Fredrick Thury - The Last Straw

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ForKids: Thury and vanKampen’s The Last Straw: Twelfth Night--the night before Epiphany (January 6th)

Dec 25, 2001
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Tongue-in-cheek, but respectful, The Last Straw is a light-hearted twist on an old saying.

Cons:None...but remember, if you wear spurs, you better have a horse!

The Bottom Line: The cover art made me pick up the book, but the storyline hooked me...Buy it now, before it goes out-of-print, and ENJOY it each season (and generation!)

The Last Straw, written by Fredrick H. Thury and illustrated by Vlasta van Kampen: a humorous tale of the camel who carried the Three Wise Men’s gifts to the baby Jesus...

Bragging and boasting. Strutting your stuff. Talking the talk, and walking the walk. I’m not sure, but I think this kind of behavior is a “guy” thing.

I know, I know...there are exceptions to every rule, but I still think it’s a “guy” dueling.

Other than Zorro, and those other guys, who duels? Not the gals. They might attempt to scratch their enemies’ eyes out, but sunrise? You’ve got to be kidding! I mean, they’ve got more important things to do. Breakfasts to make, lunches to pack, families to send off to work or school.

Anyway, if a gal got stuck with one of those pointy things, she’d not only have to scrub the blood out, but have to sew up the hole in her clothes. Who’s got time for such silliness? Not her. It’s more fun to try out new makeup, or paint her toenails.

Guys, on the other hand, always have time. Time to keep up a good front. Time to impress others with how big and bad they still are. Time to make sure no one else tries to step in and take over their spot. Ah yes, image is everything--even if you’re a camel.

Yup, even camels have image problems, especially old ones like “Our Hero,” Hoshmakaka. As I said, maybe, just maybe, it’s a “guy” thing, ‘cause at his age, he ought to know better.

Guys, unfortunately, seem to think that admitting, “I’m not quite up to it,” makes them less of a person--or camel. So they often find themselves in a position where they have to, “Put up, or shut up.” Hoshmakaka should have “shut up,” but noooo, he had to brag about how strong he was,

“I am very special.” Hoshmakaka puffed out his chest in pride and then said something a little foolish. “I’m not so old. I’m still as strong as ten horses.”

Bad move, Hosh old boy. You just dug a hole and jumped in with all four feet. Those words will come back to haunt you for the entire trip as more and more presents for the newborn king are piled higher and higher on your tired, arthritic body.

How can you refuse even one item after you let everyone know how big and bad you still are? How can you disappoint your adoring public--the young camels who think you’re the greatest thing since chopped liver? You’re in for it now.

Of course, if you had been a lady camel, as soon as you realized you had bitten off more than you could chew, you would have graciously allowed the youngsters to share the load, and the glory. But nooo, boys will be boys (even if they’re camels). You talked the talk, now you’ve got to walk the walk.

It isn’t going to be easy, but you’ll find a way to do it. The final gift, from a young child, could be your downfall. But you will accept it because your heart will melt when you look into the child’s eyes. The gift of everything the child has to offer, will cause your downfall, but at the end of your journey, a gift from The Child, will uplift you.

This is a gently humorous tale about Twelfth Night told with due respect for the religious subject. Once you read it, you’ll realize why it’s becoming a family and Sunday School favorite.

Closing notes

The Last Straw won the following awards:

* 1999 Parent's Guide Children's Media Award
* ABA Pick of the Lists, Fall 1999
* Great Lakes Booksellers Association Fall 1999 Pick of the Lists
* Parent's Guide Children's Media Award

From Horn Book:

“...the illustrations are fresh and appealing..."

From Kirkus Reviews:

“Thury humorously joins the adage about breaking the camel's back and the story of the baby in the manger, while also poking fun at pride and praising humility....Whimsical watercolor illustrations detail Hoshmakaka's stately carriage, his growing burden, and his emotional transformation from arrogant to humble. This camel's-eye- view is a light, unusual look at the traditional Christmas story.”

From Booklist:

“A grumpy camel's boast comes back to haunt him in this engaging Christmas picture-book tale...Vlasta 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....The text and illustrations work unusually well together to evoke the story's humorous undertone while preserving a grand sense of occasion. John Peters

From the publisher:

Fredrick Thury has served as Artistic Director of York University's Vanier College Productions for over twenty-five years. He was originally commissioned to write the story for The Last Straw by the Toronto Children's Chorus, which performed the piece with musical accompaniment and subsequently recorded it for the CBC. Mr. Thury's works for children's theater include One Potato Too, The Technicolour Wizard, and Behind the Wrinkles. He lives in Toronto with his wife and children.”

Vlasta van Kampen began her career as an illustrator with McClelland & Steward. Her first book, ABC/123: The Canadian Alphabet and Counting Book (Hurtig, 1982), won the 1982 Governor General's Award for Illustration. She is also the illustrator of the phenomenally popular Dinosaur Days (Stoddart Publishing, 1993) and Orchestranimals (Scholastic Canada, 1989). Vlasta van Kampen now works as a freelance designer and illustrator. She lives in Toronto with her husband and their two children.”

Vlasta van Kampen’s newest books include:

* A Drop of Gold (2001)
* What's the Difference?: 10 Animal Look-Alikes (written by Judy Diehl, et al, 2000)
* Bear Tales : Three Treasured Stories (2000)
* Cookie Critters : A Cookbook and Cookie Cutter Set (written by Debora Pearson, et al, 1997)

Watch for “After Christmas Sales.” You may be able to get The Last Straw at a discount. Remember, oftentimes, children’s books go out-of-print quickly--buy it now and keep it ‘til your youngsters are ready...or get it now so you’ll have it ready as a gift for next year’s holiday season.


Final notes

Fredrick H. Thury’s The Last Straw, illustrated by Vlasta van Kampen, is available as:

* a hardcover of 32 pages (Dimensions [in inches]: 0.45 x 11.32 x 8.94), published by Charlesbridge Publishing, in August 1999, ISBN: 0881061522, reading level: 4-8 years old, list price no greater than $15.99 US, £4.99 UK (paperback), temporarily unavailable at

* a plush toy, direct from the publisher’s web site:

The Last Straw and Hoshmakaka Plush Camel make a great gift! If you are interested in The Last Straw, take a look at the Hoshmakaka Plush Camel, too. Designed to look just like the main character of the story, this plush doll is perfect as a toy or as a fun addition to a nativity set. The book and plush together make a great gift idea!”
[], $8.95 US, ISBN: 157091379X

From the Library of Congress []

LCCN: 98037757
LC Classification: PZ7.T428 Las 1999
Dewey Class No.: [E] 21
Summary: A prideful camel named Hoshmakaka learns the value of humility as he bears more and more gifts to the baby Jesus at Bethlehem.

Recommend this product? Yes

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