Japan in the 1800’s was a mystery to the rest of the world. The country was truly isolationists – no Japanese person who left its shores was allowed to return. Not for any reason.
Japanese rulers told their people the world outside Japan was dangerous – full of demons, barbarians and monsters. And soon, fourteen-year-old Manjiro would discover if what he believed was true.
Manjiro and his friends are fishermen, and find themselves stranded on a deserted island. The boat which happens to rescue them is American – which frightens them immensely. What will these barbarians do to them?
Author Margi Preus based her book, Heart of a Samuri, on a true story. Manjiro was a real boy, who ended up living in America, adopted by the captain of the whaling boat which rescued him and his friends. He also was the first Japanese to return to Japan after living abroad, and played an important role in opening Japan to the West.
Preus based her novel on Manjiro’s diaries and includes many of his sketches of the wonders he encountered. She captures Manjiro’s sense of wonder and curiosity, and his friends’ fear, as they encounter all sorts of new experiences and people. Overall, it’s an interesting glimpse into Japan, or the Japanese mind, of the 1840’s.
Recommended for ages 8 and up.