Just as Steinbeck took Charley on his travels, teenage Gill went with Gabe: “Home was where your friends were, so Gabe and I became each other’s home.”
More in search of a satisfactory place to settle down than some nebulous America, Gill recalls leaving home at 17 and meeting the blue merle husky mix that became her canine companion in a first aid tent at a 1972 Rainbow Tribe festival in Colorado. From there, the two hitchhiked to New Orleans, then onward across the country before fetching up, ultimately, in Alaska. As a late, glancing reference to marriage and divorce indicates, Gill leaves a lot out, but what she includes strings both simple adventures and emotionally complex moments one after another into an episodic but loving tribute. She describes living in the French Quarter, where “overdoses and pistol-whippings by the police were common,” losing her beloved dog and then being joyfully reunited, raising a litter of husky pups abandoned by their mother, and, in later years, running an Iditarod and finally holding Gabe in her arms as old age takes him. The tale is printed on full-bleed color paintings that add considerably to their vividness by centering on the author’s independent, confident-looking figure and on a dog that, as often as not, is posed with teeth bared in a feral snarl.
The story’s focus on Gabe, as cranky and independent as his human, makes for a surprisingly accessible introduction to the 1970s for middle graders. (afterword) (Graphic memoir. 8-10)