Amelia McInerney and Alexandra Colombo: Jeff Giraffe – The Great Escape

Larrikin House, Australia, 2024
Design and artwork Mary Anastasiou (imaginecreative.com.au)

What an ebullient author Amelia McInerney is, creating stories with charm, humour and quirky characters  – a delight for children and their adult reading companions!

Barbie spoke to Amelia McInerney about Jeff Giraffe – The Great Escape

Amelia has been perfectly matched by her publisher in Jeff Giraffe with illustrator Alexandra Colombo whose visual story captures the gamut of emotions of the characters, the humour of the story and a sense of wild adventure. Every page is full of colour, contortions (he is a giraffe with a very long neck, after all) and chaos.

Equally the author’s words are bold and often exclamatory as Jeff tries for an escape from the zoo to the freedom of the neighbouring park. – his dream. We have an idea that Jeff often has plans which don’t altogether work, His partner in life the pink giraffe named Jan is long suffering, a voice of caution and restraint but also of resignation – she knows he will continue with his antics because that’s who he is.

Comedic plays include the naming of Jeff’s pal Roger, the seal, after the radio voice procedure ROGER. Roger also calls on his companion ‘navy seals’, who are in fact navy in colour (of course they are), while Jeff is fetchingly purple.

While this story is essentially a romp for romp’s sake, and we applaud this, it is also a reminder that chasing one’s dreams and being oneself are good things. There will always be restraints and people who want to hold us back, but being like Jeff, a persistent dreamer, is a positive. Risk taking is part of the pursuit of dreams and it is indeed a characteristic much needed in a challenging contemporary world.

Not that the children who read Jeff need to verbalise these ideas. Enough that they derive fun and fantasy from this book. The vocabulary development and acquaintance with rhyme enabled in this work are features for adults to note. Educator Maria Montessori saw play as ‘the work of the child’ and I thoroughly agree – let the children play, I say.

Thank you to Larrikin House for my review copy and to Amelia for chatting with me about the nature of her work and this delightful, cheery book.