Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Heart of a Samurai, by Margi Prerus

Shipwrecked on a rocky, uninhabited Pacific island in 1841, fourteen-year-old Manjiro and his fellow Japanese fishermen are rescued by an American whaling ship. Once on board, Manjiro learns English and whaling and gradually gains the respect of the crew. Fearing they will not be allowed to return home, due to Japan’s strict isolationist policy and distrust of all foreigners, the Japanese fishermen decide to take refuge in Hawaii. But Manjiro is an adventurous soul and he accepts the captain’s generous offer to come to America as his adopted son.

Based on a true story, Manjiro, renamed John Mung, embraces the remarkable challenge of adapting to and understanding Western culture. Facing prejudice, bullying and discrimination with grace and courage, he forges a satisfying life with his new family. Yet the memories of Japan and the loved ones he left behind never completely leave him. After ten years, he bravely returns, knowing he risks execution.

An adventure story with true heart, this book is highly entertaining. The well-placed illustrations throughout the narrative add to the intimacy of the story and the historical notes at the end of the book provide readers with the remaining details of Manjiro’s life. 2010

A. Basso

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