Jeff Giraffe: The great escape by Amelia McInerney and Alexandra Colombo

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Jeff has a plan to escape the zoo and get to the playground he can see. But Jan is not so sure.. Jan recalls similar plans and reminds Jeff, but he dismisses all concerns. All the cliches of tactics and escapes are used in this very funny escape story. They communicate via walkie talkies, saying 'Roger and out', '10-4', 'Code three' and 'Mayday' to give the story a nod to all those escape films and TV shows we have seen. In the hands of a giraffe and a seal, the words add another level of humour.

Told in stanzas, a new one appearing as each page is turned, the rhythm will delight kids as they predict some of the rhyming words, and make some of the noises in the text. It is a wonderful read aloud, with a strong rhyming sequences which sometimes stops you in your tracks at the cleverness of the rhyming words.

Jeff’s friend Jan always brings up negative things: about other plans that have failed, last time he was videotaped, or the night is too dark. But each is dismissed by Jeff who wants to stick to his plan. A friend, Roger the seal, becomes stuck in the wire, while Jeff puts his foot on the accelerator causing the jeep to make a bigger hole in the fence.

Surrounded by cliches of detective stories, searchlights, men in grey coats and hats and videotaping the suspect, the escape does not go to plan of course, bringing a clever twist at the end of the story.

Bright, vivacious illustrations set the scene.  Colour and movement will grab the eyes of the reader, dragging them into every detail and splash of humour. Jeff takes some beating, not only does he draw up plans for himself and his friend, but he can also drive a jeep, use a walkie talkie, fly high on a swing, and read a map. All done with wonderful aplomb, sitting sometimes gracelessly with his head in his hands.

Readers will not look at a zoo in quite the same way again, and the seals and giraffes will certainly be looked at with greater understanding. A wonderful read and read aloud, I would have different kids reading the text highlighted out loud to make a funny book reading of the story.

The possibilities are endless.

Themes: Zoos, Giraffe, Seals, Escape, Zoo keepers.

Fran Knight