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The Wooden Camel

Wanuri Kahiu, illus. Manuela Adreani

Age 5-7

In this story set in North West Kenya we meet Etabo a young boy who dreams of racing camels just like his brothers. His siblings laugh and say he is too little, but Etabo knows he could be faster than any of them. When his father has to sell their camels Etabo is devastated. He prays to Akuj the Sky God who tells him ‘Your dreams are enough.’ Etabo isn’t convinced, he tries riding chickens, cats and goats instead but that just isn’t the same.

Meanwhile, his sister Akiru has been watching, she realises Etabo is sad. She makes him a herd of little wooden camels. In his imagination the toy camels come to life, and he can race them. It seems his dreams are enough after all.

A beautifully written story about the power of imagination and hanging onto your dreams with touches of humour in both the words and the very attractive illustrations.

Share the story

Read aloud
Before you begin reading the story aloud talk about the cover and title page together. What do children think will happen in this story?

Read the story aloud pausing to talk about it as you do.

Join in
When you read the story again children can join in with parts such as ‘your dreams are enough’.

Talk about the story
Talk about anything that children are puzzled by. For example they may wonder why people have to buy water in Etabo’s village or unfamiliar words eg ‘catapult’ .

Talk about dreams/ambitions together, what would your child like to be able to do?

Talk about what the other characters might think about Etabo? How does he feel himself at different points in the story?

What does your child know about camels? What might it feel like to ride one?

Watch the story read aloud here:

Things to make and do

Tell the story
Once children are familiar with the story they could tell it to you – using the illustrations to guide them

Draw Etabo’s dream about riding a camel or winning a camel race

Write a letter from Etabo to his sister to thank her

Make toy camels together out of modelling material 

Make a stick puppet camel, if you make two you could have an imaginary camel race 

‘Race the wind’ in a park, on a beach or other big space – what does it feel like to run very fast?

Etabo sings a song to his wooden camels. Listen to a Kenyan song here  or here

Find out more

Find out about the camel derby in Kenya here.

Try to find Kenya on a globe or atlas and find out some information about the country

Parents might be interested to find out more about the author storyteller and film maker Wanuri Kahiu 

Manuela Adreani talks about her work and how she went about illustrating he wooden camel here