on 8 January 2007
This is the story of two little French girls, sisters Coco and Marcelle, who discover a British soldier hiding out in the woods behind their house. Blind, cold and hungry, the soldier tells the girls that he is trying to make his way to the Channel to go home to his sick younger brother. In reality, he has gone AWOL, and now full of shame and unable to see, he cannot go back to the war or get home without the girls' help.
Promising to keep the soldier a secret from their parents and older brother, Coco and Marcelle smuggle food and blankets to the soldier as he recovers and his sight slowly returns. On their visits to him, the soldier tells them stories, each one linked to the good luck charm in his pocket: a tiny silver donkey.
More than once this book had me in tears. The stories the soldier tells are extremely moving, and all come with some kind of moral, although the book does not preach by any means. There are charming illustrations throughout, and it is very reasonably priced for a hardback. A good choice for children aged 7-11.
on 24 April 2010
After much reading I chose this book as a class text for Year 6. It's going really well and I'm very pleased with my choice. This story is beautifully written, rich in original use of language, and it is quite captivating. The imagery is extremely effective. The children are also enjoying the wonderful illustrations.
This is a wonderful little book, and having read it, I am surprised it is not more popular. It tells the story of two French sisters who discover a soldier in the woods. He has deserted from the front, is blind and suffering from shell shock. They are delighted by their discovery and feed and clothe the soldier, promising to help him get home to his brother across the channel. In return for their kindness the soldier tells them stories, based around the silver donkey charm he has kept as his good luck talisman. The story is simple and yet profound. The stories the soldier tells are thoughtful and clever, and the illustrations by Laura Carlin are a perfect foil for the stories.
on 25 February 2013
I read this book as a bedtime story (over several nights!) to my two daughters, aged 8 and 6 - and we all loved it. The children identified with the two little girls in the story - and had lots of questions to ask (about donkeys, France, trench warfare and lots of other things). The story has stayed with me - and will be one we go back to again and again I think. I am just about to buy it for my goddaughter.