HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Bronze Bow
Author: Elizabeth George Speare
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, reissued in 1997
Language level: 1 (nothing objectionable)
Reading level: Ages 10 and above if read independently, but for the whole family as a read aloud
Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Speare, Elizabeth George. The Bronze Bow (published in 1960 by Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Ave. S., New York City, NY 10003). There are several works of historical fiction about the life of some character who might have come in contact with Jesus during His earthly life, such as Joel: A Boy of Galilee by Annie Fellows Johnston, The Runaway by Patricia St. John, and Titus: A Comrade of the Cross by Florence M. Kingsley. Another one is The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare. I had previously read Speare’s Sign of the Beaver which I thought was excellent and which was made into a movie, Keeping the Promise, which we also liked very much. In fact, the book was so good that it made me want to read all of Speare’s other works. Mrs. Speare lived from 1908 to 1994. Born and raised in Melrose, MA, she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Boston University, taught high school, married, and raised two children before beginning her career as a writer. Her first novel, Calico Captive, was based on the life of a white girl who was captured by the Indians and lived with them for many years before returning to her family. It won an American Library Association Notable Book award (back in the days when the ALA was awarding the prize to truly GOOD literature).
Speare’s second novel, The Witch of Blackbird Pond in 1958, won the Newbery Award, as did The Bronze Bow in 1961 (back in the days when the Newbery Award was given to truly GOOD literature). Both of these are still in print, as I have seen them on the shelves of bookstores, and in fact purchased The Bronze Bow from B. Dalton. The Sign of the Beaver, which I have also seen on bookstore shelves, was named a Newbery Honor Book. The Bronze Bow, is the only one of Mrs. Speare’s books not set in New England. It is the story of a young Jewish boy, Daniel bar Jamin age 18, who had witnessed the cruel crucifixion of his parents by Roman soldiers. Daniel eventually runs away from home and joins the brutal raids of an outlaw band in the hills outside his village, hoping that eventually the leader will gather an army strong enough to drive out the Romans. However, his grandmother’s death slows his plans by forcing him to move back home to care for his sister. Filled with hatred for the Romans and a desire for revenge, he leads a group of boy guerrillas in spying and plotting, taking advantage of the loyalty of his friend Joel, the love of Joel’s sister Malthace, and the needs of his own disturbed sister.
Daniel is drawn to the teachings of Jesus, thinking that He may be the leader needed to drive out the Romans, but turns away disappointed by Jesus’s lack of militancy. After a disastrous raid on a party of Roman soldiers, things begin to go really bad for Daniel and changes start to take place in his mind. The story has a unique and touching ending that you will just have to read for yourself. There is absolutely no bad language in the book whatever. The only discordant note that I saw was that in several places the distinct impression is left that several people who came to Jesus for healing were not healed, that only those who had true faith received the blessings, whereas the Bible clearly says that “He healed all who were sick” (Matt. 8.16). The book does stress the importance of learning to love our enemies, as Christ Himself taught (Matt. 5.44). It is a good book that I highly recommend, especially for age 10 and above if reading independently, but for the whole family if doing as a read aloud.