Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Shepherd's Granddaughter by Anne Laurel Carter

Winner of the Canadian Library Association's Children's Book of the Year, 2009.

Amani Raheem is a Palestinian who loves sheep. She started accompanying her grandfather and the flocks into the mountain fields when she was six years old. She chooses to be home-schooled so that she can continue to learn her vocation as a shepherd, and, less than a decade later, she takes over the herd when her grandfather dies.

The Raheem family farm lies in the West Bank some distance from Al Khalil (better known as Hebron). The grazing area for Amani's sheep is gradually encroached, first by new Israeli roads, and then an illegal Israeli settlement is built right on her family's lands. Injustice and tragedy come one after another. It is an absolutely heartbreaking story. I can't remember the last time I cried so much over a novel.

Without ever becoming preachy, the strong message of this book is one of peace and nonviolent protest. Carter tells a compelling story. I highly recommend it to anyone (Grade 6 or older) looking for insight into the complicated situation in Palestine. Another powerful book on this topic (suitable for Grade 5 and up) is a collection of interviews put together by Deborah Ellis: Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak.

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