Did you have a pen pal when you were little? Maybe someone from halfway around the world, whom you’d never seen, from a land you knew nothing about?
That’s the premise of Yours Sincerely, Giraffe, a sweet, zany chapter book for ages 6-10, with charming illustrations by award-winning artist Jun Takabatake (Bologna Children’s Book Fair Graphics Prize, Japan Picture Book Award and the Kodansha Award for Picture Books) and a wonderful, gentle text by Megumi Iwasa. Longlisted for the North Somerset Teachers’ Read Aloud Book Award, Yours Sincerely, Giraffe is beautifully translated from the original Japanese by Cathy Hirano, whose work I continue to admire greatly.
As so often happens, the tale arises from a long stretch of boredom…
One day, when Giraffe is bored by the endlessly clear, blue sky above the perfect African savanna, he spots a sign posted by the equally-bored Pelican, offering to deliver mail anywhere. Giraffe, who longs for an “extra special friend,” writes a letter to “Someone” and asks Pelican to deliver the letter to the first animal he meets on the other side of the horizon. (Unbeknownst to Giraffe, he is Pelican’s first customer.) When the letter reaches Penguin—currently studying with Professor Whale at Whale Point—the pen-pal friendship is off and running. Confusion ensues, as neither knows what the other looks like, and Giraffe eventually decides to try to dress himself up to look like what he thinks Penguin might look like so that he can visit him. (Why? Who knows? But it’s an inimitably childlike idea!) Pelican, of course, decides to help.
Do the intrepid Giraffe and Pelican manage to meet Penguin in person—and does the costume work at all? You’ll have to read the rest of this ageless book to find out…
By Megumi Iwasa
Illustrated by Jun
Translated from the Japanese by Cathy Hirano
2017, Gecko Press
An interview with translator Cathy Hirano at BookBlast
Award-winning opera singer Nanette McGuinness is the translator of over 40 books and graphic novels for children and adults from French and Italian into English, including the well-known Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novels. Two of her latest translations, Luisa: Now and Then (Humanoids, 2018) and California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas (First Second, 2017) were chosen for YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens. Upcoming translations for her are Little Josephine (Humanoids, 2020) and Who Killed Kenny? (NBM, 2019).