Review of Gemina: The Crooked-Neck Giraffe By Karen B. Winnick
Gemina: The Crooked-Neck Giraffe
By Karen B. Winnick
Published by the Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens, Santa Barbara, CA: 2013: 37 pp.
It’s hard to resist an animal story, especially one as charming and winning as this one.
Here’s a lovely picture book, sure to be an appealing read-aloud for kindergarteners and first graders, about a giraffe who doesn’t let her physical difference get in the way of a happy life.
Karen B. Winnick’s fable-like tale is based on the true story of Gemina, who lived for more than two decades at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Blessed with a distinctive charisma (yes, giraffes can have charisma), Gemina was one of the most popular attractions at the zoo.
Some of it undoubtedly was due to her distinction as being the only crooked-neck giraffe at the zoo. More of it, however, was the result of her outgoing nature and friendliness to the visitors who flocked around her enclosure.
To underscore the significance of how Gemina’s differences were a cause of celebration, rather than pity, Winnick pictures her with a little girl in a wheelchair and a young boy with scoliosis. As the boy observes after meeting Gemina, “he wasn’t so bothered by his bump anymore.”
The lessons Gemina represented are clear.
As Winnick writes, “Every afternoon, Gemina walked around outside with the other giraffes. They didn’t treat her any differently because of her crooked neck. Gemina was part of the herd.”
And just in case you might have missed the point, a bit later Winnick writes, “Gemina made many people feel better about themselves. They cared about her because she was different. People saw that Gemina didn’t let her difference stop her from doing anything the other giraffes did.”
As part of a curriculum lesson on accepting differences, this would be a very palatable way of communicating that message to young children. Gemina’s legacy is worth sharing, and preserving.#