I have hoped for a while that Bull Rider would touch kids in military families and give them a jumping off place for discussing their own concerns or the opportunity for seeing a family that is going through changes because of the Middle East wars. There are a lot of military families out there who live every day hoping their loved one will come home safe.
Heart of A Shepherd, by Rosanne Parry, Random House, January 2009, does the same. Her book's setting is literally forty or fifty miles from Bull Rider's fictional Salt Lick, NV and her main character, Brother, is a ranch kid too. His dad has been deployed to Iraq with the reserves along with most of the men in their small town. His older brothers are away at school - his small town doesn't have a high school - and that leaves Brother, his aging grandparents, and a ranch hand, Ernesto, to care for the ranch. Brother takes his role seriously. Heart of a Shepherd is a genuine, gentle book that looks at ranch life, growing up, accepting responsibility. It also reflects the kinds of changes the wars have made on communities. I am proud to know Rosanne Parry and to be signing with her and Terri Farley at the Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, Washington on April 5th. 10AM. Our books are similar in so many ways, and yet they are totally different stories. I think Heart of a Shepherd will appeal to a little younger read than Bull Rider will. Read them both and you decide. You'll be glad you did.