Eleven-year-old Ignatius is the youngest of five sons, which is why everyone just calls him Brother. Growing up on a ranch in slightly populated Malhuer County, Oregon, Brother feels he has always been overshadowed by his older more capable brothers, who have always been around to do the hard work of ranching along with his dad and grandfather. But now his dad is leaving, his military reserve unit called to serve 14 months in Iraq, and the older sons are either away at boarding school, college or in the military as well. Brother will have to work with his grandparents to make the ranch run smoothly while his dad is gone.
Brother works hard at the ranch, but he’s not sure that ranching will be his life’s calling. He has always had a tender heart for animals that die, and working to keep things together will test him in ways he can’t imagine. Yet he’s determined to show everyone in the family that he can be counted on to hold things together while they are gone.
Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry reveals the heart of today’s ranching communities and the values that keep those communities together: the importance of family, the church, love of and service to our country, and neighbors pulling together during times of crisis. Along the way Brother finds out what’s most important to him, and how to find his own path while honoring his family members’ commitments.
Even for those unconnected to the land, the story will resonate with it’s portrait of a boy working to go where his heart tells him. The story has appeal for both middle-grade readers in fourth grade and up, as well as adults.