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Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

*Camel Rider* by Prue Mason- young readers fantasy book review
Camel Rider
by Prue Mason
Ages 12+ 208 pages Charlesbridge February 2009 Paperback    

Adam is from Australia, but he’s lived the most important years of his life in Abudai, a small country in the Middle East. Like his friends, Adam and his family have their home in a compound that allows them to maintain a comfortable environment without significant exposure to the local culture.

Walid came to Abudai from Bangladesh. That isn’t his real name, though; ‘Walid’ simply means ‘boy,’ and it is only what he is called by Old Goat, the cruel master who bought the boy and keeps him enslaved.

The two boys have nothing in common and would never have met if Abudai hadn’t been attacked by enemy planes. With the city in ruins, Adam suddenly finds himself stranded in the desert with Walid. The boys have no common language, but they understand that working together is the only way to survive the dangerous landscape and escape the clutches of Old Goat and his gang. It isn’t just language that separates the boys, either; Adam and Walid don’t understand or trust each other’s strange traditions.

Prue Mason draws on her experience as a foreigner in the Middle East to weave an exciting tale of adventure in Camel Rider . “I learnt that when people from different cultures meet, they often don’t trust or respect each other,” she writes in a note to readers. “I know that no culture is better than another; we just do things differently.”

Her understanding of the differences in tradition is expressed frequently through Adam and Walid’s approach to even the basics of survival. For example, when they find a goat, Adam assumes they’ll drink the milk, but Walid believes that “milk is food for babies” and that eating the goat is their only choice.

Different cultural assumptions like that one create most of the conflict in Camel Rider. Writing from the two different points of view, Mason lets readers into the minds of the boys so that we can immediately understand why each is baffled by the other. What’s more, readers learn along with Walid and Adam that there is nothing inherently threatening about differences.

While Camel Rider certainly is a book about understanding and cultural communication, the boys’ adventures in the desert make it a page-turner. It’s the sort of book that educates subtly while taking readers for an exhilarating ride through harsh country and uncertain circumstances. That, plus Prue Mason’s sly humor and fair stance, makes Camel Rider a book that satisfies on every level.
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