Heart of a Shepherd

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Heart of a Shepherd Book Poster Image
Growing up in the heartland beautifully, movingly portrayed.

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

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 & Representations

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
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 no... Continue reading
Parent of a 15 and 17-year-old Written byPNW TeacherMom July 3, 2010

Sweet, Sensitive Story

LOVED this one about a young boy left at home (on an Eastern Oregon ranch) with his grandparents while his older brothers attend boarding school and his father... Continue reading
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 rea... Continue reading
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'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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love emotional stories

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate