U.S. Foreign Service Officer in 1988. He retired from USAID in 1996 but worked under contract as USAID’s Senior Advisor for the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa and as a specialized consultant in Malawi, Senegal, South Africa and Zambia. He also served as USAID’s country manager in Niger and Burkina Faso. In addition, he worked for Non-Governmental Organizations, CARE, World Vision and Plan International, in a number of African countries. In 2015, he moved from Burkina Faso with his family to Lubbock, Texas where he assisted Breedlove, a producer of humanitarian relief foods, and taught a course in international development at Texas Tech University. In 2016, he began working with USAID on several short-term contracts as a senior advisor to various African countries. He was honored in 2014 with Wichita State University’s annual alumni achievement award. He is also a graduate of Cornell University and the National War College. He has published eight books and numerous professional articles. Besides English, he speaks French, Spanish, Portuguese, Ewe, Hausa and Kiswahili. He resides in Lubbock with his wife and one of his seven children. He wishes to be known as a good father, a humanitarian, an author, a teacher and as someone who has a good and generous heart.

Kansas Kaleidoscope
by Mark G. Wentling (Honduras 1967-69 & Togo 1970-73)
Wild Lark Books
August 2022
202 pages
$15.79 (hard cover), $4.99 (Kindle)


Leave a comment
  • Recognition well deserved! I’ve read and reviewed several of Mark’s books over the years. We were both Peace Corps Volunteers in Central America and worked in West Africa.. My favorite book from his “African Trilogy” is “Africa’s Embrace,” which is fiction but reflects his experience working as a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa in the 1970s. The well-developed characters force the reader deep into the heart of Africa. Wentling worked with USAID and the State Department. Hence, his book, “Dead Cow Road,” is an authentic and compelling work of historical fiction that focuses on the U.S. response to Somalia’s 1992 famine. Based on our common experience in Central America, I was also pleased to read “Blue Country.”

    My Dad was born in Kansas so I remember those endless fields of wheat and look forward to learning how Mark’s “Kansas Kaleidoscope” will help us appreciate that lifelong journey from Kansas to working and traveling to over 50 countries in Africa! His is a very compelling Peace Corps story of a life well traveled!

  • Mark, so grateful for your work on this earth for decade upon decade. So proud for you to be able to share your incredible work and lessons with all ages.

    Beth Brownfield
    Honduras 1967-1969

  • Dear Mark! Once again, you hit the target! Well done amigo!


    Jack Riehl
    Cape May, NJ
    PCV Honduras 67/69

  • I am honored to have had the privilege of being a Peace Corps Volunteer with Mark in Honduras, C.A. Mark is an incredible individual who represents what is best about Peace Corps and the work it does in spreading peace in our troubled and problematic world. In spite of the many difficulties and challenges he faced in his life, Mark found ways to overcome them via his strength, courage, determination and love in the service of others. This award and recognition of Mark’s achievements is well earned and deserved.

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