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West With Giraffes by Lynda Routledge

Woodrow Wilson Nickel, aged 105 feels life slipping away from him but, when he learns that giraffes are going extinct, he finds himself recalling, and wanting to record for posterity,  an unforgettable experience. 1938, the Great Depressions lingers. Europe is being threatened by Hitler and Americans are looking for positives. They find it in two giraffes who survive a hurricane whilst crossing the Atlantic. What follows is a road-trip across America to deliver the giraffes to San Diego Zoo, and the world’s first female Zoo Director, Bella Benchley. Behind the wheel is a young, orphaned, Woodrow, seizing his opportunity to get to California and the dream of a better life, despite the resistance of the curmudgeonly old man in charge of transporting the giraffes.

Well, this was an interesting premise, but the novel was not a favourite of ours. Inspired by a real event and some real characters which were fascinating but sadly we found the fictionalised part less engaging.   Although the story of the giraffes is true, the novel felt much more like a series of unlikely events stitched together and a missed opportunity to explore the relationship between an old man and a boy thrown together on an extraordinary road trip. 

Overall score: 4.3

Range: 2 – 6

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