Finally at the end of July, just a few weeks out from the start of another school year, I have managed to read my second book I brought home from my school library for the summer of reading I had planned. My summer has been full of reading, but there is no way I can get through as many books as I would like to.
Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry is the author's first novel. While this book started slowly for me, I really liked it and the wonderful male role models Parry created. Brother, as Ignatio is called, is the youngest of five brothers, growing up on a ranch. His father has been called up to go to Iraq, something that many of the men in his community have been asked to do, leaving many farms and businesses in the area short staffed. Brother continues to live with his grandparents, helping out on the ranch. The book is divided up by months, moving along chronologically, sometimes skipping a month or two before the story continues. When Brother's father originally ships out, he is expecting to be gone fourteen months- leaving a lot of work for Brother and his aging parents to do on the ranch. There is a strong sense of family loyalty and I marveled at Brothers' work ethic and need to do what is right.
Grandpa is also a wonderful role model - a wise man, willing to share what he knows with Brother. While Brother is learning the ways of the ranch, still wondering what his future holds, Grandpa counsels him about finding a path of his own - perhaps not the path anyone else in his family has chosen. It is obvious that Brother is a gentle soul, hurting each time he loses an animal. And despite Dad's absence in this book, the way he cares for his sons from afar, and is able to eventually speak with Brother about why serving his country is important to him shows his character as well.
Parry also throws in a bit of suspense as a wildfire that started from a lightning strike threatens the farm and its animals. In addition, Ernesto, the hired hand that cares for their sheep is out somewhere tending the sheep as the fire approaches. Grandfather and Brother must make an heroic attempt to save him.
Although I was impressed with the male role models in this book, Brother's grandmother was an interesting female character. She had served in World War II and was an independent woman, able to fix anything with a motor.
This is Parry's first novel, one that I hope many of my students will pick up. I loved the story, I loved the characters, and I hope that Parry continues to write more books for tweens.
Visit Rosanne Parry's website.