I’ll tell you what, young camel. You lie there and chew your cud, and learn to smell the sky. What else is there to do while we wait for the clouds to drift in from the horizon, and for the rain to come? And I will tell you how I came to understand the world of men, and how I was once part of the boldest caravan that travelled the furthest in the world…
The story of Burke and Wills and their expedition to cross Australia from south to north and thus open up new land and new routes is one which most Australians should be familiar with. However, this retelling of the story is unique – because the narrator is a camel named Bell Sing who was part of the expedition, retelling his story to a young camel in the desert years later. The use of the camel as narrator offers a fresh, unique perspective on the story, which is complemented by first person narratives of one of the cameleers, Dost Mahomet, and of John King, one of the few survivors of the expedition.
This use of triple perspectives adds depth and allows the inclusion of historical detail which the use of the camel alone would make difficult, however it is the camel’s story which dominates the book, and which will draw young readers in to the story.
For a reader new to the story of Burke and Wills there is enough information, including back of the book author notes, for the story to be followed, and for those who already know the story, it provides a fresh viewpoint. At times funny, at others torrid or sad, The Camel Who Crossed Australia is excellent historical fiction for upper primary aged readers.
The Camel Who Crossed Australia, by Jackie French
HarperCollins Australia, 2008
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