Zeraffa Giraffa

Zeraffa Giraffa by Dianne Hofmeyr

Zeraffa Giraffa is based on the true story of a giraffe that was given to King Charles X of France as a gift from the Ottoman Viceroy of Egypt in 1826. The story maps the giraffe’s journey from Africa to Europe. When they arrive in Marseilles, the servant Atir realises that the only way to get to Paris is to walk the remaining 550 miles. The journey through France builds with excitement as Zeraffa is the first giraffe seen in France and the people go ‘giraffe crazy’. They make giraffe biscuits, the ladies style their hair to make them look taller and they use false eyelashes to mimic the giraffe’s.

The book is beautifully illustrated with detailed pictures of the journey from sailing along the river Nile to walking through the streets of Paris.

The children in my class were fascinated by this story. We wrote letters to the King of France to tell him about the gift. We wrote descriptions of giraffes for people that had never seen one before. The children wrote diary entries as Atir about what they had seen on the journey. There are plenty of opportunities for drama and role play in this story. We also mapped the journey and learned about Egypt and France too.

This is one of my favourite stories to use as a writing prompt. I feel that it requires more discussion than other books as the vocabulary can be quite challenging and the fact that it is based on a true story means that the children have lots of questions. For this reason, I tend to use it for my English teaching, rather than an end of the day story.

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