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I bought it at Barnes & Noble.
When Martine’s home in England burns down, killing her parents, she must go to South Africa to live on a wildlife game preserve, called Sawubona, with the grandmother she didn’t know she had. Almost as soon as she arrives, Martine hears stories about a white giraffe living in the preserve. But her grandmother and others working at Sawubona insist that the giraffe is just a myth. Martine is not so sure, until one stormy night when she looks out her window and locks eyes with Jemmy, a young silvery-white giraffe. Why is everyone keeping Jemmy’s existence a secret? Does it have anything to do with the rash of poaching going on at Sawubona? Martine needs all of the courage and smarts she has, not to mention a little African magic, to find out. First-time children’s author Lauren St. John brings us deep into the African world, where myths become reality and a young girl with a healing gift has the power to save her home and her one true friend.
I love the cover. There’s something mysterious about it and I think the white giraffe and the night blue background contrast nicely.
Fun fact: my favorite animal is the giraffe. I’m pretty sure my mom bought this book for me a few years ago simply because it was about a giraffe. Of course, this is the first time I’m reading it now.
Martine’s life gets thrown upside down when both her parents die in a fire that started in their house. She even lost the house. At only 11-years-old, she’s shipped to go live with her grandmother in Africa. That’s where she learns a lot about her family, herself, and the legend of the White Giraffe.
This plot had a lot of potential but, in my opinion, it wasn’t executed well. A lot of things happen that’s not really explained. There was a lot of build up but when the White Giraffe was in trouble, it just didn’t seem as intense as I think it was meant to be.
I felt as though I couldn’t get close to any of the characters. Martine’s grandmother had an awfully fast change of heart, Martine sometimes acted her age and then other times acted as though she was a lot older. Until her age was mentioned almost halfway through the book, I had trouble pinning her age down.
I really enjoyed Tendai though. He worked with Gywn, Martine’s grandmother, and he was kind to Martine and helped her along the way. I felt as though I learned more from him than anyone else.
This is a middle-grade book so the writing is fairly simple and easy to read. Aside from Martine not really acting her age at times, this was well done.
However, my biggest problem was the description. Everything looks, feels, sounds, and smells “African.” I have no idea what that means and as someone who’s never been to Africa, I feel as though this was a missed learning opportunity for me – especially since the author states in her bio that she grew up there.
Other than that, the writing itself wasn’t bad. The pace was a bit too fast at times, but the plot was laid out and was there.
This was just an okay read for me. There was a lot of potential and missed teaching moments culturally from the author, but it was still pretty well written and the idea of the plot was interesting. I don’t think I’ll be reading the rest of the series, though there may be some younger kids out there who would enjoy this.
The White Giraffe by Lauren St. John gets…
3 out of 5 cups
“No, little one, animals might scratch you, or bite you, or even rip you apart in hunger or fear, but only a man can crush you inside, in your heart, for no reason other than the color of your skin.” –Lauren St. John, The White Giraffe