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"The average reading level of American parents of young children is 7th or 8th grade, but 80% of pediatric materials f... More

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Author: Mary Tavener Holmes and John Harris

Illustrator: Jon Cannell

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Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Children's Books,

Material: hard cover

Summary: Atir has a very important job. It is 1826, and Muhammad Ali, the pasha of Egypt, wants to give the King of France a very special present. Her name is Belle and she is a giraffe. Their journey begins on an Italian ship and continues 500 miles on foot from Marseilles to Paris. Atir tells us about the journey and their life in Paris. This is a picture-book history of a true story.

Type of Reading: family reading, independent reading, read aloud book

Recommended Age: read together: 6 to 9; read yourself: 9 to 12

Interest Level: 7 to 10

Reading Level: 4.2

Age of Child: Read by a 9-year-old girl.

Young Reader Reaction: Even before she knew this was a true story, my daughter liked this book. When she found out it was part of history, she found it even more impressive. She liked the giraffe facts and also how the giraffe was treated in Paris.

Adult Reader Reaction: What a great piece of history. The story has lots of wonderful detail without being overpowering. The illustrations draw on the text, but not in the usual ways, which is refreshing. What probably makes this a 4th grade reading level is the French vocabulary. Otherwise, this is a book well-suited for second and third grade readers.

Pros: This first-person story offers kids a front-line perspective of a piece of history they aren't likely to have heard about. Plenty of white space and a great balance of text and illustration make this a wonderful choice for developing readers, too.

Cons: I wish there was a kid-friendly page (in the context/format of the rest of the book) that gave more of the history and where the authors found the information.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow. This is a wonderful story to share. It is one that you can easily read once and then go back and explore some more.

If You Liked This Book, Try: A BOOK   TESTING THE ICE; A True Story About Jackie Robinson   LOUIE!

Educational Themes: Geography and history are the first themes that pop out, but you can also talk about culture, 19th century transportation, animal husbandry, and French and Egyptian culture, too. This would be a perfect choice in talking about how authors create nonfiction and historical fiction, as well as a launching point for studying this piece of history.

Notes: The publisher donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.

Literary Categories: Fiction - picture book, animal characters, history, biography, 1800s

Date(s) Reviewed: January 2011

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