Reviews for White Giraffe

Booklist Reviews 2007 June #1
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.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2007 Fall
After her parents' death in a fire, Martine leaves England for her grandmother's South African game reserve, where she befriends a near-mythical white giraffe and discovers her own powers as a healer. Martine's courage is then tested when poachers capture the giraffe. Despite a naive and facile plot, the author's love of the African landscape comes through in glowing descriptions. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2007 April #1
St. John's adventure-fantasy set in South Africa has all the elements--albino giraffe, dead parents, lonely girl with the gift of an ancient power over animals, aloof grandmother, suspicious game warden, cultural mystery, poachers--to make a hit film. When her parents are killed in a fire, 11-year-old Martine is sent from England to live with the grandmother she never knew on a game reserve outside of Cape Town. Only the animals make Martine's life bearable. Unexpected events quickly ensue as Martine rescues the mythical white giraffe from wildlife thieves by riding him to the Secret Valley where she discovers her destiny on a cave wall. Rich in South African details and imagery, unfamiliar terms rely on context and add exotic flavor. Despite the plot contrivances, the wild-animal appeal and the excitement of the chase plus Martine's gift of healing power over animals, make a lively action story ripe for the big screen. (Fiction. 9-13) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 May #4

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)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2007 June

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

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