By Prue Mason
For Adam, living with his pilot father and family in an expatriate compound in Abudai in the Arabian Gulf, life could not be easier. But when war breaks out, Adam finds himself alone and attempting to find his way back to the abandoned compound to save his dog, Tara, who has been left in the mad rush to escape across the boarder. We also meet Walid, living a miserable life as a camel rider in a camp on the outskirts of Abudai. His father is dead and his mother works in Abudai, and he must win enough money racing camels to buy his freedom and return to his mother. By showing kindness to a camel due to foal he is responsible for her accidental death, and for this he is taken to a cave out in the desert, hobbled at hands and feet, and left to die by the cruel men who he was sold to. Dazed and delirious from the desert heat, Adam has finished his water and is close to passing out when he comes across Walid, hoping at first that he might be saved, but then realising that Walid has been tied up and abandoned in the desert. Together the two boys manage to capture a mountain goat, which they milk and then kill for the meat, to keep them alive. Although they do not understand each other’s language, and both assume the other is a fool, they somehow are able to work together to stay alive. Just when things seem to be going well, they are discovered by the two men from Walid’s camel camp – Old Goat and Breath of dog, as Walid calls them – who attack the boys and try to kill them. Somehow Adam and Walid manage to escape and continue their journey towards Abudai. The two boys face instances of real danger and come close to losing their lives on several occasions, but by working together they are finally returned to the compound and to safety. Adam discovers that his family had offered a reward for the boys’ safe return, and it was this that led to Old Goat and Breath of Dog finally taking them back to the compound, where they are able to break free of the vehicle and run to safety. In a delightful ending, Walid is reunited with his mother, and the reward is given to Walid and his family to enable them to return to their home in Bangladesh.
Families • There are some obvious differences between Adam’s and Walid’s families. They both live in the same country and are of a similar age, and yet their experiences are worlds apart. While Adam has the safety and support of his parents, Walid is already working extremely hard just to stay alive, having already lost his father and not knowing where his mother is or when he will ever see her again. How is it that two such similar boys can lead such startlingly different lives? Is it purely the luck of having been born in the more affluent West that is on Adam’s side, or is it something else? Is it fair that people’s lives can be so different just because of the place they are born? Discuss these questions as a class, using examples from current news and international events to aide in your discussion. • Adam’s sister puts her own life in danger to return to a country at war to try and save her brother’s life. Is this something you would be willing to do for your own sibling? Discuss the idea of brothers and sisters and how important they are to you. Even if you think you don’t really get along with your siblings very well, you might find it surprising to think about what you would be willing to do for them if their lives were in danger, or they really needed your help. Survival • Adam and Walid survive their desert journey by pooling their shared resources and knowledge, and working together to overcome obstacles in the path to their survival. Even though they are unable to speak each other’s language, they manage to communicate when it is critical. Without Adam, Walid would not have been able to untie himself, and it is clear that without Walid’s help Adam would not have survived for more than a day or two...