When reviewing books that I read to the little one, I usually take her closing thoughts as the basis for my rating This time, it was I liked that one A lot I liked the stuff about whaling And the stuff about people all being beautiful no matter what color or shape they are Now, me, I ve always been a sucker for a well written fish out of water story, and that s exactly what this is A young Japanese fisherman gets shipwrecked in the 1840 s and is rescued by an American whaling boat He learns the whaling trade, but it s about him learning about America Or, specifically, about the way white people is Anywhoo, I don t spend a lot of time reviewing the kids books I read, but this one is worth it. A pleasant surprise After storing this book on a shelf for a couple of years, I finally decided to read it Here is adventure, history, and an intriguing young man who traveled the world on a whaling ship I hope I will remember his name, Manjiro John Mung.The book is well designed it captures the feeling of another time, another place Some of Mung s illustrations are used to illustrate the text.If I could get my father to read this book, I think he d enjoy it.Preus is to be commended for taking the facts and turning them into an engaging story. When I first saw the cover of this book I was extremely excited I was thinking, a book about a Samurai I ve always been intrigued by stories that deal with warriors.Although Heart of a Samurai didn t deal with the Samurai aspect as much as I d hope for, it concentrated on something better Going after what you want and believing in yourself even when no one else does Seeing the main character struggle for so long to go after a goal, as well as see the results whether good or bad was a huge encouragement to me There s always something happening in people s lives where a person may believe in something that nobody else supports But sometimes we have to support ourselves Heart of a Samurai included a lot of things that actually happened to the real life Manjiro Because it included so much of his real life while still being a fictional book, it was easier to learn about him than if I d read his biography without reading this book.Since it was a quick read, none of the educational parts seemed overbearing By the time I got to the end where there was a glossary of Japanese words as well a short explanation of what really happened to Manjiro, I was anxious to learn This was a very quick and educational read Anyone can read this but I hope that a lot of middle schoolers read this It could possibly give them an example of how a book can teach you something important while not having to hammer points over and over. Four stars might be generous, but I m rounding up because this author s prose is ridiculously fresh and vivid She has a knack for comparisons that make me see and feel whatever she s writing about, so even the slower parts are fairly fun and engaging And hooray for fascinating historical context Between that and the writing, an otherwise mediocre story shone with life and color. This book is based on the life of a historical person, a shipwrecked Japanese fisherman who was adopted by the captain of an American whaling ship in the 1840s Interesting, right He eventually returned to Japan with knowledge of the outside world, knowledge of English, and practical knowledge of subjects like navigation.The author of Heart of a Samurai seemed to face a similar challenge as Pam Munoz Ryan, the author of Riding Freedom a long, complicated life to dramatize but a minimum amount of space Maybe it is almost impossible for this particular story to be mashed into a single YA book I just know the story did not draw me in well enough, despite the incredible potential of the material Manjiro found himself in a situation that must have been mind blowing, yet I did not really feel it, on the whaling boat with Westerners or when they came to New England I relished the opportunity to return with him to Japan after nearly a decade, to imagine what he must have seen and felt, to just soak it up, but those chapters were brief, too brief to be anything other than a sketch or an outline.Maybe each of these momentous shifts in his life really needed a separate volume to really do justice to his voice, to the setting, to the story. Absolutely fascinating I love Margi Preus books, and how she blends real history with a great narrative, and this was no exception I really loved the real sketches and pictures in this book, too I knew of Japan s centuries old isolation, but I did not know that the first Japanese person to see America, and one of the first Japanese to be allowed back after having left Japan, was this young man, Manjiro What a fascinating life I picked this up in the library though I have been meaning to read it because my 13yo needed a survival story for a book report He loved it, too Delightful throwback of a book, like something I would have read in the fifties I mean, if I d been alive in the fifties, so, like a soft, faded, library bound hardcover I would have taken out in the eighties, only to see it disappear a couple of years later when everything was modernized.Not to say that it is too old fashioned I think this book is good enough and fast paced enough to be interesting to modern children I know kids in my classes would have enjoyed it if they d been forced to read it.Illustrations are simple and perfect for the book, some drawn by the subject and some drawn by a period Japanese artist So pleased the publisher let them get away with that.The Newbery canon is full of books about sailing and I d be happy to see this one join the ranks.It does have one of the dumber historical notes I ve seen I accepted while I was reading it that some kind of author s note would not be out of place there s all this complex nautical and cultural stuff I actually really liked the Environmental Note about the whales and albatrosses it s short and interesting and well written, and probably let the author feel like she didn t have to include a Green Message within the pages of the book, which would have been out of place But the main historical note is pretty much just a summary of the book, since the author seems to have done a great job of including real events and people I don t think I needed to know that two minor characters were made up, and I think why she included them is pretty obvious without being stated Why not just say With the exception of Jolly and Tom, this book is based on the real life of Manjiro Why, authors and editors and publishers, why A solid well written book that should appeal to any middle school reader This adventurous historically fictional tale has something for everyone A nicely paced novel that literally spans the globe You won t want to put it down. A Newbery Honor BookIn , 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 WayManjiro, 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 2011 Newbery HonorIn Heart of a Samurai, Margi Preus tells a fictionalized story of Manjiro, a Japanese teen who, with four fishing companions, became shipwrecked on a rocky island and was rescued by an American whaling ship in the mid 1800 s Save for the addition of a couple of characters and some little details, the story is mostly true Manjiro journeys to America as the adopted son of Captain Whitfield, learns English, and gains knowledge of American life and seafaring He goes on to play a key role in the opening of Japan to the West and the dawn of the Meiji Era.The book was pretty well written, especially for a first novel, and I liked the addition of illustrations, many of which were drawn by Manjiro himself The author included extensive glossaries for the Japanese language and whaling terms she used in the book, along with sources under different categories such as Manjiro himself, whaling, and the Gold Rush.Manjiro s story is a fascinating one, but there were some things about the book that annoyed me, particularly in the first half The author has Manjiro calling his friend Goemon Goemon chan To be honest, I don t know how people referred to each other in 19th century Japan, but today, chan is an honorific used only for very small children or girls No teenage boy would be caught dead being called chan, especially by a younger friend Manjiro would say Goemon kun, or even likely Goemon san since Goemon was older than him.I also didn t get a good sense of the full disgustingness of life on a whaling ship It felt like the author was holding back in her descriptions She did include what it was like to kill a whale and have blood all over the deck, but she then romanticized the seafaring experience quite a bit when focusing on Manjiro s love for life on the sea If I m remembering right from my visit to the whaling museum on Maui, living on whaling ships was absolutely hideous Disease was rampant The author mentions scurvy, but doesn t give us a good picture of how serious it was I always remember the little medical kit that I saw in the whaling museum basically, there was no doctor on a whaling ship, but whoever could read and follow instructions the best would do whatever the writing in the kit prescribed for their crew mates, which was often either ineffective or horrible The stench of a whaling vessel went beyond stinking or smelling bad I don t necessarily mean that the author needed to be gruesome, but it would have been nice to have some extra realism there.Further, this passage on p 85 86 really rankled me in the context of Manjiro watching the Hawaiians dance the hula, which missionaries didn t want them to do Western missionaries had come to Japan, too, a couple of hundred years earlier, and they were one reason Japan had closed its doors to foreigners Seeing how the native islanders here were expected to change almost everything about their lives for the missionaries, Manjiro could understand why Japan had expelled them That whole statement is irresponsible and historically inaccurate It implies that Japan expelled the missionaries because missionaries were forcing the native Japanese to adopt their ways In reality, Japan expelled the missionaries because one of the daimyo had converted to Christianity and the other daimyo were afraid that all of the Japanese Christians would follow him, making him too powerful It was a political issue that culminated in the Shimabara Rebellion, not a religious issue Many Japanese peasants were overjoyed to convert to Christianity, since the missionaries taught them that they were all equal in the eyes of God, giving them a sense of worth and value that their strict hierarchical society never could I m sure this also felt threatening to the higher classes, who wanted to keep peasants in their place Hundreds of thousands of Japanese Christians were tortured and murdered for refusing to publicly apostasize because of how much their newfound faith and value meant to them To say that they were expected to change almost everything about their lives as though Christianity were something bad that they were forced into is insulting to their memory and, if I m not mistaken, shows bias on the part of the author, not Manjiro The casualness with which Preus describes Manjiro and his companions trampling on the fumi e when they return to Japan completely glosses over that whole part of Japanese history not that the three had converted the story never said they did, but Preus also never explained the significance of it very well.I found that I was bored during Manjiro s time in America since the author added Tom s character herself, I m not surprised that this section didn t seem to fit with the rest of Manjiro s story The school tale and racing of the horses and whatnot really dragged the plot down Preus could have shown briefly that not everyone in America welcomed Manjiro and it would have been fine.Some of the ways that Preus chose to spell Japanese words also annoyed me Arigato gozaimus bleh I can hear the awful American accents in my head Ah ree GA toe go ZAI muss Why not just spell it the way it s properly transliterated and make it arigatou gozaimasu I don t mean to sound arrogant, but I think I know too much about the Japanese language and Japanese history to have been able to completely set those things aside and just enjoy this book, which is a shame, because it is a great tale and the author obviously worked hard to research it Manjiro was an amazing person, and having been an American in Japan, I feel a sort of kinship with him.