Even though my son is in 10th grade, I am always looking for ways to weave some read-aloud time into our schooling. Historical fiction has become one of our favorite genres, which is interesting because it wasn’t when we started homeschooling. And I always love when a book successfully weaves Biblical history and an exciting story together. For this review, we got a chance to read Shepherd, Potter, Spy–and the Star Namer by Peggy Consolver-Author.
This book tells the story of the Gibeonites who approached Joshua in an attempt to protect their city from the eyes of a young shepherd boy, Keshub. I imagine Keshub is much like any young boy of his time, loyal to his family and thirsty for adventure. While his family is known for their pottery work, which Keshub helps with when necessary, he daydreams of being a traveler or trader and seeing faraway lands. When visitors come in from other towns, he listens breathlessly to their stories.
When a caravanner who frequently stays with his family comes to town and starts talking about the Hebrews in the desert, it sets the whole town wondering who they are and what they are up to. Stories of ruined towns and ended kingdoms filter through, further raising the tension. Through it all, Keshub’s father and uncles try to keep the town calm, along with Sir Ghaleb, a local soldier.
Along the way in this adventure, Keshub also goes to school with the other local boys to learn how to fight with swords, boys, and slingshots. He meets the son of a king of a neighboring kingdom and helps him escape his father, faces off with a local bully, tries to earn the respect of his brothers, and he also faces his own dangers protecting his flock in the fields. Through it all, Keshub develops his own questions about the God of the universe and what is real and what is not.
Without giving away more of the story, I just want to say, even if you are familiar with the ending, this book is definitely worth reading. The way Peggy Consolver tells the story, it all flows together so beautifully. Her character descriptions really pull you in, giving life to a familiar plot in an entirely new way. While I knew the story of Gibeon (and so did my son), after reading this book, it was like we were really able to see it through the eyes of people who experienced it.
There is also a study guide that goes along with the book. It includes all kinds of information related to each chapter. My son found it interesting to check out the links which showed videos of things like how to square lash with a rope, the medicinal properties of honey, information about the culture at the time of the story, maps, and much more. I didn’t push the study guide very much, I mainly let him use it for the topics he was interested in, but I can tell you that it’s not a like a typical study guide with a bunch of questions and answers, this one contains all sorts of additional information that your kids will likely want to explore.
I used this book as a read aloud for my son at the start of our school day. I found that if I tried to stop at only one chapter, he quickly begged me to read more. I think you could certainly tie this book into your history studies if you wanted, but you could also read it just for fun, like we did.
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