PB library announces 2022 Book in the Bluff

Friday, January 14, 2022

When we read the same book and talk about it, we make connections. Since Poplar Bluff Municipal Library’s first Book in the Bluff in 2016, the library’s goal has been to find common ground with a book everyone has read.

This sparks conversation and the 2022 Book in the Bluff is no different, according to a press release from library staff.

Giraffes, a cross-country journey, dust bowls and zoos are the stuff made for adventure. Not only are these the subjects of the 2022 Book in the Bluff, this book is also a book about relating to the natural world around us.

This year’s Book in the Bluff is “West With Giraffes” by Lynda Rutledge. This novel is based upon a true life story. The year is 1938 and there has been a hurricane off of the northeastern United States. It is the 1938 New England Hurricane, one of the deadliest and most destructive storms to strike Long Island, New York, and New England. Some estimate it was a Category 3 hurricane and others believe a Category 4. The hurricane killed 682 people, damaged or destroyed more than 57,000 homes, and caused property losses estimated at $306 million ($6.028 billion in 2021 dollars).

Miraculously surviving this hurricane and a trans-Atlantic journey are two giraffes destined for the San Diego Zoo. The giraffes must also live through their subsequent journey across the United States. The giraffes are escorted by a young driver and a zoo keeper and this trip is well-documented in newspapers and magazines of the day.

As told by a 103 year old Woodrow Wilson Nickel (Woody Nickel) the story unfolds from the perspective of Woody, the 17 year-old. The giraffes fascinate this teenager who grows to appreciate the beauty and character of the animals. He follows the giraffes as they leave their ship and follows down the road. Through a set of circumstances, Woody convinces the zoo keeper that he should be the driver to take these giraffes to San Diego.

The zoo keeper is an irascible man who has an affinity to build relationships with animals and care for all living creatures during a time when nature conservation was new to the general public. The trip takes the giraffes and humans across the United States by way of the Appalachian mountains, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas and the great west. This is the time of the dust bowl and not only tells the reader about giraffes but the hardships of life and dreams of many Americans at this time.

Woody, the zoo keeper and others are fascinated by the giraffes. However, not everyone in the book exhibits empathetic behavior toward animals or humans. The animal does not need care and attention. An animal is “just an animal.”

In contrast, Woody learns about the personalities of the giraffes and cares for their physical needs. He becomes protective of the giraffes. The reader learns about Belle Benchley, the San Diego zoo “director,” who was on the forefront of creating a zoos’ mission for animal conservation. “West With Giraffes” is a “larger-than-life story about the power of both animal magnetism and human connection based upon true events.” (Booklist. 12/1/2020, Vol. 117 Issue 7, p31-3)

Staying true to the book, the library has several programs for adults and children to celebrate the 2022 Book in The Bluff. There are going to be visits from the Dickerson Park Zoo, storytimes, an exhibit of life magazine photos from the 1930’s and other displays and activities. All which help to bring the book to life and pique the interest of the reader.

On April 5, Lynda Rutledge, author, meets with her audience via Zoom at 5:30 p.m. Connect with her via Zoom from the library or with your own Zoom connection from home. She will answer questions and present more information about West With Giraffes.

Readers may check out the book from the library or buy a copy from the Friends of the Library, Whitworth’s Gift Chest Jewelers, or Hefner Furniture and Appliance.

For more information about “West With Giraffes” and the Book in the Bluff, call the library 573- 686-8639. Visit the website www.poplarbluff.org/bookinthebluff, or follow us on Facebook. The library is located at 318 N. Main St. or visit the Ridgel Branch at 3398 Kanell Blvd.

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