|Image courtesy Dial|
It's clear that St. John knows and cares a lot about animals, including the unique wildlife of sub-Saharan Africa. According to her biography, she grew up on a farm in Zimbabwe with a host of exotic pets, and frankly that's a memoir I would read! It's also clear that her background was a big influence on The White Giraffe. I just wish that her knowledge, passion, and background had faced a little more scrutiny and gone through a few more revisions before they ended up as The White Giraffe, as it falls a little too close to the White Savior narrative structure for me to really get into.
I also admit that as an adult, I'm hardly the middle grade target audience, but a hallmark of good children's writing is that adult readers can enjoy the book as much as younger readers. In The White Giraffe, the writing felt a little flat and some elements of the plot seemed rushed or thrown in for the sake of . . . I'm not sure what. But as I mentioned earlier, it won the East Sussex Children's Book Award, voted on by students, so I guess the target demo likes it well enough!
The White Giraffe is the first in a series that includes (as of this blog post) four other books: Dolphin Song, The Last Leopard, The Elephant's Tale, and Operation Rhino. Hopefully St. John has found her stride and ironed out the above issues in The White Giraffe, as I think her passion for conservation and the natural world is one worth sharing and cultivating in young readers.