This review was first published in Resource Links Magazine, “Canada’s national journal devoted to the review and evaluation of Canadian English and French resources for children and young adults.” It appears in volume 18.1
Don’t Laugh at Giraffe
This colourful picture book lives its message: one of the best antidotes for sadness is laughter. The illustrations by author/illustrator Rebecca Bender delight the reader even before the humorous and effective twist at the end of the story. A successful element in the interaction of text and image is that Bender bolds the important words—mainly the verbs—on each page. So with the bold verbs creating motion, and the energetic pictures showing action and emotion, what Bender has created is a very lively picture book for young readers, who will be able to pick out the bolded words and match them to the action in the pictures.
In the scorching heat of the African sun, Giraffe and Bird—best friends but always bugging each other—have a tussle and are hot and thirsty. Already, many young readers will identify with two friends who are so dissimilar but yet “you rarely see them apart.” When Giraffe has troubles bending all the way down to the water, and ultimately falls in, all of the animals—including Bird—laugh at him. True to the age of the readership, this hurts Giraffe’s feelings, and he goes away, sad and humiliated. Bird, an insightful little chap for all his flighty ways—soon figures out that there is something he can do to help his friend. No moralizing here, just a little bird thinking about how his friend obviously feels. Young readers will be able to internalize the lesson of empathy well, as it is so subtle; Bender does not preach at all, but merely shows her readers—largely with her beautiful illustrations—one option in this social situation. The answer Bird comes up with is to make a laughing stock of himself: he sings, he dances, he teases the other animals, he makes a complete fool of himself, laughing all the time with the animals he is teasing—even Giraffe. “Anyone can see that the bird loves the attention … and the giraffe finally has a drink”… and the reader feels happy and giggly watching Bird floating on his back, spitting water up into the air.