Cattle Ranching Life in ChildLit

June 9, 2009

I often read more than one book at a time, but they don’t usually mesh quite like the two I read this week.  I read Heart of a Shepherd by (Portland resident!) Rosanne Parry and The Beef Princess of Practical County by Michelle Houts this week, and at times I had trouble keeping the characters straight.  Both books are debut novels, and I think we can expect great things to come from both of these authors.  Both novels are set on cattle ranches and both feature 12 year olds trying to live up to the precedents set by older siblings.  They both contain details about life on a ranch and caring for livestock.

heartIn Heart of a Shepherd, Brother is left to help run the family ranch with his grandparents when his father is shipped out to Iraq and his brothers are away at school and in the military.  It’s a sweet story and wanders a bit, coming to a conclusion about Brother’s future which is foreshadowed but still a big decision for a boy to make.  I think boys will especially like this book which in addition to ranching life deals with family relationships, friendships, repercussions of war and suddenly becoming the man of the house.

beefIt’s a bit unfortunate that the The Beef Princess of Practical County will be more attractive to girls than boys with that title, the girl on the cover, and the prevalence of hot pink, because I think some boys would be interested in this story as well.  Libby Ryan is showing her first steer at the fair this year and hopes to not be overshadowed by her brother’s past accomplishments.  The novel includes lot’s of detail about choosing and caring for show cattle and the difficulty of loving and caring for an animal only to turn around and auction it off for meat.  I know we have a lot of kids in the District who participate in showing livestock  and I think they would enjoy this story, and especially their younger siblings awaiting their first chance to show.  Full disclosure: there was not the happy ending I was rooting for, but a realistic ending that real ranch kids will undoubtedly appreciate.

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