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Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska, Newbery Medal Award Winner
Aladdin Book
Number of pages
: 151


Manolo Olivar is the son of the greatest matador in Spain, Juan Olivar, who was killed by a bull. Because he is the son of such a famous torero, everyone expects Manolo to be a bullfighter. But, Manolo does not have the "aficion",ie. the love for corridas. He is even afraid of bulls. At twelve, he must fight his first bull. But no matter how much he practices, he lacks what it takes to be a matador. On the contrary, his friend, Juan Garcia, has the vocation to be a bullfighter. But nobody clearly seems to be giving him a chance.

Manolo once meets a doctor at a bullfight who heals a large wound made by the bullís horns. He asks Manolo to help him. The young boy enjoys this very much and would rather become a doctor than a bullfighter. He thinks that what the doctor is doing is "the most noble thing a man could do".

The day for the bullfight comes. Manolo shows great courage in overcoming his fear and successfully fights the bull in the first part of the corrida, where the torero uses a cape. But in the second part, where the torero is using the muleta and must kill the bull with a sword, he realizes that bullfighting is not his vocation. He offers the bull to his friend, Juan, who gets the chance of his life.

The story ends with the old doctor who had guessed the desires of Manoloís heart, asking him to become his apprentice. Manolo is happy and at peace since "his fatherís life, bullfighting, would stay a part of him, as it always had been, but in a different way than anyone had planned". (A doctor is always present at a corrida.)

Strong Points:

  • The story has a lot of suspense, and the whole book leads to the climax of the final bullfight.
  • The reader is introduced to colorful world of Spanish culture and pageantry.
  • The young boy shows bravery in fighting the bull. He does not disgrace his mother by showing himself a coward. He has a great sense of honor.
  • He goes to Mass and prays to Our Lady, La Macarena, patroness of bullfighters, for courage.
  • He shows true charity in helping his friend, Juan Garcia, to become a matador.
  • The story shows that the important thing is to follow oneís vocation, which is the will of God for us. (p. 130 when Juan is asked his he will be a great torero, he replies, "If it is the will of God.") One should not force himself into a vocation just to please others.
  • Our vocation in life is determined by the aptitudes God has given us. We have to make the right decision if we do not want to waste our life.


We cannot put on the same plane the bravery of the torero and the bravery of the bull. Blind instinct is different from rational virtue. (p. 36)


The book is excellent to make our boys reflect upon the choice of a vocation. A good teacher can discuss, with profit, the different dilemmas in Manoloís life and how he resolves them.