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Reviewed by Sally Kruger aka Readingjunky for TeensReadToo.comHEART OF A SHEPHERD is a beautiful book by first time author Rosanne Parry It draws the reader right into life on an Oregon ranch and into the life of a spiritual family dedicated to the land, their country, and one another.Brother is the youngest of five boys raised on the family ranch Soon, Brother will be gone to a high school boarding school, but for now it s up to him to help his father, grandpa, and grandma with the running of the place As each day passes, it seems he is given responsibility Brother decides that s proof that they think he s growing up and will soon be man enough to handle his share of the work.When news breaks that his father s reserve unit is about to be shipped off to Iraq, Brother realizes he doesn t have a choice Ready or not, he will be the only one left to help his grandfather run the ranch.With his father gone, he pitches in and learns how to handle everything from raising the bum lambs, literally lending a hand arm with the calving, and making decisions like whether to use traditional branding or acid branding Constant chores keep him busy, but he still has time to worry about the safety of his father commanding troops in Iraq He knows he is not alone, since many in the community have fathers, mothers, and sons serving their country, leaving just a few family members to do what needs to be done here at home.The story is an interesting mix of young and old The experience of the old is passed to the young when it comes to handling ranch chores, as well as the rules of life in general There is a strong sense of spirituality among the characters with the incorporation of a variety of faiths Catholic, Quaker, and Baptist It is evident that a higher power plays a major role in the lives described in HEART OF A SHEPHERD.The appeal of this book should reach far beyond its YA audience I look forward to reading by Rosanne Parry in the future. When Brother S Dad Is Shipped Off To Iraq, Along With The Rest Of His Reserve Unit, Brother Must Help His Grandparents Keep The Ranch Going He S Determined To Maintain It Just As His Father Left It, In The Hope That Doing So Will Ensure His Father S Safe Return The Hardships Brother Faces Will Not Only Change The Ranch, But Also Reveal His True Calling I m stubbornly giving this a 4th star, though I m not sure how many kids will be attracted to or like this quiet tale of a 12 year old boy growing up on a modern day ranch in Oregon Ignatius called Brother by one and all is the youngest of 5 motherless boys who live with their father and grandparents on a cattle and sheep ranch At the beginning of the story, their father is shipping out along with many of their neighbors to a tour of duty in Iraq The oldest 4 boys are variously on their own Army base, at college or at a boarding high school 50 miles away That leaves Brother and his grandparents to run the ranch The book gives enough of a look at the difficulty of this life without weighing it down An adult will see the crisis at the end coming a mile away, but children will not What I liked most about the book is the abiding and strong sense of faith and duty that form the center of the book, and a depiction of death that is neither trivializing or fearful Brother and his family are unapologetically religious without being dogmatic and their faith is central in their lives A dignified and warm look at conservative westerners A warning there is a fairly graphic description of Brother assisting at the birth of a calf that might upset the woozier child. This is a quiet, sensitive book about a 12 year old boy who takes on some new responsibilities when his father is shipped off to Iraq It has a strong sense of family and a VERY strong sense of place.It also does a great job of talking about spirituality in a very un didactic way I think rural kids especially would love seeing themselves in a book like this one. Lovely and lyrical A refreshing break from school bullies and fantasy, this is a tale of a 12 yr old left to help his aging Grandparents keep the family ranch running while his father is shipped to Iraq and his brothers he has 4 are away at school Brother loves the ranch and feels deeply the responsibility thrust upon him, but he knows that it is not his destiny to be a rancher this knowledge comes to him during a terrible range fire.Keep a box of tissues available Ignatius everyone calls him Brother is the youngest of five boys and the only one left at home when his dad is called to fight in Iraq He must help his grandfather keep up the ranch tough work for any kid, but especially for Brother who has never felt called to the ranching life As Brother gets through the year without his dad, he ll start looking for his own path in life.This is a quietly powerful novel with a striking sense of place Parry paints a perfect picture of the harsh beauty of rural Oregon, just as she paints a perfect picture of family members scattered to the winds but still caring deeply about one another I d try it on fans of Bridge to Terabithia and When the Whistle Blows.Read my full review on my blog A book like this, quiet and deep, is a rare find these days when so many books are fast lane action all the way Now I love a good thriller as much as anyone else, but books like Heart of a Shepherd are of equal merit The sense of place is strong and real I love the way the main character, even though he is only eleven, thinks about important things and has a strong desire to do right I believe kids think like that than we give them credit for I also like stories that include religion because that is still a big part of life for many of us Rosanne Parry tells an honest, sweet story while avoiding anything resembling corny. Wonderful story about a young boy whose brothers and father must leave their ranch in Idaho to go to school and to war Left with his grandparents and a hired hand, the boy called Brother feels the responsibility of the ranch but doesn t know if he ll be able to handle it all.Told with snippets throughout the year, it s accessible to younger readers Strong faith aspect Life, death, war, peace, and the choices that shape the future are all part of this Great boy s read. Within the first several years after the beginning of the second U.S war in Iraq, novels for readers of all ages began to emerge that featured themes related to the war In my view, Rosanne Parry s Heart of a Shepherd is one of the best and most insightful of these books Right from the captivating open sequence it is clear that there is a lot of unique power to this book Brother s description of the chess game that he is playing versus his grandfather comes vividly alive with the thoughtful intensity of the game, enlivened further by Brother s unique mentality about Chess as a sort of miniature war, a battle in the trenches with his chessmen huddled around him like flesh and blood soldiers in a foxhole, advising and strategizing how they can best give themselves the opportunity to win the day For Brother, the war in Iraq will no longer be a distant game, however his father is being shipped overseas as a commander in the U.S military, and the deadly struggle in the Middle East will soon become for him a germane everyday fight between life and death, as well as the life or death of the soldiers under his command His mother having departed years before to live in Rome as an artist, Brother, the youngest of five boys the first four of which have all followed their father into careers in the military , finds that it is now his responsibility to take care of the family farm, aided only by his aging grandparents and his sometimes assistant, Ernesto Brother is right in the middle of the most formative years of his life, trying to learn what it means to live in a family and to own one s responsibilities while now having to put in many hours a day as the primary provider for his family s farm and the animals on it, in addition to putting in five long days a week at school Brother does what he has to do, though, and nowhere along the road does he lose the deep sense of integrity that lies inside him, a keener sense of integrity than that with which any of his four older brothers have been endowed In many Ways, Heart of a Shepherd reminds me of Robert Newton Peck s classic novel A Day No Pigs Would Die Both stories are infused with a profound sense of life in a corner of the nation that most of us have never experienced, the vibrancy and joy and deep sadness that mark such a lifestyle just as it would any other It s a way of life lived so often by the type of people who populate this book warm, strong people like Brother and his father who know that very little is going to come easy living on a ranch with such massive responsibilities and so many creatures that depend on you, but the rewards are like nothing else offered to humanity Brother courageously makes his way through sad days, good times, family squabbles and family tragedy, coming of age in the best way he knows how while he waits anxiously for his father to return from Iraq More than anything else, Brother wants to prove to himself and his family that he is capable of handling the ranch while his father and brothers are away, so that when his father returns he will see that Brother was able to do it, after all When it is finally time for his father to return, however, everything is much different than Brother ever would have expected He must learn to adapt to the inevitability of those changes as he realizes that the people taking care of the land may rise and fade from one generation to the next, but the land will always be there, giving rise to a new group of baby animals that will still require care from a gentle human blessed with the heart of a shepherd Rosanne Parry s first novel is an excellent, auspicious start to a writing career that I look forward to experiencing The potential for emotional sensitivity in her writing is great, and comes through well in this thoughtful book about a very definitely contemporary American family, yet told with the old fashioned grace of so many of the exceptional children s novelists of yesteryear I would give at least two and a half stars to Heart of a Shepherd. An absolutely beautiful book Eleven year old Ignatius called Brother is the youngest of 5 brothers and the only one at home on their rural Oregon ranch with his grandparents when his father is called to Iraq The four older brothers are either away at school or in the Army themselves The chapters are months, giving the book an almost episodic feel The book covers just over a year, beginning in July and ending the following August.What made this book speak to me was the thread of peace, routine, thoughtfulness, and tenderness that one can see in Brother s life on the ranch and in Brother s thoughts Brother s inner feelings are sensitive, conflicting, and realistic I also love the role that religion and faith, especially the merging of different faiths, play in this book In the February chapter, the area is assigned a new priest I love the description and character of Father Ziegler My favorite scene, though, is when the grands have a moment, as they do every Sunday, in the church before Grandpa goes outside to worship in the traditional Quaker silence and Grandma stays inside for Catholic Mass p71.Quotes Grandpa is speaking Land shapes a man s heart, too, and his aspirations A man near the mountains learns to look up, and it calls his mind to God And then he d do that Quaker thing where he sits quietly and says nothing, and the rest of us go back to playing chess or poker, and a dozen hands later he would say something like, God s in the valleys, too, in the coolness of the water and the softness of the ground That s the tender side of the Almighty I love it when he talks like that, because then, when I go wading in the creek, I think of the Holy Spirit squooshing up between my toes.Jim is a better dancer than all the rest of use put together For one thing, he can remember both steps of the two step Plus, he s brave enough to ask a girl to dance I m never going to do that Not in a million years I cut a some out of this one A dead person s body is a serious transportation problem At least, it is out here No ambulance not even a car for miles All right, God, I say, and I am a little mad because He was here an hour ago and now, just when levitation would be really helpful, He s nowhere in sight Look, I can t leave him, I say That s it I m staying until you find a way to get us both out of here, and if I starve to death, it s your fault That s when the miracle happens Well, all right then, God Thanks I say, too amazed to put flower on that prayer.