Review Detail

Middle Grade Fiction 114
A Camel in Texas?
Overall rating
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What an exciting and sweet story about a crusty old camel and two baby chicks who brave the Texas wilderness in the early 1900s. ONCE UPON A CAMEL by Kathi Appelt is a historical novel told from the animal's perspective about a time when camels were shipped from their home in the middle east to the state of Texas.

This story follows Zada, an older camel full of stories from her days in Smyrna. She was racer, fought in wars, braved a mountain lion, and had so many adventures. Her greatest adventure was crossing the sea to a new land. But all of that was before. Now Zada is the last camel in Texas, wandering the desert alone until she finds two baby kestrels separated from their parents during a windstorm. Now Zada is on her biggest and most important adventure yet.

I absolutely loved Zada and the chicks. The chicks were exactly what you'd expect from children, constantly pestering each other and then immediately telling on the other one to Zada. She is a calming influence on them, regaling them with her stories and promising to help them find their way home. The story alternates from Zada's present to her past which is denoted at the beginning of the chapters with dates. It was interesting to see Zada's before and her now through her eyes and the eyes of the chicks. There are beautiful, hand drawn illustrations to accompany Zada's stories, bringing them to life on the page.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. The history behind camels coming to Texas (which I did not know before reading) and the whimsy of telling the story through the camel's eyes caught and held my attention. I appreciated that the author didn't shy away from harder vocabulary which will stretch younger readers knowledge and encourage them to learn new words. This one is sure to please readers who enjoy animal stories and history.
Good Points
-Found Family
-Challenging Read for age range
-Owning the good and bad of our history
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