From School Library Journal
Grade 4–7—Imagine the rich surroundings of South African wildlife, the mystical stories surrounding a rare white giraffe, and an orphaned girl. Such is the backdrop for this heartwarming story. When her parents are killed in a house fire, Martine, 11, is sent to live with a grandmother she didn't know she had at a wildlife sanctuary. The cold, hands-off woman offers little comfort to a displaced, grieving child, leaving Martine to fend for herself in a foreign land. When a local woman tells the child that she has "the gift," Martine doesn't know what it is or why she would have it. Then she learns of a white giraffe and poachers' intent on capturing it. The story unfolds into a legendary tale full of intrigue and what life demands of a young chosen one. African folklore adds a touch of magic to the story and will help readers understand the supernatural beliefs of an ancient culture. Enjoyable characters offer a glimpse of local culture through Tendai, a Zulu tribesman, and the local mystic, appropriately named Grace. The bush healing techniques are especially interesting. Although a few sections need more fleshing out, the story is captivating and well spun.—Robyn Gioia, Bolles School, Ponte Vedra, FL
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Losing parents in a tragic fire and restarting life with an unwelcoming grandmother would be overwhelming for most 11-year-olds, and Martine is no exception. What's worse, Martine has never met her grandmother, who presides over a large game preserve in faraway South Africa. Even so, from the moment Martine steps off the plane, she senses that her new home holds a special destiny, one that begins to unfold when she learns about a legendary white giraffe. The beautiful creature appears one day, and Martine, who is just becoming aware of her own mystical gifts, begins a heroic journey that leads her to expose and prevent the destructive work of poachers. Though the fantasy elements will probably be the strongest draw here, St. John nods to the politically turbulent backdrop: at one point, a black employee of the preserve refers to his difficult upbringing in an apartheid-era township. Magic realism, adventure, and a well-realized setting combine in this appealing tale, which will resonate particularly with conservation-minded children. O'Malley, Anne