'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.' - author Jackie French

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Review: Heart of a Samurai

It's 1841 and fourteen-year-old Manjiro is a Japanese fisherman. After a fierce storm, he and his four companions find themselves stranded on a rocky island, inhabited only by birds.

Close to starvation, they are eventually rescued by an American whaling vessel. These are the first Westerners Manjiro has ever seen, for this is a time when Japan's borders are closed to foreigners.

Initially, it seems these whaling men might indeed be the barbaric demons he has been led to believe they are. But gradually, he learns their language and begins to understand some of their customs.

Adopted by Captain Whitfield and raised as his own son, over the next ten years, Manjiro (now known as John Mung) attends school in America, spends years at sea and becomes an accomplished whaler. But his heart always longs for home. And in his dreams, he has only one wish — to rise above the normal destiny of a low-born Japanese and become a samurai.

Proving once again that truth is stranger than fiction, Margi Preus has recreated the real-life story of Manjiro, believed by many to be the first Japanese man to set foot on American soil. She first came across his incredible story while conducting research for another book and found herself captivated. Heart of a Samurai is illustrated with John Mung's own sketches and includes an historical note, a glossary covering Japanese words, whaling terminology and sailors' 'lingo', as well as a bibliography for anyone interested in reading more about this fascinating period of history.

This is a rip-roaring adventure that boys in particular should love. A Newbery Honor Book and included on several 'best children's books' lists, Heart of a Samurai is a beautifully crafted story of opposing cultures, courage in the face of adversity, and the importance of being true to yourself.

Title: Heart of a Samurai
Author: Margi Preus
Publisher: Amulet Books, $11.95 RRP
Publication Date: January 2012
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781419702006
For ages: 11+
Type: Middle Fiction

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