The Barn & the Book by Melinda Johnson is the sequel to Shepherding Sam. It is not necessary to read Shepherding Sam first but it does give you some background on the characters. As I was reading this to the kids, I got to the part where Sister Anna goes to her favorite spot in the prayer garden and she starts to pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” and my husband turned and looked at me in what seemed to be confusion. I stopped reading, laughed, and said, “Yes, dear, this is an Orthodox children’s book.” It was cute. We enjoyed the story line very much, especially the story that was included in the Monastery’s birthday book. My 11 year old son says there is not enough action in the book but he loves when Gerontissa startles Sister Anna. My 9 year old said she loved the whole book and that she can’t pick just one favorite. My 7 year old said all the parts with Saucer (the dog) being playful. They all agreed that they enjoyed this book and recommend it to read, especially as a family. Thank you Melinda for such a cute book about friendship, testing God, taking time to learn and understand and notice. The Barn & the Book is 11 chapters long (12 if you count the epilogue), we read it in about 2 - 3 hours. We received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.
I have read both Shepherding Sam and the Barn and the Book by Melinda Johnson. The Barn and the Book is second in the series and tells more of the story of Sam and Saucer.
In the book it is Christmas time and all of the kids at the monastery church school class are writing stories to see if they can go into a book about the history of the monastery. Sam is also writing a story, and some of the kids think it is a competition. Their teacher, Sister Anna, is very sad because all of the children ignore her and start competing against each other. They also ran out in the middle of church school watching Saucer herding animals after they had escaped. Some were watching, but some just started playing tag. Sister Anna feels like she is a bad teacher and she doesn't have the ability that Sister Katherine, one of the other nuns, has. Sam makes mistakes, and Saucer tries to help him, by teaching him not to litter, and other things like that. The characters in the book have real problems that real people have. The book teaches you lessons about God.
This book is a little more exciting than the first book. I love that the characters are Orthodox, because I am Orthodox, and it is one of the few books with Orthodoxy in it for kids my age.
**Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.**
The Monastery of St. Gerasim and the Lion is abuzz with activity: The 100th anniversay is fast approaching and the children of Sr. Anna's Sunday School class will be contributing a story to the commemorative book. But whose story will be chosen? Whose story will...win? Poor Sr. Anna! This wasn't meant to be a competition, but when Macrina sets her sights on the prize, the new girl in the community, Grace, along with familiar friends like Elias and Matthew are determined to make sure she doesn't get away with the prize so easily. But why is Saucer barking? Why is Sam running out of the room? Where are the children going!?
From the lively chaotic life of the monastery barn yard to the turmoil within a questioning heart, The Book and the Barn moves its readers through a real-to-life story about faith and devotion and hearing the voice of God. For those familiar with Melinda Johnsons first book, Shepherding Sam, the characters and setting will be familiar: the Monastery, the goats, the chickens, Sr. Katherine, the irrascible Saucer, and the quietly contemplative Sam. But where Shepherding Sam is a much simpler story, The Book and the Barn is more like a Young Adult novel with more fully developed characters, a more intricate plot, and a magical talewhich will instantly fit any family Christmas reading tradition!
The Book and the Barn has a story and a character for everyone, and as the lives of the characters interssect and overlap, readers will recognize themselves in the simple innocence, the skeptical doubt, the deep longing to hear God's voice, and the realization of the presence of God in the mundane as well as the sacred. Simply put, the tale of Sam and Saucer has grown up, and will charm you and your children with every read. The underlying tale-- will animals speak at Midnight on Christmas eve--and its resolution will move and excite every reader, and paint a beautiful picture of the love of God for all of His Creation and the beauty and wodner of the world around us. I highly recommend this book for children of all ages, but children over 6 will more readily understand the plot and beginning readers (say 1st or 2nd grade) will be able to read, understand, and appreciate the story for themselves all the more for having read it on their own! This book is definitely a step up in length, style, and story from Shepherding Sam.
Have you ever read Anne of Green Gables as an adult? I listened to it as a book on tape with my daughter and was shocked at how much sympathy I had for Marilla (since being the mother of a strong girl for the past 7 years). I felt the same feeling toward Sister Anna in this book. I also have a soft spot for teachers that are having a hard time (because I still have those feelings from time to time). So this book made me cry. Eleanor loved it and just took it at face value, as a sweet Christmas story about an orthodox gaggle of kids (a lot like her gaggle of kids at Sunday School). She was delighted with the idea of animals being able to talk at midnight on Christmas Eve. It added a magical element to this story. I would buy this for any kid her age. I actually have both Sam and Saucer books on my gift list for my friends' children this holiday season.