Winner of the 2007 Calderdale Award, the 2007 Sefton Super Reads Award, the 2007 Stockport Book Award and the 2008 East Sussex Award, the 2008 West Sussex Book Award and the 2008 Hounslow Junior Book Award. Shortlisted for the Sheffield Book Award, the Bay Book Award, the Highland Book Award, the Fantastic Book Award, the Salford Book Award, the Heart of Hawick Award and the Rotherham Book Award. Longlisted for the 2008-9 Great Stone Face Book Award, New Hampshire, US.

Martine is eleven when she is sent to live on a game reserve in Africa, a place where mysteries and secrets abound, a place where the intoxicating magic of the savannah casts all sorts of spells.

One lonely night, Martine looks out of her window and sees a young giraffe, its white and silver coat tinged with cinnamon in the moonlight. In that moment she knows she is prepared to risk everything for it. The giraffe looks at her as if it is waiting for her…

In 2004, I was walking down a bleak, wintry London street shortly before Christmas when, out of nowhere, an image of a girl on a giraffe popped into my head. I grew up in Africa where I actually had a pet giraffe, so my first thought was: Wouldn’t it be the coolest thing on earth if you could actually ride a giraffe? And right there, on the street, the whole story came into my mind, including the girl’s name: Martine.

I went home and wrote down the outline of the story. I decided that one day when I was retired I’d turn it into a picture book. By coincidence, I was about to leave cold, rainy England for a safari in my homeland, Zimbabwe, and a visit to South Africa’s Western Cape. Well, the whole time I was away I found I couldn’t stop thinking about the girl and her giraffe.

I returned to London a month later and started working on a non-fiction project. But the giraffe story was still in my head so I made up my mind that every Saturday I’d sit down and have a tinker with it. The first Saturday came and I wrote the first chapter. It just came to me like I was watching a movie. My non-fiction project was going badly to say the least, so I set it aside for a few days to work on the giraffe story. After that, I found couldn’t stop doing it.

I wrote the first draft in a month, and it was the best writing experience I’ve ever had and by far the most fun. Every morning I sat down at my desk and had the strongest feeling that the story already existed. All I had to do was listen for the words.

“A good yarn for anybody with a vivid imagination and an appetite for the exotic, with a good deal of mystery and suspense thrown in.”


“St John’s descriptions of southern Africa provide a sumptuous backdrop... top-drawer adventure storytelling, with an added helping of fantasy thrown in. It all makes for a genuinely gripping tale that will warm even the coldest of hearts.”

Joe Melia, Waterstone’s Bristol, WATERSTONE’S BOOKS QUARTERLY

“This is Lauren St John’s first [children’s] book and her lyrical descriptions evoke the cruelty and beauty of the land where she grew up.”


“Mystery, intrigue and suspense dominate the story of 11 year old orphaned Martine who is sent to live with her grandmother on a game reserve in South Africa. Reading this meticulously worded, cleverly crafted and flawless novel proved to be a real joy. This book has the hallmark of a children’s classic and would make a delightful film.”

Marion Griffiths, ARMADILLO

“Introduces a glorious creature and enjoyable characters: Martin’s grandmother, her Zulu gamekeeper and a fortune-telling African wise woman. And it fulfils wishes common to many children: to love and be loved by animals, to outwit bullies, and to be daring, independent and triumphant.”

Nicolette Jones, SUNDAY TIMES

“The story comes alive with the sounds and smells of the exotic animals, plants and people of South Africa. The mystery of Martine’s background is revealed against the wonderful landscape, beautifully described, of the African bush... the story has a great, slightly old-fashioned, charm.”

Mary McLaughlin, INIS (Ireland)

“St John brings Africa to vivid life in this tale of a young girl sent to a new life; Martine’s sense of cold alienation set against the hot safari landscape…the white giraffe, an albino rarity prized by game hunters – the perfect leit-motif for this fragile stirring story.”

Dina Rabinovitch, THE GUARDIAN

“Lauren St John knows exactly what a game reserve is like and makes us feel, hear – and almost touch and taste – the magic and mystery of Africa. The White Giraffe is her first children’s book. Let’s hope it won’t be her last. This story is a page-turner – highly recommended.”


“Fantasy merges with the real world as the gentle, mysterious giraffe seeks Martine out and carries her away on a magical adventure. An unusual and exciting story. An unusual and exciting story which richly evokes the animals and landscapes of modern South Africa with a colourful, multi-racial cast.”

Rosalind Kerven, NORTHERN ECHO

“A really charming and thrilling story, written with grace and poise.”

Amanda Craig, THE TIMES

“In a spellbinding and mesmerizing debut novel, Lauren St John weaves a captivating tale of love, loss, friendship and the richly evoked history of Africa.”

George Hanratty, The Golden Treasury, PUBLISHING NEWS

“Intense and evocative.”

Georgia Metcalfe, DAILY MAIL

“Steeped in the magic of Africa. “A very good adventure story” says my own nine-year-old.”


“A really good, quite emotional story... a very good book.”


“An unexpected treat, The White Giraffe is the terrific tale of Martine who after the tragic death of her parents must live on her grandmother’s wildlife reserve in South Africa… A lovingly written book that immerses you in Africa’s rugged charms.”


“A truly magical story with an excellent and original storyline.”

Chloe Dennis (aged 10), FIRST NEWS

“A heartwarming story that has the feel of a classic.”

Becky Stradwick, THE BOOKSELLER

“An excellent debut... sadness, magic and wonder combine in a well-written book which grips right to the end.”

Jenny Woolf, HAM & HIGH

“A thoughtful, compelling shorter novel.”

Marianne Adey, CAROUSEL

“A beautiful story of the bond between an English orphan and a fabled white young giraffe. Set on a South African game reserve it transports youngsters to an exotic land and lets their imagination run wild.”

Helen Crockett, GROVE

“Transformed by the illustrations of David Dean. The dust jacket, endpapers and black and white chapter heading are all wonderful. Now there is a special gift.”

Gaye Hicyilmaz, TES

“A thoughtful, heartwarming read for the summer. When Martine sees the mystical creature from her bedroom window, it is the start of a beautiful adventure.”


“Enthralling… we may not all have a white giraffe to make life easier, but this book reminds us that even the most miserable situation can get better.”