Explore the world of H.E. Bates: Children's Stories

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76

Achilles the Donkey


Achilles the Donkey was the idea of a young illustrator, Carol Barker, who returned from Greece with a series of drawings about a little refugee donkey. Her publisher suggested H.E. should write the story. The books are a glorious combination of Carol’s exuberant drawings, cut outs and collages, and H.E.’s wonderfully warm and witty dialogue.

When little Achilles is sold he has to leave his widowed mother. He is saved by a wise and witty pelican, finds love with the beautiful Diana, and with the help of a cast of exotic and colourful creatures his mischievous twins go on a dangerous journey to reunite Achilles with his mother.

The White Admiral drawing

The White Admiral


H.E. wrote The White Admiral for his two young sons, Richard and Jonathan, as a way of helping them understand the noise and terror of the Battle of Britain, which was being fought in the skies above their home in Kent. In the story a large swarm of angry wasps set out to take over the orchards of Pearmain and Buddleja, home to peaceable and beautiful butterflies, moths, spiders and dragonflies. The story, full of wit and ingenious characters, has a delightfully romantic ending and is as charming to adults as it is to children.

I’m not going to be a beast of burden,” he kept thinking, “Not any longer. My father didn’t hold with it and neither do I. I’m going to—REBEL!”
- Achilles - Achilles the Donkey

Did You Know?

  • When he was 21 H.E. worked in the children’s department of a bookshop in Oxford St, London, but he hated it and spent more time reading the books than selling them. He was late to work so often that he wrote The Seekers, a little story for children, as a present to the owner by way of an apology
  • H.E. submitted The White Admiral to his agent under the pseudonym Lawrence Lucas. Richard Bates remembers the story being read to him at bedtime when he was a boy and estimates it was written in 1947 or 1948, although it wasn't published until the 1960's. The dedication reads 'To Richard and Jonathan who got stung'