Muktar and the Camels

Muktar and the Camels

by Scott Mack, Janet Graber
     
 

Muktar lives in an orphanage on the border of Kenya and Somalia. He daydreams about his old life with his family and especially tending to camels. One day, visitors arrive bearing books, and Muktar's friend Ismail is excited; so is Muktar, but for a different reason—the visitors are riding on camels. Muktar quickly discovers that one of the animals is injured

Overview

Muktar lives in an orphanage on the border of Kenya and Somalia. He daydreams about his old life with his family and especially tending to camels. One day, visitors arrive bearing books, and Muktar's friend Ismail is excited; so is Muktar, but for a different reason—the visitors are riding on camels. Muktar quickly discovers that one of the animals is injured and realizes this is his chance to prove himself. If there is anythingMuktar knows, it is camels. Through the eyes of an endearing protagonist whose love and respect for animals shines, this beautifully told story introduces young readers to another part of the world and way of life.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“The present-tense narrative is immediate and spare and is beautifully illustrated by the spacious oil paintings, in desert reds and oranges, which convey the boy's bond with the animals. An author's note and a map fill in more about the war and about the camels, which really do deliver library books.” —Booklist

“Muktar's enthusiasm, knowledge and talent with camels will attract young readers, and the story of the unusual delivery system will engage those who delight in knowing that children everywhere benefit from free library services.” —Kirkus Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Graber's (Jacob and the Polar Bears) quiet story centers on an 11-year-old “dreamer” who deeply misses the time “before drought and war engulfed his homeland.” Muktar and his family had roamed Somalia as nomads, their “worldly possessions strapped to mighty camels”; Muktar's father had repeatedly told his son, “Camels first. Always camels first. Camels are treasure.” When a traveling librarian delivers books to the orphanage where Muktar now lives, he asks the boy to guard his three camels. Muktar notices that one has a gash in its foot, and he gently treats the wound with paste from a gnarled root that his father had given him; the librarian offers to take Muktar with him to care for his camels. A brief author's note about recent Somalia history gives the story a real-world context (the Kenya National Library Service deploys teams of camels each month to deliver books to schools and orphanages). First-time picture book illustrator Mack contributes muted, atmospheric oil paintings of a hazy African landscape and, depicted in grayscale, Muktar's treasured memories of a life before war. Ages 4–8. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Young Muktar, who is now in an orphanage in Kenya, recalls his family's former life in Somalia, before drought, war, and the death of his parents. Life centered around camels then. Missing them and his former life, Muktar has trouble concentrating in his classes. He cherishes a special root given him by his father. The arrival of three camels with a librarian and books excites Muktar because of the camels, and his ambitious friend, Ismail, for the books. Discovering that one of the camels has an injured pad on her foot, Muktar manages, with his special root and knowledge, to fix it. This earns him the chance to travel again with his beloved camels, while Ismail will stay and study. Mack uses textured oil paints to portray the story's quiet scenes in classroom, schoolyard, and simple buildings; but, mostly, he focuses on the boys and the camels. His naturalistic illustrations have a warm sensitivity; these are good men and fine youngsters. These are also informative pictures of a faraway land and people. Readers may speculate on the different choices made by the two boys. Maps and a note on the current situation in Somalia and Kenya are included. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 2–3—Muktar, a Somali orphan in Kenya, misses the nomadic life of his people. His friend Ismail is determined to learn the "new ways" at their orphanage school, but Muktar daydreams of camels and the important place they have in his culture. When a trio of camels visits his school bearing a traveling library, Muktar cares for them so well that he is offered a job doing just that. While many books offer a view of third-world cultures, they often mirror our own values and concerns: Katie Smith Milway's One Hen (Kids Can, 2008) tells the story of nascent capitalism in Ghana; Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen's commendable "Elizabeti" titles (Lee & Low) enlighten readers about Tanzanian family life. Graber's story offers an anthropologist's appreciation for Somali nomadic culture without westernizing Muktar. He is not a bookworm or entrepreneur—he is a displaced child who is made drowsy by the "tangy smell of fresh excrement." Muktar longs to live the life that is in his blood, and Graber tells his story well, though the simple maps and the brief historical context come at the end of the book or on the endpapers. Readers may be concerned when the teacher calls Muktar "lazy" and will have to dig deep to appreciate a dream about dung collection, but the effort will be worthwhile. Mack's oil-on-canvas paintings evoke the sun and dust of Kenya, giving readers an impression of the landscape.—Lisa Egly Lehmuller, St. Patrick's Catholic School, Charlotte, NC
Kirkus Reviews
Muktar's parents died in Somalia, but he has not forgotten his nomadic life, caring for the camels that were the source of his family's livelihood. When three camels laden with books walk into the courtyard of the rural Kenyan orphanage where he lives now, the unhappy boy, always lost in memories and chided by his teacher for laziness, finds a new way of using his skills: He will become the new assistant to Mr. Mohamed, the man who manages the unusual bookmobile. The author tells the story succinctly and without any audience-limiting brutality about the war that has orphaned Muktar. Mack's oils do justice to the orphanage setting and the camels that deliver the books, but the human figures-especially their faces-are sometimes awkward and stiff. Muktar's enthusiasm, knowledge and talent with camels will attract young readers, and the story of the unusual delivery system will engage those who delight in knowing that children everywhere benefit from free library services. (maps, author's note) (Picture book. 5-9)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780805078343
Publisher:
Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date:
08/18/2009
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
9.10(w) x 10.20(h) x 0.40(d)
Lexile:
AD670L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

JANET GRABER is the author of Jacob and the Polar Bears. Muktar and the Camels received a McKnight Award given by the Minnesota Literary Loft. She lives in Minnesota.
SCOTT MACK is the recipient of a Silver Medal from the Society of Illustrators. Muktar and the Camels is his first picture book for children. He lives in Muskegon,Michigan.

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