Anne Bancroft Fowler
One of the holiday practices many people enjoy is the creating of a Christmas village. This is often non-religious but grows out of the Christian practice of setting up a manger scene. Perhaps the most interesting type of manger scene assembly is that of the French who bring together not just three wise men and some animals but nearly every profession from every kind of village to present gifts to the infant Christ. One can see how this practice opens up the possibility for story.
In a way, Anne Bancroft Fowler is participating in this tradition by crafting her own non-canonical Christmas tale, The Christmas Camel. It is a children’s story that succeeds due to its good-natured charm and keen sensibility to the understanding of young readers who are not quite middle grade (middle grade is usually viewed as between 8-12, Fowler’s book sits firmly for those kids under the age of 8).
We are presented with the story of Omarr the camel living with his owner the boy Basel, outside of Nazareth during the time of Jesus’ birth. Most of the book is told from Omarr’s point of view as the fig loving camel attempts to make sense of the actions of the people around him. Basel and Omarr are friends with a certain Joseph and Mary, giving readers and those read to their first glimpse of foreshadowing. The first great twist in this story comes after Basel with his camel flees the town market due to Omarr’s love for figs getting them into trouble. Out in the country, the two encounter three travelers. These travelers are the would-be Three Wise Men of the Christmas story. With one of their camels having wandered off, Basel sells them Omarr placing the always observant camel at the crux of one of the greatest stories ever told.
Fowler does a good job of both sticking to and diverting from the standard Christmas story. Her book is one which ought to be in every Sunday or parochial school’s bookshelf. It is also one parents might like to break out during the holidays for a change of pace similar to the variety of new Christmas specials that have appeared on network television over the past few years. Almost every evangelical will find the moral of this story pleasing as well as an opportunity to teach their children about their faith.
Former teacher of Spanish, French and English, Anne Bancroft Fowler is the published author of 20 mid-grade scary/horror stories. Her book,”Ten Minute Terrors”, was distributed by Troll Books along with one of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series. Fowler’s first adult novel, “The Jesuit Papers”, won an award at the East of Eden Conference, and Honorable mention in the 2012-13 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, and the 2012-13 New York Times Festival of Books. “A Game of Bones,” the sequel in the Kat Hamilton Series, was runner-up in the 2014 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. She spent three years on the staff of Retailer News Magazine and two years as Associate Editor of The Fringe, a literary anthology.