Inspired by a visit to a donkey sanctuary on the island of Corfu, this Dutch import offers a glimpse of a far-off land and a gentle lesson on caring for animals.
From his first meeting with his grandfather’s new donkey, Mikis feels a sense of connection. Fascinated, he spends as much time as possible with the animal, and when he’s given the opportunity to name her, he takes his time and even allows the donkey to have a vote of sorts. When not busy in school, the boy watches over Tsaki (as she is eventually called), urging his grandfather to treat her kindly, not to overburden her and to provide a comfortable stable. Slight subplots, more implied than fleshed-out, feature his teacher’s romance with a motorcycle-riding boyfriend and Mikis’ own affection for a classmate, Elena. Tsaki’s occasionally stubborn personality adds some mild humor, but for the most part, the text is low-key and straightforward. Hopman’s scratchy black-and-white illustrations provide context, showing a scrubby landscape, small houses crowded along the shore or the spreading tree in the center of town where the old men gather to talk. Characterization and action are downplayed in favor of mood and setting, making this a book that will need some work to connect with readers.
Those children who do connect with Dumon Tak’s sweet, quiet tale are likely to find it will resonate deeply. (Fiction. 8-10)