Baby Rafi: The Runaway Giraffe
by Valerie Lee Baker

"Rafi, unable to sleep, sat up all night long shivering from the cold and the intense fear of the unknown lurking around him."

When Rafi is born, his adoring parents declare him "the most handsome giraffe" in the jungle. They establish rules to ensure Rafi's safety, limiting him to a secure area where they can keep him in eyesight. As a baby calf, his only sustenance is mother's milk. However, Rafi has other ideas in mind. He wants more than anything to eat leaves like he sees his parents doing. Jumping and leaping frantically, he attempts to reach those leaves. In the process, he badly injures his leg. Nevertheless, he ventures deeper into forbidden areas of the jungle. Giraffes back home organize a search party for him, but plans are soon diverted as the jungle catches fire. Rafi is confused as workers with African Rescue Compound relocate him, providing food and medical care. All he wants is to be back with his family. Months later, a young girl is trapped deep within a nearby mountain crevice. Rafi becomes a hero, rescuing the child.

Baker's story is worthwhile for children, teens, and adults alike. Rafi's depiction as an animal with human emotions, dealing with a multitude of perils, presents situations many readers will identify with. The primary lesson is that disobeying one's parents can lead to danger. However, Baker brings more to the story. Through many misadventures, Rafi portrays bravery, resilience, and even the calling to help another whose situation mirrors his own. Rescuing Sally, Rafi places the frightened child back into the grateful arms of her parents. Significantly, this happens while Rafi himself is dealing with devastating separation from his own parents. While there is a hefty amount of text on each page (considering its format as a thin children's picture book), the author nevertheless makes it work. Baker's gift of rich storytelling shines in this enjoyable tale.

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