Historian, Writer, Commentator, Consultant.

Simpson’s Donkey

Posted by on Jan 18, 2012 in Books | 0 comments

Simpson's Donkey coverSimpson’s Donkey (Murdoch Books, Sydney, 2011)

I can’t remember why or where I had the idea of thinking about the Simpson story from the donkey’s point of view. It was certainly years before Glyn Harper’s New Zealand children’s book. I tootled about with it for a while. Then in 2006 I applied for and won a creative fellowship from the May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust. This would have given me some time to write a manuscript that was only partially finished. At exactly that time I got the job at the National Museum of Australia and that consumed my energies for a time, so I gave up the idea of the fellowship.

Eventually, encouraged by Murdoch’s interest (which really means Diana Hill’s) I offered the partially finished manuscript to her and finished it in a burst in 2010.

Does this make me a novelist? I think not …


From: Professional Community for Teachers, the NSW Teacher Librarian Association and the Australian Teacher Librarians Organisation, March 2011

The story of Simpson and his donkey at Gallipoli is one that all Australian children grow up with, but how did the donkeys get to Gallipoli in the first place? This story, by Peter Stanley, offers some answers.  It follows the life of Sevilen, a donkey born on the island of Lemnos, who, through the actions of a variety of masters, including Simpson, has a remarkable journey through the eastern Mediterranean region during the First World War. Told as though it is his autobiography, Sevilen’s story gives us a unique insight into the theatres of war at that time as he encounters Australians, New Zealanders, Greeks, Turks, Britons, Arabs and Indians.

The author has had a long association with the Australian War Memorial as the Principal Historian and is now the Director of the Centre for Historical Research at the National Museum of Australia, so his credentials as an historian are impeccable and his ability as a storyteller, engaging.  It is book of World War I that will capture the imagination and empathy of middle to upper primary students in a way that seldom happens.  It would be a perfect read-aloud as schools focus on the annual commemoration of ANZAC Day [sic] as well as offering yet another example of how man is dependent on animals in so many ways.

At a time when I am supposed to be reading  university texts, I couldn’t put this one down.  I kept thinking of the ways that I could use it if I were still in the classroom, and wishing that I was!

Barbara Braxton
Teacher Librarian


Buy at Murdoch Books

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