by Jack Schaefer, published 1960
” One sheep does not think. He does this and he does that and there is no sense to it. But the flock thinks. And what the flock thinks each and every one sheep in the flock knows at once and altogether. It is strange but it is so…”
I was surprised and enchanted by this children’s book from start to finish. It is a quick read, compelling, informative, and even moving at the end. This children’s book is definitely from another time and place; one could even consider it historical fiction– how many people now are shepherds in the ranges of the Mojave desert? The language in the book is straightforward, without any fat on it, as we follow Old Ramon and the young boy who has been sent to learn about sheep from him. We watch as Old Ramon teaches the boy, and also learns of his own shortcomings.
And who would think that just herding sheep would have drama? But it does, because nature is dramatic, and the book is all about nature. It’s set out in the open, and we experience the truth of nature’s power and beauty at every moment.
This children’s book would make a great classroom or homeschooling text, for fourth or fifth grade. It’s such a visceral experience of living with nature that one can imagine it firing the imagination of young readers. It certainly fired mine … I wished I had the courage to live out in the wilderness the way the old shepherds did. At least we can vicariously experience it through this little book.