Heart of a Shepherd

  Heart of a shepherd by Rosanne Parry

When Brother's dad is shipped off to Iraq, along with the rest of his reserve unit, Brother must help his grandparents keep the ranch going. He’s determined to maintain it just as his father left it, in the hope that doing so will ensure his father’s safe return. The hardships Brother faces will not only change the ranch, but also reveal his true calling.

Discussion Questions

  1. Describe the setting for the story. When do you predict this story took place?
  2. Describe Brother and his relationship with Grandpa, father, and Grandma.
  3. List several of the conflicts Brother had. What do you feel was Brother’s most important conflict?
  4. Why didn’t Brother’s mother live on the ranch?
  5. In the first chapter, Brother does not play by the traditional rules of chess. What does the way they play the game together tell you about Brother’s character? What does it tell you about his relationship with his grandpa?
  6. The story opens with a chess game. Why do you think the author did that?
  7. Who was the only person that had ever beaten Grandpa at chess?
  8. What did Grandpa do while Grandma attended church every Sunday?
  9. What were “bum lambs”?
  10. Which constellation did Mr. Alderman pick to watch over his son while he was in Iraq?
  11. List two reasons why Brother favored acid branding the calves rather than hot iron branding.
  12. What simile did Ernesto use to describe the cow’s contractions?
  13. When Brother’s dad leaves for Iraq, Brother makes a promise he can’t keep. Brother tells his dad "I'm going to take care of this place...It's going to be just the way you remember it when you get back" (p.10). Do you think that was a reasonable promise to make? If not, why do you think his father doesn't set him straight about it?
  14. At the beginning of the story Brother says, “I never get to be the hero.” Does he do things later that seem heroic to you? According to this author, what is a hero? Do you agree or disagree? Are there different kinds of heroes? Do you think Brother would think of himself as a hero? Who else in the story seems heroic to you?
  15. Toward the end of the story grandpa sets a backfire to protect the sheep from a wildfire. How does a backfire work?
  16. When the Alderman’s celebrate Christmas, what traditions do they keep the same from year to year? How is the holiday different with the dad in Iraq?
  17. Why do you think Brother’s dad and older brothers chose to become soldiers? What leads Brother to choose a different job?
  18. What branch of the Army did Brother decide to pursue?
  19. Are there foreshadows or clues to the path Brother will choose as an adult? Do you think it will be a fitting path for him? Why or why not?
  20. What do you think about the main character's name? Would you like to be called Brother?
  21. What does the title mean?
  22. Do you remember how Pete's head wound is treated? Why do you think they treat it that way?

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Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson
Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
The Georges and the Jewels by Jane Smiley
Mary Mae and the Gospel Truth by Sandra Dutton
Octavia Boone's Big Questions About Life, The Universe and Everything by Rebecca Rupp
With a Name Like Love by Tess Hilmo

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