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.