Winner of the Newbery Medal in 1962, The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare (originally published in 1961) is an amazing story about a boy in Galilee during the time of Jesus. Daniel bar Jamin is an angry teenager, looking for revenge on the Roman soldiers who occupy his land. As a politically charged novel, then, The Bronze Bow amazingly captures the difficulties that Jews in Galilee may have faced in the meridian of time. The book is also a Christian one, as Daniel learns from the mysterious Rabbi, Jesus, who preaches love, turning the other cheek, and forgiveness for all.
That is not to say that The Bronze Bow is only a book for Christians. The carefully developed setting reveals a historical setting that is educational to all interested in the political challenges of the era. It would fit in history classes well, given the carefully developed setting and characters.
Since I read it as a Christian, however, I could not help but read it from my perspective. I do not know how non-Christians would appreciate the book. Although I had been familiar with the political situation during the era, The Bronze Bow helped it come alive. I had never before thought of Jesus’ advent from the perspective of an angry Jewish child and the Roman occupation.
I loved the new perspective. It helped me refocus my own understanding of Christ’s teachings. I found myself thinking about it for many days after I finished reading it. Reading the Sermon on the Mount cannot quite be the same as imagining Daniel’s feelings as he first heard Jesus’ words.
The Bronze Bow is a complex novel. Although won the Newbery Award as a superb book for children, this is not a book for young or immature children to read. There are so many subtleties in character and setting that can easily be missed. Even the plot is subtle. It requires careful or at least interesting reading to get the full power. As such, I cannot recommend it to most children. For those willing to put the effort into reading and understanding, however, The Bronze Bow is incredibly memorable and powerful.