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“I thought I could stop the stars from being taken on my own, but I was wrong,” Kyro. –The Star Shepherd
The Star Shepherd
by Dan Haring & MarcyKate Connolly
All Kyro wants is to be a Star Shepherd, like his dad, Tirin. Star Shepherds are the heroes that save the stars that fall to the ground. Without them, the stars would fizzle out and die.
Star shepherding is hard enough when Kyro is just trying to impress his dad, but when clusters of stars all begin to fall at once, Kyro realizes something is very wrong. His father goes out to investigate but never comes back. Now, with only his dog, Cypher, and his friend, Andra, Kyro must journey across the land to find out what’s happening to the stars. He may become the Star Shepherd he always dreamed of being, but it won’t be easy.
Focusing on Kyro, the story unfolds from his perspective as he journeys around the land trying to find his father and solve the mystery of the falling stars. Kyro is a likable character who works to overcome the many obstacles in his way. He has many fears, including the fear that he isn’t good enough to be a Star Shepherd, and the fear that his father may be too obsessed with saving stars to love Kyro anymore. However, Kyro not only overcomes these fears but strives to protect even Star Shepherds who don’t help him and those who hate Star Shepherds.
One of the best aspects of the story is Kyro’s relationship with Andra, his only friend. Even though the townspeople do not like Kyro, Andra doesn’t care. She is a steadfast and loyal friend who believes Kyro when no one else does. When Kyro is abandoned by the townspeople and by the other Star Shepherds, Andra takes it upon herself to support Kyro. Without Andra, Kyro might not have found the strength to see his journey through to the end.
Even though the story has some difficult vocabulary, the plot is easy to understand and the writing flows well. Young readers will enjoy watching Kyro journey from place to place through the well-thought-out world, especially as more fantastical parts of the story are revealed. While there are moments of potential violence, the scenes are done tastefully, never going too far. Also, there are illustrations within the book, one at the start of each chapter. These illustrations are in black and white and illustrate the characters and creatures in the novel. These illustrations usually take up half a page, though a few take up entire pages.
Overall, The Star Shepherd is a great read for middle schoolers. The unique setting will engage readers because it includes mythical creatures, ancient robots, and stars. Readers will root for Kyro, who fights for what he believes in and ends up succeeding in the end. Throughout the story, Kyro gains confidence and learns more about himself. The Star Shepherd is more than an adventure story; it shows the importance of communication, the effects of grief, and the importance of friendship. With a well-paced story, fun characters, and an interesting plot, The Star Shepherd would be a great book for any middle school reader who love fantasy.
- Stars fall from the sky every so often. If a Star Shepherd can’t return a star to its rightful place in the sky, then the star dies. “When one fell, it was the Star Shepherd’s job to bring that family member home. If one died, they were separated forever.” Kyro hates to see a star die, “He never again wanted to see one die in a vissla’s hands like he had a week ago.”
- Many of the stars that fall down are intentionally cut down. Kyro tells Andra, “Since then, I’ve discovered someone isn’t just taking the stars; someone is cutting them down. See?” Since the stars are being cut down, clusters of them all fall at once. Andra’s father says, “A whole slew of them crashed right here in the market. Set the rooftops ablaze. We’re lucky no one was killed.”
- Kyro is attacked by a giant, insect-like creature in a desert. “It opened its maw and let out an earsplitting scream, then lunged toward them. Kyro ducked to the side, narrowly avoiding one of the terrible pincers, then jumped out of the way of the thing’s tail.”
- The vissla are evil creatures that haven’t been seen in hundreds of years. Kyro describes his encounter with one. “It was cold, like it radiated pure evil. One of them got to a star before me, and the vissla killed it.”
- Andra’s father, Bodin, blames all of the village’s misfortunes on Kyro and his father. Therefore Bondin continually puts Kyro down. A ship captain reprimands Bodin for badmouthing Kyro, saying “I didn’t expect to find you bullying a mere boy.”
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- Tirin, Kyro’s father, isn’t well-liked by the villagers of Drenn. When Tirin goes into town to pick up a fallen star, the village leader says, “You are a fool.” That animosity extends to Kyro as well. Bodin tells Kyro, “You two fools have done more than enough damage to our village.”
- The Star Shepherd council accuses Tirin of being a traitor to the Star Shepherds. Kyro defends him by saying, “He is not a traitor!”
- Kyro tells a ship captain that the Star Shepherd council banned him from saving the stars. The man responds, “Then they’ve grown stupider with age.”
- If the stars fall to the ground, they can die if they aren’t sent back into the sky. Kyro fails to save a star. “The sun rose, its rays bursting over the sky. The molten star’s light sputtered out, leaving only a gray rock cooling in Kyro’s hands.”
- The stars hold back evil creatures called vissla. Kyro meets a vissla in a forest. “Shrieks began to echo from all sides. The cold wormed all the way into Kyro’s bones, making him completely numb.” Kyro thinks about the legend of the star net, “When the stars were first hung and the starlight net formed by interconnected beams of light, the dark creatures were banished underground and to the darkest corners of the world.”
- The stars can be used to attack the vissla. However, the vissla can also destroy the stars. Kyro thinks, “But the vissla could destroy a star if it wasn’t being actively used against them. The creature had done the deed quickly, as though it couldn’t stand to touch the star for too long.”
- Star Shepherds can collect stardust from fallen stars. Tirin gives Kyro some. “His father picked up two large vials of sparkling powder from the kitchen table and shoved them into Kyro’s hands.”
- During the final fight with the vissla, Kyro merges with a star to keep the darkness away. “Suddenly, warmth flooded his veins. Brilliant light flared, pouring from his eyes and mouth. Everything was bright as day despite the late hour.”
- The giants are said to be the ones that hung the stars in the sky hundreds of years ago. Kyro and Andra eventually meet the fabled giants. One of the giants tells them, “We wove the star casings, Stitchers sewed the pieces together, and Framers crafted the hooks to hang them in the night sky.”
by Jonathan Planman