April 2014, Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 40 pages, Hardback, Review copy
Themes: travel, hunters, seeing new animals, Africa, France
Summary from Frances Lincoln
This is the astonishing true story of Zeraffa, a giraffe who was sent as a gift from Egypt to France in 1826.
A young boy, Atir, takes care of Zeraffa on her epic journey and the sailors sing songs as she gazes down at them. In France, Atir leads her through the countryside, and thousands of people marvel at Zeraffa.
Paris falls in love with Zeraffa. The King builds her a special house in the Jardin des Plantes. On warm nights, the young princess visits, while Atir whispers stories to Zeraffa of a hot land far away.
An awesome author plus a talented illustrator make an incredible read! The placid giraffe which takes up the inner title page made me feel sorry for Zeraffa - she should have stayed home, not been paraded about and endured so many crowds. I guess that's how it was in the past, and at least she wasn't left to die without her mother. She seemed to take the travelling in her stride, with Atir always beside her, making sure she was looked after. Dianne, as usual, has created a captivating story, especially noting the way Zeraffa became a fashion icon in Paris for every aspect of life from hairstyles, goods and gardens.
I squee-d when I saw Jane was the illustrator. The level of detail and contrasting textures which suit the different scenes are beautiful to look at. I squee-d more when I spotted the birds which are the same gorgeous coloured ones in another of her books in the suggested read below. They were on most pages and were the first thing I looked for. I could feel the flow of the river, and the stillness of a night at sea. The balloon engineer's plans are elaborate. I loved the style of dresses at Lyon and Paris. The myriad of colours and patterns on fabric gives the reader so much to look at, especially these giraffe inspired ones.
The most touching part of the story happens to be on my favourite illustration, when the king's granddaughter sneaks out under moon light and feeds Zeraffa an apple. The girl has similar hair to mine, her dainty shoes are simple yet elegant, I adore her plain dress and her beaded/embroidered shawl which finished off her outfit. Both the girl and Zeraffa have people pay attention to them, so it seems fitting that the two of them make friends. The reason why this didn't get full marks is because on one of the scenes which is shown on the front cover, has houses beneath the road. Now, everywhere else the small scale buildings worked, but I think because the people and animals are so large, somehow having small buildings closest to the reader doesn't look right to me- I'd prefer them larger so it didn't look like they were being trodden on. That is a minor issue compared to the magnificence of the rest of the book.
Check out where my love of Jane's birds started, the enchanting tale of Ahmed and the Feather Girl (Children's, Picture book, 9/10E)