Toto is the story of a donkey. All the other donkeys in his village make a living carrying bags, but Toto has a dream to become an astronaut. To follow his dream, he leaves for the big city, promising to return once he has made his dream come true. Life in the city is hard and lonely; will he give up his dream and return home or stay and find the coverage to continue?
The story allows children to explore themes such as resilience and following your dreams in a very accessible way. The illustrations are simply drawn and use a limited colour palette, but beautifully show how Toto is feeling as he encounters the difficulties of leaving home and finding his place in the big city. The emotions of the main character are shown with subtle changes to eye and mouth shape. The story itself is told through short precise sentences, as Toto tries to save money for space school and make his dream come true. There is also the dimension of being the only donkey in the big city, and this could lead to discussions about belonging, moving to a different place and leaving family behind.
I would use this book to read to younger children and explore the emotions of the characters, as well as themes such as resilience. For older pupils, you could also use this in a guided session to explore more complex themes about belonging, dreams and being different. There is also the opportunity to add thoughts and speech to Toto as he encounters various people in the city to explore the character further. It would also lend itself to philosophy for children or RE work as it contains some strong themes such as family and promise.
Overall I would recommend Toto for all ages 7 – 11 years; reading it to younger pupils and exploring the themes with older ones.
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