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Books: Golden Hoofs & Ice Cream

3 minute read

THE YOUNGEST CAMEL—Kay Boyle—Liffle, Brown ($2).

KANGUK—As Told to William Albee —Liffle, Brown ($2.50).

U. S. urchins with Left Bank literary tastes were in a great dither last week. Bang on top of promises of children’s books from two super-highbrows, Spinster Gertrude Stein* and childless Thomas Stearns Eliot†, Expatriate Kay Boyle (three children), noted for her selfconsciously brilliant short stories, published her first fairy tale, The Youngest Camel.

Author Boyle’s little camel was puppyish, bumptious and a liar. Life had made his hard-working old mother cynical since the Arab driver jerked the ring in her tender mouth whenever she slacked up. She really wanted to eat green grass and drink cool water but, she told the youngest camel, “that’s just one of the things that can never possibly be. … Because your father never took out any life insurance.” “What about the caravan of white camels with solid gold hoofs that goes right around the earth?” her son objected. “Hooey,” said his hard-Boyled mother. “A lot of hooey.”

But when the youngest camel was hog-tied out in the desert to undergo “the ordeal of loneliness” and get the bumptiousness bumped out of him, he discovered that mother was only soured. There really was a caravan of white camels and a new one joined it every time the youngest camel overcame a fresh temptation. His last temptation was to choose between a bag of ashes and a magic wishing necklace that would enable the youngest camel to wish his mother to have her own little oasis out in the desert. By choosing the necklace the sensible youngest camel broke all precedents, since others had always chosen the bag of ashes because “it was the politest and nicest thing to do.”

Confusing moral which uplifted youngsters might deduct from this camel’s tale was: Never be bumptious but never fail to be bumptious when you ought to be. Chances seemed even that many a young reader, stifling a yawn and an out-of-step feeling that Author Boyle’s camel was not only a dromedary but an allegory, and too consciously cute, would leave the book where their less jaded elders would be sure to find and enjoy it.

No Left Bank expatriate was Eskimo Kanguk. For 70 years he hugged the icy Alaskan bank of Bering Strait. There he met Illinois-born, 28-year-old, adventure-loving William Albee, who went to Cape Prince of Wales on his honeymoon in 1934, remained to teach Eskimos. Author Albee reports for children Kanguk’s account of his boyhood from his goo-goo igloo days to the moment when, though still a child, he technically became a man by spearing his first polar bear. Tales of whale and walrus hunts, seal fishing through holes in the ice, by which Kanguk saved his people during the “starving time,” may set many a north temperate youngster to harpooning cats on the back fence. But U. S. moppets will continue to prefer Eskimo pies to Eskimo ice cream, which Kanguk considered a delicacy. He tells how it is made: “She shaved some white frozen caribou fat into a large wooden bowl, partly filled with seal oil. When there was enough finely shaved fat to make the oil mushy . . . she added a few little black berries.” Grownups who like primitives will find Kanguk’s 15 original sketches not only primitive, but full of lively details of Eskimo hunting and fishing, literally but lovingly drawn. The pencil with which he drew them was the first he had ever held.

*The World Is Round. †Practical Cats.

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