Saving Winslow

Sharon Creech

Book - 2018

When his father brings home an ailing, newborn donkey, Louie names the animal Winslow and takes care of him, but everyone, including Louie's quirky friend Nora, thinks Winslow is not going to survive.

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Animal fiction
New York : Joanna Cotler Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers [2018]
First edition
Item Description
"A Novel" -- Cover.
Physical Description
165 pages : illustrations ; 20 cm
Ages 8-12.
Main Author
Sharon Creech (author)
Review by New York Times Review

SO MUCH OF early childhood is about animals. We dress toddlers in T-shirts emblazoned with zoo creatures, teach them songs about livestock and tuck them in with stuffed bunnies. Their picture books feature peace-loving bulls, cookie-loving mice and oversize red dogs who make excellent stand-ins for little humans. But the middle-grade years - when kids' passions are still more fixed on kittens and horses than the opposite sex - are the real sweet spot for animal books. This is when we get animal protagonists with inner lives as complicated as a 10-year-old's ("Charlotte's Web") and tender stories about kids whose beloved pets help them grow and mature (I call them bildogsromans), like Kate DiCamillo's "Because of Winn-Dixie." There's also the recurring theme of an animal rescued by a resourceful child - what could feel more empowering to a 10-yearold than saving a life? Four new novels provide their own twists on these classic story lines and prove, once again, that tales about animals can help kids understand the world and themselves. PATRICIA MACLACHLAN ("Sarah, Plain and Tall") is the master of quiet books that pack an emotional wallop. She's also a die-hard dog lover who's written several novels celebrating the healing power of her favorite creatures. Her latest, my father's words (HarperCollins, 144 pp., $15.99; ages 8-12), finds the author in her element: It's the story of a sister and brother who start volunteering at a dog shelter after their father's sudden death. And though the premise might seem way too sad - or even a bit too obvious - MacLachlan turns it into something remarkable. Fiona and Finn's father was a psychologist who loved runny eggs, choral music, basketball and passing along bits of therapy-speak to his children, like the meaning of "passive aggressive." After he is killed in a car accident, fifth grader Fiona notices that the younger Finn has become withdrawn and angry. When the children begin spending time at an animal shelter, Finn bonds with a dog named Emma. Fiona, meanwhile, begins to heal with the help of a former patient of her dad's who calls her once a week to share her father's words, which helped him years ago. In this slim book, MacLachlan provides a beautifully nuanced portrait of one family's recovery after tragedy. Yes, the dogs help the bereaved children - as Fiona puts it, "sometimes people needed dogs to teach the people how good they can be." But they also find comfort in the kind gestures of neighbors, games of basketball in the driveway at night, favorite picture books and new stories about their father from people who knew him. Written in the solemn voice of Fiona, an observant girl who seems to have inherited her father's instinct for listening, the book feels as direct and true as a dog looking you straight in the eyes. IN SHARON CREECH'S SAVING WINSLOW (HarperCollins, 176 pp., $16.99; ages 8 to 12) the rescued creature is a scrawny minidonkey named Winslow, with "black eyes and feathery eyelashes." Beware: This guy is so cute, young readers may be lobbying their parents for one. Born on an uncle's nearby farm, the "pitiful" motherless creature isn't expected to live long. But 10-year-old Louie takes him in, and just like the immortal Fern with runty Wilbur, he pours on the tender love and care, bottle feeding him and wrapping him in blankets. Naturally, as Winslow begins to thrive, he gives back. He helps Louie deal with the painful absence of his older brother, who's left home for the Army. And he coaxes Nora, an odd new girl who oozes negativity, into shedding her prickly exterior. The bond that develops between boy and donkey is genuinely heartwarming. And in seeing Louie's relentless efforts to keep Winslow alive - he sleeps with him in the cellar, wakes for 4 a.m. feedings and even learns how to administer injections - young readers may absorb a subtle lesson in passion and persistence. The plot itself is rather uneventful: At one point, Winslow goes missing, and that's about it, dramawise. But the story is buoyed by the whisper-weight chapters and Creech's spare, poetic language. Creech isn't writing in verse (which she used to great effect in "Love That Dog!") but her words evoke imagery that will linger in a reader's mind long after the final page. When Louie first sees Winslow, for instance, "he felt a sudden rush, as if the roof had peeled off the house and the sun had dived into every corner of the kitchen." SOMETIMES THE WILD and fierce are more fascinating than the domesticated and cuddly. Carl Hiaasen's best-selling middle-grade capers ("Hoot," "Flush," "Scat," "Chomp") all have intrepid tweens, lawbreaking baddies and endangered Florida wildlife at their center. His latest, SQUIRM (Knopf, 276 pp., $18.99; ages 8 to 12), is narrated by Billy Dickens, who lives with his mom and sister in Florida. Billy doesn't have a "halfway normal life" for a few reasons: He hasn't heard from his father since he was 3 or 4, his eagleobsessed mom makes him and his sister move every few years so they can live near an active nest, and he spends most of his free time with snakes. When Billy figures out that his dad - who may or may not be working for the C.I.A. - is living in Montana, he flies out West to confront him. There, he meets his father's new wife and stepdaughter and becomes embroiled in a high-stakes battle involving snakes, grizzlies, drones and villainous gun-toting trophy hunters. It's a fun romp that will keep readers hooked, even as the plot becomes increasingly convoluted in the manner of a wacky PG-13 movie. Perhaps best of all is the way Hiaasen conveys the wonders of wild creatures, from the "skittish and solitary" behavior of panthers to the unusual nesting habits of swallows. Don't be surprised if after reading "Squirm," your young reader tells you the safest way to handle a yellow rat snake or scare off a grizzly. And now that we're on the subject of bears, let's consider the most famous bear of all. Most children think of Winnie-thePooh as the mustard-yellow bear in the bafflingly small red shirt. But before Disney got hold of him, dear sweet Pooh was, of course, the creation of the British author A. A. Milne, whose inspiration was an actual black bear named Winnie at the London Zoo during World War I. ADOPTED AS AN ORPHANED cub by a Canadian Army veterinarian named Henry Colebourn, Winnie eventually sailed to England with the troops. The author Lindsay Mattick and the illustrator Sophie Blackall shared the story in their 2015 Caldecott Medal-winning "Finding Winnie." Now, Mattick (a great-granddaughter of Colebourn) has teamed with the author Josh Greenhut on Winnie's great war (Little, Brown, 227 pp., $16.99; ages8 to 12), a middle-grade novel, also illustrated by Blackall, that expands upon these events for a slightly older audience. This fleshed-out Winnie is very much a reflection of Milne's Pooh - a naive, openhearted creature with a great weakness for food and capacity for love. We get a range of dramatic scenes conjured by the authors, including Winnie's last moments with her mother (who utters "Be brave, my Bear!" before she's shot by a trapper) and the friendships she makes with squirrels, horses and a rat named Tatters. While the juxtaposition of cute talking animals and excerpts from Colebourn's actual diary entries is disorienting, the overall result is a work of undeniable charm. This is distinctively old-fashioned, gentle storytelling that children will enjoy hearing read aloud. And the photographs of the real Winnie at the end of the book are the clincher - a reminder that real animals can be more enchanting than any we've imagined. CATHERINE hong writes for publications including Architectural Digest and Martha Stewart Living, and blogs about children's books at

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [July 11, 2019] Review by Booklist Review

With older brother Gus now away in the army, 10-year-old Louie feels lonely and somewhat insecure about his own abilities. Then Dad brings home a sickly, newborn mini-donkey, and Louie is determined that the jack survive. Dubbing him Winslow, Louie teaches the creature to suckle, administers antibiotic injections when he gets sick, takes him for walks through town, and allows the diapered foal free rein of the house. But as Winslow matures, Louie's neighbors fail to appreciate his perfectly normal behaviors (i.e., braying), and it becomes clear that something must be done. Creech has created a winning protagonist in Louie: a child who is sensitive yet resilient, unfailingly kind, and determinedly optimistic despite his past experiences. Equally strong is Nora, a younger girl who has experienced her own losses: a younger brother and a dog. And while the story's outcome (a return to the farm) may be obvious, Creech's route to that conclusion is particularly skillful and satisfying. Short chapters and accessible prose make this an ideal choice for reading aloud or alone.--Kay Weisman Copyright 2018 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Creech (Moo) spins a heartfelt yarn about a boy's struggles trying to raise a baby donkey. Ten-year-old Louie has repeatedly struck out with animals: worms dried up, a parakeet passed on, a found kitten ran away. But when his father brings home a sickly newborn mini donkey from Uncle Pete's farm, Louie is determined to save the "pitiful-looking" creature he names Winslow. The infant requires bottle-feeding, injections, and almost constant nurturing, but Louie refuses to listen to others' pessimism, including that of his new friend Nora. As always, Creech packs a tremendous amount of emotion between the lines of her understated prose. Readers will feel Louie's longing for his older brother, who is serving in the military and signs his letters, "Remember me"; Nora's lack of hope, which stems from losing her premature baby brother; and the children's shared affection for each other and the tiny donkey. Animal lovers in particular will relish Louie's hard-won triumphs and find joy in Winslow's strength. Ages 8-12. Agent: Amy Berkower, Writers House. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 3-6-Ten-year-old Louie does not have a good track record for taking care of animals. Worms, goldfish, a hamster, a snake, and a lizard are only a few of the pets that died or escaped on his watch. When his father brings home a weak, orphaned newborn mini-donkey from his Uncle Pete's farm, Louie decides to do everything in his power to save him. Taking care of the donkey, which he names Winslow, helps Louie feel closer to his older brother Gus who is serving in the army. Interwoven stories of family and friendship include the girl troubles of his older friend Mack, his quirky new neighbor Nora who has experienced her own losses and is afraid to form attachments, and the hole left behind in his own family as Louie and his parents miss Gus. With short chapters, a timeless setting, and simple prose, this uplifting tale will have readers rooting for the donkey and the boy who nurses him back to health. VERDICT This heartwarming story is sure to be a hit with fans of E.B. White's Charlotte's Web and Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn-Dixie.-Sarah Polace, Cuyahoga Public -Library System, OH © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Horn Book Review

Creech interweaves the stories of three fragile babies. Two strands are backstories, and one is front, center, present, and loud. Louie had been a premature baby. Now hes eleven, but the family story of his infancy as a pitiful, scrawny, struggling thing has informed his outlook on life. Hes determined and optimistic. Newcomer-to-town Nora lost a baby brother (who, like Louie, had been born prematurely). This experience has left her angry, anxious, and prickly. The two children bond over Winslow, an orphaned baby donkey, a frail animal not expected to survive, whom Louie adopts. The main strand of the story involves the ups-and-downs of Winslows health and then the challenges of keeping a braying donkey in a residential neighborhood. In fine animal-hero style, the plot comes to a peak with Winslow saving the life of yet another babythe baby next door. Woven into this narrative is a convincing portrayal of human growth and blossoming as Louie gains confidence and Nora finally allows herself to trust her present happiness. (Nora is a particularly original character about whom Creech tells us little and shows us much.) Set in an unspecified small-town past, largely free of adults and rich with unscheduled play time, the story is told simply but subtly, celebrating the unexpected strength of the vulnerable. sarah ellis (c) Copyright 2018. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

Louie, a remarkably optimistic 10-year-old, takes on the rearing of a fragile, newborn mini donkey whose mother is too sick to care for it.Louie and his parents feel "the enormous absence of his brother," Gus, who is serving in the military and who poignantly (and worryingly) now signs his letters, "Remember me." Winslow, the little donkey, needs constant attention to survive, and Louie, in spite of everyone's predictions of a dire outcome, gamely perseveres. The one with the most negative outlook is Nora, a new neighbor, who, it's revealed, has lost both a premature baby brother and her dog. She's attracted to Winslow but unwilling to allow herself to get attached, while Louie throws his whole heart into saving the needy animal. Her need for distance and unrelenting pessimism are both revealing and enlightening. Utilizing the spare, poetic language she's the master of, Creech gently narrates this winning tale of love and the risks it brings. In brief chapters and with few words she crafts dynamic characters (who are default white) and an engaging narrative with a subtle yet illuminating message on the dampening effects of negativity. The nuanced conclusion brings hope withoutrealisticallyfull resolution.Another outstanding and unforgettable story that will work well both as a read-aloud for younger listeners and as a rich offering for those recently transitioned to chapter books. (Fiction. 7-12) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.