Imagine a giraffe that can sail from Alexandria, Egypt, to Marseille, France, in a boat with a special hole for her neck. Imagine a giraffe that can walk from Marseille to Paris in forty-one days, wearing stylish boots and a cape. Imagine a giraffe that captures the attention of a hundred thousand spectators in Paris as she parades through the city, inspiring paintings, poetry, porcelain designs, and even an exotic hairstyle. Imagine Belle, a gift from the pasha of Egypt to the king of France in 1827, a giraffe who made history.
This book presents Belle’s true story, told in the imagined words of her devoted Sudanese caretaker, Atir, who accompanied her on her journey to Paris and stayed with her till her death eighteen years later.
Illustrated with artifacts and paintings from the nineteenth century and with Jon Cannell’s jaunty artwork, Belle’s remarkable story both captivates and informs. An author’s note and pronunciation guide are included.
From Publishers Weekly
Holmes and Cannell, the team behind My Travels with Clara, again turn to the exhibit of exotic animals in centuries past in a delightful outing with Harris (Pop- Up Aesop). Narrator Atir describes the gift of the giraffe Belle by the pasha of Egypt to Charles X of France in 1827 and details Belle’s long journey to the French capital (also explored in Zarafa: The Giraffe Who Walked to the King). Each piece of information is a treat, from the hole cut in the deck of the ship to accommodate Belle’s neck to the raincoat and boots made for her walk to Paris (“Yes, boots. She was not used to walking such long distances,”) and the giraffe mania that greeted her arrival (“There were giraffe songs, poems... fabrics, cough-drop boxes... and gingerbread cookies”). Loopy handwritten script is used for emphasis (“Fancy Parties!” “Paris loves Belle!”), while old maps, photographs, and portraits supplement Cannell’s watercolor-and-ink drawings. Perceptive readers may conclude that celebrity and human nature haven’t changed much in nearly 200 years. This is history for children as it ought to be written. Ages 6–9 -Publisher’s Weekly, 3/8/10
Belle is the gift of the pasha of Egypt to the king of France. She is elegant, tall, and a spectacle for the people of France, who have never seen a giraffe before. Her journey is narrated by Atir, her doting escort–umbrella carrier, and begins on the Nile River in 1826. The book showcases how unique Belle was: boats were not made for her (the captain cut a hole in the deck so she could sail comfortably); the weather was not right for her (a specially made cape kept her warm); and she drew crowds as large as 30,000 as she made her 40-day walk to Paris. The art is decidedly Parisian, with charming, muted watercolors (reds are more rust and blues more periwinkle). This story strikes all the right notes for nighttime reading, with the final pages showing Atir putting Belle to bed. Kids taken with this book will also enjoy The Giraffe That Walked to Paris (1992) or Zarafa: The Giraffe That Walked to the King (2009). — Courtney Jones, Booklist April 1, 2010
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