Book Review: Shepherding Sam

Saucer is a Corgi, and anyone who know anything about Corgis knows that they’re herders. They’ve been helping herd flocks for almost as long as there have been flocks and herds. And Saucer knows it. So when he arrives at the monastery, the first thing he does is look for a herd to care for. There isn’t one, the nuns try to tell him, but Saucer isn’t convinced. Then Sam arrives, and Saucer realizes he’s found his calling.

Melinda Johnson’s engaging story of the relationship that grows up between Saucer, the Corgi without a herd, and Sam, a boy who doesn’t seem to fit anywhere is intended for children who are ready to move beyond picture books. Only seven chapters long, the book is just long enough to feel like a “real” book, but not daunting enough to intimidate someone who isn’t ready for a full-size novel quite yet. The story is simple, straight-forward and easy to follow for little people who are still mastering the art of reading, but it’s complex enough to engage older readers, as well. Melinda doesn’t talk down to her readers either. Some of the kids may have a challenge with some of the vocabulary, but they’re sure to get meaning from context if they run into a word they’re not familiar with.

The book has a gentle, relaxed feel to it, and even though for an adult, it’s a quick read, it doesn’t feel as though it’s short. It pulls both adult and child into its world, and we can follow the path of the story as it winds, like the path at the monastery, through Saucer’s arrival, his early searches for his herd, and his quest to do the job for which God made him. The story may seem — like the nun’s path — to wind and wander. But in reality, it’s got a destination, and it gets us there without ever really branching or splitting off. And like the places the monastery path goes, every new vista along the way contributes to the path’s destination.

The story is told from Saucer’s point of view, so we never do find out why Sam is so out of step with everyone around him, and that doesn’t matter. The point isn’t that Sam’s out of step. The point is that, because he is, Saucer needs to bring him back to the herd. By being what God made him to be, Saucer not only solves both his and Sam’s problems, but also manages to turn himself into a hero while he’s at it. The story beautifully and subtly illustrates Christ’s parables about finding and bringing lost lambs back to the fold. It also shows children that our talents and gifts come from God for a reason, even if we don’t seem to know why.

Kids will enjoy the lively descriptions and the realistic behaviour of the characters in the story – from Areo, the border collie, and his friend, Butterscotch, the Guard Chicken, to Macrina, Elias, and Matthew, Sam’s very human and engaging cousins. Their antics and exchanges, as well as their completely age-appropriate dialogue, will have kids recognizing their own friends (both animal and human) and relatives in the story and laughing out loud.

There are no interior illustrations, as this is a chapter book, and a real novel, but each chapter heading includes the silhouette of a Corgi around the chapter number.

It’s definitely a book that will engage and entertain a child, and it would be an ideal Christmas or birthday present.

Shepherding Sam by Melinda Johnson
Ancient Faith Publishing, 101 pages
ISBN: 978-1-944967-07-9

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Bev. Cooke has been writing for publication since 1989. Her…
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