I almost want to just leave that one-word review of this book by Lauren St. John as is. But I suppose I should explain why I came to read this book, as well as why I don’t particularly like it.
One of my cousins is a librarian in the Salt Lake county library system, and she’s on the committee for the 2009 (I think) Beehive Award. Each committee member is given a list of 5 books from the big lists (for children’s and YA) and they are supposed to find readers to read and evaluate each of the books. My cousin’s brother is a regular lurker around here (hi, John!) and Hubby’s blogs and he mentioned me to her… and ta-da! I’m a reader for the Beehive Award. (Well, it did involve her asking and me saying yes.)
I finished the YA ones (well, the ones I could find at the library) a month ago, and am just now getting around to the children’s list. I just hope the other ones are better than this one.
It’s not that it’s a bad book… it’s just a less-than exciting one. It didn’t have to be; the story’s quite fascinating. Martine is a child in London, when her parents die in a horrific house fire. She gets sent to South Africa to live with her grandmother Gwyn Thomas on their game reserve, Sawubona. There’s mystery surrounding the reserve — her grandfather was shot a couple years ago, and animals keep disappearing — but the biggest is the white giraffe. Does it even exist? Martine manages to discover not only the white giraffe, but also that she is a child of destiny, as she works to save the white giraffe from the poachers.
I kept wondering why I just wasn’t entranced by this book. Then I hit upon it: St. John is doing more telling than showing. She tells me Martine is afraid. She tells me Martine is sad. She tells me Martine is excited. But I never get the sense that Martine is any of those things. This passage is from Martine’s first day in Africa:
She refused to allow Martine to help clean up the mess. Martine just crept quietly upstairs to bed with tears running down her face. She felt utterly bereft. She was in deepest, darkest Africa with no parents and no friends, living with a grandmother who plainly couldn’t stand the sight of her. Really, it couldn’t get any worse.
As far as Martine could tell, there was only one positive in her new life, and that was Sawubona itself. She was already falling in love with it….
See… not bad, but not great, either. That’s pretty much the story of the whole book. Just kind of … meh.