Teachers for Teachers | It’s Monday! Why a Donkey? Why a Mule?
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It’s Monday! Why a Donkey? Why a Mule?

IMWAYR 2015Why a donkey and why a mule are questions we hope readers ponder when they read these two stories published by Candlewick Press. In both stories, these underappreciated animals play a significant role.   These animals aren’t just farm animals.   They represent hope, determination and courage.

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In Belle, the Last Mule at Gee’s Bend by Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Bettye Stroud, a poor community uses mules to farm the land. After Martin Luther King Jr. visits the town, these animals help transport people to the voting booths so they can cast their ballots for the first time in their lives.  Belle helps again during Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral.

“We got a phone call, asking if our mules could pull Dr. King’s coffin through the streets of Atlanta during the funeral parade. They wanted to use our mules, not fancy draft horses. Mules take their time, work hard, and they never back down. Mules aren’t pretty, but they are somebody!”

Here is Belle pulling his coffin through the streets of Atlanta.wtvd600_mlk_funeralprocession

This is a story we want readers to know so that they can understand the significance of these mules.




In The Silver Donkey, by Sonya Hartnett and Don Powers, the donkey figurine is a good luck charm for a blind soldier. He carries the donkey for comfort and it inspires him to tell stories of how donkeys have helped so many.  The way Sonya Harnett and Don Powers structured the text, readers will think about the meaning of the donkey figurine and the meaning of the donkey in the soldier’s stories. This book pushes readers to move beyond plot to understand the deeper meanings.  It is a book about hope, compassion and courage.

We look forward to sharing these books with readers to hear their insights about what the animals in these stories represent.   These books will spark conversations about issues of race, class, power, determination and courage.

A big thank you to Candlewick Press for pairing these texts together. These books pushed us to ponder the significance of these strong animals in literature and in history.






  • Avatar
    Cheriee Weichel
    Posted at 15:59h, 21 March Reply

    Wow! I enjoyed reading your reviews of these books. I especially appreciate how you have identified the bigger themes that emerge from them.

    • Avatar
      Tammy and Clare
      Posted at 21:20h, 21 March Reply

      Hi Cherlee,

      We think students are going to love these books and we want them to think about the significance of these animals too.

      Happy Reading!

      Tammy and Clare

  • Avatar
    Laura Lee
    Posted at 20:46h, 21 March Reply

    Thank you so much for this descriptive post! Cherlee said everything I wanted to say in her comment above so I will just say, ditto! I love the IMWAYR hashtag. I learn so much by searching it on Twitter. Teachers are friggin genius. Here’s to you (clinks glass)!

    • Avatar
      Tammy and Clare
      Posted at 21:19h, 21 March Reply

      Hi Laura,

      So glad you found the post helpful – We can’t wait to share these books with students and hear what they have to say.

      Tammy and Clare

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    Linda Baie
    Posted at 22:03h, 21 March Reply

    These sound lovely, helpful to students studying parts of history, learning that animals play a part, too. Thanks!

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    Michele Knott
    Posted at 23:04h, 21 March Reply

    Have you read The Cart That Carried Martin by Eve Bunting. Also about the mules that carried MLK’s coffin. Thanks for sharing these!

  • Avatar
    Posted at 23:33h, 21 March Reply

    Wonderful! I’ve always thought that donkeys and mules have got personality – I’ve been called stubborn as a mule more than once! 😉

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    Mrs Surridge
    Posted at 01:00h, 22 March Reply

    There are so many lessons to be taught with animals. They go straight to the heart. Great reviews.

  • Avatar
    Myra from GatheringBooks
    Posted at 08:25h, 22 March Reply

    Very interesting – I didn’t know about these two titles before, so I’m glad you featured them. They both sound like great reads, indeed.

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