On this Easter weekend I have just finished reading the last two of the Red Maple books for 2010. It will be very difficult for readers who are voting to make up their minds about all these titles since each book appeals in a different way. The last two books for me are The Shepherd's Granddaughter by Anne Laurel Carter and War Brothers by Sharon E. McKay. Both of these books take place outside Canada and that gives the reader the benefit of learning firsthand about a different culture. War Brothers is set in northern Uganda in Africa, a country which has seen more than its fair share of strife over the last two or three generations. War Brothers follows the story of Jacob who together with his classmates is abducted into a guerrilla 'child' army. The army is constantly on the move, attacking, killing, stealing food and capturing more children. Jacob takes seriously his promise to protect young Norman, and he along with friends Tony and Paul, try to survive without killing anyone. They are helped by the mysterious Oteka, a tall boy Jacob had helped before his capture, and Hannah, the proud girl who refused to cooperate with the rebel soldiers. There is much bravery in the main characters and faith in God to help them through their situation. The story would be less tragic if it wasn't based on very real situations. The ending is positive and hopeful for most of the characters. This is an excellent read for anybody.
The Shepherd's Granddaughter is set in Israel. Amani is a Palestinian shepherd who has chosen to tend the sheep as her grandfather had done rather than follow a more modern role for girls. She does not attend school but gets an excellent home-school education from her family instead. Around her quiet fields new settlers from Israel are moving in and building roads and claiming space long used by the Palestinians. Amani senses danger in a wolf which lives nearby but finds more trouble from the settlers, road-builders and soldiers who come to the area. Amani's family gets involved in the conflict and... well, I'd hate to give an ending away... This is another excellent story. I had to re-read some parts because sometimes I got confused at the similar-sounding names of the many characters who live in Amani's family. Other than that it was a vivid snapshot of some of the problems encountered by the Palestinian people in parts of Israel.