I’ve always had a fascination for Leonardo da Vinci and camels. Leonardo, I understand – the camels, I can’t explain why. Perhaps it’s because camels are such a good example of nature’s ability to create animals with incredible skills and characteristics that enable them to adapt so well to even the harshest environments. How can an animal survive so long with such meagre food and water? For me, camels are a constant source of wonder.
Okay, so you know I love camels. So it probably comes as no surprise that I was enthralled with Rosanne Hawke’s new book, Taj and the Great Camel Trek from start to finish.
The book chronicles the adventures of explorer Ernest Giles on his second attempt to cross the Australian desert.
The expedition is based on historical fact and Rosanne has obviously done an incredible amount of research as demonstrated by the double page spread of sources and research materials quoted at the back of the book.
It’s rich in history, but Taj and the Great Camel Trek is told through the eyes of a fictitious character, Taj, the twelve year old son of the group’s cameleer.
It’s Taj’s perspective that makes this story so accessible to kids. Taj is desperate to be chosen for the trek with his beloved camel, Mustara but he soon discovers that an explorer’s life is nowhere near as glamorous as it sounds.
Taj and the Great Camel Trek has a strong narrative arc but it’s also an accurate account of Australia’s early exploration.
Seamlessly interwoven with the story of the expedition is Taj’s own personal journey and his discovery of family secrets and what really happened to his mother.
I love this kind of book for the fact that it teaches the reader so much about history and the human spirit without them realising they are learning. For the reader who doesn’t want to delve below the surface, Taj and the Great Camel Trek is a cracking adventure.
“wild dogs, scorpions, poisonous snakes and a constant shortage of water mean they are never far from disaster.”
This book also a tribute to the Afghan camel drivers who helped explore Australia and the beasts who endured such hardship on expeditions.
Taj and the Great Camel Trek informs and entertains. It is a captivating read for adventure lovers, historians and readers who simply enjoy a study of interesting and well crafted characters.
Taj’s voice is so strong that I found myself living inside his head as I followed his journey.
This exciting story by award-winning author, Rosanne Hawke depicts tough times in Australia’s history.
Taj and the Great Camel Trek is published by University of Queensland Press for 9-13 year old readers.