While the illustrations are very beautiful, the story is lacking in so many ways and I found it just completely missed the mark. The language is clumsy, overly wordy and sometimes inappropriately colloquial, “The kids were soooooo mean”. While inconsistencies such as the story being set in ‘Ugladunga’ in Africa, where the characters played ‘Mulunga Doo’, but are named things like Gordon and Gary just took away from the overall effect.
These things aside, though, it was the story itself that concerned me. Gordon is teased for liking another boy and although his mother is understanding and accepting of this, the other children are not. Some of the other boys hatch a plan to push Gordon off the waterfall. After their plan goes astray and they put themselves in danger instead, it is Gordon who comes to their rescue prompting one of the boys to declare “Well, you’re ok with me.”
While I appreciate that Gordon looked beyond his own hurt feelings to rescue the boys, the fact that they only liked him after he became a hero, I feel sends the wrong message. Gordon should not be accepted only after a heroic feat; he should not have to prove his worth. He should be accepted for who he is. He should have the same acceptance, love and rights as every other giraffe in the community, simply for the fact that he is a giraffe and he exists in that community.
I believe Gordon the Giraffe is a small, brave step in the right direct, and I hope that it will encourage other authors to explore and write about the topics of gay tolerance and bullying amongst children.
For more information on Gordon the Giraffe, visit www.arcana.com.
Title: Gordon the Giraffe
Author: Bruce Brown
Illustrator: A. Shelton
Publisher: Arcana Studios, US$5.95 RRP
Publication Date: 2011
For ages: 5+ years
Type: Picture book