Before I launch into my review of Shepherd, Potter, Spy — and the Star Namer by Peggy Consolver – Author I have to share with you my “It’s a small world” moment. Ms. Consolver grew up on a wheat farm in southwest Oklahoma. I grew up in Oklahoma and currently live in southwest Oklahoma. The wheat fields surrounding my town are a beautiful green color and are making the farmer’s cows fat and happy. Ms. Consolver graduated from Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, Oklahoma. I also graduated from that university. She is a storyteller. I’m working on that myself. The amazing thing is I knew none of that when I received the book to read.
While working on this novel, Ms. Consolver struggled with getting the geographical details right. A trip to an archaelogical dig in 2010 to that area helped fill in the missing links and help the reader “see” the land of the Gibeonites.
While I read this book aloud to my boys, we also read the Biblical account of the Gibeonites. Reading that along with this story helped put it into context. Although Shepherd, Potter, Spy and the Star Namer is fiction, it is based on the account of the Children of Israel as they came out of the wilderness after their Egyptian captivity and crossed over the Jordan River into the land of Canaan. It is told mostly from the perspective of a young Gibeonite boy named Keshub.
Keshub turns “ten harvests plus two” years old. He is a shepherd when we first meet him and has an adventure with some wildlife while watching his sheep. He attends a military training school to learn how to fight. Keshub’s father is a potter and later on Keshub is charged with helping in the pottery yard. The Ra-eef’ pottery is known throughout the land as being the best and Keshub learns why following directions is important.
A visiting caravanner tells the Ra-eef’ family of the movement of the Hebrews. As the story continues, young spies are set up to watch the Hebrew camp and report on the goings on there. If you are familiar with the story in the book of Joshua, then you know that the Gibeonites, fearful of being destroyed like Jericho and Ai, sent a delegation to the Hebrews and tricked them into making a treaty. In exchange for their protection and safety, the Gibeonites became the slaves of the Hebrews.
I loved learning more about the culture of the people who lived in the land of Canaan and about the geography of that area. Ms. Consolver has also written a study guide to dig a little deeper into this story. She also has several interesting links to videos, pictures, maps, and other information which could be used as an in-depth study for history. I really liked the video tour of the Wadi Mujib Nature Preserve and my boys liked the video about bow making (big surprise!).
Shepherd, Potter, Spy — and the Star Namer is a great read-aloud for the whole family. I would put it at about junior high level and above for reading alone.
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