________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 23 . . . . February 20, 2015


A Giraffe Called Geranium.

Ainslie Manson. Illustrated by Mary Baker.
Bowen Island: Red Diamond Books (www.rediamondbooks.ca), 2014.
40 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
ISBN 978-0-9937341-0-6.

Subject Heading:
Giraffe-Juvenile fiction.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Beth Wilcox.

**½ /4



One warm summer day, on the west coast of Canada, a young giraffe stepped gracefully over Susanna's gate and into her garden. Susanna could hardly believe her eyes. Giraffes were her favourite animal! She didn't even mind when it began eating her prized geraniums.

"Welcome," she said softly, removing a frayed rope from around the giraffe's neck. "Have you come all the way from Africa?"

The latest picture book by west coast author Ainslie Manson and illustrator Mary Baker, A Giraffe Called Geranium, is a whimsical story about a giraffe who somehow finds her way to British Columbia. The giraffe is adopted by young Susanna and is given the name Geranium. Susanna apparently lives alone, and she welcomes her new pet by cutting a hole into her ceiling to allow Geranium to stand up. Susanna loves her giraffe, despite the trouble Geranium causes with the neighbours, but, when winter comes, she realizes that Geranium can never be happy in Canada. Susanna and Geranium find a sailboat captain, who talks like pirate and dresses in yellow rain gear, willing to take Geranium back to Africa.

      Baker's dreamy watercolour illustrations show a romantic and picturesque depiction of a west coast town full of soft flowers and featuring many images of a lighthouse. The illustrations often add to the story by providing information not found in the text. For instance, the end papers show a map of the route the giraffe took when sailing between Canada and the eastern coast of Africa. Images also show the giraffe swimming towards Canada from a boat.

      Like Susanna, young readers may enjoy the fantasy of having a giraffe as a pet. While far fetched and unbelievable at most times, there are some interesting moments when the author decides to use the logistical issues of having a pet giraffe to develop conflict in the story. This leads to numerous descriptions that focus on the problems of feeding such a large animal and pages showing the unpleasant task of cleaning up mounds of giraffe feces from inside the house. Although the believability of the story seems a bit fuzzy around the edges, there is a "Did you know?" section at the end of the book that provides some interesting facts about giraffes.

      One area of concern is the story's portrayal of Africa. Although the dedication at the front of the book says that the author was inspired to write about giraffes after a visit to Uganda, the continent is overly generalized in the book. Apart from an illustration of a boat that is labelled "The African Queen, Cape Town," the giraffe's home is always mentioned as "Africa." There is no distinction between counties on the continent, and Africa seems to be populated entirely by animals. The only human depicted in Africa is a stylized image of a robed individual leading a camel on the end papers.

      Overall, A Giraffe Called Geranium is a gentle picture book about a different friendship. It is a good read-aloud story for a small group that will enjoy the beauty of the West Coast depicted in the illustrations.

Recommended with reservations.

Beth Wilcox is a teacher librarian in Prince George, BC. She is a graduate of the Master of Arts in Children's Literature program at the University of British Columbia.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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