The premise of this book is that fate has determined that a girl has magical powers over the animals in Africa and only she can save a magical white giraffe. I have to admit I was not excited about this book. It's just not my type of book.
Basic plot line: Martine, an 11 year old girl in England, loses her parents and has to live with a grandmother she didn't even know who runs a wildlife reserve in Africa. She arrives and her grandmother is cold and she feels a desperate loneliness, although she falls in love with Africa and the richness of life and the variety of animals. She meets a wild woman who tells her she has the gift and eventually she figures out she can save and communicate with animals. Rumors are there is a white giraffe that lives on the reserve that people are trying to capture which she discovers and she has to figure out if she can save, not only the white giraffe, but the reserve itself.
Given that I wasn't excited about this book, it was actually pretty good. You root for the girl and there is a bit of a mystery about who is trying to destroy the reserve and who killed her grandfather, which adds to the excitement. And it is a fantasy for sure, that a little girl can communicate with animals and befriend a giraffe. But it is also heart warming somehow.
Parts that made me a bit crazy were more character development and genre than anything. The girl loses her parents and has to return to a grandmother she doesn't know. The author doesn't seem to genuinely depict the loss a kid feels, but at the same time how do I know and it's a heartbreaking thing so can the book really focus on that? There is a balance between glossing over it and harping on it and all of it seems to be not genuine. That would my biggest gripe about the book.
My other would be that there are several storylines running and it's a lot to absorb and some are stronger than others. Who killed her grandfather? Who is poaching animals? What about the giraffe? Will she ever have a good relationship with her grandmother? What about Tendai? Is he a good person? And what does the wild woman mean? Is Alex helping the reserve or hurting it? Can she heal animals? Are they all resolved in the end?
It is a predictable story with many plot deviations but good for 4th and 5th graders.