Making Tracks in 2009

I spent New Year’s Eve in a tiny village in mid Wales and since then have covered a lot of kilometres – ‘Making Tracks’ in a very real sense. I came home to my messy desk to find a package of my latest book waiting for me. The Red Camel is the second title that I’ve written for the National Museum of Australia’s Making Tracks series.

The Red Camel was inspired by a photograph of camels and their driver taken by Herbert Basedow in Oodnadatta in 1903. Each book in the Making Tracks series is based on an object or an image from the collections of the National Museum of Australia. The Red Camel was originally to be published last year but the release date was moved forward to February of this year.

I love this series – and not just the books that I wrote myself. So many of the titles in the Making Tracks series are fantastic, racy reads written by some of Australia’s top children’s authors. The books are all around 4,000 words and are not only good stories but are historically accurate. They’re a great introduction to historical fiction but, more than that, they often tell stories that are outside the conventional aspects of Australian history that we usually read.

When I wrote The Red Camel I did a huge amount of research into the lives of the Afghan cameleers and their pioneering work in Central Australia. They were Australia’s first Muslims so I also had to brush up on my understanding of Islam. Luckily, one of my nephews could help me out with this as he not only is a Muslim but he is also a linguist who is documenting the language of the last of the Bedouin cameleers in Oman. It was great to be able to run the manuscript past him before sending it off to the editor. The hardest thing was to keep the story to the prescribed word length. There was so much I could have included in the story. I’m sure all the other authors working on Making Tracks titles had the same problem.

There won’t be any more new books in this series – it’s finishing up with the latest round of releases to bring the complete series to seventeen. It’s a little sad as I would have loved to see the series expand but with the last change of government they slashed educational publishing at the NMA. Even without new additions to the set, there should be a place for this series in every school library and on every enthusiastic young reader’s bookshelf.

Kirsty is an Australian author of books for children and young adults.

“Books are windows into other ways of being.”

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