Review Blog

May 05 2009

The Donkey who carried the wounded by Jackie French

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Angus and Robertson, 2009 ISBN 978073228839 6
(Ages 10+) The inestimable Jackie French has done it again, writing a wonderful novel of a time in our history that we have all heard of, but may know little about. Effortlessly she makes us believe that the donkey which carried the wounded at Gallipoli was aware of what he was doing, that he had a relationship with Simpson, the ambulance man who retrieved the wounded from the terrible gulleys above the beach. Her writing, using alternate chapters about Jack (Simpson) and the donkey will impress the reader with their poignancy and authenticity. She has used wide research to make sure that her setting is real, the information is accurate and the ambience, truthful. Readers will soak up the atmosphere, cling to the stories of the wounded and immerse themselves in the world of Gallipoli in 1915, when so many were killed and wounded.
She tells us in her notes at the end that she made up the beginning and end of the story, and has used all sorts of research, myths and stories to write her novel. She has succeeded brilliantly in creating a story which will enlighten, inform and involve its readers. No-one will be immune from shedding tears while reading this, as French gives us chapters about some of the wounded, alongside Jack and the donkey, as well as chapters about the sniper in the hills, who eventually killed Simpson.
The whole, as in all of this series, The Animal Stars, has a large afterward, explaining the research that she undertook, and giving extra notes about some of the features of the novel, along with an informative glossary. This beautifully written book is a significant addition to the books about Gallipoli, especially Simpson and his Donkey. And, as in all of her books about war, she promotes the lives of those less well known, the footnotes of history, and this makes history truly real for her readership.
Fran Knight

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