In this true story, students will learn about two war heroes, a man and his donkey. During the First World War in the battlefields of Gallipoli, Jack Simpson assisted in battle as a stretcher bearer, facing the bullets and bombs while carrying wounded soldiers back to safety. Soon enough, there was an insufficient amount of stretchers to keep up with the amount of men wounded in the battlefield. This is when Jack finds Duffy and they come together to aid in rescuing 300 allied soldiers. Jack Simpson and Duffy are known for their bravery and selflessness, making them war heroes of their time.
Why use this book:
- Highlights the different roles animals can play in our lives and that some animals have jobs. This story could serve as an introduction to service animals and emotional support animals.
Ask your students:
- Where is Gallipoli?
- What role did Duffy play in the war? How did he help?
- Do you think Duffy liked his role? Explain.
- Jack and Duffy perform their duty through bravery, despite the danger. Are there any times that it was “your duty” or responsibility to do something, even when you didn’t want to do it?
- Jack and Duffy grew very close as they experienced the battlefield of Gallipoli together. Is there an animal that you have grown close to? Explain.
- What characteristics of a donkey do you think made Duffy a good fit to help Jack as a stretcher bearer?
- Can you think of other animals who help in war? What are some examples.
- How did the story make you feel?
- Being Brave – Both Jack and Duffy displayed signed of bravery in this story. Have a discussion with students on what it means to be brave. Ask students:
- What does bravery mean?
- When is a time when you were brave? Are there times when being brave is harder than others? If so, why do you think this is?
- Can animals be brave? Explain.
- Then individually, have students reflect on a time they were brave and how it made them feel. Students can write a short journal entry or draw a picture to express their thoughts. Encourage those who feel comfortable, to share with the class.
- Appreciation Poster – The Canadian Armed Forces has had many military service animals that assisted in the First and Second World Wars. Tales of Animals in War is an resource from Veterans Affairs Canada that features the role different animals have played in war. Some of these animals were working animals, just like Duffy, and some animals were used to help comfort and keep the soldiers company (mascots). Have students research animals in the military. Using the Tales of Animals in War as a starting point, have students research animals in the Canadian Armed Forces. Have each student pick and research one specific animal hero and design a poster in honor of them.
- Comparing Stories – Mark Greenwood and Frané Lessac also worked together to write Midnight: A Story of a Lighthorse, which is also about a story of an animal hero who served in the war. Have students read this book and compare it to “The Donkey of Gallipoli.” Ask students:
- How were Midnight and Duffy alike? How were they different?
- Do you think Mark Greenwood and Frané Lessac did a good job at highlighting the bravery of these two animals equally?
- Which story did you like more?
- Which character could you relate to more?
Additional Resources Related to Book:
- National Archives of Australia – Information on the real Private Simpson
- Australian War Memorial – Information of the real Private Simpson and his donkey
- The Canadian War Museums – Information and examples of animal mascots and pets in war.
- The Canadian Encyclopedia – Information on animals that serves in the First World War.
- Animals in War Dedication Project – Information on Military Mascots and Service Animals.
- The Atlantic – Photos of animals in war\
*Thank you to Kendal Sasvary for her contribution to this book review.