Heart of a Shepherd Book Poster Image

Heart of a Shepherd



Growing up in the heartland beautifully, movingly portrayed.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Contains much information about farm life, including a detailed description of helping a cow to give birth. Also immerses readers in the lives of military families and towns.

Positive messages

There's are strong messages about the importance of decency, patriotism, hard work, family, and community.

Positive role models

Everyone in the novel believes in strong American values, and their actions mirror their beliefs, even at great personal cost. Brother is the model of a strong and caring boy growing into manhood.


Brothers get into a fight, which ends with one of them needing stitches. A wounded war vet comes home with a prosthetic leg.


A graphic description of the birth of a calf, a mention of castrating cattle.


One use of "s--t."


OTC drug brands mentioned.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

An adult smokes, teens drink a bit of whiskey.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that is one use of "s--t," brothers fight once (though they care for each other's injuries afterwards), and there is a bit of smoking and drinking. Otherwise, there are great role models in this novel; Brother is a strong and caring boy growing into manhood.

What's the story?

When his father is deployed to Iraq, and his older brothers are all away in the army or at school, it falls to Ignatius "Brother" Alderman, his grandparents, and hired man Ernesto to keep their Oregon ranch going. Brother is determined to show his father that he can handle it, even though he is not sure he wants to be a rancher when he grows up. But the noble promises he makes are hard to keep.

Is it any good?


This is the story that we Americans tell ourselves about who we are: good, decent, hard-working, educated, spiritual people, caring for our families, friends, neighbors, and land. We come of age by facing the fire, doing what has to be done, loving deeply but quietly. As 11-year-old Brother says here, learning from his father, "That's my mission, and I'll see it done." True or not, this vision of ourselves holds an atavistic power, and in the hands of talented first-time author Rosanne Parry, it is devastatingly emotional, even when nothing bad is happening in the story.

There are many different types of tearjerkers, and some even earn their tears honestly. but there are none more powerful or honest than stories like this -- the simple tale of a kid struggling to grow up decent and strong. Even better when that kid is supported by a loving family, a tight-knit community, and wise elders who help him along the always difficult path from childhood to adulthood. That's the story we all want our children to read -- and to emulate.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Brother's family. Are they anything like yours? Are they realistic?

  • What do you think about the choices Brother's father makes? Do you think he is doing the right thing?

  • Brother's community is also tightly knit. Is yours anything like that? Would you like it to be? Is it possible?

Book details

Author:Roseanne Parry
Genre:Family Life
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication date:January 27, 2009
Number of pages:161
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12

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Adult Written byConcernedReader October 1, 2010
This is a beautifully written story. The characters are well developed and are truly human (as opposed to being caricatures). Rosanne Parry's first novel, _Heart Of A Shepherd_ is one of the most stunning stories that I have read in the past ten years. It truly is a story for all ages. Her writing is lyrical, her characters are fully developed and realistic, and her portrayal of what it is to be 12 years old is so accurate that I felt my own 12-year old self (an age I left behind decades ago) rise within my soul. This book is what our youth NEED to be reading. Parry's sentences are complex and her use of metaphor is breathtaking. Her conversation is realistic; each character speaks in a voice that is sincere, accurate, and believable for him/herself. I highly recommend this book for all children aged 9 and older as well any adult. This is truly a story for all ages. I hope that Rosanne Parry will continue to write.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 12 years old February 16, 2012

This book is for CHILDREN?!?!?!?

I can not believe this is recommended for CHILDREN! There is awful language in it, and it teaches that when you go to war you will probably come back doing really bad things. I means seriously! The books children read nowadays!!! My children will NEVER read this book.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 11 years old February 24, 2011

Great for ages 9 +

This book has a great message in it. I love the part about chess
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models


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