July 7, 2016
Mikis and the Donkey by Bibi Duman Tak, illustrated by Philip Hopman
Mikis and the Donkey
by Bibi Dumon Tak
illustrated by Philip Hopman
Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers
When Mikis’ grandfather buys a donkey, the first thing Mikis does is give her a name. He knows better than to give her a name without consulting her so he watches carefully as he lists off every girl’s name that he knows. The only time she blinks is when he says Tsaki. Just to be sure, because it isn’t even a real name, he says it twice and she blinks both times.
Mikis helps Grandpa and Tsaki bring loads of wood down the mountain. The path is steep and narrow and Tsaki worries that Grandpa piles too much wood in the baskets. But Grandpa just compares the donkey with a truck and a tractor and adds more wood. One Sunday when Mikis and Tsaki have the day off, Mikis is alarmed to find a bloody wound on Tsaki’s side.
With Elena, a friend from school, Mikis takes Tsaki to the doctor. The vet is several villages away so they take her to the people doctor. The doctor kindly gives them some salve and a prescription. Less wood in the baskets and the donkey gets a full week off work.
The plot to this story wanders here and there as Mikis works to give Tsaki a good life. It means that he and Grandfather butt heads a few times but soon the two are working together on a new stable for the donkey. Before long Tsaki has a foal and Mikis has a reputation as the boy who takes care of the island’s donkeys.
Tsaki’s life isn’t always easy but this story still has a slow-moving, gentle quality. Somehow it seems to fit well with village life. The story was originally published in The Netherlands and Tak spent time on a Greek island. She had been invited to spend two weeks at a donkey refuge and to write a story about the donkeys.
This book received the Batchelder award for books in translation. Share this story, an early middle grade novel with some illustrations, with both those young readers who like to read about other lands as well as those who love animals.