Blumberg starts off with an intriguing line, "If monsters had descended upon Japan the effect could not have been more terrifying." She is talking about Commodore Matthew C. Perry's arrival in Japan in 1853, an event that had long-reaching consequences for that country and is the subject of this book. Blumberg is a talented writer and uses a lot of colorful language to draw the reader into a story. But this proves to be problematic because one begins to believe that the book is just that—a story—and it is easy to forget that this is supposed to be a more or less historical account of Commodore Perry's experiences in Japan. The first chapter depicts the Japanese as people who had never encountered foreigners before. While it is true that Commodore Perry interrupted an extended period of isolation, Japan had encountered people from other countries. In fact, Portuguese traders, along with Francis Xavier, a Jesuit Missionary, came to Japan in the mid-1500s, and trips to and from China were frequent. Aside from a rather flawed depiction of Japan at the beginning, the rest of the book coasts safely into more historically accurate descriptions of the events. There are many beautiful images of Japanese artists' impressions of Americans. The appendices contain interesting material, for instance, a copy of President Fillmore's letter to the Emperor of Japan. Anyone who reads this book will probably be drawn in by Blumberg's catchy writing style and find it informative. 2003 (orig. 1985), Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books/HarperCollins Publisher,
Gr 5 Up Blumberg's book succeeds on two levels. First it is a well-written story of Matthew Perry's expedition to open Japan to American trade and whaling ports. The account is sensitive to the extreme cultural differences that both the Japanese and Americans had to overcome. Especially good are the chapters and paragraphs explaining Japanese feudal society and culture. The text is marvelously complemented by the illustrations, almost all reproductions of contemporary Japanese art, underscoring the unbiased approach of the book. On the second level, the book is a well-researched chronicle of the events of the trip. Blumberg has gone to the original sources to capture the sights, emotions, reactions and even tastes of both the Japanese and Americans. Yet she has not neglected the political and economic importance or mission of Perry's trip. The notes, appendixes and bibliography show a carefully thought out book which holds valuable information for sophisticated readers. There is no better book for students on this historical event. John Buschman, Solanco Senior High School Library, Quarryville, Pa.