The Shep­herd’s Granddaughter

Anne Lau­rel Carter
  • Review
By – January 13, 2012
Anne Lau­rel Carter states that her book is a fic­tion­al ren­der­ing of a com­plex sit­u­a­tion,” mean­ing; it is one of the very few YA nov­els attempt­ing to tack­le the sub­ject of the Israeli-Pales­tin­ian con­flict. At the ten­der age of six, Amani, the Pales­tin­ian pro­tag­o­nist, decides to fol­low in her grandfather’s foot­steps and become a shep­herd. She will not be going to school but will be tutored by mem­bers of the fam­i­ly. The author does an excel­lent job of show­ing the ten­der rela­tion­ship between Amani and her grand­fa­ther as well as the close­ness of the large imme­di­ate and extend­ed fam­i­ly. She shares inter­est­ing infor­ma­tion on sheep rais­ing, the olive har­vest, Arab views of the roles of women, as well as wed­ding and death obser­vances. To enable the read­er to learn some Ara­bic and Hebrew words, Carter includes a glos­sary with trans­la­tions. How­ev­er, the author also has a heavy agen­da. As the book pro­gress­es, it shows the pain and dis­place­ment to the entire fam­i­ly as a result of what the Israelis do. Israeli set­tlers move into the area where the fam­i­ly has lived for many years, roads built by the Israelis are ones that the Pales­tini­ans are for­bid­den to use, the fam­i­lies’ hous­es are demol­ished, their olive trees are destroyed, Amani’s sheep are poi­soned, her sheep­dog is shot, and her broth­er and father are jailed. If read­ers do not cry at the suf­fer­ing of the fam­i­lies in this book, they have hearts of stone. As this is a work of fic­tion, the author need not sub­stan­ti­ate any­thing that she writes, but this book is meant for an audi­ence that either wants to believe what is writ­ten or has lit­tle back­ground to dis­pute what is on the page. There is an Amer­i­can Jew­ish boy who is depict­ed sym­pa­thet­i­cal­ly; how­ev­er, he refus­es to stay in Israel and instead choos­es to go back to New York to speak out against Israeli set­tle­ments. This earnest effort to cre­ate mean­ing­ful fic­tion from this dif­fi­cult sub­ject even­tu­al­ly falls flat because it is too one-sided. Ages 12 and up.
Marge Kaplan is a retired Eng­lish as a Sec­ond Lan­guage teacher. She is a con­sul­tant for the children’s lit­er­a­ture group for the Roseville, MN school sys­tem and is a sto­ry­teller of Jew­ish tales.

Discussion Questions