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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

The Shepherd’s Granddaughter by Anne Laurel Carter

There are few absolutes in this world. Remember when you were young and it seemed so easy to know what was wrong and what was right – what was black and what was white? The gray areas of life just keep getting bigger and those extremes keep shrinking.

Every student who has read The Shepherd’s Granddaughter has come back to tell me that they are suddenly viewing the Israeli-Palestinian situation differently. As one student said, "It made me stop and see there might be more sides than just one." Maybe there are three sides – one for each side and then one for the truth that no one can see. 

The Shepherd’s Granddaughter by Anne Laurel Carter crossed my desk thanks to the Junior Library Guild selection team. (Groundwood Books, 2008, 978-0-88899-902-3 Hardcover, 192 pages.) Groundwood Books was established in 1978 and often tells stories of global interest, particularly from voices that the media may not distribute widely. 

According to the biographical information online, author Anne Laurel Carter lived in Israel in a kibbutz in the 70’s and stayed with several Palestinian families under occupation while researching this title. She manages to sensitively portray many viewpoints and issues in this thoughtful and simply written story. The reader will understand it is definitely told from the Palestinian viewpoint, but the beauty lies in the questioning that remains long after the story ends. 

This is an award winning book (USBBY Outstanding International Books selection, selected for the Cooperative Chidlren’s Book Center – Choices, and a Canadian Library Association Book of the Year Award for Children finalist) with excellent reviews from SLJ and Kirkus, but that doesn’t mean I would have discovered it on my own. Maybe you haven’t had the opportunity yet, but I sincerely hope you seek out this book. I’m off to explore some of the other stories available from this publisher.

What’s it about? This is the story of Amani and her family who have lived for generations keeping sheep and tending the olive groves near Hebron. Amani intends to follow in the footsteps of her grandfather and become a shepherd despite attempts by her family to force her to go to school. The Jewish settlers continue to take over more and more of the land in this story until they move close enough to feel threatened by Amani’s family and eventually attack. 

When I first picked up this title, I idly flipped to a scene where Amani’s male relatives were contemplating militant action, but when I sat down to read this title, I realized that this is one of the strongest calls for peaceful communication that I could have read. 

During one of the ALA Council meetings this midwinter there was a strong call from SRRT to develop a reading list of books on the Palestinian situation. While I was sitting listening to debate, this title kept coming to my mind. I encourage you to include this in your well-rounded collection.


  1. It is the best book I have read

  2. Toronto Bob says:

    The book clearly takes sides – good Palestinians versus bad Israelis. The only good Jews in the story (2 of them) are the ones who take the side of the Palestinians.

    The book is closer to propaganda than to education, and as the only book on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that kids in elementary school are likely to be exposed to, it’s appalling.

    I saw a review written by a Jewish student that said reading it made her feel terrible.

    I’d be even more worried about non-Jewish students reading a book the features Jewish settlers and Jewish soldiers as the evil characters.

    This is not a book that belongs in an elementary school, especially since it’s likely to be the only book about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the kids are exposed to.

  3. I have this title in my middle school collection and I think it provides a perspective that is missing. Written from the point of view of a Palestinian character whose family suffers terrible tragedies from some of the Jewish settlers, this title cannot pretend to provide a balance of both sides. The important part is to provide both viewpoints. Which Israeli titles should we include for balance?

  4. Middle school curriculum in Texas has a required reading program of a dozen novels on the Holocaust. One six-week period is devoted to these books. There are no required readings about other ethnic groups or other human rights violations. The Shepherd’s Granddaughter does provoke sadness by readers (not only Jewish ones) but also discussion. More books, more discussion. Why is it when one voice is raised portraying a Palestinian and non-violent perspective, some Jewish readers call foul? We read your stuff, don’t ban other voices.

  5. Alice. J says:

    Terrible piece of propaganda. Not worth the paper it’s printed on.

  6. Joan Ryan says:

    Perhaps Ms Carter’s next project should be an update of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.An undertaking truly worthy of one who purveys anti-Semetic rubbish like this propaganda tract

  7. Fred G. says:

    Diane . . . with regard to your question, “Which Israeli titles should we include for balance?” you might consider Moishe Sharrett’s Diaries.

    One of the big problems in the Arab-Israeli conflict is that ancient Israel was located on what is now referred to as the West Bank so places like Hebron which are part of the Jewish heritage are on Arab land. Modern Israel, oddly, is on land that once belonged to the Philistines, Phoenicians, etc.

    I have no idea of how they’re going to sort it all out, but I think we need to go back to the 1947 agreements which Israel has reneged on time and time again and see what can be worked out.

    The protests against this book only help to increase its sales.

  8. the writer Anne Carter is an excellent story teller without a political agenda. I am slightly acquainted with her . She has spent time at A kibbutz & was I believe married to a jew at one time. Stop trying to tell us what to read, Israel lobby. Lets have SOME balance.

  9. As a Jewish sympathizer, I was NOT appalled by this story. None of us are perfect, on EITHER side. The book does not trash the Jewish people. It provides a critical perspective on some very controversial issues. Instead of immediately assuming that someone is writing hate material simply because they do not agree with what we are doing, maybe we need to listen to what they are saying and respond rationally, not aggressivly.

  10. I have not read the book and will not comment on it; just on Fred’s comment: Israel’s recognized predecessor, the Jewish Agency, accepted the 1947 UN partition resolution (in spite of the fact that the League of Nations 1922 resolution devoted a larger protion of the Palestine Mandate to the Jewish homeland) because of the urgent need to house the WWII refugees, and simply just to get on with a homeland. Jews in the mandate celebrated the resolution. It was the Arabs in Palestine, backed by Arab countries, who rejected the resolution and attacked the Jews immediately after the resolution, and neighboring Arab countries invaded once the mandate ended, all declaring that they will throw the Jews to the sea. Thus it is not Israel that reneged on the 1947 resolution.

  11. It’s very sad that people who have not read this book would like to have it banned. And it’s a shame that some people seem to insist that there be no voice for Palestinians… that somehow Palestinian voices are, by definition, antisemitic. My own family home was emptied of Palestinians and today makes a lovely home for a Jewish family. My family in Palestine lives every day in fear that settlers will come and do to their new home what was done to the old one. It is a wonderful thing that someone has the courage to tell these stories.