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Giraffes Can't Dance Board book – March 1, 2012
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About the Author
Guy Parker-Rees has illustrated many bestselling Orchard books, including K IS FOR KISSING A COOL KANGAROO and THE CHIMPANZEES OF HAPPYTOWN by Giles Andreae; DOWN BY THE COOL OF THE POOL, DINOSAURUMPUS!, and ALL AFLOAT ON NOAH'S BOAT by Tony Mitton; QUIET! by Paul Bright; and THE HIPPO-NOT-AMUS by Tony and Jan Payne. He lives in Brighton, England.
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My son loves a stuffed giraffe and always asks me to make it dance. SO what better book to buy for my son than a book about a dancing giraffe? When the book arrived, I was so excited and sat down to pre-read it before my son woke from his nap. Once, I finished reading the book, I had mixed feelings. Here is why:
1. The giraffe is bullied in the book and is labeled these words: a fool, weird, and clumsy. While saying these things, the animals sneered at the giraffe. The accompanying image to that text shows all the animals laughing as the giraffe comes to the dance floor. On the next page, when the giraffe leaves feeling hurt, defeated, and useless, no one cares about how they hurt him and all the animals continue to party/dance as if nothing wrong happened. That scene should have been done more delicately. The other animals could just have said something like "everyone knows giraffe's can't dance... they have knobby knees and long necks." Instead of using those extremely hurtful words.
2. The giraffe is only treated better by the other animals because he is after the party caught dancing in a field and in that moment is recognized as the best dancer. There is no apology for being mean to the giraffe earlier and the giraffe is only treated nicely because they know he can now dance. That sends a mixed message - you need to change to get acceptance. The nerdy girl needs to dress sexier to be accepted. The giraffe who cannot dance better take dance lessons. It is about earning kindness because of changing to please others. The book should have been focused on being yourself and that kindness should be given to everyone.
3. The ending or moral of the story could have saved this book, but instead it was oh so very weak and disappointing. All the animals want to know how the giraffe learned to dance and the answer was everyone can dance if you find the right music. What? Seriously after that harsh bullying and the giraffe feeling so broken and useless, finding the right music is the answer?
In the end, my husband and I are in agreement. The title of this book should have been "giraffes CAN dance" and it should ave focused on the positives, displayed good role models, and had a strong moral to the story. Because the truth is - everyone can dance, so whether one dances silly or serious, on beat or offbeat, following formal steps or going freestyle... everyone deserves to have the joy of dancing and the kindness from others.
However... I really think the cricket does not get enough credit! In fact, Gerald almost becomes a bit cocky in the end, as if he had achieved this feat of realizing his potential all by himself, when, in fact, without the cricket he still wouldn't believe in himself. And here I think the book misses a great opportunity to emphasize the value of friendship, empathy, and helping others.
Luckily, this can be fixed very easily. I therefore added a final rhyme to the book that I think adds to the value. I hope others may find it useful as well. It goes as follows:
Just sometimes we need a friend to help,
to find out song and tune.
And to the cricket Gerald said:
I found mine, thanks to you!