Once Upon a Camel

by Kathi Appelt (Author) Eric Rohmann (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

Perfect for fans of The One and Only Ivan, this exquisite middle grade novel from Newbery Honoree and National Book Award finalist Kathi Appelt follows an old camel out to save two baby kestrel chicks during a massive storm in the Texas desert-- filled with over a dozen illustrations by Caldecott winner Eric Rohmann.

Zada is a camel with a treasure trove of stories to tell. She's won camel races for the royal Pasha of Smyrna, crossed treacherous oceans to new land, led army missions with her best camel friend by her side, and outsmarted a far too pompous mountain lion.

But those stories were from before. Now, Zada wanders the desert as the last camel in Texas. But she's not alone. Two tiny kestrel chicks are nestled in the fluff of fur between her ears--kee-killy-keeing for their missing parents--and a dust storm the size of a mountain is taking Zada on one more grand adventure. And it could lead to this achy old camel's most brilliant story yet.

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Publishers Weekly

Newbery Honoree Appelt's storytelling-interested novel, set in 1910, features an unlikely friendship between an aging camel and a family of American kestrels in the West Texas desert. Zada's joints are achy, but when a massive sandstorm threatens newly hatched chicks Wims and Beulah, the elderly ruminant Auntie rises to the occasion, eager to help the two to safety at the nearby abandoned Mission, a trip that takes on new urgency when a gust blows the kestrel parents off-course. Taking refuge in a mountain lion's lair with the distressed chicks burrowed in her fur, Zada--like her namesake Scheherazade--seeks to entertain. In a second story thread that alternates with the first, Zada relates her upbringing in Turkey, career as an elite racing camel with best friend Asiye, and unexpected journey to Texas as a gift from the Turkish government to the U.S. Army. In prose that's sometimes playful and frequently sensorial ("Sweet and spicy aromas intertwined with the salty fragrance of the sea"), Appelt's celebration of owning one's history proves both empowering and entertaining. Lush occasional oil paintings by Caldecott Medalist Rohmann bring readers into Zada's world. Ages 8-12. Agent: Holly McGhee, Pippin Properties. (Sept.)

Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
Kathi Appelt
Kathi Appelt is the author of the Newbery Honoree, National Book Award finalist, and bestselling The Underneath as well as the National Book Award finalist The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, Maybe a Fox (with Alison McGhee), Keeper, and many picture books including Counting Crows and Max Attacks. She has two grown children and lives in College Station, Texas, with her husband. Visit her at KathiAppelt.com.

Eric Rohmann is the Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator of My Friend Rabbit and received a Caldecott Honor for Time Flies. He has both written and illustrated numerous books for children, including Bulldozer's Big Day, Honeybee, and Bulldozer's Christmas Dig, all written by Candace Fleming. He lives in Oak Park, Illinois. Find out more at EricRohmann.com.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Atheneum Books
Publication date
September 07, 2021
BISAC categories
JUV039060 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Friendship
JUV002000 - Juvenile Fiction | Animals | General
JUV016000 - Juvenile Fiction | Historical | General
Library of Congress categories
Dust storms
Abdul Mejid, 1839-1861
Texas Bluebonnet MAster List
2022 - 2023

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