Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Freshly-Brewed Monday Book Recommendation #3: Heart of A Shepherd

Only it's Tuesday.

For lots of reasons this is a day late. Monday = MLK Jr Day + 3 boys in the house while it POURED BUCKETS outside, home office was almost flooded so my super-husband and I were scooping trash-can after trash-can of water from in front of the garage and relocating water elsewhere (in case the visual is disturbing, I did have cute pink rainboots on and a leopard print umbrella hoisted high) I do fess up that I gave up on the umbrella after trashcan dump #37- it was a little pointless after that. And the last but not least reason I am a day late, when I was in front of the computer there was lots of fun stuff to search about the ALA awards (the children's writers equivalent of the Academy Awards!) Hooray for When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead winning the Newbery! I dare you to try and read it in more than one sitting, I double dog dare you, I double dog raining cats and dogs double dog dare you!

OK, enough of that. Now to the book recommend of the day!
Heart of a Shepherd by Roseanne Parry

Eleven year old Ignatius is the youngest of five brothers. He's known by everyone in his small ranching town in Eastern Oregon as Brother. Brother lives in the shadow of his louder, more accomplished brothers and has a quiet gentle demeanor. Though he is the youngest, he is the only brother left in the house when his father is called to serve 14 months in Iraq with the army reserves. Brother is expected to work with his grandparents to keep the ranch running smoothly until Dad comes back. If he comes back. Brother has never had the passions shared by his Father and brothers for the ranching life. He is sensitive to the pain and death of animals and some of the more harsh realities of running a working ranch.

This book has a quiet strength. The children play war games and the expectation is that all children will at some point at least register for the army reserves, if not outright enlist. It is clear that Brother is not settled with that idea, but that is the only life he knows. He is trying to figure this out, all the while missing his Father.

This book has a beautiful and all-consuming sense of place. For children raised in parts of the country where there is a real connection to the land, this book will ring true in a big way. For children who live in more urban areas, it will give them a wonderful window into a whole other world right here in the U.S. This book emphasizes the centrality of one's family, one's faith, love and service to our country and pulling together as a community in times of crisis. It also speaks to finding one's own path and searching your heart to find that path.

I think this book would appeal to both girls and boys. I would recommend it to 4th grade and above. It is not touchy-feely, but it does deal with a boy sorting through some difficult emotions and drawing conclusions that ultimately seem to bring him the peace one is looking for as one navigates through older childhood. I think my 9 year old third grader might be ready for it next year and I look forward to sharing it with him!


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