In Gaza, where zoo animals and children share a difficult life, a zookeeper nourishes children’s dreams by painting stripes on a donkey to stand in for a zebra.
Basing her story on an actual event, widely publicized in 2009, Williams tells it from the point of view of the donkey, who wants to make needy, frightened children happy. She introduces but does not flesh out two child characters—thoughtful Wattan and sad Sumood—and “Moody,” the sympathetic zookeeper. By keeping the focus on the donkey, called Hurry, she distances readers just enough to keep the children’s plight from being unbearable. Illustrator Quraishi adds a light touch by using a jointed wood-and-elastic-cord toy for his donkey/zebra. His digitally combined mixed-media images are made from photographs, watercolor, marker and probably more. An extensive afterword offers adult readers facts behind the story of this “dry and lonely land,” where the severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods have created a virtual prison, with inadequate power or water and constant fear of military attack; it does not go on to document the ultimate closure of the zoo. The author keeps this description evenhanded, laying blame for Gaza’s problems on both sides.
A powerful anti-war story in a modern setting. (Picture book. 5-9)