In 1824, the Pasha of Egypt sent King Charles X of France a present of a giraffe. She was captured on the plains of Africa when she was a baby. Being far too young to walk, she was strapped to a camel, fed on camel’s milk, and taken to the River Nile. From there she sailed up the Nile in a felucca to the Mediterranean and boarded a special ship to Marseilles. Then came the long walk to Paris, a distance of 550 miles. Two-and-a-half years later, she arrived at the Rotunda, a specially-built giraffe house in Paris. She was now four metres tall and thousands of people had cheered her progress.
This enchanting book tells the story of Zeraffa Giraffa’s adventurous journey with her faithful keeper, Atir, They were accompanied on the long walk through France by two milk cows, several guards on horseback, and a dignitary in a carriage. She was the first giraffe France had ever seen, and people flocked to see Zeraffa and Atir every inch of the way.
Dianne Hofmeyr gives just the right amount of detail to interest a child, like the ladies combing their hair with porcupine quills on the banks of the Nile who feed Zeraffa Giraffa with dates and pomegranates as the felucca sails past. And I loved learning about the specially-made cloaks to keep Zeraffa dry when it rained and warm when it snowed.
I also thoroughly enjoyed Jane Ray’s delightful illustrations which complement the story perfectly. I loved the cartoon-like pictures showing how France went giraffe mad: we see ladies wearing their hair piled high à la giraffe; bakers making giraffe-shaped biscuits and giraffe-like spots becoming the rage in fashion – even the dogs wear spotted jackets.
Children age 6 plus should love this book. Highly recommended.