Wombat Books, 2015
32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99
In 1875 Ernest Giles is determined to cross Australia from east to west and he knows that camels are the key to his success. Sir Thomas Elder of Beltana Station set in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges is charged with supplying the camels for this new expedition providing the impetus for this award-winning story about an Afghan camel driver’s son, a protected English girl and a small but determined camel named Mustara. Every day Mustara and Taj look out “onto a sea of yellow-red dust and stones. The sand rolls and shifts. Taj’s father says it is like the waves of the ocean and the spinifex bushes are little boats blown about by the wind.” Taj really wants to go with his father on the expedition and is determined to prove that both he and Mustara are capable of undertaking the arduous trip across the desert. However when a sandstorm blows up, he finds himself drawing on all his resources to keep Emmeline and himself safe.
An Internet search will yield both background and teachers’ notes for this new paperback edition of the original published in 2006 that will introduce a whole new audience to the remarkable stories of the Afghans and their camels and their place in Australian history. Perfectly illustrated by the masterful Robert Ingpen, it has to be included in your collection for this year’s Book Week theme Australia: Story Country because it is part of the story of our country.