Book Reading Challenge: Book No. 20

“Chee-Lin”   A Giraffe’s Journey

by James Rumford

This is another review I had been meaning to post and so I am now as I promised my writer friend Joanna, I would. 

The unusual name of the book attracted my attention and the rich textured paintings on every page opposite clever layouts of text boxed inside a patterned frame depicting basket weaves, motifs etc, gives this a very cultural look.  Tweega (Swahili name for giraffe) is captured in Africa and shipped to Malindi where a young boy looks after him.  After spending a short time in India his travels take him to China where he is gifted to the emperor of China and proclaimed Chee-lin meaning a good omen of peace and good times.  He is befriended by a servant girl and lives out his life in Peking.  His journey while at times sad is interesting and one learns something about the cultures.  The story was inspired by a 1414 painting of a giraffe and the author has done much research to bring this story about, including a map and a poem in both Chinese and English.

James Rumford studied languages in the peace corps, and traveled to Africa, Asia and Afghanistan, was a lecturer in Rwanda.  One of his first books was the Cloudmakers.  He now lives in Hawaii. An interesting, tender book for ages 4 and up.   I love how we learn much about other countries and cultures from afar.

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About Diane Tulloch

Known also as the Patientdreamer I am a writer who loves to dream, and is passionate about writing stories for the young.
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6 Responses to Book Reading Challenge: Book No. 20

  1. Joanna says:

    Wow, awesome a story based on a 600 year old painting. Isn’t it incredible that a giraffe could survive a journey from Africa to China at that time? It does sound like the illustrations are very effective in evoking the cultures through which Tweega travels. I actually prefer the Swahili name to the Mandarin!

    • Haha, I thought you would like this story Joanna. Yes the pages are full of woven flax, dyed cloth, grasses etc…. and the textures seem to leap out at you. mmm yes I like the Swahili name too.

  2. Patricia says:

    Excellent choice Diane — loved your selection!. What an incredible story — almost a story within a story, inspired by a painting! How cool that he introduces cultures to children through the eyes of of Tweega. This lovely story. Thanks for sharing it. I’m a sap for multi-cultural stories anyway.

    • Patricia I am hoping to delve a little into different cultures with my writing and it seems to fit with my travel ideas. I also am interested in stories of young ones experiencing difficulties… so open to a varied range of reading material. I too loved how James used Tweega to bring these cultures to the young.

  3. Aloha, e Patientdreamer,

    Thanks so much for your comments about my book. CHEE-LIN was quite a challenge for me because I wanted to put the complexity of a chapter book into the format of a picture book. Instead of writing lots of words, which I have a hard time managing anyway, I decided to ramp up the intricacy of the pictures and the page layout. I tried a similar technique several years ago with TRAVELING MAN, hoping to attract not just second-grade-age kids but older ones as well. Check out my brand new website (I just finished it yesterday) for more thoughts. Thanks again. Aloha, James Rumford–and good luck with your writing. Soon I hope to be reading one of your books!

    • Thankyou so much for commenting on my blog James, and it was a pleasure to review one of your books. As an aspiring writer, I too am finding limiting words for picture books a challenge. I have to say, I was immensly impressed with your new website, and the added touches you put to each of your books making them all an interesting treasure to uncover. Although I have not had the pleasure as yet (and I intend to) in reading more of them, it was interesting to see you adding in “Dog of the Sea Waves” translation into Hawaiian. It is becoming more and more aware to me the benefits of research in adding the unique touches to a book to be treasured by its reader.
      Thankyou again James.

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