Beautiful and poignant, Once a Shepherd is the story of Tom Shepherd, who goes away to fight in World War I and dies saving an enemy. This moving picture book follows Tom through courtship and marriage to his sweetheart, only to have their happy family upended by the coming war.
The text is simple enough for younger readers, but the content is a bit more mature. Young kids could easily become upset by the storyline. That’s not necessarily a reason to avoid it, but parents and teachers should be prepared for deeper conversation.
Once A Shepherd is beautifully illustrated by Phil Lesnie. Even in scenes of wartime, the illustrations are not overly gory, but there is blood and depiction of death. Sensitive readers might have trouble with it, but the realistic depiction of war could easily spark meaningful conversations.
The book is heart wrenching, but it ends on an up note. Author Glenda Millard has written a book that you’ll continue to think about long after closing the cover. Highly recommended.
Review by Kate Sweeney
Once A Shepherd by Glenda Millard, illustrated by Phil Lesnie; Candlewick; c2014