Giraffes Can’t Dance, written by Giles Andreae and illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees, is the heartwarming story of Gerald - a sweet looking, tall giraffe (like all giraffes usually are), with a long and thin neck, perfect for nibbling shoot from the tops of the trees. All is good…except Gerald can’t dance (his “knees were awfully crooked and his legs were rather thin.”), and this is a problem in Africa where he lives, because every year they hold a Jungle Dance where all the animals turn up to skip and dance.
With bright illustrations and gentle rhymes, we watch as Gerald shyly stands to the sides, gazing at the other animals, for, as the author puts it, “Poor Gerald felt so sad, because when it came to dancing he was really very bad.” Dejected, he watches as the warthogs waltz, the rhinos rock ‘n’ roll, the lions dance a tango, the chimps do a cha-cha and “eight baboons…. team up for a splendid Scottish reel.” Still, not wanting to miss out, Gerald gathers his courage and walks towards the dance floor. But the worst happens: “Hey, look at clumsy Gerald,” the animals all sneered. “Giraffes can’t dance, you silly fool! Oh Gerald, you are so weird.” For a minute, Gerald is frozen with fear; then, sadly, he “crept off from the dance floor, and started walking home. He’d never felt so sad before – so sad and so alone.”
Soon he finds a clearing and looks up at the beautiful moon. But he is not alone. A cricket coughs, and says (ever so wisely): “Sometimes when you are different you just need a different song,” and Gerald begins listening to the swaying grass and the trees and the branches in the breeze and then the most amazing thing happens: “His hooves had started shuffling making circles on the ground. His neck was gently swaying and his tail was swishing around. He threw his legs out sideways and he swung them everywhere. Then he did a backward somersault and leapt up in the air.”
Gerald CAN dance! And soon, all the animals join Gerald in the clearing and watch him dance. And when they ask him where he learned to dance, without anger and malic, simply said, “we all can dance when we find music we love.”
Giraffes Can’t Dance is a small board book with a big message. It is doubtful the very young will understand the true message (indeed, this is a weighty topic for even older children), but still the idea that Gerald lacks confidence, but then realizes not everyone has to do things the same way is important to teach our children, even during the pre-school years. And even if all of this is lost on young readers, Giraffes Can’t Dance remains a charming story of one clumsy giraffe named Gerald. We can all cheer for him regardless and clap when as he finishes his dance, and happily twirls around and takes a bow.
Giraffes Can’t Dance
Written by Giles Andreae
Illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees
Published By Cartwheel Books
Recommended for Ages 3+
Reviewed by Jenny Tananbaum.