The White Giraffe 

Lauren St. John
Dial

Her father had just asserted that things happen for a reason when a house fire kills 11-year-old Martine's parents. Shipped to a South African game preserve, Martine moves in with an unknown grandmother who reluctantly welcomes her.

In this strange, new world, Martine is cut off "? from her grandmother, the cliquish kids at school, the truth of her roots and secrets of the preserve, where a supposedly mythical giraffe resides. Then, as poachers encroach, Martine finds herself face to face with the animal.

London sports journalist Lauren St. John makes her children's book debut with "The White Giraffe," blending melodrama and magic with suspense and description of the African wilderness in which she grew up. It's all a bit too heady for adults, but tween girls who hop on will find an imagination- and world-view-stretching ride.

"?Emily Jerman

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