Manjiro is only 14 years old when he takes a job on a Japanese fishing boat to help support his family. A big storm shipwrecks the fisherman on a deserted island for several months. When they are finally rescued by an American whaling boat they are almost starved to death.
The year is 1841 and as strange as this may seem to us, the country of Japan had a really isolationish view of the world back then. That means that they just wanted to be left alone. They did not want any influences from outside their own country. What this means for Manjiro and the other fisherman is that they cannot return to Japan even though the American whaling ship can easily take them there. If the men return to Japan they could be put in jail…or killed. I know, it sounds really odd to us now but that’s the way it was back then.
So, the American ship takes the fishermen to Hawaii instead. The ship’s captain takes Manjiro under his wing and offers to take him on to America as his adopted son. Manjiro accepts this offer and becomes what is thought to be the first Japanese person to set foot in America. I love this part of the book because it is so different. This Japanese boy goes to school and learns to run a farm in 1840s America.
After Manjiro finishes his education and after he sails around the world, Manjiro decides to return to Japan 1. because he wants to see his mother and 2. because he wants to show that the outside world is not dangerous. He does this even though he knows he might be killed. What happens next in his life sounds like something made up in a movie…or a book…but this times it’s TRUE. Manjiro was a real person and the unbelievable things in this books really did happen. Manjiro left Japan as a poor boy with no future. He returns and Japan is never the same again. Author: Margi Preus Newbery Honor Book 2010
- Amazon Look Inside Heart of a Samurai
- Margi Preus Official Website
- The Fourth Musketeer Blog: Interview with Margi Preus
- The Samurai Archives