The Giraffe Who Was Afraid of Heights by David A. Ufer
Illustrated by Kirsten Carlson
Geared Towards: Ages 4-8
Published By: Sylvan Dell
Publication Date: June 2006
We all have fears that don't always make sense. I myself am deathly afraid of bugs- spiders, grasshoppers, crickets, and even butterflies up until recently. Okay, I guess saying I'm deathly afraid of them might be over stating things a bit, but the point is I do NOT like them at ALL, and my pulse will sky rocket, I'll begin to hyperventilate, and I will honestly be scared to bits if any creepy crawlies get anywhere near me. Does it make sense why a giant like myself (only giant in comparison to the those nasty little buggers) would be afraid or even highly freaked out by an itty bitty bug? No, of course not. With the exception of a few which would be poisonous or deadly, there's really not much harm any little bug can cause me. That doesn't change the fact that I am afraid of them. It makes no sense really, yet that's the way life is sometimes. And that's what Ufer shows us through this delightful picture book.
Right off readers are introduced to a young giraffe, on the African savannah, who always keeps his neck bent low to the ground. He is afraid of heights. It doesn't matter that as a giraffe he should stand tall and proud, or that his graceful neck could help him reach the delicious leaves in the tree or see all that takes place around him. It doesn't matter that it is unnatural for a giraffe to be afraid of heights. (Again, that's the thing with fears, most are completely unrational, but that doesn't change the validity of them.) It is unsafe and also unbecoming for the giraffe to keep kis head down this way day in and day out, so his parents, wanting to help their son, send him off to see a doctor who they hope will help him overcome his fears. If all goes well he'll come home afterwords, and be able to stand strong and tall with the rest of his herd.
Along the way to the doctor the young giraffe happens upon a young monkey drawing pictures in the dirt. It turns out that the monkey too is supposed to go to the doctor; he is afraid of climbing the trees. Feeling an automatic kinship and both having the same destination the two take up their journey together. Yet it turns out, they are not the only two animals in need of a visit to the doctor.
As they make their way along the path to meet the doctor the pair stumble upon a sad hippo lying alongside the river. The hippo explains that he too needs to visit the doctor. For him it is not a fear of heights or climbing he needs to overcome, but rather a fear of water. The trouble is that in order to reach the doctor the hippo must first cross the river. A problem far more difficult to overcome than simply gaining the courage to go. If he could get that far he wouldn't need the doctor in the first place.
While taking a break on the riverbank to brainstorm, the trio find themselves confronted with a fear far greater than any that they've encountered before. Far worse than heights, climbing, or water what they now face is truly worthy of their fear. The time how come, and it's now or never. If each doesn't overcome his own personal demons now it may be too late.
I really loved this book, even more than I first expected I would. The illustrations were just adorable, and the message was a universally great one. Kids everywhere can read this book, no matter the stage of life they're in, and be reassured that it's totally normal and okay to be afraid of things. What they can also learn though is that while fears are normal, it's also totally possible to overcome them. Readers will be able to relate to the cast of characters, and will be able to see that even in the most dire of cases a little courage can go a long way because it's always hidden away inside us. It just sometimes take a little pressure to crack its shell away.
This was also a hit from a kiddo's perspective. My five year old really enjoyed reading it, and she thought the pictures were cool. We agreed our favorite images are the ones of the hippo and the giraffe brainstorming. Their expressions are exaggerated and so stinking cute.
Plus, as has been the case with all other Sylvan Dell books we've had the pleasure of reviewing, this one had an excellent "For Creative Minds" section at the back. The "Animal Adaptions" portion shows how while some of the aspects of the story were obviously not true to life, there are ways in life in which animals adapt to survive. There were then fun facts for each of the featured animals, a fun foot and footprint matching game, and lastly there's even a short craft readers can do.
A definite good addition to one's collection if ever there was any.
OUR RATING: 5 hearts