The Bronze Bow
Elizabeth George Speare (1962)
Read to: 2nd - 4th grade
Read independently: 5th - 7th grade
This is a fantastic story - based on Biblical characters and occurring in the years of Jesus' ministry on earth. It follows some Jewish youngsters as some deal with hard living conditions and all work together to bring about change in their land.
There are a lot of instances when they follow traditional Jewish laws of the time.
The main character is Daniel and I kept waiting for him to get thrown into a den of lions - but somewhere (p. 117) it mentions that this is a different Daniel who was named for a prophet. There is also a character named Samson - named so because he was unable to speak and since he was strong and big he reminded them of the other Samson.
Minor violence as bandits attack and steal but it is portrayed as being done for a good cause.
The story seems to plod along, pleasantly, until about the last fifty pages when Daniel is suddenly learning lessons right and left, and still struggling to control his anger, like when Rosh doesn't help rescue Joel, even though it was because Joel was doing a mission for Rosh that he got caught. Daniel is thrust into leadership - and while he is successful in rescuing Joel, the mission is not without fatalities. Thus teaching Daniel more lessons.
Around p. 190 the plot thickens a bit and the implications may be over some young reader's heads - but it is brief and even so not un-enjoyable. it is far better than the deep French history in "The Eight" which I was reading simultaneously.
Daniel even talks to Jesus about his problems but can't quite let go of his anger to accept the teaching. Jesus points out on p. 224 that the friend who died in the battle for Joel laid down his life in love and Daniel should not repay that with hate. When Daniel argues that he made a vow with Joel and Thacia , "To live and die for God's Victory!" (p. 226) Jesus points out "that is not a vow of hate" (p. 276). He then sends Daniel away saying, "You are not far from the kingdom." (p. 226) It still appeared to me like he was far.
On p. 231 there is an emotionally charged scene between Daniel and Thacia where he tells her he can't be with her because of his need for vengeance (talk about far from the kingdom). Thacia is a very good influence on Daniel and even tames him a bit in front of the Roman soldiers he hates so much. A wizened reader gets the sense that they are falling in love.
My 8y4.5m son read the last few pages to me (11 pages in 25 minutes) and it seemed like he might've skipped a page because it all seemed to wrap up so quickly (textually it sounded fine). It was a happy ending; even though several key characters were left unresolved one can assume they lived happily ever after.