A young giraffe longs for the best leaves, beyond her reach.
The bright yellow quadruped with brown crayon spots and a neck that’s perfect for sliding down is lucky enough to have many animal friends. In rhyming text and with the help of a wise tortoise, she learns that she can both push herself and lean on her friends to reach the tippy tops of the trees and eat those luscious leaves. Before she accomplishes her goal, the tortoise reminds Gisele of her special personal qualities: “What else do you have? Much more than your spots! / Kindness. And pluck. And a headful of thoughts.” Acknowledging that each animal has different physical traits, the tortoise continues the encouraging message: “You might not have whiskers or armor or wings, / but use what you’ve got; you don’t need those things.” The mixed-media illustrations, with their childlike depictions of animals in an imaginary African savanna scene, carry this book beyond its rhythmic but otherwise fairly pedestrian text. They are joyous, vivid, and funny, especially in one of the climactic spreads, when the animals, large and small, get together to form “a mountain of…animal stairs” for Gisele. Small children also want to accomplish tasks beyond their abilities with the assistance and encouragement of wise and patient grown-ups, and this story will resonate.
Working together, these animal friends are good models for cooperative play. (Picture book. 4-6)