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Saving Winslow

Review

Saving Winslow

With her newest novel, SAVING WINSLOW, Sharon Creech has delivered another tender yet unflinching novel of childhood, loss, love and renewal. Her characters are often searching for someone or something to love or to love them; for 10-year-old Louie, however, love literally falls into his arms in the form of a newborn donkey whose mother has died. His parents warn that the donkey may not live. They remind him how fragile newborn animals are. They try to prepare him for what they feel is the inevitable --- but Louie won’t hear any of it.

He refuses to believe that the donkey may not live, beds down with him in the basement, and names him Winslow. “It just came to me, out of the air.”

"Sharon Creech has once again proven her incredible ability to articulate the inner lives of children....She treats her child characters as human beings with complex thoughts and emotions....simply written yet achingly poignant."

Louie feels a strong kinship with Winslow because he too had a traumatic birth. He was born two months early and struggled to survive. Louie wonders, did his parents beg him to live the same way he’s begging Winslow? Did someone tell them it was unlikely, but they believed anyway?

As he learns to care for Winslow, Louie’s also feeling the loss of his big brother, who has joined the army. He wears his sweatshirts to feel close to him and rereads his postcards, hoping Gus will come back soon and be his protector and guide. For now, he makes do with his best friend Mack and Nora, an odd, shy girl with a negative outlook.

She lost her baby brother and now believes that any small, fragile creature will also die --- how could it turn out any other way? That is, until she begins to fall in love with Winslow. Together, Louie and Nora care for the baby donkey and try to protect him from the world of adults, who insist that, as Winslow grows, he needs to return to Uncle Pete’s farm and live with other animals.

Readers of CHARLOTTE’S WEB will love SAVING WINSLOW. The baby donkey’s innocence is reflected in his first sounds, not hee-haws as Louie expects but whimpers that sounds to Louie like “please, please.”

Just as Fern convinces her father to let her care for the piglet Wilbur, Louie fights for the chance to save Winslow. Sharon Creech captures the secret world of children and animals that is also present in Charlotte’s Web; Louie struggles to keep himself, Winslow and Nora in the cocoon he’s created around them. But sooner or later, the real world will have to break through.

Sharon Creech has once again proven her incredible ability to articulate the inner lives of children. Using a close third-person narrative, she allows the reader to enter Louie’s mind and view the world through his tender eyes. She treats her child characters as human beings with complex thoughts and emotions, and Louie is no different. His inner dialogue is simply written yet achingly poignant.

His brother Gus figures prominently in his dreams and thoughts, and the reader can draw a parallel between Louie’s fierce protection of Winslow and his helplessness at not being able to protect Gus. As Winslow grows and begins to thrive, so does Louie, finding strength for himself and for his donkey.

SAVING WINSLOW captures the intense love we have all felt for some living thing and the helplessness of feeling unable to save it. But we also feel Louie’s sense of accomplishment as he finds a way to let Winslow go and still maintain their bond. Louie doesn’t give in to pushy adults, nor does he dissolve into inaction. Instead, he finds a solution that’s best for Winslow, not necessarily for himself, and learns that sometimes, we have to let go of the things we love most.

SAVING WINSLOW explores the balance between holding tight to those we love most and recognizing that holding on may not be best for them. SAVING WINSLOW is a thoroughly enjoyable read and a future classic in the genre of children and the animals they love.

Reviewed by on September 27, 2018

Saving Winslow
by Sharon Creech