From School Library Journal
Grade 4–8—In this coming-of-age story, Ignatius, the youngest of five brothers in a military family grounded in the Christian faith, promises to take care of the ranch while his father is deployed in Iraq. Since his mother left years earlier to pursue life as an artist, and his older brothers are off to school or military training camps, the 11-year-old looks to his grandparents for guidance, but often feels angry and alone trying to keep his heroic promise. Although some of the realities of the Iraq war are threaded in, the author primarily focuses on the details of contemporary Oregonian ranch life. Ignatius's series of firsts that move him beyond his absolute, always-saying-never ways are the novel's most suspenseful scenes: he stitches up his brother's head, births a calf, and survives a wildfire. In the end, his relationships with his Quaker grandfather, an Ecuadoran shepherd who works on the ranch, and a new Catholic circuit priest help him to discover his true calling, to become a military chaplain. Despite a heavy-handed message and an unevenness in tone—the present-tense first-person narrative changes awkwardly between a reflective and an imaginary play voice—it remains a good purchase for readers who are looking for realistic fiction written from the point of view of a soldier's child.