Sunday, April 27, 2014

Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska

Cover image for Shadow of a bullManolo is the son of a great bull fighter from Andalusia, Spain.  His father, Juan Olivar, faced his first bull when he was only 12, fought bravely for 10 years, and then died from a goring in the ring. Now Manolo is approaching his own 12th birthday, and all the townspeople expect him to be a great bull fighter like his father. But Manolo has a secret: he is a coward.  He doesn't want to be a bull fighter, but he knows he must face his bull at age 12 or lose his honor and disgrace his family name. As the months march on toward his 12th birthday, Manolo must face his fear and decide what it really means to be a man.

This is an old, old Newbery winner.  It is so old it was written the year that I was born.  I was always put off by the subject matter, so I had never gotten around to reading it. I finally picked it up off of the shelf, and I am so glad I did.  It is amazingly well written.  It reminds me of other great classic "coming of age" novels like Call it Courage, and Captains Courageous.  Ms Wojciechowska really knows bull fighting as well.  The detail and insight she brings to this ethically complicated sport are really fascinating. This book would never have been published today but it is a great one to share with your favorite 12 year old boy.  There are so many ethical and moral issues and Manolo is such a good, moral and sympathetic character, you could talk about it around the dinner table for weeks. (165 p)

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