Review Blog

Apr 23 2014

The short giraffe by Neil Flory

cover image

Ill. by Mark Cleary. Albert Whitman & Co., 2014. ISBN 9780807573464.
Boba the Baboon had come to take a photo of the tallest animals in the world and the giraffes wanted to make the photo perfect. They prinked and they preened and lined up ready for Boba. But when the photo was taken there was a problem - they all looked perfect but tucked in the right-hand corner was just the tip of a head. It belonged to Geri - the shortest giraffe who had ever lived! Not wanting to spoil the perfect picture she offers to step out altogether but the other giraffes don't like that idea so they try a variety of ways to bring Geri up to their level - with startling results, none of which is successful. But then Caterpillar who had been watching and thought that regardless, Geri was still tall, has an idea. and Boba gets his perfect picture after all.
Accompanied by colourful, whimsical illustrations that support the text so well, this is a refreshing story created by the author when his son asked him for a bedtime story. Given the nature of many children's picture books, you expect it to have a storyline of Geri being literally looked down on by the other giraffes and through a series of incidents learning that how you are and who you are is enough, even if you don't quite measure up physically. But instead it's a delightful tale of diversity being embraced and those with the 'power' being compassionate rather than disdainful. Even though the target audience is early childhood, it would be a great way of introducing the concept of perspective to slightly older children. If your picture's not perfect, then change the picture not the people.
It also offers a great opportunity to actively involve the child in the story and begin developing the concept of cause and effect, action and consequence by thinking of ways to make Geri taller and what might happen as a result. Miss 3 thought a ladder would be the answer but it would be hard for Geri to get her gangly giraffe legs up it. She also asked, "What if Geri is scared of being up so high?"
This is Flory's debut into the world of writing children's stories and it is a very successful one, being identified as one of the CBCA's Notable books Early Childhood Book of the Year award. Being considered to be among the top 16 books published for this age group, especially when the competition features such established names as Fox, Lester, Laguna and Gleeson, has to signal a significant new talent on the scene.
Barbara Braxton

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