Publisher: Amulet Books, 2010
Genre: Children’s Fiction
My rating: A+
Awards Won: The Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature
If you are looking for a good old-fashioned adventure story, I have the book for you: Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus. The story is about a fourteen-year-old Japanese boy, Manjiro, who was a crew member on a fishing boat that was wrecked by a fierce storm. Five crew members survived, washed ashore on a deserted island with little food or water. The year was 1841.
Manjiro deepest wish was to be a samurai but, because he was the son of a fisherman, a fisherman is all he is destined to be. When his father dies, Manjiro hires out to support the family but he always remembers the guiding principles his father taught him. The principles sound a lot like a samurai’s creed.
Eventually, the shipwrecked fishermen are rescued by huge “barbarians” with hairy faces and strange-colored eyes. Manjiro is the only one who made an effort to learn English and make friends with the “barbarians.” By the time the ship arrives in Hawaii, Manijiro has experienced an exciting and gruesome whale hunt. The captain of the ship has befriended Manijiro and offers to adopt him and take him to his home in Massachusetts.
Manijiro spends the next few years in Massachusetts. At this point I am only half-way through to the heart of the story. I won’t spoil the whole reading experience for you. But I will let you know there are many more exciting adventures ahead for Manijiro and the reader.
This children’s novel is listed for Grades 7 and up. I think savvy fifth and sixth-grade boys would love it too. It has the feel of Robinson Crusoe or Huckleberry Finn. Big boys (those over 55) who grew up on those old classics could also enjoy this new classic. Not that females of all ages can’t read this book. I certainly loved it. But, I like that there are books that can snag the sometime-reluctant boy readers.
About the Asian/Pacific American Award:
The prizes promote Asian/Pacific American culture and heritage and are awarded based on literary and artistic merit.To qualify, works should be related to Asian/Pacific Heritage, not necessarily written by or illustrated by an Asian/Pacific American. The individual must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Works must have been published by a publishing house located in the United States or one of its territories during the previous year. For a list of other winners and award requirements, visit the website here: Asian/Pacific American Literary Award
Check your local library or your local bookstore for copies of this book. Heart of a Samuraiis also available at Amazon. (I am an Amazon Associate.)