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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

5 Giraffes, written by Anne Innis Dagg. Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2016. $24.95 ages 10 and up

"Take a good look at that long giraffe neck. How many bones do you think support it? Surprisingly, despite its length, a giraffe neck has only seven bones - the same as a human one. By contrast, long-necked birds, such as swans, have as many as twenty-five neck bones. The skulls of adult males, which weigh about 10 kilograms (22 pounds),  ... "

Just as Rob Laidlaw did in 5 Elephants (Fitzhenry and Whtieside, 2014), Anne Innis Dagg brings her plentiful research, her vast knowledge and her love for these gentle giants to the pages of this new book, a fascinating look at five famous giraffes. They live in captivity and in the wild, and many face an uncertain future.

By getting to know Lmara, Safari, Gemina, Foo8, and Msitu better, it can only be hoped that readers will find a place in their hearts for these beautiful creatures. It may even lead them to become a Giraffe Guardian, and work closely to protect them.

Their stories are varied, and well told. Ms. Dagg loved them from early childhood and spent much of her life studying them, beginning in 1956. Fresh out of school, she decided to travel to Africa where she would study them in their natural surroundings.

"Now she is a well-known animal rights advocate, scientist, teacher, and the author of many scientific papers, articles and books. She is also the first person to have studied a large mammal - the giraffe - in the wilds of Africa."

As giraffe numbers rapidly decline, it is only through education and a determined effort that they can be saved from extinction. Hopefully this book will encourage each one of us to get involved and make a difference. There is so much wonderful information provided in its fifteen chapters. We learn a great deal about each of the featured giraffes. We also learn what giraffes like to eat, how they evolved, and about their anatomy, the way they walk, their social life. It is a truly fascinating look at the challenges they face and the help they are getting from interested scientists and concerned citizens.

They have much to teach us. Full of many engaging entries, this is one of the only books for older students I have seen, and it is certainly worth a close look. The profiles of each of the 5 presented for our attention brings a sense of urgency and connection. The photographs are much appreciated, and the illustrations useful and informative.

The author ends with making a case for studying these beautiful creatures in their own habitat, but also sees the place that zoos once played in creating interest in them. She encourages her readers to be vigilant, and supportive on their behalf. End matter includes a glossary, an index, and a  bibliography.

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