The Golden Bull book cover image

The Golden Bull
A Mesopotamian Adventure

  • 895

By: Marjorie Cowley

A brother and sister's search for a new life and new home . . .

5,000 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia during a terrible drought, Jomar and Zefa's father must send his children away to the city of Ur because he can no longer feed them. At fourteen, Jomar is old enough to apprentice with Sidah, a master goldsmith for the temple of the moongod, but there is no place for Zefa in Sidah's household. Zefa, a talented but untrained musician, is forced to play her music and sing for alms on the streets of Ur.

Marjorie Cowley vividly imagines the intrigues, and harsh struggle for survival in ancient Mesopotamia.

Author & Illustrator Bios:

Marjorie Cowley, author

Marjorie Cowley was trained at the Fowler Museum of Cultural History at the University of California, Los Angeles, and taught prehistoric history to students from first grade through high school. In this capacity she was designated a professional expert by the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Read more about Marjorie.

Awards & Honors:

  • Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books of the Year

Editorial Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews

Dispatched from their drought-stricken farm to make their way as best they can in the ancient city of Ur, grumpy teenager Jomar and his tempestuous little sister Zefa spend at least as much energy quarreling as they do fretting about finding work while staying out of the clutches of Malak, a malicious official of the prosperous temple of the moongod. By the end, Jomar has proven himself an apt apprentice to a kindly goldsmith, and Zefa has parlayed a natural talent with the lyre into a position as a Temple musician--but more importantly, each has earned the other's respect. Along with glimpses of ancient goldsmithing techniques, Cowley tucks healthy measures of cultural and historical detail into her uncomplicated Mesopotamian tale.


The drought in the Mesopotamian countryside is so dire that Jomar and his sister, Zefa, a gifted lyre player, are being sent away to Ur, where Jomar will apprentice to a goldsmith. En route, the children fall into the hands of a ruthless temple official, Malak, who gathers them up for his work crew patrolling the rural irrigation system. After a bold escape, they live in fear of Malak recapturing them in Ur. Goldsmith Sidah and his less-than-welcoming wife, Nari, are willing to shelter Jomar, but balk at the unexpected Zefa, who eventually slips away and joins a street troupe. Pulsing action, suspenseful dilemmas, and well-chosen details of goldsmithing and Mesopotamian justice add up to a fine tale that entertains as it reveals the sophistication of society in the cradle of civilization. By the author of Dar and the Spear-Thrower and its sequel, Annoka's Answer, this story's setting in ancient Iraq may be a special draw for children curious about this in-the-news country and its culture.

Library Media Connection

The Golden Bull takes readers to ancient Mesopotamia where the country is suffering through a drought Jomar and Zefa's father has to send them to the city of Ur where Jomar will be an apprentice to Sidah, a master goldsmith for the temple of the moon god. The homemade lyre that Zefa insisted on bringing helps them out along the way. They are kidnapped on their journey and Zefa is made a slave. After Qat-nu the slave helps them escape, they continue to Ur where Zefa is accused of stealing a bead that goes in the temple lyre. She runs away to join a band of street musicians. The slave master finds Jomar and wants Zefa back. However, the river will decide Zefa's innocence or guilt. Because Jomar has been put in charge of her care, he feels guilty. Can he save her? This is a mystery that unravels as the story proceeds, and you will not want to put it down. It has a satisfying conclusion for all involved, except the slave master. The Golden Bull has a great cast of characters and would be a wonderful addition to your collection.

School Library Journal

Jomar, 14, and his younger sister have been forced to go to the city of Ur to bring income to their poverty-stricken family. Jomar will be an apprentice to a goldsmith, but Zefa has little talent for anything other than playing the lyre that her brother has made for her. He considers the instrument a toy and a burden, but Zefa's talent charms the siblings' way out of one dangerous situation after another. When they finally reach their destination, Jomar is warmly greeted, but Zefa is accused of stealing and runs away. It is not until Jomar begs the help of a high priestess that he is able to clear the girl's name and entice her to play the honored temple lyre. This well-researched historical drama opens readers' eyes to the perils of starving farmers in ancient Mesopotamia. The simple story line, colorful descriptions, and endearing characters result in an entertaining tale.


ISBN: 9781580891820

ISBN: 9781607345275 EPUB
ISBN: 9781607342533 PDF
For information about purchasing E-books, click here.

Ages: 10 and up
Page count: 216
5 1/2 x 8 1/4

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