The Boy Who Became A Dragon: A Bruce Lee Story by Jim Di Bartolo

Bruce Lee is a name known round the world and often one of the first people mentioned when thinking about martial arts. He remains increidibly famous despite dying 47 years ago, yet how much do people really know about his life? Before reading this book my knowledge was limited to the following: he fought Chuck Norris, his son was The Crow and Brad Pitt’s character fought him in the latest Tarantino film. I was quite frankly uneducated and ignorant to the journey Lee went through in his 32 years on this Earth. However thanks to this fantastic telling of his youth from Jim Di Bartolo I now know significantly more.

The story focuses primarily on Lee’s formative years  and the struggles he endured. Academic, physical and political isues all arose for him consistently. From the start the book is honest and isn’t afraid to showcase how unfair things were in Hong Kong as Japan took over and seized control. Along with highlighting how these issues affected the people in the country it explores the knock on effect it had on the economy and the wealth of Hong Kong citizens. Racism plays a part throughout and shows how despite being seen nowadays as an Asian star, Lee often found himself outcast due to his mother being half German. Repeatedly we see his struggle to understand where he fits in with society.

As the story progresses you begin to realise that this book isn’t here to portray Lee as a man who was just naturally brilliant and succeeded at everything because of genetics. If anything it’s the opposite. Di Bartolo brilliantly showcases how hard it was for Lee to focus, how he didn’t know what his passion was and then when he found it how hard he had to work in order to become the legendary name he is today. This isn’t your classic turns up for one session and is better than everyone by the end. As a reader you see Lee deal with setbacks and obstacles continously but the key is he doesn’t let them stop him. As a role model he is everything we preach about in the teaching industry, resilient and robust. Willing to make the sacrifice required to achieve his dreams even when others are actively stopping him.

The story of Bruce Lee will ring bells with teachers across the world of a student who showcases potential and ability but can’t direct it appropriately. They might be the student who gives up before they’ve really tried, they might say nothing interests them or it may be that they always blame something else for stopping them. This is the perfect book to show them.

Bruce Lee battled through adversity, he struggled in school, he was always in trouble but when he found the passion for something he pushed himself as hard as he could to be the best he could. Personally I think this message is vital for children to see especially as they prepare to transition to secondary school and the fear of not being good enough or popular is often amplified. It also shows that you can turn things around, a reputation can be changed and you control your own destiny. Yes there are some artisitc liberties taken in places but the author acknowledges that himself in his notes at the end, however the core values are present throughout and it’s hard not to resonate with the never give up attitude of Lee even when he’s being dragged home by the police on a regular basis!

Personally I loved this book and can’t recommend it enough for year 5/6. It can teach the reader lots on a personal level along with lots of historical information that they are unlikely to know at all. For some this will be the inspiration they need to push themselves while for others it’s a fantastic opportunity to read about a different culture and a character who compares very differently to the so called modern ‘celebrity’, 5 stars for sure.


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