Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska

Our Score

The publishing powers-that-be claim today’s readers are impatient. If you don’t hook them on the first page, the first paragraph even, you’re not publishable.  Vintage Reads always start a little slower. Teach your children patience for this book.  In turn, it will teach them how to respond to life’s challenges with integrity and faith, especially appropriate for middle grade boys as they search for what will make them good men.


The first paragraph caught my interest. Everyone in the bullfighting town of Arcangel expected Manolo to follow in his father’s footsteps as a bullfighter. The rest of the chapter? Not so interesting because the writing style is from fifty years ago –until the last lines that added deeper emotion: “…that hero had left them a son who was growing up once again to take arms against death. They were waiting for the son to be like his father.”

Except the son had no interest in becoming a bullfighter, which is the gist of the plot. How Manolo comes to terms with honor and bringing pride to his family and his town is what makes Shadow of a Bull a gripping read.


  1. Maia Wojciechowska gives us an enlightening peek into the world of bullfighting. Personally, I have always been adamantly against the “sport,” but the author shows us the spirit of a magnificent bull. As one character put it (and  I paraphrase): such a creature prefers to die in battle rather than be shoved into a slaughterhouse unable to defend himself.
  2.  Manolo’s character matures as he prepares for his first bullfight (at the age of twelve!). His final decision will please the bullfighter aficionado as well as  those who abhor bloodsport.


As with any Vintage Read, children of the 21st century will find it difficult to stay with the long descriptions and inner monologue, so maybe it can be a read-aloud for the whole family.

Discussion Questions

Lots of deep thinking abounds! I will limit myself to three.

  1. Why didn’t Manolo just tell people (or at least his mother) that he didn’t want to be a bullfighter?
  2. Did Manolo ever see the beauty in bullfighting? Explain your answer.
  3.  Did you like Manolo’s final decision? Why or why not?


If your public library, like mine, has a section on Newbery Awards, Shadow of a Bull should be there. Relish the story.

Linda Samaritoni
Linda Samaritoni, writing as Linda Sammaritan, has her feet firmly on the ground and her mind reaching for heaven. Each day is an adventure on her journey with Jesus. After a career teaching middle-graders, Linda loves to write contemporary and historical stories for the same age group. She also loves to jot down metaphors within spiritual ideas. Check out her other blog and author website

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