From School Library Journal
K-Gr 3–Just outside a city somewhere in Arabia, an orphan boy innocently displays his balancing skill to his friends. As it happens, a wealthy sheikh sees Azad and arranges with his uncle to have the boy trained as a camel rider. Azad is taken to a camp in the desert where he works with many other children. Camel racing is frightening, and although he hates it, Azad is good at it and is forced to race often. A glimmer of hope appears one night when Asfur, his camel, speaks to him and suggests a plan to make their next race the last. They don't stop at the finish line, but run until they find themselves alone in the desert. The next morning, some Bedouins discover them and offer them a safe home. Rendered in watercolor and ink, the illustrations aptly depict the action, but the text lacks a readable flow and believable dialogue. A note about camel racing provides information about child smuggling and this dangerous sport, making this book a serviceable title about an important and underexposed topic.Heather Acerro, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, IN
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In an Arabian city, a rich sheikh buys an athletic little orphan boy, Azad, and forces him to work as a camel jockey. Azad hates the dangerous work, and he is frightened by the shouting crowds at the racetrack and by the camels blazing speed. Then his camel, Asfur, begins to talk to him, and they plan an escape: after they cross the finish line, they keep running, all the way through the city until at last they reach the desert and find a home with a loving Bedouin community. The uncluttered double-page spreads in watercolor and ink show the bond between the boy and camel, first in the modern city streets with limousines and skyscrapers, and then in the wide-open desert under the endless sky. A final note talks about the smuggling of children who are forced to race camels today. Young people will be moved by the fast action and the shocking cruelty as well as the touching drama of the brave young athlete’s strong connection with his camel. Grades 1-3. --Hazel Rochman