The Wooden Camel

Written by Wanuri Kahiu and illustrated by Manuela Adreani



*21 MUST READS for EMPATHY by EmpathyLabUK and The Sunday Times*

Etabo dreams of being a camel racer. One day he might even beat his older brother when they race. But with the price of water rising, Etabo’s father must sell the camels, and his siblings must find work. What will Etabo do now? From acclaimed Kenyan filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu and Italian illustrator Manuela Adreani, this story of love and hope centres on the inspiring Turkana people of north-west Kenya. Told with gentleness and humour, it is a universal story about keeping one’s dreams alive.


“This evocative story, illustrated by Adreani, transports readers to the desert of northwestern Kenya with sweeping landscape images and dreamlike spreads.  The beautiful illustrations and message about resilience will resonate with a variety of readers young and old. Perfect for one-on-one and small group sharingSchool Library Journal, STARRED review

‘Everyone has dreams, and this story of a Turkana boy who longs to be a camel racer will resonate with children everywhere. Readers will empathise with the kind-hearted siblings desperate to find a way to make their youngest brother happy.’ – EmpathyLab UK, #ReadforEmpathy Guide

‘This empathetic look at a Turkana boy’s deferred dreams and a family’s struggle for a resource taken for granted by most children strikes an important chord for families. – Kirkus Reviews

“Etabo’s daydreams gain a new outlet after his sister carves him wooden camels to race in his imagination. It’s a simple act that allows Etabo’s dreams to thrive—readers can imagine where that nurtured hope might take him in the future. “ – Publishers Weekly

The Wooden Camel is a beautifully illustrated tale of imagination and joy, drawn from the well of day-to-day life. Young readers will see a boy using his creativity and optimism to face his family’s problems. This is a subtle yet powerful lesson useful to children from any part of the world.’ – Nnedi Okorafor, award-winning children’s author

‘Beautifully illustrated! I smiled as I read this charming story of a young boy who finds unique ways to keep on believing even when it seems impossible.’ – Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed, African literature blog, Bookshy

“A gift. The Wooden Camel is a burst of dreamy and imaginative details and elements. This is one stunning piece of work…worth celebrating.” – Ainehi Edoro, Brittle Paper

‘Through its beautiful illustrations and charming story, this book opens a window into another culture while encapsulating a theme that will resonate with anyone who knows how it feels to hold onto their dreams against all odds.’ – Books for Topics

‘This lovely book is perfect for sharing in school and at home and would inspire plenty of quality work no matter what age group it was used with. Beautiful and inspiring!’ – North Somerset Teachers’ Book Awards blog

‘Adreani’s scenes of the Turkana people of Kenya set against the harsh landscapes are truly beautiful and perfectly complement the soft, sympathetic humour of Kahiu’s text. A book to cherish, to share, ponder upon and discuss widely.’ – Jill Bennett, Red Reading Hub 

‘Sometimes reality is harsh and dreams are fragile. The Wooden Camel shows you can race the wind through story and imagination.’ – Alison Brumwell, librarian

‘The stunning illustrations evoke the spirit of the tale, and beautifully bring to life the Turkana people and the landscape they live in. An inspiring story of the power of dreams, belief and holding on to hope even when something seems impossible. The reader is uplifted by the wonderful messages portrayed by the narrative and the gentle humour throughout.’ – Victoria Dilly, librarian and blogger for The Book Activist

‘Like all Lantana Publishing books I have come across so far, it is simply charming and endearing. This book is a must have for a school and library environment to represent a more culturally diverse story which is entertaining and full of heart.’ – Alexis Filby, librarian and author of popular blog Book Monsters

‘A captivating story about self-sacrifice, kinship, and the joys of the imagination. The Wooden Camel is a story that will never lose its magic.’ – Maria Tumolo, The Tiger Tales

‘This universal story of keeping those dreams alive through imagination could have been set anywhere, but by choosing the dry desert of the northwest of her native Kenya, Wanuri Kahiu introduces children to a life very different to their own. Illustrator Manuela Adreani brings Etabo’s world to life in colourful full page spreads that capture the arid heat, dry sandy ground, and, of course, the swiftness of camels. The Wooden Camel is a lovely book which emphasises that no matter how different our lives may be we all have dreams, and through our imagination can pursue them.’  – Mary MayfieldOur Book Reviews Online 

‘Original, lovely, and effective.’ – Youth Services Book Review

‘Italian illustrator Manuela Adreani’s expressive illustrations, with her striking use of colour, of both people and animals are alluring. Whether it’s the double page spread of a dry arid desert, the vast expanse of landscape with a stunning pink sky, the imposing camel and goat or the final exquisite image of Etabo in his sister’s embrace, they all evoke the atmosphere of this region of Kenya bringing it so vividly to life.’ – Outside In World

“There’s lots to like in this story, which is simply told, with some charming characters. Adreani’s illustrations are beautifully expressive.” – School Library Association

“Text and illustrations fit well together with a good storyline that kept me turning the pages – to the surprise ending. Text size, layout and font are excellent so that a young reader will have no difficulty navigating the sentences. A very innovative book” – Jennifer Harding, IbbyLink 49, Summer 2017

“I love the hope in every page in spite of the troubles the characters face. Is it a story just for those in troubled parts of the world? Then perhaps it is for all of us – we all live in troubled spots. There are many children in the UK who live in poverty, there are children in refugee camps across the world and there are children who seemingly have everything, but perhaps still are dreaming about something else. It is for all these children, wherever they are. Today’s dreamers are tomorrow’s leaders, creators and peacemakers.” – Chitra Soundar, Awfully Big Blog Adventure Reviews

‘This is a beautifully illustrated book that really shows that in your dreams anything is possible.’ – Kate Eccles, author of popular blog Along Came Poppy

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