“Louie had not had the best luck nurturing creatures.”
Newbery Medal-winning author Sharon Creech shares a heartfelt story about loving big despite the risks. When Louie’s father brings home a sickly newborn donkey from Uncle Pete’s farm, Louie is determined to save the “pitiful-looking” creature he names Winslow, even though he hasn’t had such great luck caring for animals in the past. Most people don’t have much hope for Winslow’s survival, but Louie has enough hope for everyone, and his attachment to Winslow grows quickly.
The possibility of loss beats an underlying tempo throughout Saving Winslow. Louie’s new friend Nora is pretty pessimistic about the little donkey’s chances, but Nora is pretty pessimistic about most things, having experienced losses of her own. Louie’s older brother Gus is away in the army, and taking care of Winslow helps ease Louie’s worry. He somehow believes that “saving Winslow would also save and protect Gus.”
In true Sharon Creech form, there are also plenty of light-hearted moments, delivered in her sparse and powerful prose: Louie and Nora learn how to care for a slobbery, loud, needy baby donkey; and Louie’s friend Mack discovers what it feels like to be “lovesick” over Nora’s sister, Claudine. As Louie coaxes Winslow to drink from a bottle, struggles to give him shots, and deals with a neighbor’s exasperation over Winslow’s new-found braying, he also learns how to express his heartache over missing Gus.
“He wanted to tell Gus about Winslow, about how he loved Winslow with all his heart. He wanted to tell him that Winslow understood things and that Winslow loved him back and that he was funny and goofy and occasionally loud, and Louie could not imagine life without Winslow.”
Saving Winslow is an accessible Intro and Sweet Spot title, a slim, quick read full of heart. Younger students will love reading it aloud together, and older students will find plenty to make them laugh and give them pause. Families will empathize with Louie and his friends as they grapple with the everyday issues that come with caring for a donkey and caring for each other. A book about a boy saving a donkey is also about finding one’s purpose, feeling loss, and continuing to love big anyway.