THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY: How Giraffes Found Their Hearts by Kathleen Macferran

When I started this new blog post series, I did it with the idea of sharing the WHY I created my stories, but then I thought…why not share OTHER authors STORY BEHIND “THEIR” STORY? I put the call out and soon I had tons of authors who wanted to share their backstories with my readers. This week children’s book author, Kathleen Macferran, is sharing the WHY she wrote her book, “How Giraffes Found Their Hearts”. Take it away, Kathleen…

How Giraffes Found Their Hearts by Kathleen Macferran

Under the lilac bushes in my back yard lived a whole fairy village among the lily of the valley
plants. At least that’s what I imagined as I played for hours making homes, gardens and play
fields for my fairy friends. When I was inside my childhood home, I made marble animals with
jiggly eyes, clothes for my stuffed animals, and obstacle courses for our dog. I loved to create
and build worlds where everyone was happy and got along.

I also played a lot of music growing up, eventually becoming a music teacher in public schools
and then a music conductor of a professional music ensemble called the Rainer Chamber Winds.
In addition to multiple concerts designed for adult listeners, Rainier Chamber Winds also
performed for younger listeners inviting them to sit on stage with us next to their favorite
instruments while drawing on large sheets of paper as the music played. I had grown up listening
to Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf,” and was longing for stories set to music that Rainer
Chamber Winds could play for our young audiences. Over the years we commissioned and
recorded 7 folk tales set to music (CD named “Tales Told in the Winds”).

As music director, I wanted to create more stories set to music around the same time I started
studying Nonviolent Communication. The founder of Nonviolent Communication, Marshall
Rosenberg, playfully used a giraffe puppet in his teaching to represent the key principles of his
work since giraffes are one of the land animals with the largest hearts, and inside our hearts are
the things we most care about. Giraffes also have long necks so they can see the consequences of
their actions. Their necks are a sign of vulnerability. They stick their necks out for what they
believe in. I knew I wanted giraffes and all their wisdom to be principal characters in the next set
of children’s stories that we set to music. That meant I had to write them myself.

In How Giraffes Found Their Hearts, I wanted the theme to be about the power and the beauty of
authenticity that makes you, you, and me, me. I wanted to covey the aliveness that comes from
knowing and honoring our common human needs. In How Giraffes Got Their Ears, I wanted to
convey the importance of deep listening for the feelings and needs inside all hearts, even when
it’s hard to hear. I wanted stories that helped us remember and learn how to build a world where
everyone thrives and gets along, like my fairy villages under the lilac bushes. Those two stories
were set to music by Adam Stern and recorded by Rainier Chamber Winds (CD named “Giraffe
Tales”). The project was going to end there, but I was so moved by the CD cover that Kenneth
Schrag designed that I asked him to consider illustrating the stories so we could publish the
books to go along with the music. I will always be grateful that he agreed. The stories come to
life through his illustrations. Much gratitude also to Artisan Bookworks for believing in these
books and bringing them into the world.

I’ve come to realize that finding one’s own heart and deeply hearing the heart of others is
essential, though not enough. We also need to be able to speak bravely about what is in our
hearts, what we care about, what matters. Currently, the third book in the series is being written
about giraffes learning to speak courageously. The times we live in call for brave speech and
brave action. Maybe our giraffe friends can encourage us to honor the dignity in all hearts, to
speak truth about our diverse experiences, and to deeply listen to one another.



Kathleen Macferran is a facilitator, author, teacher, Certified Trainer and Assessor for the
Center for Nonviolent Communication and the owner of Strength of Connection. She has
spent much of her life bringing harmony to communities through music, including two decades
as a classical music conductor and seven years as a public-school music teacher. Kathleen loves
children and believes music and giraffes (the main characters in her children’s books) have much
to teach us about interdependent social living. Central to Kathleen’s work is a vision for a
peaceful, just, and sustainable world. She is committed to co-creating a world where peace
replaces violence, love replaces hate, equity replaces inequity, and all people live meaningful
lives. She passionately believes safe and inclusive schools have a critical role to play in creating
that world. In addition to being a teacher for grades 5-12 and college level classes, Kathleen has
decades of experience in school visits including school assemblies, classroom visits and working
one on one with students. Kathleen travels and teaches internationally offering facilitation,
community building and conflict transformation, using practical skills that lead to reconciliation
with ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities. She has worked with schools, community
groups, businesses, colleges, faith-based communities, hospitals, families, prison inmates, and
correctional and law enforcement employees. Kathleen’s website
is where her TEDx talks, books, workshops and music can be

? Author of How Giraffe Found Their Hearts and How Giraffes Got Their Ears,
children’s story picture books, and
? Conductor for Giraffe Tales, a children’s CD setting these stories to music
? Co-author with Jared Finkelstein of Choice: A field guide for navigating the
polarization of our world and living interdependently

? Certified Trainer for the Center for Nonviolent Communication (CNVC)
? TEDxTalks: Houses of Healing, TEDxMonroe Correctional Complex; The Art of
Listening, TEDxRainier; Fearless Women, TedxSeattle

? Conductor on multiple Rainier Chamber Winds classical music recordings


Book Blurb:

Long, long ago yet not so far away, Jordan Giraffe was searching for something to fill the hollow, empty space in her chest. Acting on the advice of her friends in nature, Jordan tries to fill her chest with carrots, stars, and pond water. After several unsatisfying attempts, Jordan hears the song of a young boy and follows the sound until she meets him. The boy helps Jordan hear the song inside herself, and in doing so, she discovers her own heart, the very thing she was searching for all along.

Purchase Link…



Kathleen Macferran
PO Box 10009
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110-0009