Corso the Donkey by C. E Pothast-Gimberg and translated by Hilda van Stockum
This is a lovely book I came across when I was searching for titles by Hilda van Stockum, a Danish author who wrote some World War II chapter books about the Dutch experience under Nazi rule, as well as a few charming series about family life. This book was published in the early 1960s and was translated from the Dutch into English by van Stockum.
It tells the story of a girl named Toni, who lives in Corsica with her father and brothers on a farm. Her mother passed away two years ago. Her mother was originally from Holland and when her brother visits the family from Holland to buy some donkeys and transport them back to his country to sell, he suggests that Toni stay with him for a year. Toni wants to see where her mother came from, so she agrees, though she will miss her family. She has a special donkey named Corso who was born when her mother died that she is especially attached to. She doesn’t want her uncle to take Corso. They agree that he will not sell Corso, but Corso will make the journey with them to Holland and then return with Toni. In Corsica, Toni at first has a hard time relating to her aunt, who is quiet and doesn’t seem to approve of Toni’s ways, which are freer than what her aunt would prefer. But in time Toni realizes her aunt does care for her, just in her own way. It is hard for Toni to see the donkeys get sold one by one, but she makes sure they all go to good homes and raises a ruckus when she sees donkeys being mistreated. As an animal lover, I really liked how the book emphasized kindness and patience rather than harshness or beating as a way to get the animals to cooperate. I also have a fondness for donkeys, sweet and gentle creatures that they are. Jealousy arises when a blind girl Toni’s age grows fond of Corso and he seems to prefer her to Toni. In the end, Toni allows Corso to stay with the girl – she does this with a giving heart, knowing her mother would approve. She in turn has a young donkey whose mother was killed in a storm to take care of. This book held my interest throughout and taught important values about love, friendship, and kindness. Though it is old-fashioned, a good story stands the test of time and children do love books about animals.