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.
"Losing parents in a tragic fire and restarting life with an unwelcoming grandmother would be overwhelming for most 11-year-olds, and Martine is no exception. What's worse, Martine has never met her grandmother, who presides over a large game preserve in faraway South Africa. Even so, from the moment Martine steps off the plane, she senses that her new home holds a special destiny, one that begins to unfold when she learns about a legendary white giraffe. The beautiful creature appears one day, and Martine, who is just becoming aware of her own mystical gifts, begins a heroic journey that leads her to expose and prevent the destructive work of poachers. Though the fantasy elements will probably be the strongest draw here, St. John nods to the politically turbulent backdrop: at one point, a black employee of the preserve refers to his difficult upbringing in an apartheid-era township. Magic realism, adventure, and a well-realized setting combine in this appealing tale, which will resonate particularly with conservation-minded children."--"O'Malley, Anne" Copyright 2007 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review
St. John, whose author's note explains that she grew up on a farm in Zimbabwe that was partially a game reserve, brings characters and setting to life with equal clarity in her debut children's book. Her tale centers on recently orphaned Martine, who moves from England to South Africa to live with the grandmother she's never met. The woman, whose husband died at the hands of animal poachers, owns Sawubona, a game reserve and wildlife sanctuary. Soon after the 11-year-old's arrival, a Zulu healer with second sight tells the girl that she has a special gift and warns her that it "can be a blessin' or a curse. Make your decisions wisely." The perceptive woman also mentions there are "too many secrets at Sawubona"; indeed, Martine's many questions to her stony grandmother are met by a "wall of silence." Martine is intrigued by rumors that an elusive white giraffe resides on the grounds of the reserve-a local legend holds that the child who is able to ride a white giraffe will have power over all the animals. When she encounters the gentle creature one night, she feels an immediate bond and even knows what he's thinking. And though it comes as no surprise that she is the youngster capable of fulfilling the legend, St. John provides plenty of unexpected twists. For his part, Dean contributes charming watercolor illustrations that open each chapter. A fast pace, strong supporting cast and ample drama-including an especially theatrical finale-will serve the story well in its film adaptation, which Walden Media is developing with Twentieth Century Fox. Ages 8-up. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal Review
Gr 4-7-Imagine the rich surroundings of South African wildlife, the mystical stories surrounding a rare white giraffe, and an orphaned girl. Such is the backdrop for this heartwarming story. When her parents are killed in a house fire, Martine, 11, is sent to live with a grandmother she didn't know she had at a wildlife sanctuary. The cold, hands-off woman offers little comfort to a displaced, grieving child, leaving Martine to fend for herself in a foreign land. When a local woman tells the child that she has "the gift," Martine doesn't know what it is or why she would have it. Then she learns of a white giraffe and poachers' intent on capturing it. The story unfolds into a legendary tale full of intrigue and what life demands of a young chosen one. African folklore adds a touch of magic to the story and will help readers understand the supernatural beliefs of an ancient culture. Enjoyable characters offer a glimpse of local culture through Tendai, a Zulu tribesman, and the local mystic, appropriately named Grace. The bush healing techniques are especially interesting. Although a few sections need more fleshing out, the story is captivating and well spun.-Robyn Gioia, Bolles School, Ponte Vedra, FL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Lauren St. John lives in London, England. A well-respected biographer and sports journalist, she grew up in Zimbabwe, Africa, where she had a pet giraffe, as well as numerous dogs, horses, and warthogs. This setting inspired The White Giraffe as well as her recent memoir, Rainbow's End.