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ONCE UPON A CAMEL by Kathi Appelt


by Kathi Appelt ; illustrated by Eric Rohmann

Pub Date: Sept. 7th, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-5344-0643-8
Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

How does one entertain two baby kestrels in the middle of a West Texas dust storm? With camel stories, of course.

Like her namesake Scheherazade, elderly camel Zada has many stories to tell from her adventurous life. It’s 1910, and she has charge of Wims and Beulah, two baby kestrels whose parents have vanished in a vicious dust storm. The threesome shelter in an empty mountain lion’s cave, waiting for safety. Zada hopes to get the chicks to the safe meeting place chosen by their parents just before a dust devil snatched them away. The evocative language is spellbinding as tales from Zada’s life calm the baby birds—and capture the interest of readers as well. The fledglings learn that Zada was raised by a Turkish pasha and gifted with eight other prized racing camels to the U.S. Army in 1856, ending up in Texas (events inspired by actual history). A delight to the senses, Zada’s stories are a descriptive wonder, featuring roiling dust, howling winds, fresh figs, and cool water, bolstering the emotions shown in Rohmann’s grayscale oil paintings. Readers will revel in both the vivid stories of Zada’s past and the rich vocabulary of Texas desert life. Appelt’s voice and pacing demonstrate her fine storytelling skills. Hearts will grow fond of this wise old camel; she is a bright star.

For the curious, the listeners, the adventurers, the caregivers, the young, and the old.

(glossary, author’s note, sources) (Fiction. 8-12)