Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Achilles the Donkey

Achilles the Donkey
H.E. Bates ~ Carol Barker ~ Franklin Watts 1962

The original cover of this book that I've seen online is way cooler than my later '66 library-bound edition, but still rad, rad pictures illustrating a tale of donkey rebellion on the Greek isles. My son digs because one of the main characters and heroes is a pelican, but in my opinion, the ass is pretty cool too. (You knew I was gonna say ass in here somewhere, didn't you?)

"Always remember," his mother used to say to him, "you are not called Achilles for nothing. Do you know who Achilles was?... Achilles was a runner in ancient Greece. The fastest runner in the world in his day... Your father was a good runner too. Not as fast as Achilles of course. But still pretty fast. And he always used to say that if ever a donkey got into trouble he could always get out of it if he could run fast enough. You understand?... I suppose you know they call us beasts of burden... They do, and your father didn't hold with that. He said donkeys had a long and proud history. We shouldn't let ourselves be put upon, he said 'Bring that boy up to be a good runner,' he used to say, 'and all will be well.' You understand?"

So when tragedy tears Achilles away from his sweet little farm world into a life of starvation and burden, it is this word of wisdom which he must use to rise above and capture a new existence for himself. RUN. (With the help of a wise, old pelican, of course.) Wonderful, muddled drawings with muted earth tones and strong lines. Very emblematic of the era.

According to the author page (which is very sweet by the way and obviously written for children; about the author ~ "His chief recreation used to be fishing and cricket, both of which he has given up for lack of time and now confines himself to gardening and writing"... though me can'tst imagine how the latter is less time consuming, but hey, whatever) this is one in a trilogy. Achilles and Diana and Achilles and the Twins are now on my look-for list. For my bird-loving son's sake, I can only hope that Diana is a giant dodo bird and the twins are a pair of lost penguins. Fingers crossed.


Swati said...

What a coincidence! I have just been reading The Silver Donkey, and there are donkey related fables in there too. Not a book for pre-schoolers, but I read (and collect) all books :)

Jil Casey said...

I really like the illustrations in this book, this artist is new to me, thanks!

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