Saving Winslow

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Saving Winslow Book Poster Image
Gentle, moving story about loving bravely despite risk.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows the work that goes into caring for a young animal, from bottle-feeding to providing shots, and a glimpse of life on a farm. References artwork by Winslow Homer.

Positive Messages

Love requires risking disappointment -- even devastation. Even presumed lost causes yield rewards. Caring for others can help you care for yourself. Communication can't always be taken at face value: You may need to piece together clues to understand what's really being said.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Louie is deeply compassionate, perceptive to the experiences of people and animals around him. He worries about bad things happening but makes a point of hoping things will turn out well, and perseveres through careful effort. Louie is patient with people he doesn't fully understand. His parents are loving and supportive, considerate of his feelings and values. Nora fears emotional pain but gradually starts to lower her defenses. She wants friendship and connection, but needs support and reassurance.

Violence & Scariness

Mentions death of a premature baby and frequently references deaths of animals, including during childbirth and at the hands of predators.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Saving Winslow is an empathetic, heartwarming story about love, loss, and compassion by Sharon Creech (Walk Two Moons). The unpredictability of loss is a key theme: Louie defies skeptics to try to save the life of a frail donkey. He's well aware of how often animals die at his uncle's farm, and his friend Nora is deeply wounded by the death of her infant brother and her dog. Louie's family deeply misses his brother, who's in the Army and sends only brief messages home. His older friend is "lovesick" and happily reports "smooching" with a girl.

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What's the story?

Louie, 10, has a lousy track record of caring for animals before he takes on the mission of SAVING WINSLOW. No one expects the fragile newborn donkey to survive except Louie, who carefully tends to Winslow day and night. Caring for Winslow helps ease his heartache over his beloved brother, who's away in the Army. Louie develops a close bond with Winslow as the donkey grows stronger. His new friend, Nora, is drawn to Winslow as well but worries he'll die, just like her premature baby brother and her dog.

Is it any good?

Sharon Creech is a master at delivering emotionally rich prose in deceptively slight packages, and is at her best in this touching story of a boy who gives everything he's got to help a baby donkey. Saving Winslow unfolds through small, meaningful moments: coaxing Winslow to take a bottle, struggling to give him shots, dealing with a neighbor exasperated by the braying. The modest ways Louie's family tries to fill the absence left by his brother, Gus, are especially sweet.

Newbery medalist Creech (Moo) writes in spare but vivid prose, drawing clear lines to connect themes and layers of meaning. Lovely writing, a charming story, appealing characters, and short chapters make it a winning read.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why so many people think caution against trying to help the frail donkey in Saving Winslow, warning Louie he'll probably be sad. Do you try to avoid things that make you feel sad? Is feeling sad always a bad thing?

  • Do you think you're an optimist or a pessimist? What experiences might have shaped your outlook?

  • Is being realistic the same as being pessimistic?

Book details

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