Heart of a Samurai

Heart of a Samurai

by Margi Preus


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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.

Accolades and Praise for Heart of a Samurai
2011 Newbery Honor Book
New York Times
NPR Backseat Book Club pick

"A terrifc biographical novel by Margi Preus." -Wall Street Journal

"It’s a classic fish-out-of-water story (although this fish goes into the water repeatedly), and it’s precisely this classic structure that gives the novel the sturdy bones of a timeless tale. Backeted by gritty seafaring episodes—salty and bloody enough to assure us that Preus has done her research—the book’s heart is its middle section, in which Manjiro, allegedly the first Japanese to set foot in America, deals with the prejudice and promise of a new world. By Japanese tradition, Manjiro was destined to be no more than a humble fisherman, but when his 10-year saga ends, he has become so much more."
Booklist, starred review

"Illustrated with Manjiro’s own pencil drawings in addition to other archival material and original art from Tamaki, this is a captivating fictionalized (although notably faithful) retelling of the boy’s adventures. Capturing his wonder, remarkable willingness to learn, the prejudice he encountered and the way he eventually influenced officials in Japan to open the country, this highly entertaining page-turner."
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Stunning debut novel. Preus places readers in the young man’s shoes, whether he is on a ship or in a Japanese prison. Her deftness in writing is evident in two poignant scenes, one in which Manjiro realizes the similarities between the Japanese and the Americans and the other when he reunites with his Japanese family."
School Library Journal, starred review

"Preus mixes fact with fiction in a tale that is at once adventurous, heartwarming, sprawling, and nerve-racking in its depictions of early anti-Asian sentiment. She succeeds in making readers feel every bit as “other” as Manjiro, while showing America at its best and worst through his eyes."
Publishers Weekly, starred review

"First-time novelist Preus turns the true story of Manjiro into an action-packed boy's adventure tale."
Horn Book

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781419702006
Publisher: ABRAMS
Publication date: 01/01/2012
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 80,650
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

Margi Preus has written many popular plays and picture books for children. She teaches a children’s literature course at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota, where she writes for Colder by the Lake Comedy Theater and also watches for whales on Lake Superior. This is her first novel. Visit her online at www.margipreus.com.

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Heart of a Samurai 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
HomeSchoolBookReview More than 1 year ago
Did you know that for some 250 years into the middle of the nineteenth century, Japan was a closed society where no foreigners were allowed and any Japanese citizens who went abroad could be executed upon returning because people were afraid that they had been corrupted and might poison Japan's culture? The experiences and efforts of one young man helped to change all that. In 1841, Manjiro is a fourteen-year-old boy who lives near Shikoku, Japan. His fisherman father had died, and he is out on a fishing boat with four friends when a storm blows them to sea and casts them on a small, unknown island where they subsist until they are rescued by a passing American whaling ship, the John Howland, captained by the kindly Mr. Whitfield, who wants to adopt Manjiro. Renamed John Mung, Manjiro begins working with the whalers. The ship stops in Honolulu, Hawaii, where his four friends decide to stay, but Manjiro chooses to sail on with Captain Whitfield who adopts him to his home in New Bedford, MA, where he settles down on Whitfield's farm at nearby Fairhaven, attends both the Stone School House and Bartlett's School of Navigation, and is apprenticed for a while to a cooper, all the while facing prejudice from some. During this time he grows homesick for Japan, hoping that somehow he might be able to help the Japanese overcome their prejudice against foreigners. After shipping out on the whaling ship Franklin with the promise that he might be taken to Japan, which turns out not to be true, Manjiro, by then nearly age 24, travels to California to work the gold fields in search of enough money to finance a trip back to Japan. Will he make it? And even if he does, will he survive? Heart of a Samurai is a truly great historical/biographical fiction book for middle school age readers. The vast majority of the events and people in the story are real. The author says that some incidents and characters are fictional "to provide conflict and advance the story as well as to acknowledge the prejudice and ill will that Manjiro faced in a time and place where animosity toward Japan and its isolationist policies was in full flower." There is a helpful glossary in the back with Japanese words, whaling terms, and sailors' lingo, along with a bibliography for further reading. Many of the illustrations are those drawn by Manjiro himself. Anyone who is interested in Japanese culture, the history of whaling, or just a good, action-packed, adventure story will find this novel fascinating.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read this book , it begs to be read.Wonderful tale heart warming, loving , and great. I think everyone should give it a chance.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this book is the best book i have ever read i loved it it is funny and hartwarming i give it 5 stars higly recomended!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Cami Johnson More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books ive ever read. Its the right amount of funny,heart-warming, and a must read. If you dont really understand the beggining then its hard to get the rest of the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book, it really is a must read. The deatails are so intense you would think you were there. The author did a marvelous job and here other books are'nt half bad either… -Briana
bell7 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Manjiro is just a humble fisherman from a small village in Japan. One day, a storm sends the vessel on which he works and his companions out to sea. They manage to wash up on an island, but in the 1840s, Japan is a closed country, and no one can come in - including Japanese fishermen who have washed up away from home. Will he ever return to his country?I found this historical fiction about the first known Japanese person to come to the United States absolutely fascinating. You can't help but cheer for Manjiro as he learns to navigate a new way of life, a new language, and the prejudices of his new country. Though I listened to the book and enjoyed the narration, I highly recommend checking out the paper copy for the illustrations, some of which are copies of Manjiro's own drawings.
KarenBall on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Historical fiction, based on the true story of the first Japanese person to arrive in America! Manjiro is 14, and is shipwrecked with four friends on a rocky deserted island far off the Japanese coast. Japan's borders are closed to all foreigners, and any Japanese person who leaves the country is not allowed to return, no matter the circumstances. Thus, they are willing to accept help from an American whaling ship when it arrives and rescues them from starvation. The Americans are not the evil monsters that Manjiro was always told foreigners were, and he decides to stay on the ship and work with the childless captain and crew, assisting with the bloody and brutal work of killing whales and harvesting their blubber for whale oil. Eventually the crew returns to Massachusetts, where Manjiro is adopted by the captain and his wife, but still the only Japanese person in America. The people there know as little about Japanese culture as Manjiro knew about non-Japanese cultures, and prejudice is everywhere. Lots of hand-drawn sketches of Manjiro's view of people and places will attract readers, and his ideas and experiences will ring true for anyone who has ever moved to a brand new place. 6th grade and up.
elissajanine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book aloud to my seven-year-old, and we were both so engaged by Manjiro's story of adventure and the unique point of view he gave us of Japan's historical isolation from the West. We both learned a lot from the book, while still greatly enjoying the story itself.
corydickason on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an interesting take on the life of a Japanese sailor who joined an American whaling crew, but I felt as if I didn't understand the cultural perspectives of the Japanese characters. A good example of an author who did the research but missed the authenticity.
jfoster_sf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent story, I definitely recommend it!
skstiles612 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Manjiro was only fourteen years old and working on a fishing boat when a freak storm cause them to be marooned on an island. This is where I learned something interesting. The law of that time siad anyone leaving the country and returning would be put to death. Manjiro is reminded of this. Later they are rescued and taken to Hawaii. The captain takes a liking to Manjiro and takes him home with him. Manjiro finds out first hand about prejudice. However, he doesn't let it get in his way. Later on he goes to California for the Gold Rush. He makes enough money to buy his own ship and sails back to Japan where his is captured and imprisoned. About this same time the Americans start entering the Japanese ports and Manjiro plays an important role in bringing the two countries together. I was so amazed to find this was a true story. This would make a wonderful addition to my book shelves at school.
okeanotiszois on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fourteen-year-old Manjiro is full of questions, questions that the elder fishermen he is with get irritated with. Manjiro must learn his place, but Manjiro dreams of one day becoming a samurai. That dream is impossible though, because he comes from a family of fishermen and that's all he ever be.It's 1841 and Japan is the greatest country in the world, so they say. Stories are told of the horrible beasts that inhabit the West. When Manjiro and his fellow fishermen are swept out to sea in a great storm, they are fearful of not being able to go home and worst of all...meeting the barbarians. They eventually get stranded on Bird Island, so named for the thousands of albatross that nest there. For six months they are stranded on this island with no hope in sight, until one day a monstrous ship appears on the horizon. The barbarians have come.Manjiro is more curious than afraid of these strangely dressed and unclean people of the John Howland. They are taken on board, but Manjiro's companions want nothing to do with these people who will corrupt thier ways. Manjiro soon joins the crew and finds out that the John Howland is an American whaling ship. Because he is different and speaks differently there is prejudice on board, however most become friends with him. His greatest relationship is with the Captain, who later becomes a father figure to him.Eventually he comes to America to live with the Captain and his wife. There he meets even greater prejudice, but he has a samurai's spirit and forges ahead, eventually going to school and learning a trade. However, the sea calls to him as does his homeland. Bound for home on another ship, he makes his way to the growing gold rush in California. From there he makes his way home after ten years away.Stepping on the shores of Japan and making his way home to his village is not an easy journey for Manjiro. It'll be two more years before he's allowed home due to suspicion as a spy. Still regarded suspiciously for the remainder of his life, Manjiro did become a samurai and was instrumental in bringing change to the very isolated Japan.This is a great adventure from start to finish. Based on actual events about a boy named Manjiro who grew up to be a samurai. He played a huge part in ending Japan's 250 year isolation, with his understanding of the West. His imagination and courage are what caught me the most. You can see the world as he saw it for the first time. Despite what his countrymen thought, he was able to see the world as a bigger, fascinating, beautiful place. My favorite line in the book is what he tells his mother as he gifts her with shells from all the places he's been. "These shells are like the people of the world, Okachan. They come from many different places. They come in many different colors and sizes. But they are all beautiful."2011 Newbery Honor Award WinnerAges 10+Publisher: Amulet Books (August 2010)ISBN: 9780810989818Available as an eBook.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent read for both adults and children age 10 and up
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I havent read this book but it is a battle of the books book 2013 and i heard its good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this fricing book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book i haven fineshed yet but so far it is one of the Best books i have ever read i wish i could get it on my nook that would be verry helpful because i use it where ever i go and the paper back copy i have is due ak to the library soon but I LOVE this book its verry exsiting.
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