Sunday, July 10, 2011

Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus

As with most of the books I "read" I actually listened to this book. I downloaded the MP3 version from Net Library and listened to it as I did my housework. On Net Library they only had the title as I wrote it above. As I was listening to it, I thought, wow, this is a pretty good adventure story. It has the feeling of Captains Courageous or Call it Courage (both excellent historical adventures every boy should read). --spoiler alert--A young teen, named Manjiro, is out on a Japanese fishing boat when it gets caught in a large storm. The boat is shipwrecked on a small island and the survivors are eventually picked up by an American whaling ship. At that time Japan was very isolationists. Foreign boats straying into their ports were not treated well, so the whalers drop the castaways in Hawaii. The captain comes to like the young boy, however, and adopts him as his son. He takes him back to America and the boy learns English and goes to school. Eventually he returns to Japan, just in time to be the interpreter when Admiral Perry lands in Japan and is instrumental in establishing the first Japanese and American diplomatic relationship. When they got to the part in the story when Manjiro goes to the California gold rush and gets enough gold to finance his return to Japan, I thought to myself, "Ok, that is a bit much. I wonder why the author thought she had to add the California gold rush into an already on-the-edge-of-unbelievable story?" When I got to the end of the book, there was an author's note that stated that all the major events of the story, including the California gold rush stuff, were based on a true story, I couldn't believe it. This Manjiro guy led an amazing life! I guess sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. This is a great new historical adventure and well deserving of its Newbery Honor award.

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