Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Once Upon a Camel blog tour - 9.01.21

A story about the power of story.  How telling a story can save a life.  How a story can pass time.  And how a story can make a difference.

Once Upon a Camel
written by Kathi Appelt
illustrated by Eric Rohmann
published by Atheneum
publishes 9.07.21

Summary (from Goodreads)
An old camel is out to save two baby kestrel chicks during a massive storm in the Texas desert.

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.

My thoughts
Usually when I start talking to kids about books I'll ask about their reading preferences.  It's funny how readers are often definite realistic fiction readers or fantasy readers.  Personally, I gravitate towards realistic fiction, but I can be a sucker for fantasy.  The kind of fantasy I don't usually pick up?  Animal stories.  Especially if the animal is narrating it.  However, there are a few that hold my interest.  I'll be adding Once Upon a Camel to that list.  In fact, I'll go as far as saying author Kathi Appelt is a queen at writing animal-narrated-fantasy stories.  I really think this one may be her best.  I love that it featured a camel as the main character, such a different character from what we typically see.  When the story first started and the haboob was coming, I really didn't understand how she was going to feature an entire story with this as the problem.  I love the way she wove Zada's past history into stories that literally helped the baby kestrels stay calm and survive.
The book is a trim size - it may seem like a long story, but because of the size of the book, you'll find you get through the book much faster than you may have thought.  I also loved seeing Appelt's humor come through in this story.  I laughed out loud several times!  The chapters are relatively short and despite it taking place in the past and in locations that are probably not as widely known, Appelt makes everything feel comfortable no matter what the background knowledge the reader comes to the book with.  I think this book would make an excellent read aloud.  Short chapters, action, heartwarming and touching story, with some humor... yes, kids are going to enjoy this one!
The story is also full of illustrations by the immensely talented, Erik Rohmann.  No surprise but his illustrations really made the story come to life!

Using it with novel study groups?
  • doing a closer look at settings?  Track how the setting affects the story.  What details did Appelt use to show this story takes place in the past?
  • study the cause/effect plot lines
  • there are three storylines to follow: Zada's current trek, Pard and Perlita's journey, and Zada's stories from the past.  How does the author keep them different?  How do the storylines intersect?
  • think about the concept of story.  What stories are told?  Why are they important?  How did the author use this concept within the story itself?
I am so excited to get this story into the hands of readers next week (Tues., Sept. 7th)!  I know readers are going to fall in love with Zada... they'll laugh with her and perhaps even shed a tear.  Make sure you have this one on your release radar!

More about author 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 for The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp. Some of her award-winning books include Maybe a Fox (with Alison McGhee), Keeper, and Max Attacks to name just a few. She lives in College Station, Texas. To learn more, visit her website at

Find Kathi Appelt on Facebook and Pinterest!

Would you like to own a copy of this gorgeous story (the answer is yes!)?  Atheneum has generously donated a copy for giveaway (US addresses).  Fill out the form for your chance to win.  A winner will be selected on September 8th.