A Giraffe's Journey


• Author/ Illustrator: James Rumford

• Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008

• Genre: Realistic Fiction

• Based On: A 15th century painting and poem by Shen Du

• Theme: Captivity and struggle, friendship and respect

• Awards: Bookbuilders Award, Gold Award, Senior Cades Award, etc.

Rumford, J. (2008). Chee-Lin: A Giraffe's Journey. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.


James Rumford has been writing stories since he was a little boy. However, he did not publish his first book until he was forty-six years old. James is fascinated with languages and has studied 12 different ones. He loves calligraphy, especially calligraphy from China and Persia. He has lived in Africa, Afghanistan, Arabia and now resides in Hawaii with his wife Carol.


1. Illustrations should reflect accurate cultural setting: The pictures in this book are absolutely amazing. In each illustration, you get a sense of where Tweega, the giraffe is and what kind of a culture he is encountering. In the grasslands of Africa, you can see the tall yellow grass and the warmth of the sun. On the coast of Africa, you can see the blue of the sea and the markets that were set up along the ocean. Once Tweega makes it to Imperial China you can see the bright colors of the Chinese Capital. My favorite page is the one with the Chinese cherry blossom trees that are full of color.

2. Setting should be representative of and consistent with historical or contemporary time, place, or situation of a particular culture: James Rumford did a lot of research into what these historical places looked like in the 15th century. His research looked into clothing and historical artifacts. The clothing that is worn by the Chinese characters in the books are very similar to those sketches and hieroglyphics that the book is based on. Another thing I thought was interesting was the James came across an teapot from the time period. He incorporated it into a page of the book which is an awesome historical tie in.

3. Include characters with a cultural group of two or more cultural groups who interact substantially and authentically: The really neat thing about this book is that it has more than one cultural group in it. This book focuses on the trade of Tweego between the African traders and the Chinese. These two groups of people interact when they send Tweego to Imperial China. Tweego starts out in a land that he is comfortable with and then travels to a land that he has never been before.


Have your students create their own hieroglyphics. Let them use symbols, colors and their imaginations. Then, have them use their drawings and create a story!
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