Suddenly orphaned by a fire at her home in England, 11-year-old Martine is sent to live with the grandmother she never knew existed on a game reserve in South Africa. The happy life she has known with her parents is suddenly almost literally turned upside down as she tries to adjust to an alien land and strange new people.
As if that weren’t hard enough, Martine finds herself surrounded by mysteries. Was the grandfather she never knew killed two years before by random poachers, or was it planned? Why did her parents never say anything about her grandmother and Sawubona, the game reserve? Who is stealing animals from the reserve? And is there really a rare white giraffe, as is rumored?
Martine comes to love the beautiful land and the majestic animals who roam so close to the house that she can see them gathering at the water hole from her bedroom window. She comes to feel that she has always belonged there. But it doesn’t stop her longing for her parents or wondering about all the mysteries she soon gets caught up in.
Lauren St. John, who grew up in Zimbabwe on a farm that was part game reserve, paints a lively picture of a colorful, diverse landscape and interesting characters in South Africa. Martine is an endearing heroine, and her friendship with the beautiful giraffe just as close as that of any human-human relationship.
St. John helps young readers see the importance of taking care of the earth and all its inhabitants without being the slightest bit preachy. The White Giraffe is a wonderful, transporting read for anyone.
Rated: None. Appropriate for anyone, on a reading level for probably 9 or 10 years and up.