cover image The Giraffe That Walked to Par

The Giraffe That Walked to Par

Nancy Milton. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $15 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-517-58132-2

What is the perfect gift for the king who has everything? In this fact-based picture book, the unusual present is a giraffe. In 1826 the pasha of Egypt offers to ship a giraffe to France as a gesture of peace and friendship. Travel arrangements are made and passage secured for the animal, her attendants and the three cows necessary to provide her with milk during the journey. The logistics become a bit sticky when the long-necked creature arrives in Marseilles. The only conceivable way to transport her to see the king in Paris is to walk--which she does. A zoo becomes the giraffe's eventual home and all of France enjoys seeing her there for many years. Milton's long-winded text is a bit lengthy for a picture book, but its light tone and historical significance should hook curious young readers. However, the story lacks a genuine sense of fun or spirit of adventure, which may turn some children off. Roth's pencil and watercolor illustrations feature a subdued, earthy palette and predominantly smiling people and animals. The art, though skillfully executed, adds little zip to the tale. Ages 5-9. (May)