Friendship up on high

posted in: Gemma O'Neill | 16

ohdeargeoffrey_frontcoverOh Dear, Geoffrey! by Gemma O’Neill is a tale of friendship, finding out about yourself and what suits you best.

Geoffrey is a giraffe, keen to make friends. But when he reaches down low to say hello to the meerkats he stumbles, when he tries to make friends at the watering hole he slips and slides and makes a huge splash. Needless to say, Geoffrey hasn’t quite found his niche. Fed up with being clumsy and unappreciated, he sets off to find some comfort in food, with a nibble of his favourite leaves in a tall tree.

And here, where giraffes are at home, with their neck high up amongst the branches, Geoffrey is able to find friends; monkeys and birds, who also love tall trees, where “You can reach as high as the sky…and see as far as the stars!


This is an easy book to enjoy reading aloud, with lots of sentence internal rhyme, and great use of onomatopoeic words. Both the text and the illustrations reminded me somewhat of Catherine Rayner‘s Solomon Crocodile (which I reviewed here); not just the theme of finding the right friends, but also the use of scale and splatter in the illustrations. In one spread, we only see the lower half of the giraffe’s legs, so tall is he that he can’t fit on the page. In another the giraffe’s nose manages to peer over the edge of the page, again giving us readers and viewers a sense of just how large the giraffe really is. Compared to Rayner’s illustrations, O’Neill’s pictures are glossier, with more intense jewel tones (rather than softer watercolours), and may appeal more to those who like crisp edges and a digital aesthetic.

Seeing as we’re starting to warm up for the forthcoming Edible Book Festival we set about baking some giraffe biscuit, taking inspiration from the patterns on a giraffe’s hide.


Ingredients for giraffe biscuits

  • 150 g plain flour and 60 g cocoa (for brown biscuits) or 110g plain flour plus some yellow food colouring (for yellow biscuits)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 200 g caster sugar
  • 60 g unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 50g icing sugar plus either some cocoa (for brown topping to go on yellow biscuits) or yellow edible dusting colour like this (for yellow topping to go on brown biscuits)

  • 1. To make brown biscuits with yellow patterns, sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt and sugar into your food processor’s bowl. Add the butter and mix in the processor until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs.

    2. Add the egg and vanilla to the food processor bowl and mix into the “breadcrumbs”. The ingredients will come together to form a sticky mass. Put the bowl into your fridge for 30 minutes or thereabouts to firm up.

    3. Preheat the oven to 200°C (Gas Mark 6). Line two baking trays with baking paper.

    4. Sift the icing sugar and yellow edible dusting colour into a bowl. After 30 minutes in the fridge, shape the dough into walnut-sized balls and drop into the now yellow icing sugar, tossing until well coated. Place on the baking trays, leaving about 5 cm between each. Bake for 10–12 minutes or until just set when lightly touched. Cool on the trays for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

    Although the dough goes into the over completely covered in icing sugar, it “cracks” as it cooks and cools, and so when the biscuits come out of the oven they have this pattern that is a little like that you find on giraffes.

    To make the yellow biscuits with brown patterns, use 110g of flour instead of the flour/cocoa mix, but add yellow food colouring (preferably the thicker paste like this) to the food processor bowl to get the desired yellowness of dough. When the dough has set a little, roll it in a mixture of icing sugar and cocoa.

    We were delighted with the results, both visually and gastronomically!




    Whilst baking and munching we listened to:

  • Joshua Giraffe by Raffi
  • Gertie the Giraffe (not the greatest song writing ever but somehow it will get probably get stuck in your head)
  • The Giraffe by Rockin’ Rocky

  • Other activities which would be fun to do alongside reading Oh Dear, Geoffrey! include:

  • Putting a giraffe sandwich in your kid’s lunchbox – take inspiration from this post by bentoriffic
  • Raiding your washing line to make a giraffe out of clothes pegs, like this one on
  • Building a giraffe out of recycled boxes and tubes, as per this idea from the National Wildlife Federation.
  • And if you work for the council, perhaps you could persuade them to install these giraffe swing powered lights at bus stops – I think this would do a lot to encourage people to get out and use public transport!

  • Do you have a favourite fictional Giraffe?

    Disclosure: I received a free copy of Oh Dear, Geoffrey! from the publisher. I was under no obligation to review the book and received no payment for this review.

    16 Responses

    1. choxbox

      Sounds like a lovely tale – stories of friendships are always a hit with us.
      See your point re digital illustrations, have had many a debate with my Saffrontree pals and I remain slightly biased still.

      And love the pic of the lil one with the cookies and the thumbs up – LOL!

    2. Zoe

      Thanks Choxbox and Rhythm!

      I think some kids and adults have a definite preference for digitally produced art – perhaps because they are familiar with the colours and lines it can produce from animations.

      As to the biscuits, next step is to try to create giraffe shaped giraffe biscuits – so that they look like the animal in shape and size 😉 as well as in colour!
      Zoe recently posted..Friendship up on high

    3. Gemma O'Neill

      Thank you for such a wonderful review! The work isn’t actually digital. It’s all hand rendered traditionally using watercolour, gouache, colouring pencils and collage. I just clean it and layer it up on Photoshop.

      Thanks again!

    4. Mrs Brown

      So many good books just waiting to be read … this one sounds really gentle but thought provoking. That’s often a good recipe for a conversation starter with my little reader. I’m going to pretend I didn’t see that lovely biscuit recipe.
      Mrs Brown recently posted..The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

    5. Zoe

      Hi Gemma,

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and for sharing more detail about your illustrations.

      Catherine – yes, what a great book!

      Mrs Brown – What biscuit recipe? Where? 😉
      Zoe recently posted..Friendship up on high

    6. Lori Norman

      I wish I’d had this book when I was teaching. I wore a dress to school which had a giraffe embroidered on the bottom and had the kids looking for the giraffe I told them had come to school that day. We had a lot of fun. You certainly set up tons of fun with your creative, and yummy, follow-up to reading the story!

    7. Zoe

      Hi Lori, Amy, Jeanette, yes I think the story would be great for classrooms, especially at the start of the year when friendships are being formed.

    8. Karoline

      Love your blog and the way you tie your activities in with the book themes! So creative. My girls are also fond of Gerald from Giraffes Can’t Dance and I absolutely love that book–in fact not long ago I read it to my older daughter’s kindergarten class. When it got to the last line, about how we all can dance when we find music that we love, I actually heard one of the kids let out a happy little sigh. It was the best! 🙂 I will be looking for Oh Dear Geoffrey to add to our collection!
      Karoline recently posted..Read to Tiger

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