Through the power of computers and television our young readers are involved actively in the world about them. However most of what is available is adult-oriented. Seldom do they learn about the youngsters, like themselves, involved in the activity. One way to remedy that situation is to find children’s books introducing the young people of the world.
A new book, MUKTAR AND THE CAMELS by Janet Graber, illustrated by Scott Mack (Henry Holt, 2009, $16.99) takes our young reader into an orphanage on the Kenya and Somalia border. An orphan Muktar dreams fondly of his family when he tended their camels. One day a visitor arrives with camels and books. However one of the camels is injured and Muktar offers his help to the traveler. The traveler is a librarian working for the Kenya National Library Service and not particularly adept at handling camels. Muktar is taken on and promises to return often to the orphanage to replenish their supply of books.
Lines from this text illustrating the differences between cultures are fantastic. For example after a day of travel Muktar lay beside the camel and “The tangy smell of fresh excrement makes him drowsy.” The young boy’s life differs so radically from what most American children would ever encounter. Yet, these are the young people our young people must face in the future. I feel strongly that if all cultures could ever really get to know each other, more than superficially on television, so much of the conflicts would be lessened if not eliminated.