I reread this book this past week; it had been a year or so since I'd read it and I recently ordered my own copy. (I've been buying a lot of the Newbery books I've read in the past that I've loved. I'm one of those people who likes to read the same books again and again--and while I adore the library, I like having my own copy of favorites!)
Daniel is a Jewish boy living at the time of Jesus, a boy whose father was killed by Roman soldiers, whose mother died soon after from grief, and whose sister was so affected by trauma that she has refused to leave the house for years. Daniel runs away to join a zealot leader, filled with hatred and with a burning desire to kill Romans. (That really doesn't give the story away--I promise!)
In the course of the story, Daniel meets Jesus and struggles to reconcile Jesus as Messiah with the zealous Messiah he's been waiting for. Love and hate, freedom and oppression, friends and enemies--Daniel grapples with all of these as the story--and he himself--develops toward completion and maturity.
I love historical, biblical fiction--and this book is no exception. Speare does a great job of setting the scene in a such a way that the places and people all come alive for the reader. She also does a superb job of showing Jesus from the perspective of a somewhat ordinary boy--a boy like many others who never show up in the pages of the Gospels.