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Two unlikely heroes rescue hundreds of men wounded in war in a poignant picture book based on a true tale of World War I.
When Jack Simpson was a boy in England, he loved leading donkeys along the beach for a penny a ride. So when he enlists as a stretcher bearer in World War I, his gentle way with those animals soon leads him to his calling. Braving bullets and bombs on the battlefields of Gallipoli, Jack brings a donkey to the aid of 300 Allied soldiers — earning both man and donkey a beloved spot in legend. This engaging nonfiction tale includes a map and brief bios of key characters.
Greenwood’s stirring picture book tells the true story of a young British soldier in World War I who saves his childhood friend on the battlefield. Jack and Billy grow up together in northeast England, where they work summers giving visitors donkey rides on the beach. At 17 Jack emigrates to Australia, enlists in the army, and finds himself fighting the Turks at Gallipoli, where he works as a stretcher bearer. When stretchers become scarce, he rescues and calms a frightened donkey, using the gentle beast to carry the wounded—until Jack himself is killed. One of the people Jack rescues is half-conscious Billy, who doesn’t recognize his childhood friend. In folk-art style, the paintings, in shades that reflect the heat of a sandy landscape, show the heroic soldier and the gentle animal amid the slaughter of war. A tender close-up of Jack whispering to the frightened donkey, “Bless you, little fella,” is especially nice. Illustrated notes, a map, and a comment from the Turkish general are appended. Grades 2-4. --Hazel Rochman