CERTAIN POOR SHEPHERDS by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
Kirkus Star


A Christmas Tale
Age Range: 8 - 12
Email this review


A tale of friendship between a dog and a goat interweaves Nativity mythology and scientific animal facts.

“On the first Christmas, so say the Christians, a redeemer was born to save our kind from the consequences of our greed, waste, pride, cruelty, and arrogance. No redeemer appeared for the animals,” begins the prologue. It goes on: “There were, however, a few animals who were profoundly influenced by the events in Bethlehem….This is their story.” Ima the goat and Lila the dog were both torn from their animal families and drafted into service as shepherds for the flock of a poor, rough man and his family. The man barely notices a new, dazzling star, so evident to the canine and hircine shepherds. When Lila feels compelled to follow the star, loyal Ima and the sheep follow. The animals’ sensitive noses tell them that angels—portrayed as humans with enormous, birdlike wings—smell partly of star, and the dog eventually detects the scent of amniotic fluid in a stable. The story is far from sentimental, with unflinching demonstrations of the human faults listed in the prologue, including poor treatment of animals and humans. The prose is simple and elegant. Harsh elements are balanced by tenderness and gentle humor, and there is an uplifting ending for the dual protagonists.

An affecting, well-spun tale that will especially resonate with animal lovers. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-7636-7062-7
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Candlewick
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2015


ChildrenTHE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate
by Katherine Applegate
ChildrenA DOG’S LIFE by Ann M. Martin
by Ann M. Martin
ChildrenBLUE MOUNTAIN by Martine Leavitt
by Martine Leavitt