This Christian book by Elizabeth George Speare is published by Houghton Mifflin Books and is written for kids ages 12 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
After his parents' untimely deaths, Daniel bar Jamin escapes to the hills and joins a rough band — led by a man named Rosh. They plan to conquer the hated Romans. Five years later, Daniel runs into an old friend and learns his grandmother (who cares for his younger, demon-possessed sister, Leah) is dying. His senses of guilt and responsibility lead him to return to his home in the village and take over his friend Simon's blacksmith shop while caring for Leah. Still driven by his hatred for the Romans — who, readers learn, killed his father — Daniel aids Rosh from a distance by assembling a band of like-minded young men to fight. But when Daniel meets a carpenter named Jesus, all of his notions are turned upside-down.
Set in the time of Christ's ministry, the book includes many accounts of His miracles. Jesus is a character in the story. His message and healing power profoundly influence the main character.
Rosh shows less concern for his men than for his hate-driven mission. He steals — everything from livestock to money to slaves — even from his own people (the Jews) in order to fund and feed his army. Simon is a blacksmith who gives up his shop to follow Jesus. He shows constant concern and friendship for Daniel, and even turns his home and business over to him. He tries to help Daniel see the hope offered by the man he believes is the Messiah.
Other Belief Systems
Initially, every action in Daniel's life is fueled by hate and a thirst for vengeance. After meeting Jesus and getting to know Him, Daniel discovers that love is a more powerful weapon.
Newbery Medal, 1962
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- While working for Rosh, what does Daniel feel justified in doing?
Is lying and stealing are ever justifiable? Why or why not?
- Toward the end of the story, Daniel debates whether he can repay Leah's love with vengeance, since he feels that is all he has to offer.
Is revenge ever a good idea?
If so, when? What does the Bible say about it?
- What did Daniel's hatred do to him?
What can hate do to us?
Can you think of a time when you've seen someone's hatred overrule him or her? What happened?
- When Simon, Daniel and others choose to believe in Jesus, they have to choose without knowing what lies ahead for them.
How can you put your trust in someone or something that doesn't offer immediate answers?
- When Daniel wonders why Jesus isn't healing everyone, what was Simon's suggestion?
Do you think Simon was correct?
- Who may not want to be healed of their pain, sorrow or addictions today? Explain your answer.
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.