Tag Archives: Margi Preus

The Bamboo Sword

bambooswordThe Bamboo Sword
by Margi Preus
Amulet Books, 2015

Bright, ambitious, and responsible for his own care, we follow young Yoshi who dreams of being a samurai, but is forced out onto the streets by bullies.  He befriends strangers to make a living.  Fascinated with travel he visits the harbor where the first American ships to visit Japan in 1853 to demand access to Japanese ports.  We also meet Jack, a cabin boy on the American ships.  While on shore, Jack becomes separated from the other Americans.  When Jack sees Yoshi being bullied, he can’t stop himself from lending a hand and the two become tied to each other for survival and to get Jack back to the ship. Neither speaks the other’s language and it’s only their combined cleverness and quick wits that keep them alive.  Twists, turns, and surprises convene as the two negotiate between samurai, bullies, and the tensions of the American’s demanding access to long-closed Japanese ports.

A history of America’s first encounter with Japan is included following the story.
This is a follow up story of Preus’ Heart of a Samarai.

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Heart of a Samurai

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.

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