*Mikis and the Donkey by Bibi Dumon Tak, illustrated by Philip Hopman. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014. 89 pages
Bottom Line: Mikis and the Donkey is a gentle story for younger middle grades about learning to care for a gentle, friendly creature.
Mikis lives with his family on the Greek Island of Corfu, where school days are short and the sun is long. One day at the beginning of the school term, Mikis’s grandfather surprises him with a donkey. Or rather, the donkey belongs to Grandpa, but Mikis can have the honor of naming him. The boy gives the donkey a choice of names, and both settle on Tsaki. Mikis and Tsaki form an alliance, sometimes joined by his classmate Elena and advised by the other kids in their class, who can’t wait to hear more about Tsaki every day. Mikis takes up the slack his Grandpa doesn’t notice, such as finding a doctor (a people doctor!) to treat the sores on Tsaki’s back and finding a friend for Tsaki when he seems to be feeling lonely. The “friend” happens to be female, so an astute reader will guess what comes of that.
It’s a quiet and gentle story, told in a simple style, examining what it takes to care for one of God’s creatures in a responsible manner—both Mikis and Grandpa will grow more sensitive in that regard, and by the end the whole village is involved. There’s an understated subplot of male-female attraction as Tsaki and the kids’ teacher find suitable mates, and Mikis determines in his heart to marry Elena one day, as he could find no better friend. Fidgety boys and girls who like lots of action may not sit still for it, but Mikis and the Donkey makes a pleasant read-aloud experience for ages 4-8, and a read-alone for animal-lovers ages 7-10. Don’t be surprised if they decide they want a donkey.
Also by this author: Soldier Bear
Overall Value: 5 (out of 5)
- Worldview/moral value: 5
- Artistic value: 4.5
Categories: Animal Stories, Realistic Fiction, Middle Grades, Chapter Books, Read Alouds, Starred Review, Realistic Fiction, Character Values, Award Winners