November 2010

Sailing into treacherous waters

By Margi Preus
Review by
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Look, if you’re some kind of fraidy-cat, you don’t need to read this book. Really. If you’re scared to take on anything new, just forget about this one. Try something else, like that book about the boy and the puppy. What’s the title? It’s Heart of a Samurai, by Margi Preus, but seriously, you wouldn’t like it. I mean, why would you want to read about a kid thrust into a situation that would scare the pants off of most people, when you won’t even try peas?

I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you a little bit about the book, and you’ll see that only someone really brave would want to read it—stop me if it gets too scary. Heart of a Samurai is about a Japanese kid named Manjiro; he’s 14 years old, and he lives in a fishing village, which means that when he grows up, he’ll be a fisherman too. In fact, fishing is what he’s doing when the book opens, but unfortunately for Manjiro and his companions, they’re not doing it very well. They get caught in a storm and are swept ashore on a deserted island, and as the months go by, they are slowly starving to death.

Ok, I can stop now, if you want. Starving is pretty scary. Well . . . if you insist.

Where was I? Oh, yes, starving to death. That’s when the John Howland appears on the horizon; it’s a whaling boat out of Massachusetts, and Manjiro and his friends are terrified when they are rescued. You see, it’s the year 1841, and Japan is a closed society, which has no contact with the West. Manjiro has grown up hearing all sorts of horror stories about what’s out there, far from Japan. Even worse, being taken aboard the American ship means the men will face exile, for once you’re away from Japan, you can never return. Manjiro’s group will have little to do with their rescuers, but he’s a curious boy, and before long he learns a few words of English, and finds himself working alongside the whalers. When they finally put ashore at the Sandwich Islands—what we know today as Hawaii—Manjiro (or John Mung, as he is known to the sailors) is faced with a choice: Try to get back to his native land, or accompany the vessel and its kindly captain to the place known as America.

Oh and there’s one thing I didn’t tell you—even though this is a novel, the story is based on something that really happened!

What would you do? Would you be brave enough to go? Well, no matter; you probably don’t want to read this anyway, right? Way too scary. Just in case, you can pick it up at any bookstore or library—if you have the courage.

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Heart of a Samurai

Heart of a Samurai

By Margi Preus
ISBN 9780810989818

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