Title: Old RamonOld Ramon
Author: Jack Schaefer
Illustrator: Harold West
Pages: 102
Reading Level: 9-12
Star Rating: ★★★

Newbery Honor Book!

The Story.

Pedro has long since learned to read and write. He is, in fact, becoming most educated. But Pedro’s father insists that there are some things which cannot be learned out of books – things about men and beasts and the wide world. These can only be learned the hard way; by doing them. And that is how Pedro came to spend a summer herding sheep with Old Ramon.

Old Ramon cannot read. Old Ramon cannot write. But Old Ramon knows about life, about the wills of men and beast alike and what makes them what they are. Can Pedro ever hope to become as wise as Old Ramon?


I was surprised to find this book at the library sales I went to. I knew that Jack Schaefer had written a few children’s books, but the idea never really settled in – and I certainly never knew that one of them had won a Newbery Honor. It felt somehow strange – almost wrong – to be reading a children’s book by the author of a classic western novel.

But Schaefer’s skills were not wasted or hampered by his new story material. His descriptive style flourished in the arid western setting.

Old Ramon tells a humorous tall tale in which he is chased by a fire-breathing buffalo. Pedro’s response makes it obvious that he does not believe Old Ramon.

In a very sad scene the sheepdog that Pedro had started to work with and form a relationship with dies in a coyote fight. Old Ramon tells him to let the tears come because “they are good for you. And the dog will know. The spirit of the dog will know.” [pg. 92]

Old Ramon admits regrettingly that he spent his money “on much wine… and, yes, on the women … and at the gambling table.” [pg. 44]

‘God’ and ‘Mother of God’ are each used once. A female dog is referred to by a stronger name.

Conclusion. A good story about a relationship between a young boy and his humble, knowledgeable mentor.

Review © 2014 Laura Verret

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