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The Bronze Bow (1997)

The Bronze Bow (1997)
3.91 of 5 Votes: 3
0395137195 (ISBN13: 9780395137192)
hmh books for young readers
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The Bronze Bow (1997)
The Bronze Bow (1997)

About book: This book was so not what I expected. In fact, this is the second book in a row I've expected to be an American Indian tale from the title. That's the fun of not checking out the blurbs on a book: you get to be surprised.This story is actually set in the time of Christ. The main character, Daniel, is a Jewish rebel (zealot) living in the mountains waiting for the opportune time, or person, to banish the Romans from Jerusalem. It was interesting to see the expectancy for a Messiah who would be a warrior to overthrow the Roman Empire, a concept we often forget. As well as the good of the Pharises, a word we take to be synonymous with hypocrite. The assumptions we have about Christ today with 2000 years of hindsight are easily taken for granted, particularly the completion of the highly honored law of Moses with the new gospel he spread and the understanding of two Messianic visits: one as a spiritual salvation and the other a physical one. Speare did an excellent job showcasing Jewish tradition and law and how the unexpected messages of love and acceptance would have been strange and contrary to what the Jews were waiting for. I really enjoyed the well-researched picture she presented of Jewish life at the time of Christ and that despite the religious undertones of the book, it is not a preachy sermon but a fictional tale.Daniel has found a reason to live in his plans for revenge on the Romans by whom he has felt wronged. During his work to rile the people against the Romans he happens across some of Jesus' sermons. It was interesting to see the sermons of Christ from a third-party almost uninterested party as he happens upon glimpses of healings and messages received in this ingrained Jewish tradition mindset instead of the Christian ingrained tradition with which we read his passages. We as readers also get a feel for how hard it was to see Jesus for the throngs of followers. In the scriptures we only see the stories of those who push their way to the front of the crowd, not those in the back left wanting a glimpse of the prophet.Faced with the options of giving up on everything that has made his existence important to find healing in peace or continuing on the path his life has lead him, Daniel struggles to accept the message that the Romans deserve love and that maybe hate isn't a savior. He must compare Jesus' soft-spoken inactive message with Rosh, the robber he has grown up believing is the physical Messiah foretold in scripture. But hate however worthy of a cause it may start off with is never a strong enough motive to keep one altruistic. Rosh has turned from idealist out to save his people to embittered thief who preys on his own people for sustenance because he resents the Jews paying taxes to the Romans as much as the Romans themselves. Hate is all consuming and if left to fest, it will consume. Daniel's justifications for hating the Romans starts off as understandable (although I sympathized with the Romans too) and progresses to a blind fury where he is blaming the Romans for incidents in which he was more to blame than them. I was often exasperated at Daniel for holding onto his hate, but I don't think it's unrealistic to give up something you have blindly followed for so long.Sometimes the messages we least expect are the hardest ones to accept. To change everything we have taken as given takes a large mental u-turn and a lot of humility. Like the rich man who could not give up all he owns to follow Christ, Daniel does not know if he can give up all his righteous indignation, particularly for someone so prideful. The realization that Christ may be the chosen Messiah and maybe his message of love is the salvation for which he has been waiting comes gradually to Daniel. He must weigh his personal salvation against the vow his has made to save his people from bondage. And he must give up on everything he has fought his entire life for in order to accept the message. Even though it is not as big of a shock or as large of a leap for us today, the message still remains the same: love heals all. Can we give up our own odious grips to allow forgiveness to give us peace?

After a slow start, this book kept getting better and better, richer and richer, and the end made me cry. For the record, there are only two other books that have made me cry: Bambi and Black Beauty. Maybe Where the Red Fern grows. And no animals died in this book! In fact, none of the main characters died in this book. But what happened on the last page, between the Jew, Daniel and the Roman, Marcus, just choked me up - in a good way, though.I read this with my 9 and 12 year old girls for school and they loved it too. It's written from the perspective of Daniel, a young man with a very bitter heart (his father was killed by the Romans and his mother died soon after); the other two main characters are Leah (his younger sister), and Thacia, his friend Joel's sister. Daniel is a little hard to take because of his bitterness, but all the other characters: Simon, Rosh, Joktan, Samson, Joel, the two girls, and Marcus (toward the end) are so well drawn their names are emblazoned in my memory. Jesus makes a few appearances and is very striking in each small scene he's in. Excellent historical setting in Roman-occupied Israel; lots of details about Jewish culture and its different aspects (zealots, teachers of the law, celebrations, even dining customs) without being overwhelming.Loved discovering the significance of the title in chapter 7: God is my strong refuge,and has made my way safe.He made my feet like hind's feet, and set me secure on the heights.He trains my hands for war,so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. (Psalm 18:32-34)"It couldn't really be bronze," said Daniel, puzzled. "The strongest man could not bend a bow of bronze.""Perhaps just the tips were metal," Joel suggested."No," Thacia spoke. "I think it was really bronze. I think David meant a bow that a man couldn't bend - that when God strengthens us we can do something that seems impossible."Daniel makes another discovery about the bronze bow in the last chapter that made me catch my breath. Thacia was my favorite character, especially when she'd dress up in boys clothes to be able to travel around in freedom. Her brother Josh: "Father regrets now that he's allowed her so much freedom to go about with me. Thace is spoiled. She isn't used to staying at home the way most girls do."It will be like caging a wild bird from the mountain, Daniel thought.Joel looked away then, into a far corner of the shop. "Father wants to arrange a marriage for her," he said. Daniel was not even aware that his hands reached out or that his knuckles whitened around a hammer handle."There is an old friend of the family," Joel went on. "But Thacia won't hear of it. it puts Father in a hard position, because, not matter how he regrets it, he is bound by his own promise. You see, it's different with our family. When our mother was only eight years old she was betrothed. But when she was fifteen my father, who was a poor student, came to do some worked in her father's library, and they fell in love. It caused a terrible uproar. Her father was furious. He had to get divorce papers from the boy she had never even laid eyes on. She and Father promised each other then that they would never arrange marriages for their children against their will, that they would let us choose for ourselves."What a nice change from the usual historical story line with arranged marriages! But poor Thace! Because Daniel is (view spoiler)[bound by a vow he'd made when his father died that his life would be devoted to only purpose: to free Israel from Rome, even if it means dying for freedom so he cannot marry her because it would only mean heartache for her. And he doesn't feel worthy to marry her anyway, because he's so poor and uneducated. (hide spoiler)]
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The story of a young Jewish boy, living with a group of Jewish outlaws, awaiting the coming of the Savior (whom they believe will save them from political opression). But when the boy actually meets Jesus Christ, and listens to his teachings, he battles with his faith. He's torn between the kind of salvation Christ is offering, versus the political freedom he thought the Savior would offer. This story is captivating in the sense that everyone thinks that if they lived in the time of Christ, and heard his teachings, that they would undoubtedly believe. But to see the conversion of this young Jewish boy, makes you realize that it wasn't easy for the people to break away from what they had been taught, and accept Christ. I love this story, and I think it is a valuable read and has an amazing message of faith.
Ann Carpenter
I approached this book, winner of the 1962 Newbery Award, with equal parts anticipation and trepidation. On the one hand, this was the author of The Witch of Blackbird Pond, one of my all-time favorite Newbery books. On the other hand, it was going to be a historical novel where one of the characters was Jesus. In the end, I thought the book was interesting, but nowhere near as good as its sister book. The characters are well drawn, with clear personality traits, multiple and complex goals. The setting was clearly delineated, with various characters portraying what appeared to me (with very little Biblical knowledge) to be period attitudes and understandings of what was going on. Jesus is a major character in terms of his influence on others, but he himself only has a few pages of screentime, and much of that is involved in Daniel's disappointment that Jesus is not ready to begin the fight to overthrow the Romans through violence. I was intrigued by the conversation about how "many people don't want to be well" and that that is partially why not everyone is healed by Jesus. It is certainly true that there are occasionally hysterics for whom there is no physical reason for their sickness or lameness or blindness. But such cases are fairly rare. I wondered how a child reading the book who has a serious illness or was born with a physical disability might react to the idea that it's all just in their heads and they don't really want to be well. The sister, Leah, did not ring completely true for me. She is "possessed by demons" after a traumatic experience at the age of five. Granted she was young and no one did anything to help her through the trauma, but she seems far more scarred by the experience than one would expect. I also did not believe that she would shrink back from every single person, yet have no problem speaking to Marcus over the wall. Daniel is an unrelentingly angry young man. I can understand why he feels that way (although at the same time, I also think the Romans were at least somewhat justified in their actions. His uncle broke the law, his father broke the law, people were hurt. Punishment was inevitable, and, while harsh in the extreme, was also within the bounds of the cultural expectations.) His hatred and refusal to see any other perspective was grating after awhile, his entire life consumed by hate. It was interesting to read this book, set in Palestine, about a Jewish boy enraged by the occupation of his homeland by enemies when there is so much unrest in that part of the world now with the Jews being the occupiers.
What a gripping, inspiring and comforting read! Yes, this is an award winning YA first published in the early 60s but the story, the theme, the moral within certainly speaks to all ages and is completely relevant to today's readers. The story is built around Daniel, a fiery teen filled with a fervent vow to seek vengeance against the Roman occupiers for the early death of his parents. He sees himself as a zealot willing to take on any task or bear any burden to see that vow fulfilled. He follows some tough roads but begins to have a kernel of doubt when he discovers new friends who do not quite fit into his chosen paths. Then he encounters Jesus of Nazareth though his friend and fellow blacksmith, Simon the Zealot. He does not quite know what to make of Jesus and still retains doubt about his messages of love especially given that hate has driven him for so long. This is a great book for all ages and for all religions because even though Jesus does have a role in the story, the message is universal and well heeded for all - that love is the only thing more powerful than hate. I have to say that I loved the message within and I loved this book! I listened and what a joy it was!
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