cover image THE CAMEL'S LAMENT


Charles E. Carryl, , illus. by Charles Santore. . Random, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-375-81426-6

A camel's whiny yet comical complaint in this turn-of-the-century light verse serves as springboard for Santore's imaginative and droll illustrations. "Puppies are able to sleep in a stable,/ and oysters can slumber in pails./ But no one supposes/ a poor camel dozes—/ anyplace does for me!" Carryl writes in the same vein as contemporaries Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll, and though his poetry may not be as memorable, it unwinds with a lilting rhythm. Each stanza lists how, in the camel's opinion, other animals are better housed, fed and used, but the end of the poem contains neither a surprise nor a satisfying conclusion (his final beef: the other animals have better shapes, "But a camel's all lumpy/ and bumpy and humpy—/ any shape does for me!"). Santore's watercolors, on the other hand, combine naturalistic verisimilitude with anthropomorphous features, lending human character to the grousing camel and a plethora of other creatures. The artist renders the large-size animals—from the stunning scarlet macaw to the finicky poodles wearing pink napkins around their necks—with amusing details. The long-suffering dromedary himself is the most appealing here, whether eating scrub plants with an air of resignation, or staring Sphinx-like at readers with an enigmatic look in his eyes. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)