Book Club Kit: West With Giraffes #BookClub #booktwitter #bookworm #bookblogger #WestWithGiraffes #BookClubKit

Are you looking for your next great book club selection?
Are you a book club host in charge of discussion questions?
Check out this book club kit!

I have noticed that visitors frequently arrive at this website as a result of searching for book club discussion questions. Occasionally, I will address certain discussion possibilities for book clubs in my reviews, but I have not created specific posts that book club members could use as a resource. Thus, a new feature is born: Book Club Kits. I’m grateful to Jo @ JoLindsdell for the inspiration and encouragement and for modeling what this post might look like. (Jo has several book club kits to check out!)
Book Club Kits will be posted in the feed as I create them but will live under a Menu Tab. This will be the FIRST but not the last! I envision maybe four per year (one per quarter) and each one will be one of my five-star reads.

Let me know what you think! Does a Book Club Kit interest you?

I chose West With Giraffes as my first book for this new blog feature because it’s page-turning, engaging, unputdownable, and highly discussable with a unique premise.

Book Club Kit: West With Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge

Book Club Kit: West With Giraffes (the cover of West With Giraffes superimposed over a phote of a womanreading a book
Image Source: Canva

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
**This post contains SPOILERS**

Book Information:

West With Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge (cover) Image: black text over a grayed out map

Genre: Historical Fiction (1938)
Categories: Road Trip, Zoo Animals, Coming-of-Age, Multi-Generational Friendship
Publisher: Lake Union Publisher
Publication Date: February 1, 2021
ISBN-10 : 154201994X ISBN-13 : 978-1542023344
ASIN : 1542023343
Number of Pages: 381
Purchase Link
Content Consideration (TW): one brief event in one chapter that involves caged animals; dire Dust Bowl conditions, death of a family (includes one suicide); fights, guns
My Reading Experience: I’ve read this twice (once in print and once via audio…. and the narrator enhances the story) which is unique, page-turning; engaging; unputdownable, and thoughtful.
Link to my 5 Star Review

My Summary of West With Giraffes

Inspired by true events, West With Giraffes recounts the imagined 1938 cross-country twelve-day road trip of two giraffes, one seasoned zookeeper, and one desperate orphan. Unlikely companions, endurance, coming of age, and overcoming obstacles are highlights of the story.

two giraffes at the San Diego Zoo

Historical Notes:

1938 Newspaper Article Here.

Historical Facts about the trip here.

Belle Benchley: the first woman zoo director in the world and the one responsible for bringing the giraffes to the San Diego Zoo.
Belle Benchley, World’s First Female Zoo Director – Zoo Walks Through History

Zoo director, Belle Benchley holds a monkey
giraffes in truck ready for a cross country trip

About the Author, Lynda Rutledge

Author of West With Giraffes, Lynda Rutledge

Lynda Rutledge, a lifelong animal lover, has had the joy of petting baby rhinos, snorkeling with endangered turtles, and strolling with a tower of giraffes in her eclectic freelance career, writing nonfiction for well-known publications and organizations while winning awards and residencies for her fiction. Her new novel, “West with Giraffes,” was inspired by the incredible true story of two giraffes who made headlines and won the hearts of Depression-era America. Her debut novel, “Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale,” winner of the 2013 Writers League of Texas Book Award, was adapted into the major 2019 French film La Dernière Folie de Claire Darling, starring Catherine Deneuve. She, her husband, and resident dog live outside Austin, Texas.

Author’s website:

Author Interview

Author Interview Here


If you have a blog review of West With Giraffes (my review), drop it in the comments and I’ll include it here.
I found these two reviews here and here

Book Flights/Companion Reads:

Do you love reading books that are similar in structure, topic, or theme? Here are three suggestions for further reading:
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse (Dust Bowl experience)
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (structure, circus animals, coming of age)
The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton (1938 hurricane experience in Florida)

Discussion Questions:


What purpose do you feel “Red” serves in the story?
“She had red curls all over her head, a fiery halo of raging waves she surely battled into submission every morning.”


In what ways do you consider the “Old Man” a mentor or father figure for Woody?


Do you notice symbolism in the story? (bridge? water? giraffes? east to west? etc….)


Of the many themes, explain a strong connection you have with one.


Have you read other “road trip ” stories? What do you like best about road trip stories? How does a road trip story complement a coming-of-age story?


Does Woody change and/or grow from the beginning of the story to the end? Describe possible changes and growth. Do you think it’s possible to have growth without setbacks?


Have you read about the Dust Bowl? One poignant book is Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse.


Were you surprised by the remarks made about women driving alone and other sexist attitudes of 1938? We’ve come a long way ladies!


One poignant theme is the idea of “home.” Returning home. Avoiding home. Facing memories of home. Developing a new definition of home. How have you experienced the concept of home?


Do you have strong opinions about zoos and circuses? What do you think the author’s opinion is and do you have evidence to support your conclusion?


What is your favorite zoo animal? Have you thought about the extinction of these magnificent animals? Do you think zoos are beneficial in the conservation effort? Do you think the author addressed this topic sufficiently?


Do you enjoy a story told as a flashback or a memory by an older person? How did this story telling structure add to or detract from your reading experience? This popular story telling structure reminds me of Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Can you think of other examples?

Do you enjoy hearing stories from the older members of your family? In what ways does a family benefit from story telling? How do you think Woody’s story benefited the recipient? (trying to avoid spoilers here!)


If you were to recommend West With Giraffes to a friend, what ONE-word superlative would you use to describe the book or your reading experience?


Have you seen this current event article about a baby giraffe born recently in a Tennessee zoo?

baby giraffe born with no pattern stands next to the mother


“Few true friends I have known and two were giraffes….”

“There’s nothing more pitiful than a wandering creature who was never meant to be wild.”

“This world of misery is in dire need of some natural wonder to learn secrets to life from.”

“Life is life no matter who or what is living it, boy–a thing to respect.”

“If ever I’ve known a destiny feeling, the kind that makes you feel bigger than you are, moving you to something better than you are, it was that moment driving those giraffes…”

“A woman on the road alone is suspect all by herself, being as no real lady would be doing such a thing.”

“Now though, with Girl’s [giraffe’s] sweet head in my lap, it was rushing through every last inch of me, my heart swelling full and warm and pure and kind in a way I’d clean forgotten it could. I was lost in it, it’s surging tenderheartedness taking my breath clean away.”

“I stood on the banks of the Mississippi River, a river so wide that if you try crossing it, you can’t see where you’re going. With no idea what was ahead for me and no time to ponder what was behind, I was traveling blind….. No choice. My gut, though, was telling me if I went over that bridge, I was making a choice, one that I wasn’t quite understanding. And I still wasn’t ready. Not yet. Maybe not ever.”

“The first time a poor soul gets a bit of grace in his wretched life, especially from a man who, by his own pronouncements, abides no chicanery, it’s a hard thing to recognize let alone accept, and even harder to trust.”

“I knew what to do with judgment, having a young lifetime of experience with that. This level of kindness, though, if kindness it be, only made me prickly and even a bit fearful.”

“You think I’ve never been hungry? He left his eyes on me longer than he had to, giving me the same look, full of mercy, that the giraffes gave me after I’d opened their rig for my piece of gold–and it hit me like a punch in the gut…He is forgiving me too.”

“I had to put a hand on the rig’s fender to steady myself, overwhelmed by the full weight of the last two days as I drank in the sight of the two gentle, forever-forgiving giraffes…who deserve better than me.”

” Home? Home’s not the place you’re from Woody. Home’s the place you want to be.”

“The rig, the Old Man, and the giraffes were more home–and more family–than any home I’d ever had.”

“The land you grew up in is a forever thing, remembered when all else is forgotten, whether it did you right or did you wrong. Even when it flat near kills you. Even when it invades your dreams and stokes your nightmares. Even when you run from it never to return, then find yourself headed straight back for it, and the best you can wish for is to drive right through it with your head down, and your wits about you, dodging the worst of it so you can get on with your young life somewhere else.”

“There is a time, though, when you feel a shift down deep in your bones. Quiet, clean, pure. As we moved on that morning, shaken but alive, I felt that kind of bone-quiet shift. The fury that had a hold of me ever since shooting my pa was gone…I’d felt free of the fury long enough to know I wanted to stay that way.”

“There we lay safely, together, under a sky bursting with shimmering stars, surrounded by the giraffes, the night quieting us so full that we both fell into a deep and abiding sleep.”

“I’d felt a sliver of that peaceful feeling after we’d made it through the mountains. This time, though, it was long and lingering and soul-soothing deep. It seems now like the closest thing to praying I’d ever done.”

“Despite those things happening to the Dust Bowl boy I was only days before, I didn’t feel much like that boy anymore.”

Themed Paper Goods

Giraffe pattern paper goods

Giraffe patterned plates and napkins. (other options as well)

Themed Snacks

I found a giraffe cookie cutter!

giraffe cookie cutter

Craft: How to Draw a Giraffe by Alice May

Here’s a cute idea for a craft or a gift for your child while you are reading West With Giraffes!

How to Draw a Giraffe by Alice May  (cute graphic of a giraffe's head)


Have you read West With Giraffes or would you consider it for your book club?
Do you find this book club kit helpful?

ICYMI: How to start a book club.

Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text

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***Blog posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

I purchase or borrow from the library all books I review unless explicitly stated that the book is free (arc).

Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website receives all credit for book covers and author photos.



  1. This is a great idea, and I especially appreciate that it comes from a trusted resource. I’m in charge of selecting the WNBA Nashville book discussion selections, and I’m glad to have recommendations and discussion information.

  2. What a great feature, Carol. I have a group of friends that have been talking about setting up a bookclub in the fall. I will keep this in mind.

    • Thanks Carla! I think it would be a wonderful book club selection and I hope my new Book Club Kit feature will be a benefit for many clubs!

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