The Last Straw book cover image

The Last Straw

  • 795

By: Fredrick H. Thury / Illustrated by: Vlasta van Kampen

Christmas from a camel's-eye-view.

Everyone has heard the Christmas story before, but The Last Straw is a unique and unforgettable new telling. Voices roll across the desert sands to Hoshmakaka, a curmudgeonly old camel, whispering that he has been chosen for the great responsibility of carrying gifts to the new baby king. With reluctance, Hoshmakaka accepts his task. Every day in the heat crossing the desert, his pack grows ever more burdensome as the crowds of people, anxious to welcome the new king, give him their gifts to carry. He is as strong as ten horses as he proudly tells the younger camels. But, oh, his gout! Oh, his sciatica! Nevertheless, Hoshmakaka plods on until he reaches Bethlehem. In the end he realizes the great honor of his task and never again is there a burden too heavy for him to carry.

Vlasta van Kampen's gorgeous illustrations of the hot desert sands and the cool, star-filled night sky transport readers on the journey to Bethlehem to see the new baby king. The beautifully detailed illustrations of the loveable Hoshmakaka masterfully change as his pack of gifts grows impossibly huge.

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Author & Illustrator Bios:

Fredrick Thury, author

Fredrick Thury 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.

Read more about Fredrick.

Vlasta van Kampen, illustrator

Vlasta van Kampen began her career as an illustrator with McClelland & Steward. Her first book, ABC/123: The Canadian Alphabet and Counting Book (Hurtig), won the 1982 Governor General's Award for Illustration. She is also the illustrator of the phenomenally popular Dinosaur Days (Stoddart Publishing) and Orchestranimals (Scholastic Canada).

Read more about Vlasta.

Awards & Honors:

  • ABA Kids' Pick of the Lists
  • Great Lakes Booksellers Association Pick of the Lists
  • Children's Books Mean Business
  • Parent's Guide to Children's Media Award

Editorial Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews

Thury humorously joins the adage about breaking the camel's back and the story of the baby in the manager, while also poking fun at pride and praising humility. After hearing mysterious voices declaring his role, the aged but proud camel Hoshmakaka reluctantly agrees to journey to far-off Bethlehem bearing gifts for a new baby king. As he makes his way along the road he is heaped with presents large and small, light and heavy, until his joints ache and his legs nearly buckle. A child's piece of straw, offered for the baby's bed, brings Hoshmakaka to his knees, but not before he has entered the stable where others also kneel. 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.


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. 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. 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.

School Library Journal

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.


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ISBN: 978-0-88106-360-8

Ages: 4-8
Page count: 32
8 1/2 x 11

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