Get ready, dog-lovers (especially if you’re partial to Border collies). Meet Jack. He’s a proud Border collie who was born on a farm from a long line of sheepherders. Jack’s sole purpose in life, in his mind, is to become a master sheepherder, but he had a few obstacles to overcome first.
Jack immediately paws his way into readers’ hearts with his frankness, charm and childlike curiosity. He sets his story up by letting us know that he’s had a hard life, having too many days with an empty stomach and too many nights in the rain; and on occasion, gone without a friend; but his trouble begins when a lightning strike burns down his farm. The sheep are sold off and the dogs taken to a pet store. Jack is adopted by a family, forced to suffer the humiliation of being dressed as a baby and pushed around in a stroller. When Jack can’t tolerate life with his new family any longer, he runs away in search of sheep.
In his days on the run, he meets up with a goat herder who befriends him. Herding goats isn’t the same as herding sheep, but it would do for the time. The goat herder takes care of Jack, until he passes away, when once again Jack becomes a stray in search of his life’s purpose—herding sheep.
Jack’s quest leads him to temporarily live with two con men, and then become an act in a two-bit circus, where he is mistreated by the circus owner. After being physically abused to near death, Jack manages to escape, where he meets a young orphan who lives in a nearby town. It was here that Jack ultimately finds his place in life.
Valerie Hobbs writes a well-paced, emotional story that gives readers a look at the world from a dog’s point of view. While writing in the voice of an animal isn’t new to children’s literature, Ms. Hobbs adds a distinction in choosing a breed that‘s known for its work value, bringing home the point that dogs have needs that drive their behavior.
This middle-grade children’s novel was a book nominee for the 2006 Dog Writer’s Association of America. Valerie Hobbs is the award-winning author of many children’s novels, including her latest work, DEFIANCE.
Sheep by Valerie Hobbs/ ISBN-0-374-36777-9/2006/Farrar, Straus & Giroux.