All the jungle's got the beat, but Gerald the giraffe has four left feet. Such is the dilemma in this British team's bouncy if didactic picture book about self-esteem. As a multitude of fleet-footed beasts eagerly "skip and prance" at the annual Jungle Dance in Africa, Gerald feels sad "because when it comes to dancing/ he was really very bad." Jeered by waltzing warthogs and cha-cha-ing chimps when he attempts to cut a rug, Gerald hangs his head and leaves the celebration behind. Luckily, a friendly cricket appears in the moonlight, chirping a morale-boosting song of self-confidence that soon sets Gerald in graceful motion. Andreae's rhyming text has a jaunty rhythm that's likely to spark interest in the read-aloud crowd, in spite of a heavy-handed message. Parker-Rees's kicky depictions of slightly anthropomorphic animals boogying on the dance floor are the highlight here. His watercolor and pen-and-ink artwork exudes a fun, party vibe. Ages 3-6. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Every animal at the African Jungle Dance sneers at poor Gerald the giraffe when it is his turn to perform. The chimps did a brilliant cha-cha, the warthogs waltzed beautifully, and the rhinos rocked and rolled, but clumsy Gerald's knees buckle and his legs twist so he flees the party in shame. While admiring the beautiful moon, a friendly cricket offers hope to the despondent giraffe. "Listen to the swaying grass/ and listen to the trees./ To me the sweetest music/ is those branches in the breeze." While the cricket fiddles, Gerald learns to listen to the music that surrounds him. With bouncy breezy rhymes and vivid watercolor, pen and ink illustrations, young children are sure to be inspired by this heart-warming tale. A class of first graders loved hearing the story and viewing the colorful pictures. A lively discussion focused on values, dreaming and attaining success. 2001, Orchard Books, $15.95. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Laura Hummel AGES: 4 5 6 7 8
School Library Journal
PreS-K-A clumsy giraffe is instantly transformed into an exceptional dancer when he finds music that he loves. Gerald has tall, thin legs, which are good for standing still, but when he tries to run, his crooked knees buckle. At the annual Jungle Dance, he is laughed off the floor. A cricket tells him that "-sometimes when you're different you just need a different song." This advice enables the lonely creature to dance, much to the amazement of the other animals. The rhythmic text follows a pattern of four lines per stanza. Some rhyme and others do not. Some flow smoothly; others are forced. One line states that, "He threw his arms out sideways-." Huh! Giraffes don't have arms. Full-page color illustrations done in pen and ink and watercolor are bold and warm. Characters are whimsical and expressive, but they don't make up for the drastic and unbelievable turnaround that takes place upon hearing the cricket play his violin. For stories about individuality, stick with Helen Lester's Tacky the Penguin (1988) and Three Cheers for Tacky (1994, both Houghton) or Robert Kraus's Leo the Late Bloomer (HarperCollins, 1971) and Owliver (Prentice-Hall, 1974; o.p.).-Kathleen Simonetta, Indian Trails Public Library District, Wheeling, IL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Andreae's ode to a different drummer stumbles when it preaches about uncovering your own beat, but is ferried along by enough sweet verse and Parker-Rees's dazzling colors that it almost pulls its own weight. Gerald the giraffe's legs are too spindly for dancing; they are always buckling at the knees when it comes to the old soft-shoe. And while all the other creatures show some mean moves at the Jungle Dance ("The chimps all did a cha-cha / with a very Latin feel, / and eight baboons then teamed up / for a special Scottish reel"), poor Gerald is hooted off the dance floor before he even has a chance to crumple. As he shuffles homeward, and as he stops to admire the moon, a cricket suggests that "you just need a different song." So, to the sound of the wind in the trees, Gerald starts to move: a gentle swaying, some circling, and some swishing. Suddenly he commences to belt out Olympic-quality gymnastic moves-"Then he did a backward somersault / and leapt up in the air"-that blows the other animals away. But probably not readers, even the youngest of whom will want to know just why Gerald's legs didn't buckle this time, special music or not. Bad enough that in a story about rhythm, the verse doesn't always scan-but must Gerald strike the Travolta pose? Gerald doesn't find himself; he simply learns how to mimic. (Picture book. 3-5)
From the Publisher
Praise for Giraffes Can't Dance (written by Giles Andreae and illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees) :
"Parker-Rees's kicky depictions of slightly anthropomorphic animals boogying on the dance floor are the highlight here. His watercolor and pen-and-ink artwork exudes a fun, party vibe." -- Publishers Weekly
Praise for Dinosaurumpus! (written by Tony Mitton and illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees) :
"Perfect for bedtime reading.... It's sure to be a big hit at story hours, too; expect young listeners to jump up and add their own wriggles and shakes to the dinosaur party." -- Booklist
"From the swoop and 'Eeeeeek!' of the pteranodon ... to the high-kicking 'Stomp! Stomp! Stomp!' of the T. rex, each animal presents a fine opportunity for vocal and physical silliness that will be welcome wherever blood-stirring activity is needed. The colorful, eye-popping illustrations are sure to entice." -- School Library Journal
Children's Literature - Sandra Kitain
A perfect marriage of rhyming text and whimsical illustrations, this board book invites young children to imagine their favorite zoo animal learning to dance. Adults reading this book to children will also enjoy the animals' antics as the lions tango and the rhinos rock and roll. The alliteration as well as the rhymes all makes a delightful volume to be enjoyed again and again. One imagines listening to music along with the story time opportunities. The anthropomorphic animals are clever and witty. The underlying message to children is that one should always try to do things and never be discouraged. Since music is the universal language, this could be read in tot music classes as well as at the library story hour. The text is imaginative and the illustrations are sure to please. Reviewer: Sandra Kitain