Newbery Book Review

Shadow of a Bull

August 28, 2010. That was the last time I posted about a Newbery, not counting my post on the 2011 winner.

Wow.

Well, today – May 6, 2011 – is your lucky day because I have finally read, finished, and am about to review year 1965, Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska.

The book begins with an admission of fear and cowardice. Manolo Olivar is a nine-year-old boy who is expected to be the exact replica of his deceased and legendary father, Juan Olivar, the greatest bull fighter the town of Arcangel had ever seen. What people do not realize is that Manolo is scared and does not want to be a bull-fighter like his father. Manolo is too scared to even try swimming or jumping off hay bales. On the other hand, Manolo also does not want to disappoint anyone or bring dishonor to his family’s name. So, Manolo practices at night-time using the cape and muleta, praying that he will be able to hide his fear from his mother and the men who have begun to mentor him. The longer Manolo practices the more confident he feels, but still he lacks the aficion, the love for bullfighting. In the end, Manolo faces a bull but refuses to kill it, admitting that he is not like his father and wants something different from life.

This is a story about a boy who is consumed with fear but shows courage in the face of that fear.  It is a story about standing up for yourself and not succumbing to what everyone else wants or expects of you. It is a story about friendship and sacrifice. It is a story about a boy becoming a man.

When I started to read this back in the fall I struggled with it. This time, however, I was invested in the story because Manolo’s transformation from boy to man was so compelling.

I’ve mentioned before how fearful I can be of just about anything. While reading about Manolo I remembered my fear of swings as a kid. It looked so scary, and what if I fell or got hurt? I remember, even more vividly than the fear, the feeling of freedom and excitement when I overcame my fear, pumped my legs, and touched the sky (as 3-year-old Finn says when I push him on the swing). There’s nothing like overcoming a fear and realizing that you were, and are, bigger and stronger than (insert fear of choice here) the whole time.

“You hear that spiders?? I’m bigger than you!”

Next on my Newbery list: It’s Like This, Cat and then: A Wrinkle in Time. I think Forrest and I are going to read that last one together…anyone else want to join in and read it too? Maybe instead of a normal post we could have an open discussion on it. It’s a good book…I promise.

In closing, look at this beauty:

Our apple trees are finally blooming and blossoming. Spring is coming late to Portland this year and even I am getting a little discouraged by all the rainy days. I was hoping for a sunny weekend with Forrest, but it looks like rain, rain, rain.

Speaking of Forrest: he turned in his last assignment of his college career today!!!!!! So proud of that guy. This weekend we’ll actually get to see each other because neither of us have any homework. Now that is a beautiful reality, even despite the rain.

Happy weekend to you!

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