The book Shabanu, by Suzanne Fisher Staples, is the story of a young girl growing up in the Cholistan Desert. Shabanu lives with her family, which includes her mother, father, older sister, grandfather, aunt, and young cousins.

Once a year, they attend the Sibi fair, where they sell many of their fine camels in order to buy their goods. When the toba dries up, they move to nearby villages with deep wells. When this happens, they await monsoon rains to fill up the toba. Until then, they are stuck as traveling gypsies, moving from settlement to settlement. Shabanu speaks in a clear and simple voice.

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Her point of view reflects that she is a teenager, struggling to make sense out of the world around her and her changing role in it. She presents her story sequentially, filling in details of the past where needed. Although Shabanu looks up to her sister, she is entirely jealous of her. Phulan is beautiful and graceful and she is not. Her parents have promised her to a young man, Hamir, in a nearby village. Shabanu has been promised to Hamir's brother, Murad, but because she is younger, her wedding is not until the next year. Shabanu loves her life in the desert and does not want to grow up and move out of it.

This marks the beginning if some of her struggles. She has all she wants in the desert. Her joy comes in the form of her camels. When she is betrothed, she wonders if her happiness would come out of "stealing a few moments from a day of housework to sit quietly in the desert with her camels." She imagines that when she is married, perhaps her husband will leave her "alone to be.

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