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THE SILVER DONKEY by Sonya Hartnett


by Sonya Hartnett & illustrated by Don Powers

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2006
ISBN: 0-7636-2937-5
Publisher: Candlewick

Marcelle and Coco, “two skinny, flash-eyed little girls, wild as kittens born under stables,” aged ten and eight respectively, discover a blind British soldier, an army deserter, in the woods near their French village. It’s WWI, and Lieutenant Shepard has not come out of the war with all his faculties intact. Hartnett’s timely, haunting depiction of the grimness and waste of war, her piercing exploration of moral issues such as bravery verses cowardice and the importance of truth are curiously, though effectively, juxtaposed with an old-fashioned children’s story. The girls and their 13-year-old brother secretly bring the soldier food and supplies, and, in spite of the danger, are determined to help him cross the Channel and return home. The Lieutenant’s good-luck charm, a small silver donkey symbolizing different things to each character, is at the hub of this hard-to-define yet exquisitely written fable. Ostensibly a gift from his ailing little brother, it inspires the telling of four allegorical tales all of which feature clever, reliable, self-sacrificing donkeys. Thirteen quietly evocative black-and-white pencil illustrations complement the text. Hartnett’s powerful imagery and her inimitable deftness with language lift this multi-genre work high off the ground. (Historical fiction. 10-14)