Today I am back with a classic Addison Reads thorough, in-depth & insightful book review for you all. (Back in the day, this used to be all I did here on the blog, in fact, you can search through the archives of all the book reviews I have written!). The point in doing this is to show you how these children’s books are so much more than little stories that entertain our children, they help me parent my daughter through literature and oftentimes have lesson that even I can benefit from. This month’s theme is Music and I wanted to share one of my favorite books that has ties to this theme as well as so many larger implications about self love, confidence and embracing your own unique self. Let’s hop into a book review of Gile Andreae’s Giraffes Can’t Dance.
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Listen & Learn
- TITLE: Giraffes Can’t Dance
- WRITTEN BY: Giles Andreae
- ILLUSTRATED BY: Guy Parker-Rees
- PAGES: 28
- ISBN: 9780545392556
- Available on Amazon, here.
The first thing that caught my eye about this book was the color. It’s incredible bright and rich – both the cover and the illustrations throughout the book are incredibly eye catching. We first read this book when AJ was about one and I remember her being enamored with the book and looking through the pages. The characters in the books have really animated facial expressions which makes it entertaining to read and also helpful for your child to correlate emotions with the way the emotions themselves are expressed physically.
Another thing I appreciate about this book is that while it is a board book, it has length to it – it’s meaty both in the words on the pages and in the number of pages. I like that because it has the strength of a board book (meaning my ferocious daughter has a harder time destroying it or accidentally ripping a page) while also having the length to be a meaningful story.
Super Speedy Summary
The book follows a character named Gerald, a giraffe. Gerald looks on as his fellow animals enjoy an annual dance, the “Jungle Dance”. All of the animals arrive and dance, have fun, and listen to music. It’s a great time, and Gerald longs to be involved, too.
However, Gerald feels sadness and loneliness when the jungle dance arrives year after year because he is not a good dancer.
While all the other animals dance with ease and brilliance, Gerald is more clumsy. When he attempts to get in the middle and dance, all the other animals jeer and laugh at him. His fear keeps him away from the dance floor and he feels loneliness unlike ever before – having tried and failed.
During his time alone, he meets a cricket who encourages Gerald, telling him it’s not that he is a terrible dancer – he just hasn’t found the right music. When Gerald tunes in to the music created by the swaying jungle leaves and other natural elements, and that the moon is playing a song just for him, Gerlad begins dancing – in the most brilliant way.
He is filled with confidence and joy, dancing away, and the other animals see him and watch in adoration. They wonder how he learned to dance suddenly, and he says to them “We all can dance, when we find music that we love”.
Let that just sink in for a minute. That beautiful, simple and subtle story about Gerald the giraffe and his predicament.
There is so much goodness in this book that I feel it necessary to break it down into the main themes we have pulled out:
- Being unlike others does not make you less than, your uniqueness is not a flaw
- Kindness, empathy & acceptance can help transform others
- When we find that song or style of music that we inherently connect with, the world just fades away and we are just…us.
Your Uniqueness Is NOT a Flaw
We are all beautiful, unique beings. We have quirks about us that make us perfectly imperfect and the fact that we are not all the same is something that should be embraced and encouraged.
However, it is often in this world that we (our children, and ourselves included) are shunned for being unlike others. For being different.
Gerald is the perfect example that when you embrace who you are, when you truly allow yourself to be every bit as differentiated as you need to be to show your true colors, there is freedom. The freedom that we feel when we finally walk in the path that we want to, it is truly liberating.
Furthermore, when we embrace our authentic selves, when we let ourselves be just a little weird and quirky, the truth that we often hide, other people see this and they are inspired. Think of the way the other jungle animals were so impressed with Gerald. Once he released his fears of being judged, or being misunderstood, and trying to fit within the confines of society, they saw his freedom and admired it.
Our children will face situations in life where they will walk into a room and feel judged. They will start a new school and have a different accent, or wear different clothes or have different ideas about the world.
We need to equip our children to know that they don’t have to conform in order to fit in. They can stand out in the most beautiful way, and they are loved for who they are.
When they get to a dance floor, we want our children to dance…not to be afraid of what others will say. Giraffes Can’t Dance shows us the value of: confidence, pride and self love.
You can Help Transform Others with Kindness, Empathy & Acceptance
An often overlooked character in Giraffes Can’t Dance is the cricket, when in fact, he may be one of the most pivotal characters. The cricket sees Gerald struggling through his fears and self doubt, and interjects with kindness and advice about a new outlook.
Because the cricket isn’t afraid to speak his mind and help a friend, Gerald experiences the breakthrough of confidence and embracing his true self.
The cricket could have chosen to be like the other animals, who laughed at Gerald and found his misfortune and sadness to be something humorous. However, the cricket choose kindness over blending in with the crowd and acted with empathy towards Gerald.
When our children are faced with two roads: to join in with others in making fun of someone or helping that individual in whatever way they can, we all hope they choose the latter path.
This books emphasizes the necessity of these good samaritans to help others in need & recognize when someone is suffering and could use some encouragement.
Music has this insane ability to make everything fade away
I’ll start by saying…I am a big music junkie. I have always connected with music in a way I could never exactly describe and I always thought I was unique in that way, but I have grown to realize that many of us are transformed by the power of music. The rhythm, the sound of the right song has the power to make us cry, laugh, dance uncontrollably, give us goosebumps, be the light in a sea of darkness.
My biggest hope is that with reading this book, I can show my daughter that music is a release. A way for her to show up in the world & exist in all her glory and be her.
Throwing in your headphones, turning up your absolute favorite song and closing your eyes has this mysterious power to just make you relax and forget about all of your worries and troubles. It is during these vulnerable, honest moments that we release and just live out who we really are. Just as Gerald from Giraffes Can’t Dance didn’t notice the other animals watching him as he jammed out to the music, we too have the ability to get lost in a song.
I want my daughter to learn to love herself, to care for others, and to see the value in music & knowing what songs speak to her so that when life gets hard, she can release. I truly believe this book is an excellent choice for teaching all of these things.
Giraffes Can’t Dance has a very valued and special place on our Intentional Bookshelf and I can imagine us reading it for years and years to come.
Ready to Explore the Topic of Music More As a Family?
Every month both here on Addison Reads and within The Intentional Book Club we have a very distinct theme. The objective of establishing a singular theme per month is it gives you the chance to explore and dive deep into the topic with your family throughout the entire month.
April 2018’s theme is MUSIC. If you are interested in delving deeper into this topic with your family, we would love to have you join us in The Intentional Book Club. In the club, we focus on inviting our children into the discovery and exploration of these larger topics through the strategic use of children’s books and activities. Every month members receive a theme bundle that includes:
- 5+ purposefully chosen book recommendations that relate to the topic
- 3 activity ideas centered around the theme
- 1 guest interview with an author, illustrator or expert related to the monthly topic
- A short video lesson for your entire family
- 2 digital badges to earn as a family for mastering the skill / topic of the month
Club members also have access to curated book recommendations based on their defined focuses for their intentional bookshelves, exclusive printables and resources, and are welcome to participate in our private community for purposeful parents.
The best part? Joining the club is just $47 for lifetime access. Start engaging with your kids in meaningful ways and spending time discovering things that matter together.
April 2018’s Featured Club Guest – Alysson Bourque
Listen to a snippet of our interview (club members get the full interview in video form!)
Our guest of honor for April 2018 is Alysson Bourque. Alysson is the multiple award-winning author of the Alycat series. After practicing law for six years, she traded in writing trial briefs for writing children’s books. She believes there is an Alycat in all of us, encouraging our imaginations to guide us to new opportunities and adventures.
Join the Intentional Book Club for full access to the insightful interview with Alysson (where we discuss her book series & the power of music / kindness).