Sunday, March 15, 2009

Book Review: The White Giraffe

The White Giraffe by Lauren St. John. (Grades 4-6.)

When 11-year-old Martine's parents are killed in a house fire, she's shipped off to South Africa to live with a grandmother who doesn't seem to want anything to do with her. Unspeakably sad and somewhat of an outcast at school, the only thing Martine can be happy about is the lush African wilderness that surrounds her new game reserve home. When she hears stories about a mythical white giraffe that supposedly lives on the reserve, Martine is skeptical... until one rainy night when the white giraffe appears to her and Martine finds out that she must meet her destiny.

My favorite thing about this book is the rich setting. Lauren St. John lived on a reserve in Zimbabwe when she was a child and her experience with the animals and plants really shows in this book. It's quite a pleasant thing to be reading in cold, wet Chicagoland and find yourself transported to a lush jungle.

The White Giraffe kept reminding me of Lionboy, another kid-talks-to-animals fantasy book that I really enjoyed. Martine's a likeable character with a special gift that many kids will envy - the ability to speak to (kind of) and heal animals. I wish the background characters were a little more well-developed and, to be completely honest, I found some parts of it to be a little hokey. Overall, I think this is a story that will appeal to kids and I think the cover and title alone are enough to intrigue.

For those who do pick up the book and enjoy it, Ms. St. John has penned a few other adventures with Martine - Dolphin Song (2008) and The Last Leopard (March, 2009). It looks like a fourth book - The Elephant's Tale - is due out in the UK in August, but I don't know when it'll be hitting the shelves in the US.

Check out Lauren St. John's beautiful website to find out a bit more about her and her books. Read more reviews at Fuse #8 (where Betsy addresses the issue of Martine's race) and Deliciously Clean Reads. There's a booktalk posted at Booktalks - Quick and Simple. And definitely worth noting is that it looks like Walden Media is making a movie starring AnnaSophia Robb (yeah you know her; she was Leslie in Bridge to Terabithia). As far as I can tell, it's slated to be released this year. Read an interview with Ms. St. John on Walden Media's site.


Marjorie said...

we just finished this at bedtime a few nights ago. (my daughter is 7 and we read it together.) we both enjoyed it. the description of the sights and sounds of africa is beautiful, and it's suspenseful. but (VERY MILD SPOILER ALERT!!!! STOP READING IF YOU DO NOT WANT ANY PLOT DISCUSSION AT ALL!!!!!!!!) my daughter pointed out that there's really only one candidate for the bad guy, and it wasn't very surprising. and i had a few "show-don't-tell" issues -- the moment martine meets the white giraffe, she talks about how much she loves him. the phrases "i love you" and "i love you so much" appear several times, and it's just not clear WHY martine loves him utterly and instantly. he's beautiful and magical and she intuits that he too is alone in the world, but we're told about the connection rather than FEELING it ourselves. i also thought that some of the secondary characters (particularly ben) were underwritten.

still, it's a charming book and definitely has a lovely sense of place. thumbs up from our house.

Cheyenne said...

The Reading Committee And I have this book in our top 4 right now along with Crossing the Wire,Someone Named Eva,And Elephant Run. Monday we Have A debate and We have to Choose the One we Want for Our Town Choice. And this book was put together very Well, Therfore This Is the Book I hope will win, Cheyenne.

tell me if you agree or disagree

Br.V said...

I just finished reading The White Giraffe a couple days ago for Battle of the Books. I thought it was one of the best books I've ever read about animals. I zoned out while I was reading it-I loved it!

aris said...

love the book i read when i was in 6 grade the best and it got on my mind for life love it

Schoolgirl said...

We just finished this book in class and even as a 7 grader me an my class really liked this book! I thought that it was wonderful! I loved the last 3 chapters where she is on the boat rescueing the white giraffe! Loves the suspense! Haha I also loved it when they were in the secret valley and the cave drawlings! An then te chapter where grace is there! I just loved it soooo much! So if u haven't read it yet READ IT!! it is so awesome! Read it! Lol loved it so much!