Benjamin Dilley’s Thirsty Camel is the fifth Jolly Roger Bradfield book I have read. And, like Giants, Pickle-Chiffon, Olympics, and Hockey Stick it has the same delightful illustration and the same child-pleasing storytelling. This one, however, has a slightly different tone and feel; equally lovely, but less laugh-out-loud funny, and more child-like. While the others are a wonderful romp, this one seems to be more of a look into the sensitive and creative soul of an imaginative child.
“People said that Benjamin Dilley was a dreamer; but the truth was that he had a wonderful imagination. For instance, he could shut his eyes and imagine a lavender hippopotamus in a general’s uniform smelling a flower, and when he opened his eyes . . . there would be the hippo! Really. A real, live hippopotamus in a general’s uniform standing right there in front of Benjamin.”
Benjamin could imagine all kinds of things. And all of them were benevolent. There’s the genie who wanted to do mother’s work for her or the camel who knew how to do plumbing. Benjamin’s imagination was ripe with friends who wanted to help and make life better.
When Benjamin is watching his father trying to fix a leak in the basement, Benjamin decides to pass the time by imagining a “funny old camel with glasses perched on the end of his nose” who was actually a “very good Ping-Pong player.” The camel, of course, notices that Benjamin’s father is turning the leak the wrong way and tries to warn him. But, of course, no one can hear any of Benjamin’s imaginary friends except Benjamin. When a great gush of water comes bursting out of the pipes, Benjamin’s father calls the plumbers. While he is upstairs, Benjamin’s camel fixes the leak, and then proceeds to drink up all the water in the basement.
When the plumbers arrive, they help Benjamin’s parents find a “tiny drain under the washtubs” which must have saved the day by draining the water. Benjamin is confused and disappointed. How can they find a tiny drain which could never have removed all of that water, but they cannot see a very large and loud camel sitting right next to them? And why did no one notice that the camel had fixed the leak?
When the plumbers leave and Mother and Father are relieved and having some coffee on the couch, Benjamin turns to his camel and tells him that he knows the truth even if they do not.
Very sweetly, the book ends with Benjamin imagining all of his friends sleeping in his room. And, “he felt sorry for all the grownups who couldn’t see his friends.”
This tender book would be so lovely for an imaginative child, and would make an excellent baby shower gift!
I continue to be amazed by Roger Bradfield’s creativity and passion for life. His drawings make me so happy! And his characters are so alive and easy to love. He was a prolific writer and illustrator. Purple House Press has five of his books reprinted beautifully, and they have the only printing of The Pickle-Chiffon Pie Olympics, as that book was created because of a conversation Jill Morgan and Bradfield had. Jill tells us that awesome story and so many others about Roger Bradfield in an upcoming podcast! Stay tuned!
If you are a Biblioguides member, check out the Roger Bradfield author page where they have all of his Purple House Press books linked in their database.