Heart of a Samurai
by Margi Preus
Amulet Books, 2010
Newbery Honor Winner
Heart of a Samurai is a captivating novel of John Manjiro, a poor Japanese fisherman’s son, who one day (impossibly) becomes a Samurai.
Caught in a storm and stranded on an island, Manjiro is rescued by an American ship. But in 1841, Japan is isolated from the world, and boarding an American ship closes him off from ever returning to Japan, as well as risks his life with these “butter stinkers” (westerners). Unlike his fellow fishermen, however, Manjiro wanted to know more about lands outside of Japan. His inquisitiveness and yearning for adventure befriends him with the ship’s captain. In his three years on the ship, he learns English well and becomes an interpreter. Eventually Manjiro makes the decision to travel to America. Unable to return to Japan and not exactly welcomed in America, he grows up to be a man from two cultures.
Based on the true story of John Manjiro, readers learn how Manjiro came to become the person who forged relationships between Japan and the outside world. I found it easy to be drawn into the Heart of a Samurai. It’s written simply and full of adventures that challenge Manjiro’s character. Without realizing it, I slipped into Manuiro’s experiences, as if they were my own.