Don’t just take my word for it, get a copy of “Giraffe Problems” by Jory John with chuckle-inducing illustrations by the talented Lane Smith. Read it to any child between three and thirteen. All will love it: guaranteed.
But don’t get the book only for the laughs. It’s much more than just another humorous picture book for entertaining children. The story of the giraffe with the really, really long neck, who doesn’t like his neck at all, will resonate with kids. Edward, the giraffe, laments his misfortune and wishes he had a neck like a zebra, an elephant, or a lion.
It’s not until he meets Cyrus, the tortoise, who, as he says, is “basically neckless,” that things change. Cyrus explains to Edward the wonderful things he would do and accomplish if he only had a long neck like Edward’s. He continues his verbose rampage filled with lovely language and fabulous vocabulary and explains. He’s been waiting for a banana at the top of a tall tree on a hill to ripen. But he can’t reach it. So he cries,
“Yet, day after day, I’ve felt like such a fool as I stretched my neck toward those greedy branches, only to be limited by my own physical shortcomings.”
The next page is fabulous. The ending superb. The discussion that will ensue after Edward and Cyrus become friends is better than fabulous and superb. It’s enlightening and energizing for children who may have something about themselves that they don’t like.
This little, funny book is really so much more. The illustrations must be mentioned because they add equally to the power of the story. When Edward is complaining about his neck and listing all the things he doesn’t like about it, the illustration is just a long giraffe neck. Nothing else. The facing page shows the giraffe body, but the long neck is cut off at the end of the page. Turn the page and the neck continues across the left side and onto the right page where you finally see the head. That’s a three-page neck!
The illustrations are not bright and bold; rather, they are the colors of Africa. They are tan and brown and grey. There is lots and lots of texture throughout the pages, from the grass to the heavy brushstrokes that make up the lion’s mane. The sky, the ground, the tortoise’s shell, the giraffe’s head, all are filled with enough visual stimulation to make the muted colors seem vibrant and bold.
The message the story conveys about friendship, accepting one’s strengths and weaknesses, and helping others is one that children love reading about and discussing. Truly.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Random House Books for Young Readers, the publisher, for review purposes.