Sammy and the Shepherd
by Susan Hunt, Illustrated by Cory Godbey
Published by Reformation Trust (an imprint of Ligonier Ministries)
King David wrote Psalm 23 from the perspective of a happy sheep with a good shepherd. In this picture book, Susan Hunt and Cory Godbey share and develop this perspective with children, illustrating through picture and story each phrase from the Psalm.
Sammy is a lamb who loves his good shepherd, so he is surprised to learn that his new friend has a bad one. When Sammy’s shepherd purchases Precious, Sammy helps her understand her new life with a good shepherd. She doesn’t always understand what her new shepherd is doing, and Sammy enjoys telling her how good they have it!
“Do you mean that you never have to walk through scary valleys or climb high hills to get to different pastures?”
“Oh, no, I don’t mean that I never have to go to hard places. But my shepherd is always with me and he helps me go through those hard places.”
“But what about the enemies waiting to attack you?” the little sheep asked.
“My shepherd always guards me, no matter how dangerous it is. He would even lay down his life to protect me.”
“It takes time to learn to trust our shepherd,” Sammy said with a smile. “The more you know him, the more you’ll trust him. You’ll even trust him when you don’t understand what he’s doing or why he’s doing it.”
Precious pondered this a bit and then said: “Our good shepherd bought every one of us. We all belong to him. Oh, Sammy, how could I be annoyed with a sheep that our shepherd loves? But I’m confused. Is it right for Bertha to . . . well . . . to be like she is?”
Sammy nodded understandingly. “If Bertha needs to change, our shepherd will change her,” he said. “We’re supposed to accept and love each other. Of course, we should also help each other.
If you go looking for Christian picture books, you might disappointed. There’s little in existence beyond “God Made Everything” and “You Are Special.” A hundred years ago, Christian publishers wrote books for children, intended as prizes for memorization or church attendance. They have little literary value, are filled with dry lectures by parents and governesses, and have thankfully slipped from the memory (with a few notable exceptions). The negative reaction to such didactic literature is widespread, and even Christian authors occasionally sneer at didactic content.
This book is didactic of a different sort. It’s not merely a good story about a sheep who loves his shepherd. It is intended to teach truth, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also well written and enjoyable. After the story, Hunt includes discussion questions and additional scripture, particularly drawing the connection between the story, and Jesus the good shepherd. My own children are excited about this book. They’ve asked for it repeatedly to be read to them, and they’ve developed a richer understanding and appreciation for the biblical text. We’ve had excellent discussions of salvation, which is illustrated clearly when the good shepherd redeems Precious from the bad shepherd. I like the book so well, I’ve purchased several copies to give as gifts! This would make a particularly good book for a child facing difficult circumstances, because it emphasizes the loving care of our Heavenly Father.
The illustrations are well done and appealing to children. Godbey’s colors and style add to the text a depth of meaning that enriches a picture book. I love that the good shepherd is a little boy (like King David once was). The redemption picture is my favorite. The children understood well the transformation of a scrawny, neglected sheep to a happy and plump sheep.
Conclusion: Good book. I like it. Buy one for yourself and lots to give away.