A Giraffe and a Half

Book review by
Peter Lewis, Common Sense Media
A Giraffe and a Half Book Poster Image
Sweet, madcap picture book filled with zany, silly rhymes.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Teaches kids about the form and joy of poetry.

Positive Messages

Implicit messages that the world can be crazy, animals are funny, and playing with words is fun. And you can have a lot of fun drawing pictures that illustrate a story or poem.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The people and animals pictured and described in the poems seem optimistic and fun-loving.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Giraffe and a Half is Shel Silverstein's wonderfully zany, rhyming picture book about a boy and his giraffe. The writing is light and freewheeling, and the artwork so full of life that it might topple off the page at any moment. And it's been re-relased in a beautiful 50th anniversary hardcover edition. 

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What's the story?

Take a giraffe, stretch it by another half, and add a rat in a hat and a rose on his nose and a whole lot more, and you have the makings of a madcap Shel Silverstein cumulative tale. The verse is sweetly upbeat, and the line drawings -- as always with Shel Silverstein -- speak volumes more than their spare elegance would indicate.

Is it any good?

There is a brightness to Shel Silverstein's humor that makes one glad to be alive. His craziness is often just this side of impossible; who knows, you may find yourself in one of his situations someday, if you are so lucky. Everyone has to laugh and dream, which is why Silverstein has sold a gazillion books -- and bully for him.

Silverstein enjoys coming full circle in his stories, and the same holds true here. Up, up, up the tale climbs, threatening a drop into chaos with each new step, and then slowly readers exhale as, one by one, the elements surrender to whatever odd fate lies in wait for them. The line drawings, too, are operatic in their gestures and give each character real distinction.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the author uses lively prose and vivid drawings to tell a story with silly overtones. Do you notice a pattern in the way the author uses words that rhyme? Can you think of other words that rhyme with "giraffe" and "half"? Or "rat" and "hat"? Or "suit" and "cute"? 

  • How does this collection compare with other Shel Silverstein poetry books? Which one is your favorite?

  • Try writing a poem yourself -- silly or serious, rhyming or not. Illustrate it with crayons, markers, or paint.

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love poetry and art

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