________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 3 . . . . September 30, 2005


Marilou Keeps a Camel. (First Novels, 50).

Raymond Plante. Translated by Sarah Cummins. Illustrated by Marie-Claude Favreau.
Halifax, NS: Formac, 2004.
61 pp., pbk. & cl., $5.95 (pbk.) $14.95 (cl.).
ISBN 0-88780-634-1 (pbk.), ISBN 0-88780-635-X (cl.).

Subject Heading:
Camels-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-9 .

Review by Lisa Hanson O'Hara.

* /4


 The title of Raymond Plante's Marilou Keeps a Camel tells a good part of the story. When a camel named Camelot arrives unexpectedly at the zoo, Mr. Polar, who takes care of maintenance at the zoo, hasn't had time to build an enclosure for the dromedary, and the polar bears have been splashing him in his temporary spot. The zookeeper suggests that the Polars keep Camelot in their backyard until a proper enclosure can be made. The Polars agree, and Marilou can't wait to show him off to her friends:

"In your backyard?"

On the other end of the line, Boris Plotkin sounded skeptical. "Yeah, right, Marilou. This is another one of your tricks. I'll believe you have a dromedary in your backyard when I see it." "Well, well!" replied Marilou. "For someone who claims to love animals, you're not in much of a hurry to come and check it out." That bothered Boris. "Okay, okay, maybe I'll come by. But I'm warning you, if I go over there for nothing--"

"Got to go now. The Carboni sisters are here."

     Marilou and her friends play with the camel in the yard and discover a few facts about camels including their physiology and dietary requirements. This section is brief and doesn't give a lot of
information however. The story continues with a dream in which Marilou and the dromedary visit other animals, ending with a crocodile.

     Now the dromedary turned into a crocodile.

"You are in the jungle of the Amazon. The river you are swimming in is infested with piranhas and crocodiles."

The crocodile smiled at her. My, what great big long teeth it has...

"You see what happens when you are unfamiliar with the customs of a new country. You feel lost and afraid of the unknown."


     Marilou awakens with the realization that Camelot is unhappy because he is in a strange country and everything is unfamiliar, and so she decides to take him for a walk downtown. This doesn't prove to be a very good idea as dromedaries are not generally seen on the street and storekeepers aren't very happy about them poking their heads into their shopfronts. The story ends with the temporary enclosure constructed satisfactorily and the camel happy.

     This story could have been very amusing and fun, but it misses the mark and is boring instead. The transitions between the chapters are very abrupt, and, as a consequence, the chapters don't hang together very well. Some of the ideas are belabored, as in the dream Marilou has in which the camel turns into various creatures. Marie-Claude Favreau's grey-scale sketches are the best part of this story illustrating the characters, including Camelot, in a variety of emotions and situations. Perhaps readers of the other Marilou stories will be interested in this title, but it is disappointing on the whole.

Not Recommended.

Lisa Hanson O'Hara is a mother of three children and a librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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