Sunday 12 April 2015

Roly the Anzac donkey by Glyn Harper, illustrated by Jenny Cooper

Roly the Anzac donkey by Glyn Harper, illustrated by Jenny Cooper (Puffin, 2015)

ISBN 978-0-14-350663-8

32 pages with Jenny Cooper’s beautiful colour illustrations

Subjects: World War One, Gallipoli, animals, donkeys, Richard Henderson, picture books (Year 2-6)

This is a retelling of Glyn Harper’s 2008 book, The Donkey Man (illustrated by Bruce Potter), which describes the war experience through the eyes of Roly the donkey. This version is bigger than the original and has new artwork by children's illustrator Jenny Cooper. It includes two maps (of the Aegean region and the Gallipoli peninsula) and notes on the Gallipoli campaign and the donkey man himself. A lot of people would assume this to be Simpson, but Glyn Harper tells the story of a New Zealander, Richard Alexander Henderson.

It’s interesting to see how the text has been pared back in the updated version. The main story is still there, but a lot of the background detail has been taken out. I think The donkey man still has value as a text with more detailed information, for older children, but this version makes for a stronger picture book.

About the author
Glyn Harper is professor of war studies at Massey University and the uni website has an interview with him here. There a lovely article about the book launch here.

About the illustrator
You can read about Jenny Cooper and her work on the NZ Book Council and Christchurch City Council websites.  

I liked this comment: "Funnily enough, I don’t particularly like seeing my books after they are printed, because there are so many things I would improve or change. But I keep thinking that the NEXT book will be better."

Other books you might like:
Glyn Harper has also written Le Quesnoy and Jim’s letters, both illustrated by Jenny Cooper. 

You can read more about Private Richard Henderson, New Zealand's own "donkey man" at Gallipoli, here on the RSA site. 

Find out about the true story behind the famous painting of Simpson and the donkey. Moore-Jones painted six versions of this painting and the last one in private hands sold recently for $220,000.

Have you read it?
Have you read this book? Let me know what you think!

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