Monday, August 2, 2010

Heart of a Samurai Review

Author: Margi Preus
Release date: August 1, 2010
Hardback: 320 Pages
Description: In 1841, a Japanese fishing vessel sinks. Its crew is forced to swim to a small, unknown island, where they are rescued by a passing American ship. Japan’s borders remain closed to all Western nations, so the crew sets off to America, learning English on the way.

Manjiro, a fourteen-year-old boy, is curious and eager to learn everything he can about this new culture. Eventually the captain adopts Manjiro and takes him to his home in New England. The boy lives for some time in New England, and then heads to San Francisco to pan for gold. After many years, he makes it back to Japan, only to be imprisoned as an outsider. With his hard-won knowledge of the West, Manjiro is in a unique position to persuade the shogun to ease open the boundaries around Japan; he may even achieve his unlikely dream of becoming a samurai.

My Thoughts: When I first saw the cover of this book I was extremely excited. I was thinking, a book about a Samurai!! I’ve always been intrigued by stories that deal with warriors.

Although Heart of a Samurai didn’t deal with the Samurai aspect as much as I’d hope for, it concentrated on something better. Going after what you want and believing in yourself even when no one else does. Seeing the main character struggle for so long to go after a goal, as well as see the results (whether good or bad) was a huge encouragement to me. There’s always something happening in people’s lives where a person may believe in something that nobody else supports. But sometimes we have to support ourselves.

Heart of a Samurai included a lot of things that actually happened to the real life Manjiro. Because it included so much of his real life while still being a fictional book, it was easier to learn more about him than if I’d read his biography (without reading this book).
Since it was a quick read, none of the educational parts seemed overbearing. By the time I got to the end where there was a glossary of Japanese words as well a short explanation of what really happened to Manjiro, I was anxious to learn more. This was a very quick and educational read. Anyone can read this but I hope that a lot of middle schoolers read this. It could possibly give them an example of how a book can teach you something important while not having to hammer points over and over.

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