Animals are big in kid world. We grow up having a favorite one (I was partial to the penguin myself) wanting one (Dogs rule. Ponies are even better), pretending to be them (Dinosaur. Specifically Sarah the triceratops from The Land Before Time movies) playing with stuffed versions (Swiftheart the Care Bear’s bunny friend counts right?) Bedrooms are decorated with them (Lions, tigers and bears. Scary to Dorothy. Adorable in kids’ rooms.)
Some animals have seen spikes in popularity. Whether you think their large eyes and constant gaze is cute or creepy, owls have been outfitted with some retro charm and are everywhere – kids clothes, jewelry, décor. Other animals have books or movies that propel them into the spotlight like what My Friend Flicka and Black Beauty did for horses or what Olivia, Babe, and Charlotte’s Web did for pigs. Sometimes animals have presidential backing like the teddy bear.
So what will the next big thing be in the kingdom Animalia? I’d like to nominate an animal that I think has been flying under the radar. The giraffe. It’s more ungainly than cute and there might be some concern that such a role model is too violent for children but I’m sticking with my tall and awkward pick.
Giraffes appear from time to time as Geoffrey the Toys Я Us mascot, Sophie the Giraffe Teether, Melman Mankiewitz of the Madagascar movies, and in a bit part in the Mo Willems book Time to Sleep, Sheep the Sheep! But for the most part, they don’t enjoy the same kind of fame as say rubber duckies do in bathrooms.
But why not giraffes? They have black tongues and big hearts (in sprit and in stature. They average about the size of a basketball.) Perhaps the lovable long necks even speak to a sense of impending tweeny gawkiness and a love of giraffes might help ease the pain of looming growth spurts.
Besides, this makes so much more sense.
Can cats even get that big?
Oh crap. They can? Scary.
I suggest we give the giraffe its moment. Here are some ways to celebrate giraffes and the kids who love them.
Decorate the kids’ rooms with cute posters. Whether you decide to go realistic with a a print from the animal print shop, something more abstract, or a modern piece, these giraffes will brighten up any safari lover’s room.
Oh yes, the miniature building block system from Japan makes a giraffe. I am in love.
This soothing giraffe helps lull little ones to sleep with calming sounds one of which is whale songs. If you can explain this choice to me, please do. I feel like that could set a kid up for confusion when it comes time for that animal sounds unit in preschool. But I’ll forgive this glaring discrepancy because I love this giraffe’s cute sleepy little face.
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees is the story of poor Gerald the giraffe who wants to be more Baryshnikov and less bumbling and knobby kneed. The rhyming tale with colorful watercolor illustrations tells the story of Gerald learning to love his own wacky rhythm. It’s like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer for the Christmas off-season. Good for ages 3-6.
The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me is one of Roald Dahl’s lesser-known children’s books but it’s just as wonderful and descriptive as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. The Ladderless Window Cleaning Company doesn’t need a bucket. Instead they make use of a friendly pelican. A monkey does their washing and now they’ve discovered someone who can help them wash all 677 windows of the richest house in England. I bet you can guess whom they use to do it. Who’s got two thumbs, two wings, four hooves and doesn’t need a stinkin’ ladder? These guys. Good for ages 8+.
Happy reading and playing with your incredibly well-outfitted safari-lovers.
Seth Green: Even funnier as a giraffe.