Written by: Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
Illustrated by: David Neuhaus
Published in 1987
Genre: Picture Book
Grade Level: PreK-2
Summary: Poor Helga! She is a giraffe that is too tall. Even other giraffes have to look high up in the sky to see her. Since Helga’s head is so high up, her classmates think she is unfriendly and stuck up… Until one day Helga’s long neck helps her to save the day.
Cover/Illustrations: The cover was what first drew me to this book. It shows Helga standing with her classmates, much taller than everyone else. I was immediately interested in where this book was going.
I’m not in love with the illustration style, as some of the pictures look like something a kid would have drawn (the lion in particular stands out to me). The pictures are still pretty good though, and they match the story nicely. They especially are useful in giving context to descriptions of Helga “turning herself into a pretzel.”
The Good: This is a great story to show that there is nothing wrong with being different. Helga’s differences (her height in particular) kept her separated from her classmates. They all had a negative impression of her until her height helped save the day from a robber. After she stops the robbery, Helga’s classmates realize that she is not stuck up, which leads them to want to know more about her and the things she sees up high.
There are a few things that can be discussed when reading this book. Discussion could focus on how our differences make us special, how being different can be a good thing, and how we should tolerate differences in others. The question of whether Helga could have done things differently with her classmates (ie: talk to them more, bend her neck so she could get down to their level) can also be discussed, and might lead to some interesting thoughts being shared.
The Bad: Again, this book doesn’t have the best illustrations. The pictures are a bit boring, as is some of the dialogue. While the message of the book is excellent, it isn’t the most interesting thing to read.
Another problem with this book is the size and placement of the text and pictures. The illustrations are all the same size and are in the same place on each page. The text is also all the same size, and it starts at the same point on every page. This results in a lot of white space, especially on pages with only one or two lines of text.
Final Thoughts: Helga High-Up isn’t the most interesting book, but it does carry a good message: It’s ok to be different. Our differences make us special. This is a book that I might read to my class, but only if I can’t find a better book to facilitate a discussion about differences.
I give Helga High-Up three stars.