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.

Review

This book is a perfect fit among Texas Tall Tales!  Written for people ages 8-12, this is an intriguing tale of Zada the camel that travels from a Greek city to West Texas.  Zada has lived a long life, 60 years, and has seen a great deal in her travels.  As a young camel, she was one of the Pasha’s racing camels.  She and her best friend Asiye would fly down the race track and dream of being able to really fly.  Being a racing Camel means that she is very important and does not have to carry a pack.  While racing, she is taught three important rules for racing: no bumping, no side-kicks, and above all no spitting.

Zada becomes a part of the US Army Camel Caravan and is sent to Texas.  She is not impressed with the horses she meets and finds herself struggling with the idea of carrying a pack now that she has left behind her racing days.  Zada has many adventures and uses these experiences to tell her “adopted” niece Beulah and nephew Wims, two baby Kestrels, stories that keep them entertained.  These stories become very important as the camel and her Kestrel good friends, the two babies and parents, are faced with a gigantic dust storm that threatens all of their lives.  Auntie Zada comes to the rescue by carrying Wims and Beulah through the storm to safety.  Being a very smart camel she tells them stories of her life to keep them focused on something other than the storm that is racing toward them.

Appelt includes a lot of history in this fun, whimsical tale: the history of camels and the help they have always provided humans, the history of the land they travel, and even Conquistadors.  We are kept laughing and entertained, not just by the stories within a story, but with terms like OOD, which stands for Official Okie Dokie, the request Zada makes for agreements with her charges.  This is a darling, daring story that combines some facts with a lot of imagination! 

CLICK TO PURCHASE
Simon and Schuster ~ Bookshop.org

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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