Letters to the Zoo

Books, mostly.

Month: September, 2017

A Review: The White Giraffe

White giraffe

Dear Zoo,

Here are some things that happened this weekend: I’ve written 2.5 assignments, I climbed a tree, we had an election, I got stung by a bee, I made almond butter and almost lost the will to live, and I read a really neat book by Lauren St. John,  the first in her Animal Healer series.

Last year I read a lot of children’s books, this year not so much. I thought this was odd – something to do with a disconnect with my job, or maybe I was just enjoying reading other types of books. Turns out that I just didn’t try hard enough to find a good book!

The White Giraffe is about exactly that – a rare, mystical and rather delightful white giraffe who gets up to some interesting – and heart-stopping – adventures with a girl called Martine. Having fled tragedy in England, Martine has arrived in the very foreign world of South Africa, with a weird collection of people, and animals, she’s never met before. The story is about how Martine finds a home and the giraffe finds a friend. It’s a nice story, and just the right amount of heartwarming. It’s also a little bit magical and packed full of rather crazy adventures. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Funnily enough, I didn’t realise this was part of series. I got lucky that it was the first book! It works well as a standalone (it’s a complete story) but I recommend reading this before the others as its a first introduction to Martine with some important history.

I think there is a good amount of “stuff” in here for kids of about 9 and up. The vocabulary is quite rich and there will be just enough new words to pique their interest. There are also lots of interesting facts about animals and some facts about South Africa (with mentions of concepts such as slavery).

I look forward to reading the next book, Dolphin Song.


Hello Saturday – two things

Dear Zoo,

Currently: Saturday, 8.30 am, patchy sky, breakfast time, quiet.

Also currently: writing assignment about inter-cultural communication between Chinese and New Zealand groups.

How is your week going? Is it pleasant? Is it hopeful? Is it a bit up and down? The complete lack of stability in the weather sure makes me feel a bit off. But the moody sky is interesting and a hint of warmer climes is nice. Evening though, just secretly, I prefer winter. I’m not really cut out for 28 degrees. Anyway, I just wanted to share two things with you today and then I’ll be on my way.

  1. Vote. Today. It will only take you 10 minutes. It’s easy. It’s just two ticks. We get to vote – every one of us. Which is quite amazing considering across the globe and time its rare that all people have been allowed to vote.

    I can’t tell you who to vote for. We live in a democracy. But all I’ll say is that what makes us human, what separates us from wild animals, is the fact that we don’t leave our weak behind. No man, woman or child left behind. Remember that.

  2. I never find solace in Instagram. I tend to find conflicting emotions about that place. But sometimes I find gems. I really like this account here. https://www.instagram.com/shelleyhampe/  – she creates beautiful illustrations that seem to run in little series – scroll down for a delightful variety. At the moment she is illustrating yoga poses.

Have a great Saturday.

Yours with much hope,


Words: Smoke plume, a glow

A poem from the weekend.

Smoke plume, a glow

A pink tendril

blessed the grey sky: elephant skin grey

the colour of a flat ocean, at dawn.

Then from a clutter of rooftops, industrial buildings –

the same grey –

came a drift of smoke. Then

thicker still and tinged

the colour of rust.

Smoke drifting to the south,

and in the north, a glow

karaka, orange.

Words: Just after 5 on a Friday

A poem from a document entitled ‘responses to creative prompts’. The ‘prompt’ is lost to history. Written 13 March 2015.

Just after Five on a Friday

Polyester slips swollen with air,

make skirts flap like kites, their pleats tugged skyward.

Below the horizon of skirts

legs the colour of milk and tobacco,

Stand in clumps.

Leaves and gutter-sludge

morph the Marks and Spencer loafers,

cling to the snapped stiletto.

I watch wisps of hair


The local newspaper flops among the pedestrians,

dodging the edge of the footpath,

a headline intermittently declaring a recent deluge of rain.

The footpath is mottled with stains,

of yesterday’s puddles.

Beyond the bent heads, the umbrellas stowed under arms,

the squashed butts and whirling gum wrappers,

is the warm interior of a bus,

a mottled seat in burgundy,

a patchwork of roads winding out of the city,

a number 15 bus stop,

and a sunset.