A Donkey Called Mistletoe by Helen Peters

A Donkey Called Mistletoe

Helen Peters, Author

Walker Books, Fiction, Sep. 14, 2021

Suitable for ages: 7-9

Themes: Donkey, Rescue animals, Intergenerational relationships, Holidays

Publisher’s Synopsis:

What better time than the Christmas season for aspiring vet Jasmine Green to find a new home for her elderly neighbor’s gentle donkey?

When Jasmine Green and her best friend, Tom, visit their neighbor Mr. Hobson to help him with some chores, they discover that he is selling his farm and moving to a nearby assisted living facility. Because Mr. Hobson won’t have a home for his beloved donkey, Mistletoe, anymore, he is planning to send him to a faraway sanctuary.

Jasmine doesn’t want to see them separated, so she hatches a plan to keep Mistletoe at Oak Tree Farm, where Mr. Hobson could visit him whenever he liked. But caring for a donkey is lots of work (as Jasmine’s parents often remind her), especially with her mischievous younger brother around.

When the school nativity play encounters a mishap, Jasmine realizes she may have the perfect understudy right in her backyard. From author Helen Peters and illustrator Ellie Snowdon, this latest book in the Jasmine Green Rescues series offers a heartwarming tale of multigenerational friendship and holiday spirit.

Why I like this book:

A Donkey Called Mistletoe is a charming new tale for the Christmas season. It is a story that will warm the hearts many animal lovers. It is also a story about rescuing animals, intergenerational relationships, and life on a working farm. Readers will enjoy the human-animal bond between the characters and the rescued animals. A young boy, Harrison, who is probably on the autism spectrum, develops a very close bond with the donkey that is beneficial and helps soothe him. So touching to see the donkey as a therapy animal.  

The characters are all memorable. Jasmine is a spunky but compassionate protagonist who would fill the farm with any animal needing help. She’s a hard and responsible worker and readers will learn a lot of detail about taking care of animals — especially the donkey who needs daily grooming.  And there is a lot of poop to be scooped up daily.

I enjoy sharing really good chapter books that help kids transition to middle grade books. And this one is a wonderful series for animal lovers! Ellie Snowdon’s pen and ink illustrations are lively, appear on most pages and give readers a better sense of the action. I also like the fun map at the beginning of the story that shows where all the animals live at Oak Tree Farm. 

There is a quiz at the end of each book that will encourage kids to talk about the story, especially their favorite parts. I highly recommend this book and the many other books in the Jasmine Green Rescues series: A Duckling Called Button, A Piglet Called Truffle, A Collie Called Sky, A Kitten Called Holly, A Goat Called Willow and A Lamb Called Lucky.

Helen Peters is the author of numerous books for young readers that feature heroic girls saving the day, including the Jasmine Green Rescues series. She grew up on an old-fashioned farm surrounded by family, animals, and mud. Helen Peters lives in East Sussex, England.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by Walker Books in exchange for a review.

Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech

Saving Winslow

By Sharon Creech

Joanna Cotler Books (Imprint HarperCollins) Fiction, Sep. 11, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Pages: 176

Themes: Donkey, Rescue, Farm Animals, Loss, Friendship, Neighbors

OpeningIn the laundry basket on the kitchen floor was a lump.  “Another dead thing?” Louie asked.  “Not yet,” his father said.

Synopsis:

Louie doesn’t have the best luck when it comes to nurturing small creatures. So when his father brings home a sickly newborn mini donkey, Louie lifts the donkey from the basket and holds it close. The donkey nuzzles his neck and makes a small sound that sounds like please. He’s determined to save him.  Louie names him Winslow. Taking care of the donkey helps Louie feel closer to his brother, Gus, who is  far away in the army.

Everyone worries that Winslow won’t survive, especially Louie’s new friend, Nora, who has experienced a loss of her own. But as Louie’s bond with Winslow grows, surprising and life-altering events prove that this fragile donkey is stronger than anyone could have imagined.

Written in the spirit of Creech favorites Moo and Love That Dog, this standout tale about love and friendship and letting go will tug at the heartstrings.

Why I like this book:

Sharon Creech’s storytelling is so sweet and full of heart. Although her novel is about a boy saving a donkey, there are other themes cleverly woven throughout the story — a boy struggling to find his purpose, a girl who has felt loss and is afraid to get close to Winslow, and a family dealing with a son serving his country overseas. Winslow unites the family.

Louie is such a kind-hearted and determined character. After holding the donkey, he immediately accepts “the mission” to do everything in his power to save the newborn donkey’s life — even when his parents and friends are skeptical the donkey will survive a day, let alone a week. He holds the donkey tight to his chest and rubs him with a blanket begging Winslow to live. Nora is a quirky character. She thinks Winslow is “icky,” looks like a possum-goat and doesn’t see the point in becoming attached to a donkey that’s going to die anyway. Yet she sure spends a lot of time around Winslow.

Animals lovers will treasure Winslow’s story. The plot is convincing, the text is spare and it is a quick read. It is a story that can be read out loud to younger children. Visit Creech at her website.

Sharon Creech has written 21 books for young people and is published in over 20 languages. She is the author of the Newbery Medal winner Walk Two Moons and the Newbery Honor Book The Wanderer. Her other work includes the novels Hate That Cat, The Castle Corona, Replay, Heartbeat, Granny Torrelli Makes Soup, Ruby Holler, Love That Dog, Bloomability, Absolutely Normal Chaos, Chasing Redbird, and Pleasing the Ghost, as well as three picture books: A Fine, Fine School; Fishing in the Air; and Who’s That Baby? Ms. Creech and her husband live in upstate New York.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Library copy.