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The Last Straw Paperback – July 1, 1999


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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 3-Hoshmakaka, an old, foolish, and proud camel, is chosen to carry the wise men's gifts to the baby Jesus. Reluctantly, he agrees and boasts to the younger camels that he has the strength of 10 horses. As he embarks on his journey, people along the way ask him to take their gifts. Goaded by the younger camels, he keeps adding to his load. A small child asks him to carry one last gift, a piece of straw for the baby's bed, and Hoshmakaka is brought to his knees by the weight. Jesus reaches out and touches him and "From that time on there was no burden, great or small, that Hoshmakaka would not gladly carry." The story is adapted from Thury's original libretto, performed by the Toronto Children's Chorus. Strikingly rich, detailed watercolors enrich the text. While the humbling message may be too subtly conveyed for very young children, this low-keyed and gentle story can be enjoyed by a broad audience.-M.W.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

A grumpy camel's boast comes back to haunt him in this engaging Christmas picture-book tale, adapted from a choral libretto. Despite gout, sciatica, and general surliness, old Hoshmakaka reluctantly agrees to carry the Wise Men's gifts to the baby king. But because he incautiously puffs himself up before the younger camels, he also ends up taking jugs of milk and wine, baskets of pastries, and other presents offered along the way. Vlasa van Kampen's bright, sharply detailed watercolors depict the shaggy protagonist plodding along in stately arrogance beneath a burden that grows to comically towering proportions. When a child asks him to carry a piece of straw, Hoshmakaka refuses. He relents, however, but he realizes that if he wants to finish his trek, he'd better not stop again. Entering the stable at last, the camel falls to his knees in exhaustion, whereupon a touch of the baby's hand dispels both the burden's weight and the camel's wounded pride. The text and illustrations work unusually well together to evoke the story's humorous undertone while preserving a grand sense of occasion. John Peters --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Charlesbridge; 1 edition (July 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0881063606
  • ISBN-13: 978-0881063608
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.1 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #489,569 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
5 star
80%
4 star
11%
3 star
9%
2 star
0%
1 star
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See all 35 customer reviews
The art in this book is beautiful I love it.
David Lamson
This book is going to be used with my students in third grade.
Reeniegirl
Wonderful Christmas book for children of all ages.
Marilyn ketch

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
A proud camel is selected to accompany the Magi described in Matthew to carry gifts for Jesus. He tries to get out of the journey (he has other commitments), but is convinced otherwise by some sand-blowing voices. As his journey continues, so does his burden, as gifts are added to his back. A young child even adds a straw for the baby's bed, that, well, I don't want to spoil the ending ("Will this straw cause me to fall?").
We used this book as the basis for our church's family Christmas Eve service. The children participated in a recreation of the Christmas stories in Matthew and Luke, and then settled in for a reading of this great book. During the story, we had two people in a camel costume come through the aisles, as "presents" were loaded onto baskets on the "camel's" back. It was a great success, and helped bring alive the oft-repeated Bible stories.
Thury has a great skill of weaving in enough adult humor to keep the attention of even the most holiday-weary parent (this camel complains of his joints, gout and sciatica, which all parents and granparents can relate to after weeks of holiday shopping, eating and "assembly-required" efforts). My seven year old has requested it again and again. Original, enchanting and a great twist on both the Christmas story and "the straw that broke the camel's back." Or did it? The pictures are outstanding.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 3, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is such a wonderful book! Every year I look for a special book to share with my family, this year it will be The Last Straw. It is a humorous tale that also teaches a valuable lesson about humility. The Last Straw is right up there with Santa Calls and The Red Ranger Came Calling. I highly recommend this book!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By C. G. on September 3, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hoshmakaka is a camel that appears selfish from the very beginning. After hearing voices in the wind, he is given a task to help the three "wise men" on their own journey to see Jesus. His foolishness/pride eventually makes his journey harder than it may have originally been while traveling to witness the birth of the baby Jesus. Now, he struggles to prove to himself, as well as his peers, that he's not all talk.

While only a thirty-two page book, the illustrations and story are miraculous in every aspect. The notion of something being "the last straw that broke the camel's back" is taken both figuratively and literally in this story. I absolutely recommend this alternative nativity story to anyone willing to experience an unconventional perspective not usually portrayed around Christmastime. With a beautiful ending, the audience is sure to grasp the meaning of Christmas while learning a lifelong virtue readers are sure to see. Happy reading!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By L. K. Stevens on July 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I love this book. I read it to my Sunday school class every year (preschool & kindergarteners) -- I still get teared up when the camel arrives at the manger...it is so touching and awe inspiring! The children are completely entranced by the story -- no one stirs as we read the story -- even the 3 year olds will be still with their little jaws open.

Together we wonder... will the old camel make it to the manger? Will the camel accept the little boys gift at the end of the journey?

It should be on every child's bookshelf at Christmastime. It is the spirit of the season.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Paula J. Hanna on February 6, 2010
Format: Paperback
This was a Christmas gift for my almost 10-year old son. It had been recommended to me by a friend. I found it uplifting and humorous at the same time. A look at the Wise Men's visit to the Christ child through the eyes of their camel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By K. Cole on January 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book was introduced to me by our pastor's wife. It follows the journey of a begrudging camel and his lack of enthusiasm to do as God's angels asked him and take gifts to the new baby King. Just when Hoshmakaka can't seem to bear anymore, he takes one last piece of straw and that brings him to his knees in front of the Baby Jesus and he forgets his burdens. This is a beautifully told and illustrated story that delights my four year old and brings tears to my eyes as I realize the parallel for our everyday lives.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mum of 5 {ages 7 and under} on December 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There's a similar book that we just love in our family called Humphrey's First Christmas. It is a little similar to this one but Humphrey's First Christmas gets me choked up with tears every.single.time. I found the camel character in this story was more negative and whiny. We will more than likely pass this book along.
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By L. on December 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We checked this book out from our local library when our daughter was just three. It was an instant favorite for us all. It made us laugh and touched us to tears. Two years later, our daughter still asks her daddy to give her a "Hoshmakaka ride" - him, the broken down old camel & her "the last straw." When trying to check it out at the library again this Christmas, I couldn't find a copy -- all were checked out & with holds on them. So I knew I had to buy a copy of our own. I highly recommend you do the same. It's a classic!
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