Paul Gallico, Author, Bob Barton, Author, Bob Barton, Retold by , illus. by Carolyn Croll. Holt $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8050-6745-3

Barton (The Bear Says North ) retells Gallico's 1950 story about an orphaned boy who journeys from his home in Assisi to Rome to appeal to the pope on behalf of his ill donkey, Violetta. Pepino wants to take Violetta to the basilica at Assisi, "into the crypt so that Saint Francis can see her"; he hopes that the saint might heal her. But only the pope can order that a previously sealed passage to the crypt be opened. Croll's (Hooray for Hanukkah! ) paintings, while strongly reminiscent of Tomie dePaola's work in their compositions, style and perspectives, convey the antiquity of the setting, using simple lines, planes and symmetry to render the magnificent architecture of Assisi and Rome. People wear both old-fashioned and contemporary dress; the donkey, still well enough to deliver a load of wood, shares the street with an automobile. Pepino eventually does meet the pope, who asks the boy to reconsider his mission: "Had you thought that he who dearly loves and cares for all God's creatures might... wish [Violetta] at his side in Eternity?... Will you go to the crypt only to ask, Pepino, or will you also, if necessary, be prepared to give?" When Pepino promises to do both, the pope bestows his blessing, and the story ends as Pepino leads Violetta into the crypt to pray. While some will not understand the mechanics of "seeing" a saint in his crypt, the message of a child's faith nurtured by caring adults will likely prove inspiring to readers young and old. And children struggling with a beloved pet in decline will find strength in this pope's words to Pepino. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 10/27/2003
Release date: 10/01/2003
Hardcover - 30 pages - 978-0-88776-650-3
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