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Heart of a Samurai Hardcover – August 1, 2010
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From School Library Journal
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Top Customer Reviews
But the true significance of his story is how he became one of the first Japanese to appreciate and understand Western culture at a time when Japan had been closed to the West for 250 years. When the political climate finally begins to shift, and Japan decides to let American ships into their harbors, Manjiro is the one who helps them understand who the Americans are and what they want.
The title is a little misleading, unfortunately. The book has very little to do with actual Samurais. But as an historical novel for young adults, and as a story about hope and longing and cultural understanding, this is a great read. A must-have for any library.
After six grueling months living as castaways, Manjiro and his compatriots were rescued by an American whaling ship and brought to Hawaii. During this period the captain and Manjiro developed a father-son connection, so Manjiro continued the voyage with him to Massachusetts. Although Manjiro enjoyed life on the captain's farm and he learned quickly at school, the discriminatory treatment he faced in the community as the only Japanese boy prevented him from feeling completely at home. Year later, California's gold rush provided an opportunity to save enough money for returning home, but would the Japanese government permit him to re-enter the country after such a long time of living with the "barbarians"?
Middle grade readers will appreciate this engaging tale of a courageous child who survived near starvation on a deserted island, earned the respect of a bunch of rough sailors on a whaling ship, adapted to an entirely different culture, and risked execution for returning to Japan. Intrinsic to the storyline are a set of useful economics lessons about jobs, savings, and natural resources. The historical context provides an interesting opportunity to discuss the repercussions of sealing a country's borders to the outside world, an issue that is still relevant today.
"'The Heart of a Samurai' by Margi Preus is a really good book.Read more ›
But whaling is an important part of this book. It is Manjiro's quick thinking during a kill, along with his ability to quickly pick up the English language, that earned him his American name, John Mung, and a permanent place among the crew. At the end of the John Howland's time at sea, the captain even adopts Manjiro, now John, and raises him as his own, providing him with the best schooling Massachusetts could offer, an apprenticeship, and even his own pony. John's time in Massachusetts is fraught with prejudice. He's certainly not warmly welcomed by the whole of his new community. He faces taunts and bullying, and the captain and his wife even have to change churches twice before finding one that will accept their adopted son.
John's maturity and nobility when dealing with all of this seems to stem from his desire to live up to all that the captain has given him. While this is wonderful and may even be true, I wish that John had more faults that just the propensity to bounce right off his pony. Throughout the book he has fears and hesitations and the story definitely has conflicts, but John Mung never really does.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
My daughter is interested in reading this book about American and Japanese contact through the eyes of a boy. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Frederic J Byers
I was impressed by this book very much. I started reading it, thinking I wouldn't like it, but it turned out to be a very inspiring and exciting book. Read morePublished 10 months ago by skiwill
A great narrative based on the true story of a Japanese country bumpkin that circumstance whisks away to America. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Richard M. Duffy