Abigail is a giraffe with an unlikely passion – for counting. She delights in digits and is never happier than when she’s totting up numbers. But as the rest of the animals thwart her attempts to hone her maths skills, Abigail’s frustration is starting to show…

Exuding the natural elegance and lovely long limbs that are so characteristic of her species, Abigail uses her long neck to great effect to seek out all manner of counting opportunities. Whether she’s stretching down to observe the number of dots on a ladybird, or reaching high to count the leaves of a tree swaying in the Savannah breeze, Abigail seizes every opportunity to hone her number skills.

The trouble is that, whilst Abigail is quite the conscientious student happy to concentrate on the task in hand, her fellow animals are in a much more playful mood. How can she possibly count the leaves if Zebra starts eating them “Munch! Crunch! Lunch!” or count cheetah’s splotches when he’s pounding the plains at lightning speed? This is all testing Abigail’s patience!

Catherine Rayner uses soft, painterly strokes to create a sunny Savannah that is rich in dreamy shades of yellow and gold. Her lightness of touch is evident from start to finish – right down to the delightful giraffe spot daubs of colour that adorn the end papers.

Even when the animals agree to help Abigail to count the flowers, their mathematics skills leave something to be desired, to say the least. Before you know it, the sun is going down and everyone is feeling sad that their counting mission wasn’t accomplished. That’s when Abigail’s gentle, conciliatory nature comes to the fore again and she comes up with the most perfect counting opportunity: a night sky full of stars!

A fitting addition to Catherine Rayner’s collection of stories that showcases her love of animals and her gift for illustration. Rayner has a canny talent for embuing her animal characters with human traits and emotions – and names! – whilst still managing to keep their distinct animal features, too.

In this instance, Abigail’s huge height is emphasized by the special pull-out page that opens upwards as she extends her long neck and gazes up into the starry night, with its pinky-purplish hue. Once again, Rayner demonstrates her aptitude for picking the perfect animals for each story – just like the majestic Augustus tiger finding his smile, and the playful bears Iris and Isaac having a friendship tiff. Her elegant giraffe Abigal has just a moment of pique when things aren’t going her way before reverting to type as an air of serenity and stargazing ends the tale with a positive message about friendship, tolerance and patience.

Fun fact A giraffe’s neck is made up of seven vertebrae, the same as most mammals, including humans. Each bone measures at least 25.5cm. Males use their long necks for fighting or ‘necking’, whereby two giraffes move in close together and swing their necks around to hit the other using their head and ossicones (the horn-like structures on their head).

Did you know? There are nine different sub species of giraffe: Nubian giraffe, South African or cape giraffe, reticulated giraffe, Ugandan or Rothschild’s giraffe, Thornicroft’s giraffe, Masai giraffe, Angolan or smokey giraffe, Kordofan giraffe and Niger, Nigerian or West African giraffe. Each sub-species has a different style of pattern on their skin and different colourations. The coat pattern on every single giraffe is unique to the individual, just like human fingerprints.

* Want to know more about giraffes? * Check out our G is for Giraffe feature. You can even cuddle a (Sophie) Giraffe, or dine at Giraffe Restaurant too.

Author notes Award-winning author and illustrator Catherine Rayner studied Illustration at Edinburgh College of Art. She fell in love with the city and still lives there with her husband and young son. Catherine finds huge artistic inspiration in her pets and often uses them as models.

Catherine won the 2009 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for Harris Finds His Feet, and has been shortlisted four times for the award. She was also awarded the Best New Illustrator Award at the Booktrust Early Years Awards in 2006 and was named one of Booktrust’s ten Best New Illustrators in 2008. In 2010, she was the inaugural illustrator in residence at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Her book Iris and Isaac won the UK Literacy Association Book Award in 2012.