Hi! There’s exciting news this week. Sara Ralph, Elementary School Librarian from Asheboro, NC is joining me on the Newbery journey. Today, we’ll be discussing the 1962 winner, The Bronze Bow. We’ll start with Sara’s review.
Thanks to Benji for inviting me to join Newbery Pie. Reading all the Newbery books seems to be a librarian thing to do. Having a reading partner makes it much more fun!
I had never heard of Bronze Bow and jumped into it without reading a summary or a synopsis. I thought, Biblical times? Yep. Despite ample background knowledge (including a college English course – Literary Study of the Bible), I was confused about places, Roman emperors (they are all called Caesar?) and had to research.
The story took awhile to get into, but I enjoyed it once I did. Daniel, who is Jewish, has left an abusive apprenticeship placement as a blacksmith to join a band of outlaws, led by Rosh, who sees himself as a Robin Hood type, stealing from Romans and other Jews (rich or not) for the “cause.” Daniel parents have died, but he has a grandmother and younger sister, Leah, who live in a town close by (Galilee, or is that the region?). Other important characters include: Simon, another blacksmith and an adult Daniel trusts; two friends Daniel makes, Josh and his sister Thacia; Sampson, a black slave that Rosh’s group liberates from the Romans and who forms a special attachment to Daniel; and obviously, Jesus, who is traveling around preaching and healing people.
I think the most impressive part of this story, and definitely a sign of its Newbery worthiness is Daniel’s character development. He goes from someone motivated only by hated for the Romans and a desire for vengeance to having the ability to develop strong relationships with others, putting their needs ahead of the cause.
I do not have this book in my K-5 library. I think it might be more appropriate for middle school because of the content. Getting my 7th grader to read it would be a hard sell.
I give The Bronze Bow 3.5/5 pies.
Of course, I had heard of the Bronze Bow before. I knew it was on of the titles down the line on the Newbery list, that I would have to read sooner or later, but I didn’t know anything else about it. Like Sara, I have a pretty strong Biblical foundation. I grew up in a Christian home, my grandfather is a Southern Baptist preacher, I attended a Christian school from elementary to high school, and in college, the only class I ever got a perfect grade in was New Testament survey. Yup. 100 %. So I figured out where and when we were pretty early in the novel. The only thing that really confused me was the issue of the two Simons, Simon the Zealot and Simon (soon to be Peter) the fisherman. The author doesn’t really go out of her way to tell us which Simon she’s referring to and I had to rely on contextual clues to figure it out. That meant a lot of going back and rereading. I don’t know many kids who are going to make that effort. They’re either going to be confused and move on, enjoying it less, or they’re going to give it up.
That was pretty much my only beef though. I liked the story a lot. To me, if you can put Jesus into your novel, the most important divisive figure in history, you have to be really careful, but Speare handled it wonderfully. There aren’t a whole lot of very religious Newbery winners out there, but I think Speare pulled off a terrific novel no matter your beliefs or opinions.
I think that The Bronze Bow was very appropriate for the time period. In one particularly moving scene, Daniel is meeting with Jesus alone for the first time. He can’t move past his hatred for the Romans. It has become to big a part of who he is. Jesus tells him, “Hate does not die with killing. It springs up a hundredfold. The only thing stronger than hate is love.” I stopped reading there, and thought, “Jesus sounds a lot like Dr. King.” But then I thought some more, and corrected myself. The truth is Dr. King actually just sounded a lot like the Jesus we see in the New Testament. In the 60’s when The Bronze Bow was published, there was a lot of racial hate in the United States, and the people giving out the most hate, were professing Christians. It’s almost like Speare is saying, “Look! Stop the hate! Jesus didn’t give out hate. He gave out love, and he wants you to as well!”
Unlike Sara, I do have The Bronze Bow in my library, and I actually checked it out once last year, to a fifth grader. She read it, and claimed that she liked it. She spent the rest of the year reading The Dork Diaries, so this was kind of confusing to me, (not that there’s anything wrong with the Dork Diaries, it was just an extreme outlier to her usual tastes.) but I was glad that she read and enjoyed it.
I give The Bronze Bow 4 out of 5 Newbery Pies.
Next up: A Wrinkle in Time