Shepherd, Potter, Spy -- and the Star Namer is a fascinating new Historic Fiction book from Peggy Consolver - Author. This book, written from the perspective of the Gibeonites during the time when the Hebrews were leaving their 40 years of wandering in the desert and entering the promised land gave me a whole new perspective on how those in Canaan might have felt as they saw the nation of Israel approaching. I was sent a copy of Shepherd, Potter, Spy -- and the Star Namer to read as part of the Homeschool Review Crew. It is a meaty read at 375 pages, but well worth the time spent!
Almost all of the action in Shepherd, Potter, Spy -- and the Star Namer is told from the perspective of Keshub, a 13 year old boy from the tribe of Gibeon. Keshub is the fifth son of his family, and as the youngest, feels a little insecure. He often wonders if his sometimes gruff Baba (father) loves him as much as he does his older brothers. At the beginning of the story Keshub is a shepherd for the family's sheep. Keshub confronts both danger, and boredom, while tending the sheep. On the longest day of the year, Keshub must save his flock from a lion, on other days, his mind wanders to dreams of traveling beyond his valley to the outside world.
During the story, we are treated to short glimpses into the Hebrew's camp from the viewpoint of Hosiah, a Hebrew boy about Keshub's age, who is written as the nephew of Joshua. These parts of the story closely follow the events listed in Biblical passages from Numbers and Joshua. The unique perspective these parts of the story give add to the ever mounting tension as the reader understands that Keshub's village is facing the threat of an imminent attack as the Hebrews systematically attack and destroy the cities in their path.
I found the story riveting, as it goes back and forth between the mundane of everyday life and the preparations for the unknown flight or battle as the Hebrews advance. Life is like that, an ebb and flow between hurry up, and slow down. The reader is treated to Keshub's inner thoughts, and his concerns not only for his family, but the entire village. I was amazed at how well everyday life was presented in the book. The attention to detail was superb, and the characters quite real.
Peggy Consolver had already begun writing a fictional story about the Gibeonites when she was given a unique perspective on their homeland during an archaeological trip with the Associates for Biblical Research. To learn more about her trip, read this article about her 18 days in Israel. Reading the article helped me understand how Mrs. Consolver could so accurately describe the pottery making process that Keshub's family undertook as their livelihood. Having spent several years working on pottery myself, I knew this was no novice description of the process.
As Keshub's story progresses, his father moves him from shepherd to pottery yard helper - carrying water, stomping clay, and eventually helping his Uncle take the Ra-eef' family pottery to market in Jericho. When the Hebrews begin to conquer the cities across the Jordan, Keshub is added to the rotation of young men from the valley who spend time as spies watching the Israelites and their movements. Although he is younger than any of the other spies, his Baba is convinced he can do this equally difficult job, as Keshub has already shown his perseverance as a shepherd and pottery helper. Keshub's Baba has told him about the Star Namer, and as Keshub begins to see how the Hebrew's God fights for them, he wonders if they somehow might be the same God.
Peggy Consolver has written a complete Study Guide entitled Digging Deeper Into HIStory to go alongside the book for small group use or Sunday School classes. You can see a sample of the Study Guide on her website. Also on her website you can view some research links and pictures that give you a better understanding of the terrain and area surrounding Gibeon. I appreciated being able to see the video about what a Wadi is like, and now I better understand the flooding and dry season aspects of them.
Having recently watched several videos shot in and near Jerusalem, I was better able in my minds' eye to put the colors and texture of the story, and Mrs. Consolver's research links videos together as I read Shepherd, Potter, Spy -- and the Star Namer. If you are unfamiliar with the landscape, I suggest you set aside a short time to view her research videos before beginning to read the book.
Although Shepherd, Potter, Spy -- and the Star Namer is a work of fiction, there is so much history and such a delightful attention to everyday detail included that I found myself wrapped up in the story, and a little sad to leave Keshub and his family when it was over! I highly recommend this book, either as a family read aloud, or as an independent read for ages 10 and up.
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