A great place to get kidlit recommendations from is the Cybils, a kidlit blogger book award program. That's where I heard about Graceling and Boy Toy and other powerful books. I'm slowing working through this year's list of winners and finalists, and that's how I read Heart of a Shepherd, by Rosanne Parry, which I loved.
Brother works on a cattle ranch somewhere in Oregon. His family has a strong service tradition, and his father's reserve unit is sent to Iraq at the beginning of the book. All of his older brothers are away, either in the army or at college or at the boarding high school his small town sends their children too, so he's left home with the grandparents to help run the ranch. I love books about lives so different from my own, from the ranching life to the deep but mostly unspoken religious faiths of the family (Brother, real name Ignatius, is Catholic like his grandmother, but his grandfather is a Quaker), to the lives of a small town where the entire volunteer fire department is in the same deployed reserve group. We see all this through the eyes of a twelve year old to whom it all seems as natural as the lives of the farm animals.
Which sometimes die, so natural doesn't always mean accepted.
I'm going to press this upon my fifth grader, and maybe onto anyone else who gets in my way. A.