Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae teaches empathy and finding inner joy.

Giraffes Can't Dance (Book Cover)Lovebug giggled when the “silly” lions danced the tango.  I giggled at him giggling.  The narrative’s rhyming beats guide us through a craftily-implied rhythm.  The animals at the Jungle Dance are fun to watch in the warm tones of the sunset, each duo taking its turn to show off their mad dance-floor skills.  But, when the dancing stops, their real selves come out.  And they aren’t very nice.  Gerald the Giraffe is all of us at some point:  the awkward one who doesn’t quite fit in.  And the other animals laugh and laugh and laugh at him until he creeps away.  Defeated.  The story touches on my insecurities.  It also offers an incredible opportunity for children to learn empathy.

Once, when he was a crawling babe, I caught Lovebug giving kisses to the baby pictured on the diaper box.  That was when I knew that empathy naturally is inherent within young children; we just need to nurture it.  I also knew that was about the sweetest thing I had ever seen!  But, I digress.

This mama wasn’t sure, at first, if reading a book to a three-year-old about bullies was age appropriate.  But, of course it is.  Kiddos will be exposed to this behavior in some form in their lives; this story truly opens an opportunity for dialog, page-by-page, for us to talk about some of the difficult lessons facing our children.

The first time Gerald somersaulted into the air, after finding that music within him, for him, Lovebug squealed “Oh, is he going to fall?”

But, no, he didn’t fall.  He landed on those “clumsy” legs and he danced!  And Lovebug cheered.  And my heart danced with Gerald.

I don’t take for granted that Lovebug or I or anyone I love will be empathetic always.  So I am grateful for stories like Gerald’s that remind me to talk actively with him about exhibiting kindness toward others, whether they are different from us or similar, whether they are friends or strangers.

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees  © Copyright 1999 by Purple Enterprises, Ltd., a Coolabi company