Title: Shadow of a Bull
Author: Maia Wojciechowska
Major Themes: Bullfighting, Courage, Spain
Synopsis: Manolo is expected by everyone in his town to become a great bullfighter like his father—but is that really what he should do with his life?
Shadow of a Bull is one of those books that I enjoyed, but I’m really not sure how I feel about it. The underlying message of the book is good, to accept the way you are and not try to fit yourself into the mold other people have for your life, but there is a lot of blood and gore.
Manolo’s father, who died when Manolo was only three, was the greatest matador Spain ever knew. Now, Manolo is expected to follow in his father’s footsteps and fight the bulls with as much skill as his father did. However, he does not love bullfighting, and he is a coward—he is terrified of facing the bulls. Six men take him under their wing and teach him all they can about fighting the bulls, taking him to all the bullfights they can. They promise him that when he is 12, he will be given a bull to fight, and he can prove that he is as great as his father.
Manolo is terrified to face the bulls—and terrified of letting the men down, of disappointing them. He practices at night in his bedroom, and tries everything he can think of to prove to himself that he is not a coward. What will happen, though, when he actually faces the bull? And what of the occupation he really wants to follow? Will he have the strength to do what he wants to do, follow the leading of his heart?
This story rings true; the characters are very realistic. We really liked the ending. The only thing I did not like was the way the bulls were killed just to satisfy the crowd, and the people getting hurt by the bulls.
WARNING: Several times, a bullfight is described in great detail, and goring is described a time or two. Not for younger or sensitive children.
Listening Level—Ages 10 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 10 – 12, 12 – 15