Author: Ellen Feld
Published by Willowbend Books
PO Box 304, Goshen, MA 01032
Review by Valerie Schuetta, M.Ed.
If you are searching for picture book to read to your homeschooler or class that will illicit smiles, peels of laughter, and giggles, then look no further. What Can I Do? A Donkey-Donk Story by award-winning author, Ellen F. Feld, is the perfect book.
I read this wonderful story to my first-grade class, and they absolutely loved it! The book is not too long, so they were actively engaged and I knew I had their attention after the first page. We had been learning about book elements, specifically, the difference between illustrations and photographs, characters in a story, fiction and non-fiction, and comparing and contrasting, so reading this wonderful story came along at just the right time. The photographs did a fantastic job of bringing the story to life for my class!
They are amazing, especially the cover of the book. My first graders fell in love with Donkey-Donk at first glance! I think I did, too. The cover photo makes you wish you could jump into the book and give Donkey-Donk a big hug and a kiss. I really like the fact that this story did use photographs instead of illustrations. My kids asked a lot of questions before, during and after the story. For instance, they wanted to know “Who was Donkey-Donk?” “Where does he live?” “Does he belong to the little girl in the photograph?” “Was he a mini horse?” “What is a donkey?” “Why can’t he run fast like the horses?” The photographs brought the story to life for my class and made it more realistic. It was obvious that Donkey-Donk is a beloved pet.
What makes this book so engaging to children is the fact that the story begins by talking about how Donkey-Donk is moving to a new farm, where many horses and ponies already live. I related this to my class by asking them how they felt if they ever were new to a different school and asked them what feelings they had at the time. The story continues to unfold with Donkey-Donk realizing that all the horses and ponies on his new farm can do something special. He wonders what he can do, because he wants to fit in. I knew that many of the children could relate to this.
For example, he tries to compare himself to Rimfire, who is a sleek looking show horse. Then Donkey-Donk tries to run fast just like Frosty and Skittles. The photograph on the next page shows that it is obvious that Donkey-Donk cannot run very fast! He also tries to pull a cart like Rerun. A vivid photograph shows a beautiful horse prancing as he is pulling a cart. The next page shows Donkey-Donk facing the cart the wrong way looking a little confused as the text reads, “Nope, I can’t do that.” My class loved these comparisons of Donkey-Donk and the other horses on the farm. When I asked them what their favorite part was, they unanimously stated that it was the part of the story that reads “Annie likes to walk over tarps. Maybe I can walk over a tarp.” The next page shows Donkey-Donk under the tarp with his adorable face poking out, looking a little sad. They couldn’t wait for me to keep reading!
Reading this story will teach your little listener(s) many aspects of reading, not to mention a love of reading. It contains many sight words included in the story, which will help your child with fluency and it will show them that animals can be characters in stories, too.
My class loved the ending because Donkey-Donk finally found something he was good at: Giving hugs. Isn’t this what all of us, teachers and parents alike, want our children to discover about themselves? We all have different gifts to share! The books dedication reads: To Donkey-Donk. You always Know How To Put A Smile On My Face. I know for sure Donkey-Donk put a smile on 25 first-graders faces – and their happy teacher! V.S.