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Exiled: Memoirs of a Camel

Exiled: Memoirs of a Camel

by Kathleen Karr

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The year is 1856 and Ali soon finds himself in Texas as part of the U.S. Camel Corps. Crossing the landscape of 19th century America, Ali learns to balance his pride with the needs of his new companions, and slowly matures into a noble creature.


The year is 1856 and Ali soon finds himself in Texas as part of the U.S. Camel Corps. Crossing the landscape of 19th century America, Ali learns to balance his pride with the needs of his new companions, and slowly matures into a noble creature.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Karr (The Great Turkey Walk) once again mines a sliver of American history in this stylized novel, narrated by a camel from Egypt who is bought by a colonel in the U.S. Army and transported, along with other camels, to Texas to join the short-lived U.S. Camel Corps. Featuring occasional camel-speak (e.g., a human is a "man-beast"), Ali's narrative chronicles the animals' arrival in "Texas-America" in the "Year of the Infidels 1856." (Ali and the other camels, along with their cameleer, worship Allah; brief quotes from the Qur'an introduce the three parts of the novel.) Working with "soldier-beasts," for whom the camels frequently demonstrate their contempt by spitting, they are trained for an artillery experiment that fails and is abandoned. The camels next form a caravan and travel west across the desert, carrying supplies and hauling boulders as the army builds a new road. "A great road lasts almost forever," Ali consoles Fatinah, his eventual mate who, like Ali, despises servitude. "Our great-grandchildren will travel the road, the route we are breaking. They will feel pride in the knowledge of its builders. Pride in talents brought to this land first by us." While the story offers an idiosyncratic view of the Old West, the Gold Rush and other historical moments, it also may engage readers who can see past Ali's mannered speech and identify with his yearning to be free. Ages 10-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Allah in his wisdom created the camel, Ali. Ali was born in the land of the Ancient Ones. Raised Muslim amid the pyramids and sand dunes of Egypt, Ali was captured and tamed by men-beasts; but in his heart, Ali never submitted. Sold to an American soldier in 1856, Ali and other camels journeyed by ship to Texas. Becoming acclimated to his new environment, one sees life through Ali's eyes as he finds purpose, selects a mate, starts a family, and secures his freedom in the Mohave Desert. Based on actual events in the history of the United States, this fictional story from the point of view of a camel is a delightful tale that takes the reader into two very different worlds that also have many similarities. 2004, Marshall Cavendish, 240 pp., Ages young adult.
—Joy Frerichs
Children's Literature
We're all familiar with stories and movies told in the voice of a mouse, even a badger or a dog. But a camel? Camels are mysterious and exotic. They smell and spit. But tell stories? Stories with pathos, intelligence and suspense? Yes to all of the above in Kathleen Karr's Exiled. The camel Ali is born near Luxor, Egypt, but he is soon captured, separated from his beloved mother and shipped to the United States to become part of the U.S. Camel Corps, a mid-nineteenth century experiment to help American soldiers function in the desert. Karr marvelously embellishes the real, historical "soldier-beasts" like Edward Beale as well as the Egyptian cameleer Hi-Jolly (Hadji Ali) , creating a touching story of camel-love for Ali and his beautiful, gentle mate Fatinah. The author's notes tell us that camels were no longer needed after the expansion of the railroad but were sighted in the southwestern desert as late as the 1920s. The skeleton of one of the key camel characters in the book is on display at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Karr's studied original documents about the Camel Corps, rode camels over the sand dunes of Egypt and Morocco, even found appropriate references from the Muslim holy book, the Qur'an ("Do they not look at the Camels? How they are made?"), for Ali is a devoutly Muslim camel. Exiled is a perfect way to absorb history and culture and enjoy a good story all at once. You'll never look at a camel the same way again. 2004, Marshall Cavendish, Ages 10 up.
—Karen Leggett
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Returning to the 19th century, Karr shapes her latest historical novel around the U.S. Army's attempt to create a Camel Corps in the American Southwest. Ali, the narrator and central character, is a principled and capable Egyptian camel, inculcated from infancy in devotion to Allah, pride in the accomplishments of "the Ancients" of Egypt, and the psychology of navigating the complex link between man and camel. Sold along with many other Egyptian camels, including Seid and Fatinah, to the army, Ali travels to the United States, learning as he goes, adapting to new landscapes, and yearning for the day when he and Fatinah will be old enough for marriage. Karr works in a good bit of information about these animals, including an explanation of how and why they spit so effectively, and provides a few brief, though frightening, examples of camel-on-camel violence, culminating with the deadly competition among Ali, Seid, and Omar to become Fatinah's mate. The two central human characters are both historical, and Karr tells a bit more about both of them in an afterword. While not a modern classic like The Great Turkey Walk (Farrar, 1998), Exiled combines a relatively exotic setting with children's love of animals for a successful exploration of a promising but failed experiment.-Coop Renner, Fairmeadows Elementary, Duncanville, TX Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In the tradition of Robert Lawson, a fascinating (if short-lived) chapter of US military history is brought to life by a most unusual narrator. His mother reared Ali the camel in the ancient city of Karnak to feel all appropriate pride in his heritage. Her message to him, in the event of capture: "Work, but never surrender." When he is inevitably captured, he makes himself so difficult that he's sold to the US Army in 1856 to become one of the new US Camel Corps. Working, but never surrendering, he and his camel comrades make their way from "Texas-America" to "California-America," Ali always plotting the moment for his escape. Ali tells his tale with the certainty of innate superiority, his voice an endearing combination of noblesse oblige and eagerness, peppered with just the right number of "Humph!"s. Karr presents a full cast of supporting characters, both camel and human, who provide the narrative tension that runs underneath the story: how does Ali reconcile his drive for freedom with the regard, and even love, he feels for the men-beasts? A gem. (Fiction. 9-13)

Product Details

Amazon Childrens Publishing
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.28(h) x 0.94(d)
690L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 13 Years

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