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.



Me riding a camel at Kings' Canyon

Anyone who knows me well will know that I have a fascination for camels so this week I couldn’t resist celebrating two great books for kids on just that subject.

Today, Rosanne Hawke is visiting Kids’ Book Capers to talk about Taj and the Great Camel Trek. I’ll be reviewing her book later on this afternoon at Kids’ Book Capers.

She is the author of 17 published books and consistent themes in her books seem to be about displacement and culture –  covered in Taj and the Great Camel Trek


1.  Be persistent – if you feel this is what you were born to do, then keep practicing, reading, learning the market.

2.  Never compare your work to another’s unless it is to learn something for there’s a place for all of us as long as we’ve done our best. Comparing only leads to a lack of confidence and jealousy. When you read a book that is better written than yours, thank God for the talent of that writer and learn.


What inspired you to write this book?

After I wrote Mustara, the picture book, I’d look at those beautiful end pages that Robert Ingpen painted and I’d think, This story isn’t finished yet.

What’s it about?

It’s the story of Taj and Mustara joining Ernest Giles exploring expedition to Perth in 1875 and what happens on the way.

What age groups is it for?

Ten plus.

Why will kids like it?

It’s an adventure, it’s exciting, and it’s basically true, except for Taj.

Can you tell me about Taj and what you like/dislike about him?

Taj is a twelve-year-old boy with an Afghan dad and an Irish mum. He does have a problem as he can’t come to terms with his mother leaving. He thinks she didn’t love him. This makes him a bit wary of making new friends and he can get a bit solemn at times. But there are other characters who teach him a lot about loosening up.

Are there any teacher’s notes, associated activities with the book?

Yes on my website there are teachers’ notes and other info. I’m still putting more of this up. UQP and Penguin also have the notes on their sites.

Is there something that sets this book apart from others?

It is totally based on a true event and I have tried to show the culture, language and thought processes of Taj and the other members of the expedition faithfully.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Getting to know Taj better – he’s really nice and likes Emmeline so much. It would be interesting to see what they do when they are older.

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

It was very difficult getting the balance of history and fiction right so that it would be an exciting read for modern kids. It took me four years to write.

Thanks for visiting, Rosanne and sharing your journey with us. This afternoon, I’m reviewing Taj and the Great Camel Trek here at Kids’ Book Capers.