The Wooden Camel

Wanuri Kahiu, illus. by Manuela Adreani. Lantana (Lerner, dist.), $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-9113-7312-4
A boy dreams of racing camels in Kenyan filmmaker Kahiu’s bittersweet story, which features the Turkana people of northwest Kenya. Etabo’s older siblings tease him for his goal (“He’s too small to race camels”), and he suffers another setback when his father sells their camels in order to afford water. The companionship of a favorite goat, Keti, helps Etabo keep up his spirits, and he prays to Akuj, the Sky God, for help twice. The deity’s response is always the same: “Your dreams are enough.” Delicate pencil outlines combine with gauzy washes of color in Italian illustrator Adreani’s sweeping grasslands; despite the family’s struggles, Etabo’s resilience comes through in playful scenes where he rests in an acacia tree with Keti, “daydreaming about racing camels,” and attempts (unsuccessfully) to ride various uncooperative animals: “Chickens... Cats... And even Keti.” Etabo’s daydreams gain a new outlet after his sister carves him wooden camels to race in his imagination. It’s a simple act that allows Etabo’s dreams to thrive—readers can imagine where that nurtured hope might take him in the future. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/28/2017
Release date: 10/01/2017
Genre: Children's
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