Heart of a Samurai
by Preus, Margi






In a fascinating work of historical fiction based on a true story of the first Japanese person to enter the United States, 14-year-old Manjiro, who dreams of becoming a samurai, is rescued in 1841 by an American whaler after a terrible shipwreck leaves him and his four companions stranded on a remote island.





Margi Preus is a New York Times bestselling author of the Newbery Honor Book Heart of a Samurai and other notable books for young readers, including West of the Moon, Shadow on the Mountain, and Village of Scoundrels. She lives in Duluth, MN, land of snow squalls and cardamom buns.





*Starred Review* Manjiro is 14 when a freak storm washes him and his four fishing companions onto a tiny island far from their Japanese homeland. Shortly before starving, they are rescued by an American whaling ship. But it's 1841 and distrust is rampant: the Japanese consider the whalers barbarians, while the whalers think of the Japanese as godless cannibals. Captain William Whitfield is different-childless, he forges a bond with the boy, and when it comes time for Manjiro to choose between staying with his countrymen or going to America as Whitfield's son, he picks the path of adventure. It's a classic fish-out-of-water story (although this fish goes into the water repeatedly), and it's precisely this classic structure that gives the novel the sturdy bones of a timeless tale. Bracketed by gritty seafaring episodes-salty and bloody enough to assure us that Preus has done her research-the book's heart is its middle section, in which Manjiro, allegedly the first Japanese to set foot in America, deals with the prejudice and promise of a new world. By Japanese tradition, Manjiro was destined to be no more than a humble fisherman, but when his 10-year saga ends, he has become so much more. Wonderful back matter helps flesh out this fictionalized version of the same story told in Rhoda Blumberg's Shipwrecked! The True Adventures of a Japanese Boy (2001). Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.





In 1841, 14-year-old Manjiro joined four others on an overnight fishing trip. Caught by a severe storm, their small rowboat was shipwrecked on a rocky island. Five months later, they were rescued by the crew of a whaling ship from New Bedford. Manjiro, renamed John Mung, was befriended by the captain and eventually lived in his home in New Bedford, rapidly absorbing Western culture. But the plight of his impoverished family in Japan was never far from Manjiro's mind, although he knew that his country's strict isolationist policy meant a death sentence if he returned. Illustrated with Manjiro's own pencil drawings in addition to other archival material and original art from Tamaki, this is a captivating fictionalized (although notably faithful) retelling of the boy's adventures. Capturing his wonder, remarkable willingness to learn, the prejudice he encountered and the way he eventually influenced officials in Japan to open the country, this highly entertaining page-turner is the perfect companion to Shipwrecked! The True Adventures of a Japanese Boy, by Rhoda Blumberg (2001). (historical note, extensive glossary, bibliography.) (Historical fiction. 9-13)

 

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