Some days, it’s good to feel needed

Some days, you just need a hug.

Other days, you only want to be left alone to think your thoughts, gather your feelings, and miss the people you love. Either way, that’s what you need. And as in the new book “Saving Winslow” by Sharon Creech, some days, it’s good to be needed.

When 10-year-old Louie got up that mid-winter morning, he was sure the laundry basket held something dead.

He wouldn’t have been too surprised if it had. His dad was always bringing small animals home from Uncle Pete’s farm and most of them died. Louie wanted a puppy, but he was a little afraid of getting any new pet and he wasn’t so sure about this thing in the laundry basket.

It was awfully cute. A baby mini-donkey with big eyes and long ears, it was born too early so it was very weak, and everyone warned Louie not to get too attached because it might die. It wasn’t any bigger than a stuffed animal, which was funny — neither was Louie, when he was born early.

He named the donkey “Winslow.” No reason, just Winslow.

Louie wished he could show Winslow to his big brother, Gus, but Gus had joined the Army and Louie missed him. He showed Winslow to Mike, his best friend, and to two new girls who’d moved into the neighborhood. Saving Winslow was a lot of work, but Louie was up for the job. Saving friendships was also hard, but Louie could somehow do that, too.

And soon it was spring. Winslow was no longer a tiny donkey. He’d grown big enough to have a pen behind the garage, although he really wasn’t allowed in town. He’d also found his voice: his braying was annoying the neighbors and people complained. Louie was sure that his parents’ whispery conversations had something to do with Winslow. Was it true that when you loved something fiercely, it was always taken away?

Have you ever hugged a book? If not, well, prepare yourself. You’ll be mighty tempted to do so when you’ve got this book in your mitts.

“Saving Winslow” is the kind of story that belongs in every fourth-grader’s personal library. To start, it prominently features an animal, but not your run-of-the-mill pet; instead, Louie’s charge has a built-in problem in that Winslow’s not meant for city-living, which sets up the story subtly yet perfectly. It adds to the tension, too, but it’s not over-the-top drama. No, this story is told with gentleness and introspection thanks to young Louie, who’s observant, kind-hearted, and surrounded by a small cast of others – parents, created family, and friends who seem a bit mysterious. Fewer characters makes this book even more of a charmer and it should be no surprise to know that author Sharon Creech was once a Newbery Medal winner.

For parents, this book is a quick-reading winner. Eight-to-12-year-olds who don’t care for sass will love it very much. For anyone who adores a pet and wants a heart-warmer, “Saving Winslow” is just what’s needed.

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