Paula Andres’s children’s picture book is about a young girl named Penny who dreams of riding a donkey.
As the story opens, Penny has traveled with her family to the Greek island of Rhodes to see the Temple of Athena. She is overjoyed when she sees tourists preparing to ride donkeys to the top of a mountain, where the temple resides. Maria, a personified donkey that Penny rides, is unhappy with the situation, however, as she’s hurt and needs rest.
Maria’s aching legs cause her to walk near a stucco wall, scraping Penny’s leg, and later the donkey comes dangerously close to the side of a cliff, causing Penny to scream at her and pull on the reins. The two make their way to the top of the mountain, both equally unhappy with one another. Upon arriving at the temple, Penny gives Maria a hug and apologizes for her behavior, while Maria thinks to herself, “I wish humans would stop thinking that we act and think like they do.”
The story bounces between the perspectives of the titular characters, but offers few cues indicating a switch in viewpoint. The text also often lacks quotation marks, so it can be confusing for readers to know when they’re encountering dialogue or when they’re in the mind of the donkey or girl. Additionally, neither Penny nor Maria are particularly likeable, and both are one-dimensional characters.
Throughout the story, Andres tends to over-explain key plot points, revealing a lack of trust in young readers. Often this occurs via large amounts of internal and external dialogue that’s unusual for the form. Also, other than a vague sense of encouraging young readers to avoid making assumptions about the intentions of domesticated animals, the story’s message is difficult to parse.
Ultimately, in a market oversaturated with picture books about animals, this book does little to separate itself from the rest.
Also available as an ebook.