Baby Juma the Giraffe wonders this when looking at his reflection one day. In the heart warming story of Juma the Giraffe written by Monica Bond and illustrated by Kayla Harren, Juma feels ordinary because he thinks he is like all of the other giraffes. His friend, Upendo likes to explore new places and his other friend Rafiki makes everyone laughs with his silly faces. What makes him different than everyone else? What are his unique qualities?
When he was at the water hole one day, “He saw his reflection in the water alongside the other giraffes who were drinking. As Juma gazed at the reflections, he realized that he looked just like all the other giraffes. And because they all looked alike, he felt he wasn’t special.” If he had the same long neck and legs as all of the other giraffes, what makes him different? He felt sad about this looked to his mom for comfort. Throughout the story, his mother teaches him a valuable lesson about what makes him unique in both the animal kingdom and among other giraffes. She explains to him how his neck helps him reach leaves in the trees, his spots help him hide him from predators and that his thick tongue and tough lips don’t hurt when pulling and eating leaves with thorns. Juma also notices his own pattern of spots that are different than all of the other giraffes, which makes him feel grateful and empowered.
Juma the Giraffe is not only a heartwarming story about a baby giraffe and her mother, it’s an educational experience that can read over and over again. Throughout the story, the author Monica Bond exposes children to vocabulary that is familiar to children living in Africa such as baobab tree, acacia trees, dik-diks, ossicones and much more, but may be unfamiliar to children in other places in the world. I loved this book because it teaches children an important lesson about individuality and also gives facts about giraffes in their natural habitat. What makes this book even more unique is that it’s written by a wildlife biologist who lives in Tanzania and dedicates her career to ensuring a future for giraffes and other wildlife of the African Savanna.
When I visited the website for Juma the Giraffe, I was very impressed with all of the Parent and Teacher Resources! Check out the website here.
Spot on Lesson Plan (age 4-7)
Seeing Spots Lesson Plan (age 7-11)
I am thrilled to include this author interview with Monica Bond. I am fascinated and empowered by Monica’s background and her dedication to making our world a better place by protecting the environment and raising awareness for the wild animals that have a right to live without disturbance in their natural environment. In our busy world, it so important to take a moment to be thankful for the wonderful people in this world that dedicate their lives to this cause and together we can make a difference. Thank you Monica!
What inspired you to write Juma the Giraffe?
I wrote Juma the Giraffe from my deep love of giraffes and wild nature. Giraffes are the most beautiful and peaceful animal, but they are vulnerable to extinction because people have taken so much of their wild natural habitat for human uses. To save wild nature, we must know it and love it, so I wrote Juma to help children and their parents to know and love giraffes as individuals. In this way, we can give wild animals the rights to life and happiness that everyone deserves.
How has your career influenced you as a writer?
My career is an expression of my deepest beliefs about how our world works and the proper way a caring person should live in it. Science, religion and philosophy all agree and support the basic truth that everything is connected, so whatever happens to giraffes or the trees in their habitat is also happening to me, and to all of us. I think I’ve always known this, and my training as a scientist confirmed it. Now I practice conservation biology in order to better understand this beautiful world that I love so much. I work to understand and protect the world and ourselves from those of us who have forgotten that basic truth that everything is connected.
What do you think is the most important lesson that you want children to learn from Juma the Giraffe?
Juma the Giraffe is a story about how every individual is unique and special, both on the outside and on the inside. Kids are all brilliant and unique, but there is a lot of social pressure to conform, and this can stifle their natural genius. I hope Juma can remind kids that they are unique and that their special talents are important to society. But there is also a lot that connects us to each other, and that is an additional message for children in the Juma story—that in many ways we are also alike and this is something to appreciate in one another.
After reading Juma the Giraffe, I wondered how children and their parents can help conserve a future for the giraffes and other wildlife. What do you think is the best way?
Many concerned people have asked me what they can do to help save giraffes. Giving money or time to conservation groups like Wild Nature Institute is a great first action to help giraffes. Whatever your skill set, there is an important place for you in the giraffe conservation world where you can make a difference. The next step is to raise awareness of the problem within your social circles, and encourage others to donate money or time to saving giraffes. We need volunteers to raise awareness in their home communities, by writing, speaking, and contributing to the global conversation about our planet’s biodiversity crisis. People also can use their career skills by providing advice, services, or goods in their personal area of expertise that can help the cause.
Can you tell me about a little bit about The Wild Nature Institute and their mission.
Wild Nature Institute conducts scientific research about at-risk wildlife and their habitats, advocates for their protection, and educates the public about the need to preserve wild nature. We didn’t make this world, and we don’t really know how it works, so we need to preserve its wild places so they can keep us and the rest of the earth alive. This is the most important thing anyone can do.