"The Bronze Bow" by Elizabeth George Speare is an absolute triumph, a Newbery-medal-winning-triumph. In fact, after reading this novel Speare has quickly become one of my favourite authors, and her other novels are now a priority on my to-read list. Even though “The Bronze Bow” was published in 1961, it remains a popular choice for schools, standing against the test of time. On Amazon, it remains in the top 100 books for prehistoric fiction. Both young and old will find the characters relatable and the story action-packed and adventurous.
“The Bronze Bow” is a historical fiction set in the first century, during the same period of Jesus of Nazareth’s teachings in Capernaum. The main character, an 18-year-old Jewish rebel named Daniel, wants nothing more than to rid his land of Roman rule. He leaves his grandmother and sister to join a band of rebels to help this cause. However, after meeting Jesus and hearing his strange words, Daniel starts to question this violent cause. While Jesus is just a secondary character in this novel, he has a large impact on Daniel’s future.
“The Bronze Bow” is a beautifully written and well-researched novel. Daniel’s journey from being hate-consumed to burden-free is incredible. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys a great story.
Recommended Age Group?
It isn’t often that I agree with a publisher’s recommended age group, however in the case of “The Bronze Bow” (for ages 10-12), I agree. For the younger readers, it would be a good idea to set the scene and help them understand the political climate of the 1st century.
This novel addresses a variety of profound themes, with the effects of unrelenting hatred being the most profound. There are also themes of forgiveness, violence vs peace, and mental illness. For example, when Daniel’s sister, Leah, is a child, she has the terrible experience of witnessing the aftermath of her father’s death by crucifixion. This leads Leah to shutting herself in her home and refusing to speak to anyone other than family members. After well over a decade of this behaviour, and no cures from doctors, she becomes labelled as demon-possessed and incurable.
You can see how such plot details might be too difficult for younger readers to understand.
This book is classroom approved, but most likely best suited for grades 7-8. Keep in mind, this book includes some difficult themes, and while the deaths and violence aren’t described in detail, some of these themes might be too difficult for your younger readers. To determine if this is the right novel for your students/children, I recommend a pre-read before beginning a full class read-aloud.
Whether religious or not, this book is a fantastic read and will teach your students many things about 1st Century history. Your readers will walk away having learned important morals and lessons about the nature of hate and the wonderful power of love.