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Cry of the Giraffe

Cry of the Giraffe

5.0 1
by Judie Oron

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In the early 1980s, thousands of Ethiopian Jews fled the civil unrest, famine and religious persecution of their native land in the hopes of being reunited in Yerusalem, their spiritual homeland, with its promises of a better life. Wuditu and her family risk their lives to make this journey, which leads them to a refugee camp in Sudan, where they are separated.


In the early 1980s, thousands of Ethiopian Jews fled the civil unrest, famine and religious persecution of their native land in the hopes of being reunited in Yerusalem, their spiritual homeland, with its promises of a better life. Wuditu and her family risk their lives to make this journey, which leads them to a refugee camp in Sudan, where they are separated. Terrified, 15-year-old Wuditu must return to Ethiopia alone. “Don’t give up, Wuditu! Be strong!” The words of her little sister come to Wuditu in a dream and give her the courage to keep going. Wuditu must find someone to give her food and shelter or she will surely die. Finally Wuditu is offered a solution: working as a servant. However, she quickly realizes that she has become a slave. With nowhere else to go, she stays—until the villagers discover that she is a falasha, a hated Jew. Only her dream of one day being reunited with her family gives her strength—until the arrival of a stranger heralds hope and a new life in Israel. Based on real events, Wuditu’s story mirrors the experiences of thousands of Ethiopian Jews.

Editorial Reviews

Extremely well told with a clear voice that is occasionally heartbreaking.
Booklist Online
Shows with brutal, unflinching detail the horrors of refugee life and child slavery and the shocking vulnerability of young females in the developing world.
Canadian Materials Reviews
A compelling novel...left me longing to read more. Highly recommended.
American Jewish Libraries Newsletter
Oron unfolds Wuditu's harrowing story with a journalist's eye for memorable details and unforgettable situations.
Chronicle Herald (Halifax)
Paints indelible images on the brain and calls attention to the reality of child slavery, while spotlighting a proud moment in Israeli history.
Library Media Connection - Laurie Balderson
Based on a true story, this book follows the nightmarish saga or Waditu, a young Ethiopian Jew who, along with her family, is trying to join others in Jerusalem. Waditu witnesses horrible atrocities to her own people and others in the Sudanese refugee camps. She is separated from her family, forced into a life of begging and prostitution. When her faith is uncovered, Waditu risks death at the hands of her mistress. She is rescued and taken to Israel where she is reunited with her family. This is an interesting account of a group that most have never heard of, let alone their plight. Some of the vocabulary is difficult and some circumstances are for more mature readers.
Resource Links
The story...is extremely well told with a clear voice that is occasionally heartbreaking in its ability to create proximity while maintaining distance.
www.professionallyspeaking.ca (Ontario College of
Teens will find [Cry of the Giraffe] compelling and understand Wuditu's feelings, hopes and dreams that are so similar to their own.... It will engage students as they grapple with issues of human rights, displaced peoples, social justice and activism.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—A growing number of Ethiopian Jews, known as Beta Israel, relocate to Israel for a better life. To do so, they must travel more than 600 miles by foot across the desert, fighting thirst, scorpions, disease, and violent soldiers. This novel is based on the true story of 13-year-old Wuditu, one of the thousands who attempted this journey. Separated from her family after her father and sister take ill, this courageous girl (nicknamed "Giraffe" because of her long neck and stately composure) must fend for herself. Before she makes it to Israel, she is enslaved for two years. Oron's novel exposes the injustice and degradation girls face around the world. Wuditu is held captive and raped, but manages to escape a life of prostitution. This book is less graphic than Patricia McCormick's Sold (Hyperion, 2006), a novel of child prostitution in Nepal and for a younger audience, but it is sobering nonetheless. Canadian journalist Oron, who rescued the young girl on whom Wuditu's character is based, writes her story in precise, formal prose, sympathetic yet distant. Her journalistic stance serves the story better during dramatic refugee scenes than during the quieter early chapters about life in the village. However, this is an example of masterful storytelling. Each chapter is skillfully organized and perfectly paced. The author weaves foreign words seamlessly into the narrative, defining them through context and never slowing down the story with exposition. Readers learn a great deal about Ethiopia while they are caught up in a riveting story.—Jess deCourcy Hinds, Bard High School Early College Queens, Long Island City, NY
VOYA - Caitlin Augusta
Oron shares a fictionalized account of her daring rescue of Wuditu, an enslaved Ethiopian Jewish girl. Speaking in the first person, Wuditu describes her life as a member of Beta Israel, a Jewish Ethiopian community formed 1700 years ago. Wuditu grew up during a turbulent time in Ethiopian history, caught between a Marxist government and lawless rebel soldiers. Her family decides to join a secret caravan to the Sudan and then covertly to Israel, a process forbidden by the Ethiopian government. Wuditu becomes separated from her family in the Sudanese refugee camp and forced back to Ethiopia, where she lives a precarious existence in Amba Giorgis, Ethiopia, before an unexpected rescue by Oron. Wuditu is reunited with her family in Israel after three unspeakable years of hardship. Cry of the Giraffe is a powerful story of feminine courage amid terrible circumstances. Simple prose expresses Wuditu's aspirations for education and, later, the sacrifices she makes for family and her determination to live. The story may be familiar: remove the names and setting, and this could be the story of girls in many destabilized areas, but Oron brings special attention to the complex history of Ethiopian Jews. While scenes of rape and self-induced abortion are more appropriate for older teens, this difficult yet inspiring story will encourage readers to revisit their own circumstances and better connect with world history. For those who enjoy urban survival stories or for libraries with a focus on current events or Jewish history, this would be a good addition. Reviewer: Caitlin Augusta
Kirkus Reviews

Turning the experiences of her adopted daughter into a fictionalized memoir, a Canadian journalist takes readers back to the vicious anti-Semitism and civil war that led to an exodus of Ethiopia's indigenous Jewish community in the 1980s. Having fled with her family to a refugee camp in Sudan, 12-year-old Wuditu (a fictional name) and her little sister Lewteh are caught up in a sudden round-up and conveyed back to Ethiopia. Leaving Lewteh in the care of a local Kes (rabbi), Wuditu makes her way to a city in search of rumored rescuers but finds herself trapped in a years-long daily struggle to survive that leads to being forced by a soldier into sexual servitude and reduced to slavery by a cruel bar owner. Despite some scenes related in gut-wrenching detail—a self-induced abortion, for instance—Wuditu's narrative often has a distant tone and several seemingly arbitrary twists. Still, readers will feel for her and be relieved when she is miraculously found by a faranj (white foreigner—the author) and tearfully reunited with her sister and family in Jerusalem. (map, glossary, cast list) (Historical fiction. YA)

Product Details

Annick Press, Limited
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.20(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
15 - 18 Years


Meet the Author

Judie Oron, a journalist, risked her life to save Wuditu from Ethiopia and take her to safety in Israel, where she still lives today. Judie Oron lives in Toronto, Ontario.

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Cry of the Giraffe 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago