ONCE UPON A CAMEL
By Kathi Appelt
Categories: Middle Grade Fiction / Historical / Friendship / Ages 8-12
Publisher: Atheneum / Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Pub Date: September 7, 2021
Pages: 336 pages
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Zada is a camel with a treasure trove of stories to tell. She’s won camel races for the royal Pasha of Smyrna, crossed treacherous oceans to new land, led army missions with her best camel friend by her side, and outsmarted a far too pompous mountain lion.
But those stories were from before. Now, Zada wanders the desert as the last camel in Texas. But she’s not alone. Two tiny kestrel chicks are nestled in the fluff of fur between her ears—kee-killy-keeing for their missing parents—and a dust storm the size of a mountain is taking Zada on one more grand adventure. And it could lead to this achy old camel’s most brilliant story yet
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Okay. I’ll admit it. I’m a real sap when it comes to stories that personify animals, but in all the years I’ve not met one quite as charming as Zada, and I never thought I would find a camel charming.
Just saying. Horses. Dogs. Cats. They are all delightful in their own ways, but oh, this girl named Zada won my heart.
The structure of the story was smooth, going from present time to the past. The drama never faltered as we were with Zada and the chicks, racing to beat the danger of the horrible wind that could blow those little passengers to kingdom come, for a little while before jumping back in time to the history of how Zada and her camel friends were brought to the United States. Learning that history was an added bonus for me, and I’m sure it will be for other readers. An introduction to some words and phrases in other languages was interesting, too.
And you can say what you want about camels, dirty, stinky beasts that they are, but I dare you not to fall in love with Zada. Go ahead. Get the book and see what I mean.
The relationships between characters in the story are precious, especially with Zada and the chicks who worry so about the bird parents and what dangers they might face before finding safety from the storm. I also love the tenacity of Perlita, the mother bird who fought her own battle to make it back and reunite the family. Family, be it human, animal, or fowl, is held together most of the time by the strength of the mother. Since Perlita is not there to help her chicks in the beginning of the story, Zada steps in as a perfect substitute, even though she wonders how on earth to keep the chicks safe.
You don’t have to be a young kid to enjoy this book. The kid in us all needs a fun read like this at times.
Kathi Appelt is the author of the Newbery Honoree, National Book Award finalist, and bestselling The Underneath as well as the National Book Award Finalist The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, Maybe a Fox (with Alison McGhee), Keeper, and many picture books including Counting Crows and Mogie, the Heart of the House. She lives in College Station, Texas, with her husband and five gifted and talented cats.
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Three signed copies of the book
(US only. Ends midnight, CDT, 10/9/21)
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|9/29/21||Book Trailer||The Clueless Gent|
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