Eleven-year-old Martine loses her parents to a fire in England and is left to seek out her only surviving relation, a grandmother she didn’t even know she had. What’s worse, this granny of hers lives in a game reserve in faraway Africa.
She arrives at the game reserve with a heavy heart, which grows heavier by the hour. It doesn’t help that school starts the very next day and her grandmom, Gwyn Thomas, lays down rules like, “no running, no touching, no cursing, no sweets, no television (because there isn’t any)”.
But it’s not all downhill for the kiddo. The first two people she meets are Tendai, a mahogany giant with the broadest smile in the whole of Africa, and his aunt, Grace, a really large woman who loves to dress up in a riot of colours (a mix of banana yellow, Kalahari red and lime green, if you must know).
One stormy night, as Martine looks out of her window at the watering hole where animals gather at dawn, she is shocked to see a white giraffe looking straight at her. Myth or not, she knows in that instant that she is ready to go out there and risk it all for the giraffe, even as the words of Grace, the African Sangoma (healer), ring in her mind: “Be careful, the gift can be a blessing or a curse”.
What follows is a roaring adventure. Riding atop the silvery white giraffe, Jemmy, in the dead of the night amidst a jungle full of bushbabies, elephants, snakes and what not, Martine is transported to a whole new world.
But she has many questions swirling in her mind — what is the gift that Grace had talked about? Why is her grandmother so distant? What does the white giraffe have to do with her? And why did her grandfather die so mysteriously?
The first book in The White Giraffe series (Orion, Rs 350) starts off a saga of love, friendship and bonds — heart-rending and spellbinding. Complete with premonitions, magical abilities and a mythical touch, the book has an India connect too. The four-book adventure series — which also includes Dolphin Song, The Last Leopard and The Elephant’s Tale — takes the reader on a fascinating trip not only to various parts of Africa but also into the world of animals and the many bonds to be explored through Martine and her friends. The books also voice wildlife protection concerns and are a much-needed step towards understanding animals and their conservation.
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