I love to visit the zoo and I especially love giraffes, with their beautiful eyes and gentle nature. West With Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge is a fictionalized story of the 1938 road trip to transport two young giraffes from New York to the San Diego Zoo. Based on real-life events, the animals are driven by truck across the U.S.. (Actual newspaper clippings are included throughout the book.) The regions that they travel through are described beautifully and the author truly captured the Dust Bowl/Depression era.
The story of the giraffes is seen through the eyes of 105 year old Woody Wilson, who is an orphaned teenager at the time of the road trip. His boss, Riley Jones, is a San Diego zoo keeper, determined to safely deliver “the darlings” to their new home at the zoo. Riley calls the shots on the road trip, trying to avoid natural disasters, as well as unwelcome and sometimes dangerous humans. Augusta “Red” is a young photographer that is intrigued by the giraffes and follows along to document the journey with her camera.
The novel begins slowly, so stick with it for a few chapters – that is when I found myself really caring about the beautiful, gentle giraffes, Woody, “Red” and Mr. Jones. All three characters truly love the giraffes and the trip changes all of their lives. The two giraffes, “Boy” and “Girl” are the most important characters – each with a unique personality. I loved them completely! If you are an animal lover, I highly recommend this novel!