I love getting to read new books, and I especially love the challenge of reading books a little outside of my usual genres. Peggy Consolver – Author has put together a lovely tale in Shepherd, Potter, Spy–and the Star Namer, a story inspired by Joshua 9 and 10, in which the Gibeonites avoid being slaughtered by Israelites by tricking them into forming a treaty.
Consolver’s novel centers around a Gibeonite boy, Keshub, who is the youngest in his family. He is not as strong or as fast as his older brothers, but he begins to show himself as their equal over the course of the book, saving first one family member and then another from dangerous wild animals. Keshub learns to befriend people who seem unfriendly and to see perspectives other than his own.
Most of this book is slow moving; there’s not a lot of action. The story is really a story about a developing character. The slow pace of the book mirrors life as a shepherd or a potter in the Gibeonite world–day in and out much the same.
Until, of course, the Hebrews approach.
As a Christian who believes the Bible and is used to seeing the Israelites as the “good guys” it was interesting to see their potential enemies set up as the protagonists. I wanted to read the novel without being influenced by the Biblical account, but halfway through I couldn’t stand it and had to find out what happens by re-reading Joshua 9 and 10.
Peggy Consolver – Author has clearly researched her topic. Her conclusion still must largely be speculative, but the idea that the Gibeonites must have feared the Hebrews and their God more than they feared the local Ammonites is compelling. Why else would God show them such compassion? And serving Joshua and his family must have been beneficial to the Gibeonites as they were able to encounter the one true God.
Seeing the fall of Jericho from an outside perspective was fun–it’s a story I’ve heard enough times that I’ve forgotten how odd it must have seemed, and how scary at the same time!
The author provides an interesting study guide on her website where she provides links to historical points of interest that would benefit families using this in a homeschool or book club type setting. The study guide is divided into 13 Units, and it’s not super clear how the units match the chapters, so if you want to use it, I would start with a quick peek at the study guide. Then when you encounter the topics–such as braiding or Syrian bears–in the book, you can send your student back to the study guide for more information.
I read this book myself and think it’s perfectly appropriate for adults. I think I’d recommend it for readers 12 and up, but I do think younger students would benefit from discussion along with reading. The only “questionable” material in the novel was a reference to the inappropriateness of the evil king wearing a short tunic and sitting on a stool while the villagers sat on the ground. Eek! (but funny!)
(Also, funny: I thought there was a reference to an older brother smoking a joint. There wasn’t. I was reading while distracted. He was just gnawing on a chicken bone!)
Since so many other members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing Shepherd, Potter, Spy–and the Star Namer right now, this is a great time to read it yourself to find some people to chat about it with!