In Gene Price’s debut middle-grade book, the events surrounding Christ’s journey to Jerusalem are related by the donkey who carried him.
Owned by a proprietor of a livery stable, Lukas is a lame, half-blind donkey who, due to his disabilities, has never been chosen to give others a ride. Both Lukas’s father and brother have died, and Lukas’s nurturing mother lives with him at the stable. Two of his stable mates make Lukas’s life especially difficult; Nimb and Obus are beautiful, strong Arabian stallions who mock and torment him, bragging about carrying princes and potentates.
Lukas has two reoccurring dreams: one, about a mysterious, brilliant light that brings him a profound peace, and the second, in which Lukas sees a man surrounded by crowds begging him to restore their health. One day, when a kind man wearing a tattered cloak chooses Lukas to carry him to Jerusalem, Lukas suddenly feels strong and confident. During the ride, man and donkey are magically able to communicate, and Lukas learns his father and grandfather played a significant role in the man’s life. Later, Lukas puts the pieces together and realizes his rider was Jesus, and that he carried him to his crucifixion.
The book’s expository flashbacks are woven in seamlessly, and the story and dialogue flow steadily. There are several surprising “aha” moments when loose ends are tied up unexpectedly (such as when Lukas realizes he carried Jesus). Price’s unique use of Lukas as narrator creates an immediate, empathetic connection with readers.
Unfortunately, the art is less successful; Jeffrey G. Collins’s creative use of mixed-media illustrations supports the text well, but inferior black-and-white printing blurs its finer details.
Although the author states the book is “intended for all Christians who grew up hearing about the life of Christ’s ministry,” it can also inform those unfamiliar with biblical teachings. Overall, this is a sweet story for a parental read-aloud or a lovely, engaging addition to a Sunday school lesson.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.