Gib Rides Home starts with Gib’s unexpected return to the Lovell House Home for Orphaned and Abandoned Boys (what a name!), one year or so after adoption. Snyder then goes back and shows how Gib came to the Home in the first place, where he went when he left, how he tamed a horse and became a horse wrangler, and why he has suddenly returned. It’s kind of like Little House in the Prairie, minus the supporting loving family and plus more horseback riding.
But what makes the book are the people in it. It’s not so much a story about Gib as it is a story about how Gib relates to the world around him – his teachers, his fellow orphans, and the members of the household that “adopts” him. So many people are brought to life: Miss Mooney, the beloved “young boys” housemother; Miss Offenbacher the tyrannical headmistress; Mr. Thornton, stern and unforgiving; Livy, the curious, gutsy, temperamental heiress of the Rocking M Ranch; Hy, the farmhand and horse wrangler; gentle and high-spirited Mrs. Thornton; Elmer, Jacob, Georgie, and Bobby, and the various boys at the Home for Abandoned Boys. And this is where Snyder’s talent really shows – how is she able to make so many people “real” in only 246 (large-font) pages?
I think part of the answer to that is: this book is a labour of love. The book is dedicated to and inspired by Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s father, William Solon Keatley, an orphan who was”adopted” (read: farmed out as free labour to an unloving, uncaring family) when he was only eight years old. Snyder cares about her dad, and cares about making this book a good book, historically accurate, interesting to read, with characters we care about and settings that are believable.
Reading ages: 9-12
Biggest Criticism: The cover makes Gib looks like he’s just smelled something rotten. Is attractive cover-art too much to ask for?