Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Once a Shepherd

Millard, Glenda (Author)
Lesnie, Phil (Illustrator)
Candlewick Press 2014. 24 pages
First published: 2014
ISBN: 9780763674588 (hardcover)
Original language: English
Book type: Picture Book

Text Elements:

dialogue, figurative language, language conventions, layout, multimodal

Award

USBBY Outstanding International Books List – 2015

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Tom Shepherd and his wife lead a peaceful life, raising sheep and weaving wool. When the war comes, Tom must head for the trenches and leave his pregnant wife behind. She sews him a greatcoat to wear in battle. Tom is killed when he stops to help an enemy, but after the war, the German soldier whose life Tom saved travels to the farm and returns the coat to his wife.

Pages begin with “Once…” and feature sparse but poetic language: “Once Tom’s darling sewed a greatcoat, and she buttoned it with brass. She stitched each seam with tenderness and lined it with her love.” In very few words, the text conveys the horrors of war: “Once a stranger closed Tom’s eyes.” The futility of war is evident, as is the immeasurable pain of those remaining: “Cherry hugged the ragged coat against her aching heart.”

Watercolour illustrations capture idyllic farm scenes with washes of different shades of green. The sheep are white blobs with grey faces; Tom’s expression is calm and relaxed. On another page, Tom snuggles his wife, whose hair is bright red. They are surrounded by wool of different colours. These vibrant scenes are contrasted by war scenes, a landscape limited to greys and browns.

When Tom’s wife gets the coat back, she tears it up and sews a toy for their infant. The final illustration shows Tom’s wife and child sitting on the side of a flowering meadow, gazing outward. The text reads: “Once the world was all at peace.”

  •  Go for a picture walk. Make predictions about the characters, setting and plot based on the illustrations. Reflect on and revise your predictions as you read.
  •  With a group, focus on the text from a single page. Discuss the figurative language. What effect does it have on the reader? What was the author’s purpose in the way she crafted the text?
  •  

    Discuss the big ideas in this text. What does this specific story help us understand about war?

  •  

    With a partner, write a dialogue between two of the characters. For example, what might Cherry and the stranger say to each other? What might the child ask about his father as he grows up, and how might his mother respond?

  •  

    Read the text and pause at the double-page spread that reads “Once all the world seemed right.” Make predictions and/or inferences about where the story will go.

  •  

    The text comments on the impact of war on civil society. In small discussion groups, explore what you noticed during reading and what it might mean.

  •  

    Following reading and discussion, use a response process to write a response to the text. Share with peers and make notes in a reader-writer's notebook.

  •  

    Examine the book cover and imagine the life of a shepherd. As a group, create a list of possible activities for a shepherd throughout a year.

  •  Go for a picture walk. Make predictions about the characters, setting and plot based on the illustrations. Reflect on and revise your predictions as the story is read aloud.
  •  

    Explore how the author (using only short sentences) and the illustrator produce a rich story on each page. Discuss what inferences you can make.

  •  

    Discuss the big ideas in this text. What does this specific story help us understand about war? How do you connect to this story? How does your prior knowledge of the world’s history help you understand this story?

  • To cooperate with others
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Geography, History and Citizenship
  • Social Sciences