Illustration by Reisie Lonette.
Paul Gallico is an author I like mainly for his cat books: “The Silent Miaow,” “The Abandoned,” and “Thomasina,” filmed by Disney as “The Three Lives of Thomasina.” His best-known book is probably “The Poseidon Adventure.” This is one of several small books by him, short stories published in book form, that I never read until now.
Pepino is an orphan boy living in the town of Assisi in post-World War Two Italy. His only family is his donkey, Violetta, and together they make a scant living carrying things for shop keepers, and running errands. Their bond is close, and when Violetta shows signs of illness, Pepino comes up with a plan he hopes will help her. He wants to bring Violetta into the shrine of Assisi’s most famous son, St. Francis. Assisi was an animal lover, and Pepino hopes his spirit might help Violetta. The problem is that the old way into the shrine has been bricked up, and the new way will not accommodate a donkey. Pepino appeals to his local priests, but they say they cannot open the old doorway. That leaves Pepino only one option: go to Rome and appeal to the Pope himself for help.
Charmingly written, not sappy, heartwarming. Just what I needed to read. Highly recommended.