Book Review- Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus

Friday August 20, 2010

Heart of a Samurai 
by Margi Preus
August 1, 2010
Goodreads Summary: 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.

Review: Based on a real incident that happened in 1841 when Americans rescued the crew of a Japanese fishing vessel, Heart of a Samurai is a marvelous story that will appeal to almost any reader. 

Manjiro (also known as John Mung) is the consummate underdog who comes to America (possibly being the very first Japanese citizen to set foot here) and maintains his sense of adventure and perseverance. All of this despite the many hardships and prejudices that experiences along the way. Through it all he maintains his wide-eyed sense of wonder from New England all the way to San Francisco.

I really enjoyed this wondrous tale from the perspective of someone like Manjiro who is stranger in a strange land. It was interesting to see America from that persepctive. Something that has never left Manjiro is the thought of his poverty stricken family in Japan and once again his perseverance takes him on yet another adventure as he journey backs to his homeland where he will most likely be looked upon as a traitor.

An action packed page turner that will be a word-of-mouth hit. I'm going to sell it in my library on the Samurai part....boys will love that! 

Highly recommended and appropriate for 7th grade and up.