Getting in step with a frequent topic for this time of year, I present my favorite Christmas story. Actually, it’s one of my favorites because I can never choose just one. It also isn’t exactly a Christmas story although the title of the book is suggestive. What makes it evocative of the Christmas season is its core message of giving and receiving gifts. In Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry, eleven-year-old Ignatius “Brother” Alderman, a cowboy-in-training, is left to take charge of the family ranch, along with his grandparents. His father has gone off to war and his older brothers are away at school. The future is full of foreboding, the burdens overwhelming. But faith is strong in Brother’s family life and in the life of the surrounding community. Brother finds gifts nestled within the deepest loss and unexpected possibilities in the midst of change. For me, his coming-of-age story embodies the spirit of Christmas and the wonder of the season. (Heart of a Shepherd, by Rosanne Parry, Random House Children’s Books, 2009).