Author Jackie French tells of war through a donkey's eyes

Thu Apr 30, 2009 3:22am EDT
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By Pauline Askin

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Using animals to make history more digestible to children is one Jackie French's fortes, but telling the horrors of World War One through the eyes of a donkey is a first for the award-winning Australian author.

"The Donkey Who Carried the Wounded," published last week as Australia remembered its war dead on ANZAC day, is the latest book in French's popular children's historical fiction series which includes "The Camel Who Crossed Australia," "The Goat Who Sailed the World" and "The Dog Who Loved a Queen."

The books, French says on her website, are aimed at "giving kids irresistibly exciting and true stories to teach them more about history than they could ever find a text book."

"When you are writing for kids, it's good to have a platform of safety for them to go into something that is basically very confronting," French told Reuters.

"And Gallipoli is extraordinarily confronting for children and was fairly inexplicable. If you put it through the eyes of an animal that's a way of explaining the past to a modern of reader.

"The Donkey Who Carried the Wounded" tells the oft-recounted story of English-born Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick who was a stretcher bearer with the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) during the Gallipoli Campaign.

After landing at Anzac Cove on 25th April 1915, he was instructed to recover and help the wounded. He used a small donkey, named Duffy, to carry men down from the frontline, often exposing himself and the beast to gunfire.

Simpson, who was killed at Anzac Cove, and his donkey have come to symbolize the courage of Australian forces at Gallipoli and his story has been told to generations of schoolchildren.   Continued...