My seven-year-old son is a voracious reader. Seriously, he never stops. He’s the kid that will try to read a book under the covers with a flashlight after bedtime. (I try to tell him that I invented that move ages ago, but he won’t believe me….. 🙂 )
As a reading teacher, I am thrilled that my son is a reader. I am absolutely loving introducing him to excellent children’s literature, reading books together, listening to audiobooks together, and talking about books. So fun!
As an Orthodox mother, however, I have noticed that there are not very many chapter books designed for children his age. There are so many fantastic Orthodox children’s books out there (you can find more in my Ultimate Guide to Orthodox Children’s Books), but most of them are picture books.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good picture book! They still are wonderful for older elementary aged readers. However, there is just something about “chapter books” that appeals to kids once they hit second grade. And, with a few notable exceptions (Queen Abigail the Wise being one of my favorites), there just aren’t very many Orthodox children’s books that fit that niche.
Which is why I was SO excited to receive a copy of Shepherding Sam by Melinda Johnson, published by Ancient Faith Publishing.
Shepherding Sam: A Book Review
Shepherding Sam is the story of a corgi puppy named Saucer, who is a herding dog without a herd, and Sam, a human who has trouble fitting in with his herd. Saucer comes to live at a monastery where he settles in to life with the nuns and other animals. One day Aunt Eva brings her nephew Sam, along with other children, to the monastery for a visit. Saucer decides that Sam needs some looking after–whether he wants it or not.
What I Liked
There were so many things that I liked about this book!
1. A Chapter Book
As I mentioned before, I couldn’t be more excited about the fact that this is a chapter book designed for those elementary school students who love to read the big books. At just over 100 pages, it is not too long that it will intimidate second-third graders, but it is still engaging enough to interest children in the fourth and fifth grades.
2. About a Boy
I also loved that the main character is a boy. I have always had a soft spot for the overactive, super curious boys that often get in trouble in classrooms (perhaps because I am raising one!). These boys can sometimes be reluctant readers. Shepherding Sam will definitely appeal to those boys because it is about a boy just like them. And–bonus!–it has a dog in it, too. Now, this is not to say that girls won’t enjoy the book as well, just that it is a great book to give a boy who has difficulty finding a book to read.
3. Orthodoxy in Real Life
Shepherding Sam brings the Orthodox faith into a child’s real life. That, to me, is quite important. I love all of the Orthodox books about saints, the Divine Liturgy, etc., but most kids spend the majority of their time outside of the walls of the church. They need to see real kids trying to understand and live out the faith in everyday life. Although Shepherding Sam is set at a monastery, the children in the book behave as real kids do. They have arguments, they tell stories, they play, they rival each other for adult approval, and they learn and grow.
4. Fun Story
Some books, especially religious ones, can sacrifice a story for a message. In other words, the religious elements are more important than the story-telling. I was glad to see that Shepherding Sam did not fall into this trap. The story is delightful, and the Orthodox faith is intertwined naturally into the story.
My only real critique about the book is that I want to know more. While Shepherding Sam has a satisfying conclusion, I still wanted to read more about the characters and to see what they would learn and do in the future.
Who This Book is For
Shepherding Sam by Melinda Johnson and published by Ancient Faith Publishing, is the perfect book for:
- Readers in grades 2-5
- An Orthodox kids book club
- Christmas gifts for children, godchildren, or grandchildren ages 7-11
- Church libraries
- Any Orthodox family with young children
I am very happy to add Shepherding Sam to our family’s Orthodox children’s book library. And, I’m super excited to give it to my son for Christmas this year (just don’t tell him 🙂 ).
(I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All favorable opinions of excellent children’s literature are completely my own!)
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