Books DiverseKidLit International Middle Eastern Literature Picture Books Reading Themes

[DiverseKidLit] Camel Racing and Young Children in the Middle East as portrayed in “Azad’s Camel”

Myra here.

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Diverse Children’s Books is a book-sharing meme designed to promote the reading and writing of children’s books that feature diverse characters. This community embraces all kinds of diversity including (and certainly not limited to) diverse, inclusive, multicultural, and global books for children of all backgrounds.

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Upcoming Themes

Themes are a suggestion only; all diverse book posts are welcome. But if you’re interested, you can start planning now …

  • Our next hop will take place on May 20th, and the optional theme will be socioeconomic diversity. Consider sharing some of your favorite books that feature characters across a range of socioeconomic situations.
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Most Clicked Post from Last Time

The most-clicked post from the previous #diversekidlit was Patricia’s review of the new book, Where Will I Live? by Rosemary McCarney. This timely picture book includes photographs from the UN High Commission for Refugees and proceeds from the book will help support programs for refugees.

We have just recently launched our new reading theme until end of June. We have decided to focus on Middle Eastern literature, Arabic tales and stories, tales by Muslims in diaspora, and books on Muslim or Middle Eastern culture.

Azad’s Camel

Written and Illustrated by: Erika Pal
Published by: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2009
ISBN: 1845079825 (ISBN13: 9781845079826)Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me. 

Azad is an orphan boy who lived with his old uncle somewhere in Arabia, as the story begins. He seemed like an industrious, happy young boy with quite a number of talents, including his ability to do handstands, as he would show his friends while on the playground.

It was this particular ability that caught the eye of a wealthy sheikh who offered to take Azad off the uncle’s hands, with the claim that Azad can be trained to become a camel rider. It didn’t take much convincing for Azad’s uncle to give him up. True enough, Azad turned out to be quite an agile camel rider. He was warned by the sheikh, though, not to listen to stories he might hear about talking camels and wandering people of the desert. At the time, Azad did not realize what that meant.

Until one evening when Azad’s camel spoke to him, and offered to take him away from this life that he hated. How the story ends, I shall leave for you to discover.

The Author’s Note in the end indicates that this is apparently a tradition in some of the Gulf states of the Middle East:

Child jockeys are used to ride the camels and come from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sudan, Mauritania and Eritrea. Some poor families are persuaded to sell sons as young as five years old, who are taken away to be trained and often badly treated. Accidents happen a lot, and when a little jockey falls off a racing camel, he can receive serious injuries.

Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates have banned the use of child jockeys and are returning the children to their families so that they can go to school and live a normal life.

Stories like these make me realize that there is an entire world out there that is still unknown to me. And this is precisely why diverse books matter.

#DiverseKidLit is Hosted by:

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Singapore. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she serves as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads or meeting up with her book club friends, she is smashing that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life.

2 comments on “[DiverseKidLit] Camel Racing and Young Children in the Middle East as portrayed in “Azad’s Camel”

  1. Such an interesting book! I can’t wait to see what other Middle Eastern books you review in the coming weeks. I found you on the #diversekidlit linkup.


  2. I work with small children, and it breaks my heart to think of little ones just like them living in such danger and risking their lives for someone else’s entertainment. I’m glad to hear that some countries are moving away from using child jockeys.


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