Friendship and human warmth are important all over the world but especially in the arctic chill of the Siberian mountains, where assistance from a neighbor can mean the difference between life and death. Nevertheless, a devoted shepherd named Turgen risks losing his place in the community for the sake of the wild rams that share his mountain home. The villagers used to admire Turgen for his skills as a healer, but their superstition overwhelms their gratitude when a jealous shaman denounces the gentle shepherd for protecting the endangered rams from hunters. Only the widow Marfa remains steadfast and refuses to shun the defender of wildlife.
Recounted by an author with intimate experience of life in an isolated Siberian village, this Newbery Honor Book tells a timeless tale of warm hearts in a cold climate. Kirkus Reviews noted that this book is "of interest to all children on many levels, as it supplies animal interest, a good story, and an enchanting glimpse of an unfamiliar region."