The White Giraffe by Lauren St. John.
Making a virtual journey to another place and being held captive throughout the duration of the story is one of the great discoveries of reading. Learning that people in other places struggle with the same issues is an important concept for young readers to understand. In The White Giraffe by Lauren St. John, 11-year old Martine Allen's life changes dramatically on her birthday night. Martine loses her parents in a tragic accident and must move to Africa to live with a grandmother she's never heard of. Her grandmother manages a game preserve. Transplanted into an exotic locale with a grandmother who seems put out by her very existence makes Martine feel alone and afraid. Almost as soon as she arrives, Martine begins to hear tales of a "mythical" white giraffe, and she stumbles upon some clues about her grandfather's death two years before. Readers will identify with Martine's struggles to make friends in a new school in a new country where everything is different from "home". The wild animals and their habitat on the reserve, their need for protection against predators (mostly the two-legged kind), and the growing awareness that things are not always as they appear make for a good adventure story. Martine comes to find her place in this new world, helps solve a mystery, and learns to accept her special gifts.
First-time novelist Lauren St. John grew up in Zimbabwe on a farm that was part game preserve. Her love for the landscape and the people is evident throughout the book and she clearly identifies with Martine's quest to find a home in this new strange land.
ISBN978-0-8037-3211-7. Dial Books for Young Readers.
Review by Annie Teich, guest reviewer.