The Bronze Bow

by Elizabeth George Speare

Paperback, 1997



Call number

Child > Fiction


HMH Books for Young Readers (1997), Edition: Reissue, 254 pages


When the Romans brutally kill Daniel bar Jamin's father, the young Palestinian searches for a leader to drive them out, but comes to realize that love may be a more powerful weapon than hate.

User reviews

LibraryThing member atimco
It is a mixed pleasure sometimes when you revisit a book you loved as a child. There is always the fear that it won't be as good as you remembered, that your childhood innocence painted the book with its own colors and made it more than mere entertainment to you. Elizabeth George Speare's The
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Bronze Bow is one such book for me. On a whim, I decided to reread it for the first time in years.

The Bronze Bow is the story of Daniel bar Jamin, a young Galilean Jew living during the time of Christ. His father and mother died at the hands of the Romans, and his younger sister Leah has been left traumatized and empty. Daniel is a Zealot and lives in the mountains with the rebel Rosh, whom he believes will raise an army to rout the Romans from Israel. When his grandmother dies, forcing Daniel to come down to the village and take care of Leah, he hates the cage of responsibility and longs to do something active against Roman rule. But Rosh doesn't seem to share that urgency... Is this wandering preacher, Jesus, the strong leader that Israel has been waiting for?

Speare does a good job keeping the story light enough for young readers but dark enough for more mature minds to imagine the backdrop. Daniel's father was crucified along with five other men for trying to rescue his brother-in-law from slavery. Leah's traumatization occurred because as a five-year-old child, she stole out and saw the gruesome scene of her father's crucifixion. The grandmother's death scene is shown, and some of Daniel's friends are killed during a rescue mission. Looking back, I see that I unconsciously took all these darker elements as a compliment from the author to me, the reader: even so young, I could handle them. And these sad pieces of reality are probably what gave the book its resonance, why I have remembered it with such affection all these years.

The characters are well drawn. Daniel especially is a very complete character, but the others are very good too. I found Rosh particularly intriguing. Daniel thinks the Romans are the villains, but slowly we come to see (along with him) that Rosh is a parasite too, using the Romans as an excuse for his own pillaging. The lessons about misplaced hero-worship and the growing awareness that comes with maturity are subtle but unmistakable. Thacia, Joel, and Leah are also quite vivid people to me.

Sometimes the writing seemed a bit stiff, and other times it was just perfect. It reminded me of the style of Ann Weil's Red Sails to Capri; I don't think there was as much emphasis on avoiding "telling" in favor of "showing" in the 1960s. Some sentences and adjectives were so right that I remembered them even now; the Roman soldier standing in the "broiling sun" always stayed with me. The last scene of this story is perfect to a word. It's a fantastic culmination of character development and all the themes — vengeance, justice, forgiveness, grace — that have been brewing from the beginning of the book. Powerful stuff.

The Bronze Bow richly deserves the Newbery Medal it won in 1962, and it is a book I look forward to putting in my children's hands and minds. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member ctpress
Gripping historical YA-fiction set in the time of Jesus in Palestine. A jewish boy Daniel has a fierce hatred towards the Romans. After his parents have been killed by Roman soldiers he has fled the village to join a group of outlaws that dream of war against the occupying force. When his
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grandmother dies he have to go back to his old trade as a blacksmith and take care of his sister Leah, who is mentally unbalanced and shy.

His hatred and thirst for vengeance is challenged when he meets two children of a Rabbi, the boy Josh and the graceful and beautiful girl Malthace - questions and uncertainty arise - is violence towards the Romans the right path for him? He begins to train other young boys to plot against the army forces. But will rebellion change anything? At the fringes of this story Jesus is lurking, we don't hear him speak directly but through other persons who have met him and they share his message of love and forgiveness.

This is a beautiful and action-packed story that takes its characters seriously. Specially the slow change of Daniel towards forgiveness and reconciliation is well told - and also his sister Leah's blooming confidence and maturity is interesting.
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LibraryThing member JStandlee
A fascinating perspective on the early ministry of Jesus from the perspective of the young zealot Daniel. After years of devoting his life to seeking vengeance on the Romans for the death of his parents, he eventually (if begrudgingly) finds the words of the new teacher Jesus more powerful than the
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hate he has built his life around.

The person of Jesus as described in the story seems a little too human, a little too weak; and the Disciples (though not named as such) may be a little too protective of their charge. The conversations with Simon and Jesus, however, feel plausible and true (which had me worried).

"Can you repay love with vengeance?"
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LibraryThing member robynkit
Elizabeth George Speare is such an excellent writer that you cannot help but envision yourself among the people and culture she writes about. This book gives a realistic portrayal for children (and adults too) of what it may have been like to live in Jesus' time and to experience the upheaval and
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uncertainty of the era but to also be affected by Jesus' person.
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LibraryThing member BrynDahlquis
It's not bad, but I was expecting more from the author of The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I find it very hard to sympathize with the main character, Daniel, so I was indifferent to most of the story. Any characters I liked I ended up feeling sorry for because they always recieved the bad end of
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Daniel's serious anger issues.

I do like the way Jesus was portrayed, and I don't think many people could pull off having Jesus be in a fictional book, but Elizabeth George Speare made a passable attempt.
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LibraryThing member The_Hibernator
Daniel has been living for years as a member of a band of Zealots who wish to free the Israelis from Roman oppression. When he meets a preacher named Jesus, he realizes that perhaps his path of violence and thievery isn't quite as logical as he'd thought it was. This is a fun book for kids, with
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adventure, interesting moral lessons, and new friendships. Although Jesus is a character in the book, he is only a minor one--the book is mainly historical fiction, and I think the lessons Daniel learns (violence, thievery, and hatred don't accomplish anything good) are appropriate for kids of all religions or lack thereof. This is a must-read.
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LibraryThing member foggidawn
Daniel has nothing but hatred for the Romans. They occupy his native land, with soldiers everywhere, and Daniel feels that they are to blame for his parents' death. Though he is only 15, Daniel considers himself a zealot, has taken a vow to avenge his parents, and has run away from his
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apprenticeship to a cruel blacksmith. He now makes his home in the mountain caves with a band of thieves led by Rosh, a hard but charismatic man who promises to lead the fight against the Roman oppressors. When word comes to Daniel that his grandmother is dying, he returns to the village where he grew up. He finds his grandmother at death's door, and his sister Leah, who is mentally ill and refuses to leave the house, in a pitiable state. Daniel longs to return to the mountain, but when his grandmother dies, he is the only person who can care for Leah. The old smith has died, and the new smith Simon, a friend of Daniel's, has left his forge to follow a new teacher named Jesus whose words are inspiring many in the area. Daniel occasionally goes to hear this Jesus but finds his teachings confusing. Daniel is determined to continue working for Rosh from his position in the village, and even recruits Joel, a friend from the nearby city of Capernaum. Daniel also gathers together a group of village boys who feel the same way he does about the Romans. But when one of Rosh's plans results in Joel being captured and Rosh does nothing to help, Daniel's faith in his leader is shaken. And when Daniel's sister is taken ill with a fever, there is only one person Daniel can turn to -- but will Jesus demand that Daniel give up the one thing he's always clung to: his hatred of the Romans?

I found the pacing and characterization in this book very good, though it is a product of its time and contains a few historical inaccuracies. This book will be best appreciated by readers who approach it from a Christian worldview, as it dovetails neatly with Biblical accounts of Jesus' teachings in Galilee during the early part of his ministry. This book is not without bias, and has been criticized for portraying some aspects of Judaism harshly, so that's something some readers may want to keep in mind. As inspirational historical fiction, this book works pretty well -- and since I believe the author originally wrote it for her Sunday School class, that makes perfect sense. I doubt that it will appeal to a broader audience, though.
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LibraryThing member Kateingilo
This beautifully written story is one of my all-time favorite books. An excellent use of historical fiction to portray the life of a boy at the time of Christ and bring out the reasons for Christ's coming.
LibraryThing member readingrat
An interesting combination of fiction and biblical history for the YA audience.
LibraryThing member patricia_poland
Winner of the 1962 Newbery medal this book follows a Jewish boy, filled with bitterness and hate for the Romans who rule his country, takes a long path to love by way of Jesus Christ.
LibraryThing member goodnightmoon
Honestly, I wasn't looking forward to reading this book... I'm working my way back through all the Newbery winners, and past the 1960s, I don't have much hope. I should have realized, though, that Elizabeth George Speare would deliver. I remember loving The Witch of Blackbird Pond. And wow! I can't
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even put my finger on what is so great about the way Speare writes. It's the description, sure. It's the way the exchanges between characters are so vivid. The events dovetail in a pleasing way. I can't decide - it's all of those things. Every night, I couldn't wait to read. My only quibble would be the rise and fall of action. Daniel is going to fight, no, he's going back to town, now he's back on the mountain, now he's following Jesus, now he's back in town... The arc wasn't as clear as it could have been. Overall, though, what a book.
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LibraryThing member t1bnotown
Though the history behind this story isn't something that is a time/place that I'd normally be interested in, Speare is very talented and I could hardly put the book down. I wanted so much for Daniel to be ready to give up his vengeance and have something more in his life, and I read eagerly,
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hoping for that. Daniel had a lot to learn about the world, and it was a relief to watch him learn it.
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LibraryThing member debnance
I certainly never expected to encounter among the Newberys a book of historical fiction where the main character meets Jesus!Daniel is a young man growing up in Israel during the time of the Roman occupation. Daniel wants nothing more than to rid his land of the hated Roman legions. He joins a band
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of warriors who are preparing an army to go up against the Romans, but, in time, he sees that the hatred of the band against the Romans is not conquering them. He hears about a rabbi who goes from village to village, preaching love not hate, and he comes to meet up with Jesus and sees with his own eyes the power of love.
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LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
This look at the historical time period of Jesus Christ is full of the pain of living in an occupied country. Daniel is torn between fierce loyalty to his country and intense hatred of Rome, who killed his parents. He is responsible for his sister but wants to fight. He makes friends with rebels,
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but watches them become converted to Jesus, who won't lead Israel in rebellion. By the end of the novel, I wondered just how this story could end, but just as Jesus performed miracles for others, he performed one for Daniel. I liked the exploration of spiritual and personal freedom, as opposed to spiritual and personal bondage that the Jewish nation bowed under during this time period.
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LibraryThing member sylvatica
This is a well-constructed and well-told story, but I am not sure that I can bring myself to recommend it without reservations. I know that many Newbery winners are used in middle school English programs, but I would hope never to find this on a required reading list in a public school. It starts
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out simply as historical fiction, but any historical fiction in which Jesus is a character becomes quickly unsimplified. He is portrayed as the son of God, miracles and all. A well-rounded and human son of God, but holy nonetheless, and the emotional focus of the book. (pannarrens)
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LibraryThing member jmoncton
Daniel, a young Israelite man, is consumed by his hatred of the Romans after the unfair crucifixion of his father. He joins a band of outlaws who share his goal of ousting the Romans. Daniel's outlook on life changes when he hears a traveling preacher speak - Jesus of Nazareth.

Although this book
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wasn't over the top in pushing Christianity, it seemed to have more of an agenda than purely historic fiction. I liked the story and the characters, but the audio version didn't quite resonate. The narrator, Mary Woods, had a slightly monotone voice. Definitely a narration with a greater variety of character voices would have made this more enjoyable.
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LibraryThing member fuzzi
I wasn't sure I was going to like this book, even though it had been recommended. It is the story of Daniel, a youth in Israel during the Roman occupation, and as it progressed, I found myself enjoying how the characters were developed. I also had vivid pictures in my mind of the people, the
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settings, as if I were watching a movie. Well done!

If you've read Ben Hur, it is similar in some ways, but not as if the author borrowed from Lew Wallace's classic tale. Good read.
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LibraryThing member HeatherKvale
A favorite with all I know who read it. A fantastic perspective to the times that Jesus grew up in.
LibraryThing member Hamburgerclan
I didn't intend to devour this book, honest. But the more pages I read, the more I wanted to see what happened next. It's the tale of a young man named Daniel. He's a Jewish guy living in the region of Galilee during the reign of the Roman emporer Tiberius. As the story starts, he's living in the
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hills with a band of robbers, having fled an unpleasant apprenticeship. Think "Robin Hood", and you'll get a picture of how the band likes to see themselves. Robbing from the rich and preparing for the day when they can throw off the rule of the accursed Romans. As the tale progresses, Daniel finds himself drawn back to the village and family that he thought he had left behind. These events and new friends challenge his views and push him in directions he doesn't want to go. It's a good tale which builds up a solid foundation of plot and characters, but then, towards the end, starts rushing along, practically wasting its potential. But I can forgive that because although the story comes to a screeching halt, it ends with a very satisfying conclusion. I'll have to make sure that this one stays on my shelf.
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LibraryThing member wadehuntpc
Disclaimer: I review books on how they stand alone without regards to anyone’s personal views about the author. I review based upon readability and how the book affects my life for good, and less upon literary style.

I loved this book because it speaks of many of the great characteristics of Jesus
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Christ. It shows that Christ did indeed bring his Father's kingdom here to earth, but many did not recognize it readily because of their expectations... But those who allowed themselves to really listen to the words and the Spirit that emanated from Christ were blessed with faith sufficient to understand that the Kingdom of God is a realm of love, peace, courage, and mercy. And, that this love forces all hate and fear away from it. Jesus says to Daniel toward the end of the book when Daniel was finally realizing Jesus as the Messiah, "Can't you see, Daniel, it is hate that is the enemy? Not men. Hate does not die with killing. It only springs up a hundredfold. The only thing stronger than hate is love."

On a personal level, too, it shows the fact that Jesus knows each one of us. and wants what is best for us.
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LibraryThing member Bookman1954
A young boy seeks revenge against the Romans for killing his parents, but is turned away from vengeance by Jesus.
LibraryThing member Bookman1954
A young boy seeks revenge against the Romans for killing his parents, but is turned away from vengeance by Jesus.
LibraryThing member Bookman1954
A young boy seeks revenge against the Romans for killing his parents, but is turned away from vengeance by Jesus.
LibraryThing member Bookman1954
A young boy seeks revenge against the Romans for killing his parents, but is turned away from vengeance by Jesus.
LibraryThing member homeschoolmimzi
I read this in the last two days, while sick in bed. It is part of my daughter's reading list for our Ancient Rome study. I wasn't expecting this book to be so full of intrigue, it even kept me up late despite feeling tired and sick. Very well written piece of historical fiction about an angry
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young zealot in ancient Rome who meets Jesus.
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Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

254 p.; 5.5 inches


0395137195 / 9780395137192




Sequoyah Book Award (Nominee — Children's — 1964)
Newbery Medal (Medal Winner — 1962)
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