White GiraffeTitle: The White Giraffe
Author: Lauren St. John
Narrator: Adjoa Andoh
ISBN: 9780739350522
Discs: 4 CDs / 4 hours, 47 minutes
Publisher/Date: Listening Library, c2007.

“It was Mr. Grice from Social Services who told Martine that she would be moving to Africa. Cape Town, South Africa, to be precise.
‘South Africa!’ cried Martine. ‘Why South Africa?’
‘Well,’ said Mr. Grice, ‘it seems that your only surviving relative is, in fact, living on a game reserve in South Africa. A Mrs. Gwyn Thomas, who, I’m told, is your grandmother.’
Martine was stunned. ‘I don’t have a grandmother,’ she said slowly. (8)

Martine’s parents are both killed in an overnight fire on her eleventh birthday, and she suddenly finds herself traveling from England to South Africa. She’s going to live with a grandmother who Martine didn’t know existed and who apparently isn’t enthusiastic about Martine’s arrival. However, things become more intriguing when Martine hears rumors about the arrival of a white giraffe at her grandmother’s game reserve who no one can track or catch. In Lauren St. John’s The White Giraffe, Martine must find out who is more dangerous; her grandmother when she finds out Martine has snuck into the game reserve, or the poachers who think Martine knows more than she actually knows.

Adjoa Andoh narrates the story beautifully, and provides an authentic voice. I stumbled across this title because one of my patrons was asking when the next book in this series was coming out (which also includes Dolphin Song and The Last Leopard and The Elephant’s Tale which releases in August 2009). Readers here are gobbling up the series. It’s a quickly paced read with just a hint of mysticism, as Martine discovers that an old woman was right and she does posess a magical connection with the wild animals. Alex, the suspicious game warden, is written in a way that makes readers question along with Martine whether there is something more to him then what is being portrayed. I was trying to suspend judgement of him, but then I got to this scene and instanly hated him. (I’m experimenting with block quotes here.)

“And how do you think my grandmother wold feel if she knew about your little secret?” she retaliated, just to test him.
Alex’s blue eyes blazed. He pulled into the school, slammed on the brakes, and reached across her to open the door. “My girl,” he said, “you are playing with fire now.” He smiled grimly. “And you know what happens to people who play with fire. . .”

Her author biography states that she used to live on a game reserve in Zimbabwe, which we hope adds realism to the plot and setting. The unique setting and situations will definitely have appeal to all readers.

This book was one of the selections for book parade 2010 at my library. Book Parade is a six week reading incentive program held in conjunction with the area schools. Kids in 4-5th grades read as many books from a pre-selected list as possible and answer questions on the book to judge their reading comprehension.