Giraffe stories: Introduce your child to this incredible animal
Published on: 8 Hydref 2019 Author: Chitra Soundar
Author Chitra Soundar loves giraffes! Here's how you can get your own child to fall in love with the lovely long-necked mammal – because the more people that care about the animal (now critically endangered), the better.
The first time I saw giraffes up close was when I was an adult. I was in the night zoo in Singapore. There was a giraffe enclosure where you can sit and watch the giraffes munch on the leaves and go about their nightly rounds. The light was low, the sky was clear and I sat there just watching them pace the enclosure for almost an hour.
Graceful yet awkward, cuddly yet lanky, horns that don’t threaten, spots that don’t repeat, growls we can’t hear and alert, never sleeping for longer than a few seconds... That day, I knew I had the soul of a giraffe.
I grew up in India and, as the stereotype goes, we fed cows that came to our doors on festivals, we watched peacocks and elephants looked after in temples, monkeys that jumped over roofs and snatched what you ate. We went on special Fridays to leave milk and eggs for snakes inside snake pits. Yes, scary! But it is a culture that respected animals as being spirits of our lives. Every animal has a canon of stories behind it.
'I wanted to find out their story'
When I saw my first giraffe, that was my first instinct. I wanted to find out about their story. How did they get their name, the spots and their calm attitude? I loved that they lived in herds and looked after each other.
When Lantana Publishing asked to set the third book in the series of Mummy and Baby bedtime books in Africa, after You’re Safe With Me (in a tropical rainforest) and You’re Snug with Me (in the polar), I jumped at the chance to tell the story of a young giraffe who wanted to grow up quickly. That became You’re Strong with Me.
These three books have been illustrated by the amazing, Kate Greenaway medal-shortlisted Poonam Mistry, who uses her unique style to bring the words to life, finding new things each time you read the stories.
Unlike humans, giraffe babies start walking and running in a few hours after their birth. But does that mean they can manage the rough wilds of their habitat on their own? Like all children, giraffe calves too need time to learn about their surroundings, their families, nature of their predators and the cycle of life in the wild.
5 giraffe books to try
To celebrate the launch of You’re Strong With Me (the story of a baby giraffe discovering the world around her and her mother, who keeps her strong with the wisdom of a parent), I thought I should share some of my favourite giraffe stories.
1. Zeraffa Giraffa by Diane Hofmeyr and Jane Ray
I love this story because it’s a historical event but also because I wonder what Zeraffa was thinking in her new surroundings and how much Atir kept her strong during that trip.
2. Giraffe Problems by Jory John and Lane Smith
The giraffe in this book reminds me of my own childhood, when I was very self-conscious about being thin. People called me 'grass tripper' or 'speck in the wind'. Funnily enough, I did try scarves and other things as an adult to cover my self-consciousness. Giraffe Problems is a great book for kids and adults who think others have it better, and then later realise that everyone feels that way. There is no one way to be beautiful.
3. Abigail by Catherine Rayner
I love this book because I have a nephew who is six months shy of five, and loves counting everything. He counts things that move, things we eat and everything in-between. He never gives up until he finishes his counting. A great book with a wonderful pull-out at the end.
4. Giraffes by Laura Marsh for National Geographic Kids
My other nephew loves facts. Like many kids his age, he remembers much of the facts told to him and the ones he reads. I love this book because it’s easy to read and yet covers the key facts about giraffes.
5. A Giraffe and a Half by Shel Silverstein
My final favourite is this wonderful poem by Shel Silverstein. Giraffes are so unique that they should be in more poems or perhaps in all poems. First, you have to read the 'half' in an American accent to rhyme with 'giraffe' and then you will find things growing on the 'giraffe and a half'. Finally, he sheds all of that back and turns back into a normal giraffe. If you haven’t read it, find the book now.
Enjoy reading all the books in the list and also You’re Strong With Me. If you’re sitting under a tree, watch out for the oxpecker bird and the giraffe eating the leaves above you!