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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. –from the Song of David (2 Samuel 22:35) The Bronze Bow, written by Elizabeth George Speare (author of The Witch of Blackbird Pond) won the Newbery Medal in 1962. This gripping, action-packed novel tells the story of eighteen-year-old Daniel bar Jamin—a fierce, hotheaded young man bent on revenging his father’s death by forci…

The Bronze Bow

by Elizabeth Speare

Overall Book Review:

Eighteen-year-old Daniel bar Jamin made a vow to avenge the death of his father and mother by the Romans. For years he’s lived in the mountains with the rebel leader Rosh, but now that his grandmother has died, he must return to the village and care for his sister who hasn’t left the house since the day she saw her father crucified.

His friend Simon the Zealot has told him about the carpenter’s son Jesus—maybe he’s the one born to free their country from the yoke of Rome.

This award-winning book presents Jesus in the context of a country simmering with unrest and hatred for its Roman oppressors.

Speare provides the context from some of Christ’s teachings, but allows readers to remember the exact message from their own knowledge. For example, Daniel and a friend are forced to carry the packs of two Roman soldiers for a mile—Jesus’ teaching on the subject is not mentioned. Someone else struggles to pay taxes—”render unto Ceasar” isn’t mentioned.

The story’s first excitement starts on page 16 where Daniel frees a slave from a caravan; Jesus preaches for the first time on page 46; on page 70, Daniel defies a Roman soldier and flees for his life; later, Daniel leads an attack against Roman soldiers who are transporting prisoners to the galleys; in between these events, there are quieter moments. Likely readers will be intrigued by seeing Jesus through the eyes of a rebel and will keep reading to discover whether Daniel will come to understand Jesus and his message of love.

RL 4.1, range 2.5-5.6. 

Of interest to boys and girls.

Newbery Award, 1962.

This review has been acquired and adapted from

Content Analysis:

This review was acquired from on May 15, 2014 and was not completed using Compass Book Ratings’ standardized checklist.  Nevertheless, it contains useful content information which is included here.  The overall number ratings have been approximated based on this information.

Galileans called a violent people; mention of hero being flogged repeatedly by blacksmith, last time his back is raw; hero points out where Joshua fought heathen kings and drove them to the sea; rebel leader Rosh may have fought against the Romans and escaped when others crucified; slave has scars from whippings; rebels jump out at caravan, hero catches man’s arm, “twists it back,” takes man’s dagger, and holds knife to man’s side; some rebels injured in raid, not graphic, boy injures shoulder, not graphic; people of Nazareth tried to kill Jesus, took him to top of cliff to push him off, but then fell back and let him leave; hero wants to smash soldiers’ faces, picks up rock, villagers restrain him, tell him he’ll bring destruction on entire village; hero wants to stop making swords and “put them to use”; chariot driver deliberately caught old man’s rear wagon wheel, tipping out load; hero dashes water in soldier’s face, gets spear wound, runs away; friend reads hero vengeful Old Testament prophesies such as “His sword is drunk with their blood”; hero’s father and others crucified for trying to save hero’s uncle who was arrested for not paying taxes, uncle fought Romans, sentenced to quarry, soldier killed with sickle, mother died after keeping vigil at crosses, sister becomes recluse after seeing crucifixions, not graphic; hero assigned to rob old miser who travels road alone, jumps out at him, jerks him to his feet; miser pulls two knives on hero; hero knocks him out; people who follow Jesus “snatch bread from the helpless,” trample someone who can only crawl; hero helps boy fight off attackers who are upset that his father’s become a tax collector, enjoys fist fight, not very graphic; hero hit across face by Roman soldier twice; hero feels tricked by friend’s sister into carrying Roman pack; Romans catch thief, implication that he’s tortured; rebels lose men—three die, four wounded; guard grabbed around throat, stunned, his weapons taken, he’s gagged; slaves flogged; hero plans ambush to save friend, plans to throw rocks down, stop column of prisoners, release friend from chains, use spears if needed; hero knives soldier, feels himself lifted up, then falling against rock, body falls on him, knocked out, has broken shoulder bone and ribs; newly-married recruit killed, pool of blood beneath him; slave killed, speared; hero threatens to tear out tongue of soldier.

Slave wears only a dirty loincloth; two men bathe in pond, take some clothing off; mention of “half-naked men” loading barges; mention of half-naked fishermen.

Mature Subject Matter:

Slavery, Death

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Mention of rebels drinking grape wine, twice; hero drinks date wine with friend’s family; hero given wine with medicine in it when wounded.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

On May 15, 2014 Compass Book Ratings acquired Many reviews were acquired from and these reviews were not completed using Compass Book Ratings’ standardized checklist. Nevertheless, the reviews contain useful content information which is included.