Cross Country to the Zoo

West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge

A cross-country road trip in 1938 was of itself an adventure. Add two West African giraffes, an eighteen-year-old from the Dust Bowl Panhandle, ‘Old Man’ who has a way with animals and a secretive past, and a young red-headed woman photographer yearning to work for Life magazine and you have the makings of a REAL adventure. The book is based on the true story of transporting two giraffes that survived a hurricane-tossed trans-Atlantic crossing from their arrival in New York to the San Diego Zoo.

Woody Nickel, the aforementioned eighteen-year-old, writes the story of the trip as he nears the end of his life at 105 years. His story is many things: a picaresque adventure, a coming of age story; a look at pre-WWII America; an exploration of animal-human bonds; and the importance of life stories and storytelling. Like the true story of the horse Seabiscuit, the story of the giraffes’ trek (which was widely reported in the nation’s newspapers) brightened a nation still recovering from the Depression and becoming more aware of ominous signs of the coming war.

It’s a lovely read and, like Seabiscuit before it, would make a terrific movie. In fact, Rutledge’s writing is very cinematic. Just need a great film score!

-Linda Malcom, Indigo Books, Guest Columnist

Tidelines Editors note: For background on this story, click here to check out the blog written by Karie Kirkpatrick, a self-described “digital publications manager by day and a zoo enthusiast all the time.”

Image credit: CMPL