Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 03/04/2009 by Leslie Wiggins.
Recommended. Psalm 23 for children through art and story.
Susan Hunt, perhaps best known for her ministry to women, is also an experienced author of children’s Sunday school curricula. Her latest, Sammy and His Shepherd, is a carefully crafted story of a young sheep living in the care of The Good Shepherd. Through art and story, Hunt helps children understand important doctrines regarding God and how he guides and cares for his children. Sammy and His Shepherd has eleven chapters, one for each phrase of Psalm 23. In each chapter, Sammy shares something he has learned about his shepherd and what it means to be a member of his flock.
While grazing in his lush, green pasture one day, Sammy, a very content sheep that belongs to The Good Shepherd, notices a forlorn looking sheep in the rocky pasture neighboring his own. Sammy walks over to the fence to find out more about this sad little sheep. He is shocked to see a nameless sheep surrounded by flies, a dusty, rocky, waterless pasture, and an untrustworthy shepherd. Sammy decides to befriend this little sheep. He names her My Friend and promises to visit again tomorrow. As their friendship grows, Sammy sees how terrible life is for My Friend and he becomes more and more grateful for his Good Shepherd. Sammy tells My Friend he knows his shepherd loves and cares for him, something My Friend does not fully understand. One day, My Friend decides she has had enough of living under her shepherd and wants to leave him and join the flock of the Good Shepherd. She tries to wriggle under a fence, but becomes stuck. Her bleating awakens her harsh shepherd, who walks over to the fence intending to beat her with his staff. Sammy’s shepherd sees what is happening and he hurries over to help My Friend get out from under the fence. He also buys My Friend from her shepherd and gives her a new name. Now, this new sheep must learn how to trust The Good Shepherd. Sammy, remembering how wise Grandma Sheep taught him how to follow the Good Shepherd, is ready to teach his new friend. He explains what it means to be a part of his shepherd’s flock, how they travel from high places to valleys and back to high places, how the shepherd uses his rod and staff, and how to love the other sheep in the flock. Along the way, Sammy becomes more and more like his shepherd. Eventually, Sammy’s new friend is ready to tell other sheep about her Good Shepherd. She explains,
“Sammy, thank you for showing and telling me about our shepherd. I have seen his goodness and mercy spill out of your heart onto me. You taught me. You’ve been kind to me. You made me feel that I belonged in this flock. You’ve been patient with me when I was annoyed with you, and you have forgiven me when I was unkind. You’re like our shepherd…I will dwell in our shepherd’s flock forever. I know that even if I stray away, he will come after me and bring me home because he loves me and I belong to him. I can’t wait to tell others about him.”
I used this book for our breakfast devotion. I began by reading Psalm 23, then a chapter of Sammy and His Shepherd, and then I used the questions, verses, and prayer prompts in the “Talk About It” section to guide our discussion. The “Talk About It” pages use various scriptures to correlate the story of Sammy and His Shepherd to Jesus. Simply reading Psalm 23 every morning helped my children to memorize it. After just a few days they began to say it along with me.
My children are between the ages of ten and five. Each morning they were eager to hear the next chapter. I enjoyed Sammy, too. A couple of chapters, particularly the one in which Sammy’s shepherd redeems My Friend and gives her a new name, moved me to tears. It was a joy to share this little book with my children and I am happy to recommend it to you and yours.