Chee-Lin: A Giraffe's Journey

Overview

Eighty years before Columbus, China sent ships to explore the world.
The Chinese discovered many marvelous things, but one discovery stood out above the others: the chee-lin.
This chee-lin was just a giraffe, but to the Chinese it was an omen of good fortune so rare that it had appeared only once before—at the birth of Confucius.
In a storybook in which each page evokes the richness of faraway places and ...

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Overview

Eighty years before Columbus, China sent ships to explore the world.
The Chinese discovered many marvelous things, but one discovery stood out above the others: the chee-lin.
This chee-lin was just a giraffe, but to the Chinese it was an omen of good fortune so rare that it had appeared only once before—at the birth of Confucius.
In a storybook in which each page evokes the richness of faraway places and long-ago days, James Rumford traces the chee-lin’s journey from Africa to Bengal to China, weaving a tale not just of a giraffe but of the people he meets along the way. Chee-lin is a story for all time: of captivity and struggle, friendship and respect.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A lovingly created, highly unusual book that will appeal to special readers . . . Richly colored, thick casein paintings on facing pages show people of the East African coast and of Bengal, the courtyard of the emperor’s palace, and the woods of the Peking park that was Tweega’s final home. A hand-drawn map shows the chronology of the animal’s journey."—School Library Journal
Children's Literature - Carolyn Mott Ford
This beautifully done book was inspired by a painting created by the artist Shen Du in 1414 and with information about the Chinese voyages of exploration. The author/illustrator painted the illustrations with casein, which he notes is a poster paint made with milk, and the borders and backgrounds were primarily made on the computer. The chee-lin was a horned beast in Chinese mythology and was considered an omen of good luck. The appearance of the beast was very rare, but in the fifteenth century a chin-lin called Tweega came from Africa. It was actually a giraffe, but the Chinese accepted it as a good omen. The story of the giraffe during its travels touches the heart and keeps the reader enthralled throughout. Tweega meets many people along the way, some cruel, some uncaring, and some who help him in his new surroundings as he is moves from one place to the next. A two-page spread showing his travels appears in the back of the book as does background material. Shen Du's painting of a giraffe is included. A wonderful book for parents and children alike. Reviewer: Carolyn Mott Ford
School Library Journal

Gr 1-4

A lovingly created, highly unusual book that will appeal to special readers. Inspired by a painting of a giraffe created in 1414 by Shen Du, a calligrapher of the imperial court of China, Rumford researched early-15th-century Chinese voyages of exploration. Finding only brief allusions to the animal, he created this account of the birth and capture of Tweega (Swahili for "giraffe") and his travels from East Africa, to India, to China. Upon his arrival in Nanjing, the animal is greeted as a chee-lin, a mythological horned creature with a deer's body, ox's tail, and horse's hooves that appears only when there is peace and prosperity in the land. Pages of boxed text are set against computer-generated patterns inspired by textiles of the different countries in which the tale is set (African baskets and cloth, Persian tiles, etc.). Richly colored, thick casein paintings on facing pages show people of the East African coast and of Bengal, the courtyard of the emperor's palace, and the woods of the Peking park that was Tweega's final home. A hand-drawn map shows the chronology of the animal's journey. Shen Du's painting appears at the beginning, and his poem about the chee-lin, printed in Chinese and English translation, is appended along with an author's note.-Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH

Kirkus Reviews
Rumford presents the remarkable story of an African giraffe that was captured and sent to China in 1414. Based on a short mention in a medieval text, the narrative creates a fully anthropomorphized recounting of giraffe Tweega's travails. First captured by African hunters, baby Tweega is sold to an Indian sultan, who then gifts Tweega to a Chinese emperor. The Chinese believed that a mythical animal called a chee-lin had appeared at the birth of Confucius and symbolized good fortune; hoping that Tweega is another chee-lin, the emperor keeps him until the sad animal ultimately dies of old age. Tweega understands his life through the behaviors of his caretakers, who range from caring to indifferent to cruel. The extreme anthropomorphism will either add to or detract from the experience, depending on one's preferences. With characteristically lovely design, Rumford often places text boxes against backgrounds inspired by African, Persian or Chinese patterns, which combine with lovely paintings to evoke a flavor of the cultures and the time. An annotated map at the end graphically dramatizes Tweega's journey. (author's note) (Picture book. 7-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618717200
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/22/2008
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Edition description: None
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 11.20 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Master storyteller James Rumford combines his love for art and history in his picture books. Each of his books is vastly different in its content, design, and illustrations but one aspect remains constant throughout his work: his passion about his subjects. Rumford, a resident of Hawaii, has studied more than a dozen languages and worked in the Peace Corps, where he traveled to Africa, Asia, and Afghanistan. He draws from these experiences and the history of his subject when he is working on a book. His book Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People Writing was a 2005 Sibert Honor winner.

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