Simpson and his Donkey artworks at State Library

Wednesday 25 January 2017

Simpson and his Donkey artworks find new home at State Library.

  • State Library of Western Australia acquires Frané Lessac’s illustrations from the award-winning children’s book Simpson and his Donkey, written by Mark Greenwood.
  • Illustrations are an important addition to the State Library’s Peter Williams Collection of original artworks by Australian children’s book illustrators.
  • Visitors can see the newly acquired illustrations in an exhibition at the State Library from 2 February to 27 April 2017.

Illustrations and preliminary sketches by Frané Lessac, which accompany Mark Greenwood’s story of Simpson and His Donkey, have recently been acquired by the State Library of Western Australia for its Peter Williams Collection of original artworks by Australian children’s book illustrators.

CEO and State Librarian, Margaret Allen, said that the complete set of research documents, preliminary sketches and 17 original artworks showed the amount of detailed work required to create an illustrated children’s book. 

“The story of Jack Simpson Kirkpatrick and his donkey, who together rescued 300 wounded soldiers at Gallipoli, is a tale of one of our beloved Western Australian ANZAC heroes.

“It is fitting that these illustrations which accompany the contemporary retelling of this important story have entered the State Library’s collection where they are available for viewing by visitors,” Mrs Allen said.

Frané Lessac is a Western Australian author-illustrator who has published over forty books for children. Frané speaks at festivals in Australia and overseas, sharing the process of writing and illustrating books. She often illustrates books by her husband, Mark Greenwood, of which Simpson and his Donkey is just one example.

Ms Lessac said that it was important that the original illustrations and accompanying materials were cared for and made available for future generations to explore the art and process of creating an illustrated storybook.

“I am delighted that the State Library has already made them available as an exhibition in 2017”, she said.

Simpson and his Donkey was published by Walker Books in 2008. It was shortlisted for the 2008 Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards in the Children’s Books category, and was an Honour book in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Eve Pownall Book of the Year in 2009.

The original illustrations will be on display at the Story Place Gallery in the State Library from Thursday 2 February to Thursday 27 April 2017. Digital versions of the illustrations are available to view  on the State Library’s online catalogue.

Fact File

The State Library’s Peter Williams Collection contains original artworks by many of the leading Australian children’s book illustrators from the past 20 years. Dr Peter Williams made a generous donation of 107 framed original illustrations from Australian children’s picture books in 2006 ensuring a comprehensive collection. Artworks continue to be added to the collection, with Western Australian illustrators as a focus. Search the State Library's online catalogue, using "Peter Williams Collection" as keywords.

Simpson and his Donkey was written by Mark Greenwood and illustrated by Frané Lessac, published by Walker Books Australia. In the USA, it was published by Candlewick and titled The Donkey of Gallipoli.

The book has received the following awards:

Kirkus Review Best Books 2008

Kirkus Books Starred Review

Children’s Book Council of Australia Eve Pownall Book of the Year in 2009 Honour

CBC NTSS Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2009

USBBY Outstanding International Books 2009

Western Australian Premier’s Book Award – Children’s Category Shortlist 2008

CJ Korean Bok Awards Shortlist

2011 Sakura Medal Shortlist

The illustrations were created with gouache paint on watercolour paper. The artwork was painted in layer, the background first then detail overlaid. Accompanying the artworks are the original cover and cameo art, text drafts, research articles, newspaper clippings, photographs and preliminary sketches.

MEDIA CONTACT: Susan Parker, Manager Communications and Marketing, 9427 3153 or email

Catalogue Link to Illustrations: Simpson and his Donkey   

The State Library of Western Australia is located in the heart of the Perth Cultural Centre. It preserves and provides access to Western Australia’s published heritage and original historical records. The State Library also provides numerous online and e-resources, many of which are accessible from home using your public library membership. To see what else the State Library has to offer please check out the State Library’s website.

Last updated on: 8 February 2017