The Donkey Who Carried the Wounded, by Jackie French

For a moment he thought he had been hit himself. In the head maybe, that would be it. For there it was, chomping the grass like its life depended on it.
A flaming donkey.

When Jack Simpson lands at Gallipoli, his job is to carry the wounded away from the battle with his fellow stretcher bearers. But when both stretchers and bearers are scarce, Jack wishes he had a donkey to carry the wounded. When he does find a scared, scrawny donkey, who he names Duffy, Simmo sets to work, carrying the wounded to safety. The partnership of man and donkey starts as a practical way to help the wounded, but it is soon also a deep bond between the two, and a pairing which will become a part of Australian history.

The Donkey Who Carried the Wounded is a wonderful children’s novel which focuses on a well-known piece of Australian history. The story of Simpson and his Donkey has been retold many times, but this version offers the dual perspectives of both the man and his donkey friend, as well as occasional chapters from the viewpoint of other characters, including several chapters focussing on Richard Henderson, the New Zealand soldier who took over Simpson’s work after he was killed.

This is history which is accessible for young readers, built on a well researched base and fictionalised in an interesting format.

The Donkey Who Carried the Wounded: The Famous Story of Simpson and His Donkey - a True Anzac Legend

The Donkey Who Carried the Wounded, by Jackie French
Angus & Robertson, 2009
ISBN 9780732288396

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Also by Jackie French

The Camel Who Crossed Australia (2008)
A Rose for the ANZAC Boys (2008)
Macbeth and Son (2006)

Polar Boy, by Sandy Fussell

“The ancient ones whisper to me, Iluak,” Nana says. “They talk about you. They say a bear is waiting.”

Life isn’t easy in the land of snow and ice and for Iluak, a Too-lee boy travelling with his tribe, there are daily challenges. Now, though, a new challenge is coming. His grandmother, the Shaman, tells him a bear is coming – and it will be Iluak who will save his people from the bear. But Iluak is afraid of bears, and doesn’t want to face one.

Polar Boy is an absorbing historical adventure, set in a 13th century polar community and offering an intriguing insight into the daily life of Iluak’s people. When Iluak rescues a Viking girl from a polar bear there is also a meeting of cultures and Iluak comes to realise that strength comes in different forms – as do bears.

The time and setting of this wonderful tale offer young readers a glimpse at something far removed from both their own life experience and from other books. Fussell manages to create a believable world, with readers being invited to feel the cold and the fear which are at the core of Iluak’s daily life. At the same time, readers will be able to relate to Iluak’s self doubt, his search to find a place in his family, and his rivalry with Tuaq, another boy from his tribe.

Polar Boy is wonderfully written and well deserving of its inclusion in this year’s shortlist for the Children’s Book of the year Awards.

Polar Boy

Polar Boy, by Sandy Fussell
Walker Books, 2008

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Also by Sandy Fussell

White Crane (2008)
Owl Ninja (2008)
Shaolin Tiger (2009)