A young giraffe escapes from the zoo and sets out for her African homeland in this antic animal fantasy. Though she can sense which way to go, Ruva knows little of the world, and so is fortunate in her companions: doughty Troll and wise Rodentus, both rats; Nelson, an irascible chameleon; and Jabila, a San Franciscan youth who, amazingly, can still understand the animals' Common Speech. Farmer (of the recent Newbery Honor book, The Ear, the Eye and the Arm, 1994, etc.) throws an array of obstacles before them, from locked doors to the demonic (but stupid) Slope Siblings, a cutthroat band of kidnappers and gun runners. The companions prove equal to every occasion, until trapped (aboard the yacht Apocalypso) in mid-ocean by an infestation of Sargasso Strangleweed; they escape that with the help of the weed's only natural enemy, Gross Green Sea-Going Sargasso Snails. The ending seems sudden -- arriving at last in Africa, the friends set Ruva on the road toward home, then split up to find their own ""warm places,"" and, as in her other books, Farmer's distinctive voice and slightly skewed brand of comedy take some getting used to. Fear not, for the Good Guys are strongly individual, the Bad Guys deliciously horrid, and the whole adventure wild and risky.