May 27, 2010
The Shepherd’s Granddaughter by Anne Laurel Carter
by Anne Laurel Carter
More than anything, Amani wants to be like her grandfather, Seedo. She wants to be a shepherd on the mountain. She wants to mirror his calm ways, his loving, peaceful heart.
At first it is her family that stands in the way. Shepherding is not a job for a proper Palestinian girl. She should go to school so that she can learn, among other things, English. Finally, Seedo makes it clear. Amani will continue her time with him on the mountain, shepherding is clearly in her soul. There begins her time learning to care for sheep, bringing in a government vet, documenting the introduction of hardier stock.
Unfortunately, Palestine is now part of Israel and as Seedo grows ill and eventually dies, the family is faced with the threat of Israeli settlers with guns and army backing. As the family weather’s one crisis after another, Amani befriends an Israeli boy who is as in love with the local wildlife as she is. She also learns that Seedo’s heart was not always as tranquil as she thought and that the world is a complicated, scary place.
Admittedly, I picked up this book because of attempts to ban it in Canada. As is most often the case, I found the claims of the would-be banners to be inaccurate at best. Really. Hint: Anyone who complains about the scene where a soldier shoots one of Amani’s sheep has not read the book. Or, if they have, their reading comprehension is shameful.
Yes, the book touches on some very controversial issues — the Israeli occupation of Palestine, their treatment of Palestinians and terrorism. But Carter’s characters, both the Palestinians and the Israelis, are realistic and fairly drawn.
Instead of keeping this book from your child, why not use it as the stepping off point for a thoughtful discussion? Carter gives you plenty to think about and does it in a very good, age appropriate story.