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Kira Van Deusen
Illustrated by Anne DeGrace
Vancouver, Polestar Press, 1992.40pp, cloth, $16.95
ISBN 0-919591-90-6. Distributed by Raincoast Books, CIP.


Reviewed by Edith Strocen.

Volume 21 Number 3
1993 May

Gamel the Camel is part of a camel cargo train, which follows the Sahara trade routes, carrying loads of traditional trade goods plus musical instruments and ... skateboards.

All the camels sing when they are by themselves. Gamel is no exception, but his song is somewhat different. One day he meets Rhumba the elephant, who helps him out of a difficult situation.

Then Gamel is "discovered" by promoter Symour Moneymore, who entices the camel from the cargo train and onto the stage. Gamel enjoys fame and fortune until one day he is presented with an ivory necklace. Suddenly he remembers his old friend Rhumba and realizes that elephants are in grave danger from people and governments who covet their ivory tusks. With the help of Rhumba, five hundred elephants, Jezanna (an African schoolgirl), and a thousand of her classmates, a rally for the rights of elephants is success­fully held.

Illustrations by Anne DeGrace are soft pencil sketches of the camels, elephants and other participants in the story. Some illustra­tions are in black and white, some in full colour. All the pictures are bordered with a multi-coloured ribbon frame. There is also an afterword by Joyce Poole of the Kenya Wildlife Service. It contains some factual information about elephants and the ongoing problem of ivory poaching. A portion of this book's sales is to be donated to the Kenya Wildlife Fund.

Laudable as the intent of this book is, the story is simply not very credible. Even an animal fantasy must have some basis in reality. Although elephants migrate over large tracts of land, the Sahara is not a part of their range. It is also doubtful that they could use their tusks to find water in the dunes of the desert.

Although the story was written with the best of reasons, for children between the ages of four and ten, four-year-olds would find the text too long and confusing and ten-year-olds would be bored by its obvious silliness. It simply has too many flaws: an overlong text with too many subplots and too many unnecessary characters, and a story-line that is too flimsy. With expert editing it could have been a much better story.

Visually, it is an attractive book, 21.5 x 23.5 cm, with a washable cover. The sand-coloured endpapers feature a cargo-laden camel train.

Regretfully, not recommended.

Edith Strocen is the librarian at Greenway School in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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