review: Heart of a Samurai

Posted on 11 September 2011 Sunday

title: Heart of a Samurai

author: Margi Preus

date: 2010, Amulet Books

"Heart of a Samurai vividly summons for readers ages 10-16 not only the story of a remarkable man but also the turbulent era in which he lived." WSJ review

main character: Manjiro “John Mung”

While on a routine fishing expedition, 14 year old Manjiro and his shipmates are overtaken by a storm and left shipwrecked on an island. They are eventually rescued, but not by their fellow Japanese countrymen. This creates a problem because joining these foreigners could prohibit them from ever returning to their homeland. Manjiro, with his great sense of adventure, not only decides to stay with these American sailors, but ends up being adopted by the captain.

In this story based up the real life of Manjiro, Preus introduces us to the 18th century closed Japanese society in a way that draws readers inside. The young Manjiro is not a perfect character but he is a character for whom readers want the best. Whether or not he ever returns home to Japan, he will be able to make the best of what is given him and will be happy in his surroundings.

Preus skillfully recreates 18th century life in a way that readers can appreciate. There were a few sea scenes that I found too technical, but other readers might appreciate the attention to details. I particularly enjoyed the epilogue and historical notes at the end of the book which let readers know how real the story is.

Heart of a Samurai is a 2011 Newbery Honor book; 2010 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in the MG category

Posted in: Me Being Me