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Samurai Shortstop (Junior Library Guild Selection (Dial)) Hardcover – May 18, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 7 Up–It is 1890, and 16-year-old Toyo Shimada is uniquely poised to witness the clash of old and new ways in his native Tokyo. Emperor Meiji has instituted a series of radical reforms; one of them requires that all samurai hang up their swords. In the hypnotic opening scene, Toyo and his father assist as his Uncle Koji commits ritual suicide or seppuku. Toyo's father, Sotaro, is a scholarly samurai whose weapon has always been his ink brush, but he too has decided that he cannot live in this new Japan. He tells Toyo that once he has taught him the ways of bushido, or the warrior's code, he, too, will take his own life. Meanwhile, Toyo begins his studies at an elite high school where the hazing by the senior students makes the first-year students miserable. Eventually, the teen and his friends are able to stand up for themselves, and Toyo wins a place on the school's besuboro or baseball team. His lessons in bushido include meditation, balance, and swordplay, and Toyo finds in baseball a way to make the connection between both modern and ancient, mental and physical. Gratz's concluding notes offer more on the period as well as sources for more information. This well-written tale offers plenty of fascinating detail, a fast-paced story, and a fresh perspective on America's pastime. It should delight baseball fans and win a wide audience.–Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 8-11. Growing up in Tokyo in the 1890s, after the emperor outlawed the samurai tradition of his ancestors, Toyo was not trained in the old disciplines. He must find his own path between the old ways and the new ones, which are symbolized for Toyo by the sport he loves: baseball. In the riveting opening scene, Toyo watches his father help Toyo's beloved uncle Koji perform suppuku, asamurai ritual involving disembowelment and decapitation. Soon after this disturbing event, Toyo becomes a boarder at the most esteemed high school in Tokyo. His high hopes are tempered by a brutal hazing inflicted on the entering class, and the ongoing cruelty of the students in power. Under his father's tutelage, Toyo's growing understanding of traditional samurai arts enables him to grow in skill and self-discipline both on and off the playing field. An engaging protagonist in a harsh, difficult situation, Toyo must work to earn the respect of his father and his teammates, but he will have readers' sympathies from the beginning. Unfolding through the convincing portrayals of individuals in turmoil, the story culminates as most baseball novels do--in the big game. An appended author's note discusses Gratz's research and lists his sources. A memorable chronicle of boys' inhumanity to boys, and a testament to enduring values in a time of social change. Carolyn Phelan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 6 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 790L (What's this?)
  • Series: Junior Library Guild Selection (Dial)
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Dial (May 18, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803730756
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803730755
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,897,763 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I'm the author of a number of books for young readers, including Samurai Shortstop, Something Rotten, Something Wicked, The Brooklyn Nine, Fantasy Baseball, and Starfleet Academy: The Assassination Game. My wife and I are also the authors of the Gratz Industries blog, where we chronicle our attempts to lead creative, productive lives.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on February 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Samurai Shortstop is about a 16-year old Japanese boy, Toyo. Right from the first sentence of the book it really grabs your attention. Toyo's uncle is preparing to commit sepukku. This is considered an honorable way to kill yourself in Japan. The story draws you into the life of Toyo and helps you to understand his relationship with his father and learning the art of bushido. He goes off to a private boarding school where he learns how to stand up for himself and fight off the seniors who are out to torture the first years. I liked this book because it combines the sport of baseball along with Toyo's high school experience in Japan. If you want to read a book that is hard to put down and will keep you intrigued until the very last page, then this is the book for you.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Martha Bennett Stiles on June 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Alan Gratz's triumphant first YA, SAMURAI SHORTSTOP, opens on the narrator's description of watching his beloved uncle gut himself. Baseball and violence carry this impressively researched depiction of Meiji Japan, and of relationships, between young males, and between father and son. In this polished, always suspenseful story, son and father help one another mature.

Martha Bennett Stiles
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Carol Collett on July 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What an amazing debut! Toyo's story grabbed me from the first page with his uncle's preparation for ritual suicide. I couldn't wait to get to the end of the book to see if Toyo could successfully apply bushido principles to baseball, to see if he and his father could bridge just a little of the gap between them, if he could ever forgive his uncle for leaving him.

But now I want more!

Bravo, Alan, bravo!
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A Kid's Review on October 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a story of a boy named Toyo Shimada. The time is set in Tokyo, 1890. Toyo is sent to a boarding school of a very high caliber, but after he arrives he sees how the upperclassmen treat the first years. To fit in, he joins the baseball team, a sport he loves. He wants to be shortstop, but until he becomes a "man" to the upperclassmen he is stuck in the outfield. He is enraged, but nevertheless he pushes through the tormenting and refuses to quit the baseball team. The only problem is his father, who is still using the ways of the samurai, or worrier. Toyo's father does not want him to play, unless Toyo can convince him otherwise. Other than that, his father has decided to teach him the ways of the warrior, or bushido. At first Toyo does not understand any of his bushido lessons, or why he has to do them, but over the course of the book he learns to use his bushido skills.
This book reminds me of a book called Dairy Queen. The story was about a girl, and football, not baseball, but in the end she overcomes many obstacles just like Toyo. In both books, the main focus is overcoming anything that comes your way. They are both also about standing up to important figures in there lives. It happens to be that in both books that person is their dad. Alan Gratz has written an enthralling tale.
I enjoyed the book, although it does have some pretty gruesome scenes. I liked reading it because you always want to see what Toyo will do next, what the other characters are going to say, or do. It also tells you a lot about what school was like back then, in Japan. It is a lot different from Americans school, and the year it takes place in really makes a difference. Overall, this is a great book and you should pick it up sometimes if you are looking for a great read.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Susan Harkins on April 10, 2008
Format: Paperback
It's 1890 and you're in Tokyo, Japan. Between classes in the most prestigious high school in town and baseball practice, you learn the old ways--the ways of the samurai. That's Toyo Shimada's life and we get the pleasure of going along for the ride thanks to Alan Gratz's brilliant story telling.

Toyo suffers from familiar teen angst: a parent who doesn't understand him and friends who try to understand him, but often fail. It's the core of most teen stories, but Toyo's world is changing. Old Japan is dying and a new Japan is rising.

His father represents the old Japan. When the emperor reforms their ancient military system and requires all samurai to hang up their swords, Toyo's family is caught in the middle. The opening scene, where Toyo and his father assist Toyo's uncle in seppuku, ritual suicide, is so intense that you'll wonder if Toyo's just having a bad dream.

Even though Toyo's father isn't samurai in the traditional sense, he too decides he can't live in the new Japan. He expects Toyo to assist him in seppuku, when the time comes. First, he must teach Toyo the ways of bushido, the warrior's code.

Between lessons and baseball practice, Toyo learns to meditate and use a sword--and worries about his father. When the time comes, will he have the courage to do what has to be done? Baseball is his passion, and as applies bushido to baseball, he comes to terms with the changing world around him and begins his journey into manhood.

Samurai Shortstop is the story of Toyo's search for his own path in a time of social change and family turmoil. Toyo's personal struggle is one all teens can appreciate. He struggles with peer pressure, studies, and parental control and expectations. Nineteenth century Japan comes alive and provides the color and unexpected tension that every good story needs.
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